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A Look At Dragonfight (1990)

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Anyway, after Sir Lochaber kills some more people, he kidnaps Sandy. But Falchion kicks his ass and he lands on his own axe. Unfortunately, “only a Dragonfighter can declare defeat.” Yeah, you heard that correctly. Of course, I can’t answer the question of how a dead man can declare defeat, but apparently death isn’t permament in Dragonfight. As Joe Cortese’s character says to his colleagues: “You see that strange lady out there? That’s my ace in the hole… that’s my magic lady!”

Fawna MacLaren in Dragonfight

No, this is not a video for a Finnish metal band.

His “magic lady” is some kind of sorceress (Fawna MacLaren), dressed in black and adorned with feathers, who has been hanging out the whole time, planting little knives into the desert sand. Through her ample use of black magic (and ample breasts) she resurrects the great Chin warrior (after somehow transporting him to the Delicate Arch in Utah) who continues to chase after Falchion and his new girlfriend, who pleads “Save my life! Save all our lives!” But Falchion protests:

“There are no goddamned heroes! Just a bunch of fools and pawns like me and him! … The only way to win the game… is not to play!”

Ah, nice War Games reference! This is right about the time that Dragonfight enters into some bizarre time loop, as Falchion kills Lochaber (again) in a rock slide, and magic lady resurrects him (again). Lochaber then kills another random dude before taking out JJ (who gets a nice death scene). JJ tells him:

“It’s not the hand that holds the sword… it’s the hand that releases the sword… the empty hand… the hand of compassion. I read that somewhere.”

He then asks for his last beer, and dies. Then Charles Napier gets a nice fight scene with Z’Dar, who ends up chasing him down like some high school drama student on too much caffeine. (Actually, I like to think of him as an extra from The Holy Grail).

Dragonfight - Charles Napier

“Sure, I’ll star in your movie.” Gah, what was I thinking?

Dragonfight - Dead Guy

You gotta fight for your right to party.

Then follows an interminable sequence as Sandy runs up and down and around rocks for what seems like a freakin’ eternity. My guess is that she looks so good climbing rocks in those jeans of hers that director Stevens couldn’t resist padding out the film with it. Then she dies. She dies in the most hilarious way – you don’t see anything but an axe swinging down, you don’t hear a peep out of her, you don’t even hear a word from Falchion who witnesses the whole thing. It’s just another inexplicable thing in a movie filled to the brim with inexplicable things.

Alexa Hamilton in Dragonfight

This entire rock climbing sequence exists for one reason.

What do I mean by “inexplicable”? Well, the film ends when Paul Coufos and Robert Z’Dar duke it out again, a helicopter decides to land out of nowhwere, Z’Dar is chopped up by the spinning blades, and then the helicopter takes off again. Seriously – the chopper only landed long enough to kill Z’Dar – and then it was gone. Meanwhile, James Hong figures out how horrible everything that he witnessed was and decides to take the honorable way out by committing Seppuku (it’s implied, anyway). Too bad the other characters didn’t decide to do the same. (And the viewing audience might want to consider it as well).

Robert Z'Dar on the Rocks

Z’Doh!

Some other thoughts I have about Dragonfight, while they are fresh in my head:

  • For supposed “warriors” these two guys aren’t very good. The movie talks good game about kung-fu and swordplay and delivers none of it. It does, however, deliver extensive scenes of meatbags pulling punches, delivering amateur fight choreography, and swinging axes around like a couple of 12 year olds in somebody’s backyard
  • Funny dialogue alert: “But you guys can still win. Or… you can lose!”
  • Why all the major characters refuse to stick together is beyond me. Also beyond me: Falchion’s refusal to chop Lochaber into pieces so he can’t be resurrected, or even better, simply kill the funny/strange/big-breasted witch who keeps bringing him back to life.
  • Where are all the TV cameras? And how do they get them to hover in mid-air, right in front of all the action?
  • I love Z’Dar’s chin as much as anyone, but it’s not enough to carry a whole movie, even when you cover it in chainmail.
Dragonfight Helicopter Death

This is not a ripoff of Raiders of the Lost Ark. No, no, it’s a “homage.”

Dragonfight is one of the few movies I can think of where the main character says he’s not a hero, and proves it – again and again. His skills don’t impress, he has no idea how to keep people alive, and for all his emotional scenes with Sandy he brushes her death off like his pet salamander died or something. This is a bad movie. Really bad. But it’s improved ever so slightly by Charles Napier, James Hong, and George Flower. Then it’s pulled back down again by Michael Paré and Joe Cortese, awful dialogue, and preposterous plot turns. The director – Warren A. Stevens – is a stuntman, proving once and for all that being a stuntman does not properly prepare you for directing films. (Sorry, Hal Needham fans, but it’s true). Obviously, I had to look up the writing credit – it belongs to a guy named Budd Lewis. According to IMDB, he’s an animator (proving that animating things does not properly prepare you for writing films). Well, there was one other film that Budd Lewis wrote. Are you ready for this?

It was the screenplay for R.O.T.O.R..

Suddenly, everything now makes sense.

– Bill Gordon

Dragonfight - James Hong gives up

Can I borrow that when you’re done, James?

Fawna MacLaren, Again

Ah, now I understand the source of her magic…

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