Saturday, January 15, 2011


Original Title: La Guerra del ferro - Ironmaster
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
Italy/France, 1983
Action/Adventure, 93min
Distributed by: NjutaFilms

After shocking his audiences with gut-munching cannibals, freaky zombies chomping down on disco dancers, hardened cynical criminals blasting their way through coppers and surreal violent Gialli, Umberto Lenzi shifts focus, if only slightly, to cavemen, ape men and the odd mutant, bringing all those traits of his – especially the head bludgeoning that leaves a gaping bleeding scalp visible - to the dawn of time.

A small tribe of cavemen stand on the brink of a change as its time for tribe head Iksay [Benito Stefanelli] to pass on the prestigious position of leader to one of the younger hunters. Vood [George Eastman] and Ela [Sam Pesco] are the two main contenders, but where Vood may be the logic choice, Iksay is thinking of letting Ela take command. The two young and buff warriors antagonise each other until Vood takes matter into his own hands. During an attack of a rival tribe he smashes in the head of tribe leader Iksay, which is witnessed by Ela.

Ela spills the beans and a fight takes place that results in Vood being expelled from the tribe. The tribe declare Ela their new leader, and that outcast Vood be hunted like an animal, but soon the hunted will become the hunter!

After a freakish volcano eruption and heavy thunderstorm, where some really neat special effects and awesome matte paintings are part of the mix, Vood discovers a slab of iron in the shape of a naively drawn sword and after defeating a lion that attacks him, he realises he holds a new weapon of power in his hands. Wearing the Lions carcass as a totemic headpiece and with the lush Lith [Pamela Prati] Vood attacks his former tribe and convinces them to expel Ela who is forced out into the wild. There he faces a trial of endurance that has him fighting vicious ape men, raging herds of Bison and meeting Isa [Elivire Audray – from Mario Gariazzo’s Sciave bianche: violenza Amazzonia (Amazonia – The Catherine Miles Story) 1985] who becomes his “matter of affection” and it’s quit obvious that Ela/Isa are opposing counterparts to Vood and Lith.

With the knowledge of crafting iron into swords Vood and his cohorts attack and slay a nearby village which stand defenceless against the hard, cold iron of Vood’s weapons. With his new power, Vood is determined to exterminate all other tribes, rule the land and hopefully kill off Ela along the way. Isa takes Ela to hide out in her village – the Mogo tribe - and start to make a new life. The only problem is that they are a peaceful tribe and consider weapons to be evil hence no weapons in their village, which is an obvious problem when Vood learns that Ela lives amongst the Mogo tribe. The stage has been set for the rapidly approaching climax and I know whom I’m rooting for.

Ironmaster is a goddamned wonderful flick, and even though Lenzi, under the hilarious pseudonym Humphrey Milestone, set’s his tale in prehistoric times there’s still a sequence in the middle of the movie that has Ela fighting off infected scarred beasts in what they hope can be their new home – a cave in the mountains – which is very much reminiscent of previous Lenzi moments, this time it’s almost like a cavemen fighting zombies sequence which is awesome. A slow build, establish the threat and then attack. It’s a great moment, which simply oozes classic Italian cinema.

All in all, The Ironmaster is a pretty straightforward caveman/barbarian action flick, but there’s also a tale of morale in there – especially in dialogue like the one where Mogo [William Berger] points out to Ela that weapons may give him freedom, but one day may take it back again. Mogo wanders out into the woods turning his back on the tribe who want to take to arms, and obviously he falls victim to Vood’s men only moments later.

Following the final battle, Mogo's statement comes back to haunt them as the cavemen experience their first encounter with remorse as the words of Mogo finally make sense to them. They are now slaves to weapons, and will never be free again... You could also look at the movie as a metaphor for how new technology and inventions often are used for warfare and destruction, or you could just look at the movie as ninety minutes of great prehistoric conflict and just go along for the ride!

I love the subplot with Isa who quite possibly is the most evil of all the characters as she manipulates her way through each encounter with Vood or Ela and treats the audience to more than one spontaneous nipslip as she runs around in the skimpiest of all loincloths, and unfortunately is killed off way to easy and fast. I’d have loved to see Lith and Isa wrestle it out as an appetiser to the final battle between Ela and Vood.

Eastman gives a fantastic performance as Vood, there’s no understatement that he was doing his finest work at this time period, and he owns this movie completely. If I had one of those tiger headpieces that he wears here, I’d wear it all the time. There’s an interesting approach to character here. Early on the medicine man states that Vood is the natural first in line to take over, which says something about his characters status – he’s most likely the son of Iksay, tribe leader. During the boar hunt, despite Vood having the boar in his sights and his spear raised for the kill, Iksay “steals” the kill from under his nose. Aggravated Vood rams his spear into the ground. When he learns of the pending threat that Ela may take over, he takes things into his own hands, he off’s his father and tries to force a shift in leadership. But the tribe cast him out and Ela takes charge, although after discovering power in arms the tribe chose to follow Vood instead, but his reign isn’t going to be long as his quest for Ela drives him into his untimely death. In more than one way there’s a Shakespearean quality to the story of the neglected, disgruntled Vood and how power turns against him bringing with it his own downfall. Vood - a fascinating character and undoubtedly one of Eastman’s finest hours.

Eugenio Alabiso sticks with Lenzi on yet another movie but this time the pacing is slower and the cut’s more meditative. There’s no fast transitions and rapid cuts, and in some ways’ it’s a fitting end to a collaboration that lasted on more than twenty movies movies, from Attentato ait re grandi (Desert Commandos) 1967 to I cinque del Condor (Thunder Squad) 1985, curiously both war movies dealing with mercenaries!

Dardano Sacchetti’s participation on the team of writers is noteworthy but never the less hard to spot any of his traits as there where at least six other writers on the team, Lenzi and Luciano Martino amongst them.

The movie really looks great, apart from the location shots in Custer State Park, Usa, where the buffalo roam and give sense of authenticity to the flick; there are the splendid Special effects by Paolo Ricci and visual effects by Emilio Ruiz del Rio. Ricci, nowhere near as known as counterparts like Gino De Rossi, Gianetto De Rossi or Carlo Rambaldi did work on a lot of gore laden and freaky movies, Deodato’s Ultimo mondo cannibale (Last Cannibal World) 1977 Lenzi’s Mangiati vivi! (Eaten Alive) 1980, Lucio Fulci’s Gatto Nero (Black Cat) 1980, and Lamberto Bava’s Blastfighter 1984, and in-between them he worked on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia 1983. Spaniard, del Rio’s work can be seen in stuff spanning from the old Mario Bonnard, Steve Reeves Gli ultimo giorno di Pompei (The Last days of Pompei) 1959 to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth 2006. Just a few years ago there was a documentary made on the work of Emilio Ruiz de Rio and of the ten Goya awards for special effects he’s been nominated for he’s won three. His models, miniatures and mattes work like perfection for Lenzi in The Ironmaster

Maurizio & Guido De Angelis score is fitting, there’s a chanty sit-down-by-the-firey quality to it that works for the movie, and on repeated viewings that tune may very well stick in your head.

Ironmaster is an enjoyable prehistory action flick, with an engaging story and a great movie to waste a hung-over Sunday on. Ironmaster is due for Scandinavian release in mid February, and it’s presented in a glorious widescreen print that will blow you away!


Dolby Digital 2.0

Trailers for other NjutaFilm movies, and it’s an odd selection, because I’d definitely had put more Italian related flicks on there instead of the series of US soft-core sexploitation junk.


Ninja Dixon said...

Those screenshots look amazing! It was so many years since I saw it the last time, but I've always enjoyed it and remember it as a good little movie.

Lenzi was a master of creating a realistic atmosphere, even in a caveman-movie like this. It's gritty, but still has that cheesiness that we learned to appreciate thru the years.

The scene where they hunt the boar was also reused in Tonino Ricci's Rush, a post-apocalyptic movie. But the sequel to that on, Rage, is way better.

CiNEZiLLA said...

Cool Man, I had no Idea that that footage was reused!
And yeah Lenzi was a cool mother fucker who really knew how to build an atmos.


Alex B. said...

From the screenshots I just love this film. It's good to know there's still quality later period Lenzi stuff out there which I haven't watched to death yet.

CiNEZiLLA said...

Yeah Alex, you really want to see this one, it's a blast.
The mattes are fucking awesome and Eastman is marvlous here. It's a pitty he never really got the chance to do big ass leading roles. He would have made a magnificent action hero.


Japanflix said...

The man in the monkey suit is the best. Where the hell can I find this?

CiNEZiLLA said...

@ Japan!
It's out in Sweden like next week!


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