Sword and Sorcery became a distinguishable film genre in the early 1980s with such films as John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981), Matthew Robbins’ Dragonslayer (1981), John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian (1982), and Don Coscarelli’s The Beastmaster (1982). In an article intended to define Sword and Sorcery, Howard Andrew Jones writes that:To further define the genre, I have detailed the basic plot elements of a typical Sword & Sorcery film:
[w]e call a story sword and sorcery when it is an action tale, derived from the traditions of the pulp magazine adventure story, set in a land, age, or world of the author’s invention – a milieu in which magic actually works and the gods are real – a story, moreover which pits a stalwart warrior in direct conflict with the forces of supernatural evil.The most important element in this definition is the conflict between the “stalwart warrior” and “supernatural evil,” a characteristic that ties together everything that falls under the Sword and Sorcery classification.
What is a Sword & Sorcery Film?
Sword Cinema is composed a several subgenres: Samurai, Ninja, Gladiator, and Crusade films come instantly to mind... but perhaps my favorite Sword Cinema subgenere of all time is the Sword & Sorcery film. Back in 2006, I presented research on Sword & Sorcery films at the The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts and used the following rationale to guide my inquiry:
Themes in Sword & Sorcery Films
1. DESTINY (What will happen?)
a. …is established by an OMNISCIENT NARRATIVE?
b. …to BECOME whom?
c. …to perform what FATED ACTION?
i. Physical marking.
d. …is PRE-DETERMINED by...?
e. …is SELF-DETERMINED.
2. INITIATION (From child to adult.)
a. …in the form of RIDDLES or puzzles to solve?
b. …by means of BAPTISM BY FIRE?
c. …by means of APPRENTICESHIP?
i. RITUAL ELDER and ORDEAL.
d. THE MOTHER is the initial safe place and starting point for initiation.
e. How does the initiate achieve SEPARATION from the mother?
i. Burning Village – Baptism by Fire
ii. Venturing Out – Apprenticeship
f. What if the initiate FAILS TO SEPARATE from the mother?
g. The FATHER offers teaching and WORDS OF WISDOM to the initiate.
h. The initiate must AVENGE THE FATHER.
i. …or REDEEM THE FATHER.
j. The initiate avenges/redeems the father through his own KING ENERGY.
i. King energy is characterized by DECISIVENESS in CONFLICT.
3. CONFLICT (Against the forces of evil.)
a. …with some larger oppressive force leads to REBELLION.
b. The battle for rebellion is fought with SWORDS and SORCERY.
i. In general, SWORDS = Good, and SORCERY = Evil.
i. …are NOBLE TOOLS.
ii. …are HEIRLOOMS.
i. …is used for TRICKERY and DECEPTION.
ii. Trickery and deception are used for CHEATING.
iii. Cheating is a symptom of COWARDICE and TYRANNY.
e. MAGIC TOOLS are objects with supernatural powers.
f. MAGIC TOWERS are buildings with supernatural powers.
g. Sword and Sorcery tends to identify WOMEN WITH SORCERY and MEN WITH SWORDS through…
i. Genital Objects
ii. Character Gender
h. One exception is the FEMALE KEEPER OF THE SWORD.
i. Another exception is TECHNOLOGY AS MASCULINE SORCERY.
j. TECHNOLOGY (or masculine sorcery) is often used in WAR.
4. At the end of the conflict, the initiate achieves his destiny and initiation and is REINCORPORATED into society through…