Umberto Lenzi, 1983
Starring: Sam Pasco, Elvire Audray, George Eastman, Pamela Prati
Also known as La Guerra del Ferro, Ironmaster follows Vood, a selfish, violent caveman who accidentally discovers iron after he is cast out of his tribe for killing both the leader and head priest. Vood figures out how to use the iron as a sword and takes the tribe back, then leads them to on a conquest of the area, killing and enslaving members of other tribes. His only enemy is Ela, second-in-command in Vood’s tribe, who teams up with a woman, Isa, after escaping a desert crucifixion. Isa heals him and leads him to her pacifistic tribe. He must teach them to defend themselves from swords, because Vood is soon coming for them all.
Ironmaster is not technically a sword and sorcery film. It’s more of a sword-fighting caveman film, but I included it because of director Umberto Lenzi. He may not be the best Italian director of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but I have a soft spot for him. Seemingly in a race to beat Joe D’Amato at his own game - though failing, because D’Amato made an insane number of porn flicks - Lenzi churned out films in a variety of genres, including horror, giallo, crime, sword and sandal, spaghetti westerns, and war films, though he is best known for his cannibal movies. He kicked of the trend with Man from Deep River (1972), a film I love to hate. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, check out his cannibal efforts Eaten Alive! (1980) and Cannibal Ferox (1981). He also made some interesting giallo films - Seven Bloodstained Orchids (1972) and Eyeball (1975) - along with one of the most entertaining (because it’s so bad) zombie films to come out of Italy, Nightmare City (1980).
I’m not really sure what he was thinking with Ironmaster, which is sadly boring, repetitive and never reaches the ridiculous heights of many of his other films. He made plenty of movies with cavemen and primitive tribes, but here it feels like he is just going through the motions. It’s also difficult to get past the film’s hero, Ela, played by the terrifying-looking Sam Pasco, body builder and porn actor. Also note that the titular ironmaster is not Ela, it’s his nemesis Vood. He winds up embracing a bizarre pacifist ideal at the end of the film, leaving things on a weird hippyish, anticlimactic note.
Luckily there are a few lovely ladies, some gore and some totally cheesy, slow-motion fight scenes. It’s not the worst film of this sort, but it’s hard for me to recommend. Be forewarned that it has some of the standard animal cruelty from this period of Italian horror, though I don’t think any of it in Ironmaster is real. It seems unlikely that Lenzi could afford to have a lion killed.
The only really exciting thing about Ironmaster is star George Eastman. Born as Luigi Montefiori, Eastman has acted in a number of horror, crime and spaghetti western films and has also written many, namely for Joe D’Amato. He wrote and co-starred in D’Amato’s Anthropophagus (1980), Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980), Porno Holocaust (1981), Absurd (1981) and 2020 Texas Gladiators (1982). He also wrote one of my favorite films of all time, Michele Soavi’s Stage Fright (1987) and has starred or at least appeared in many of my favorite Italian films of the ‘70s and ‘80s: Baba Yaga (1973), Mario Bava’s Rabid Dogs (1974), Enzo Castellari’s The New Barbarians (1982) and The Bronx Warriors (1982), Sergio Martino’s 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983) and Hands of Steel (1986), Ruggero Deodato’s The Barbarian (1987) and Lamberto Bava’s Delirium. Even if he only has garbage to work with here, he does the best he can and essentially just scowls ferociously for 95% of the film. He also spends the majority of the film wearing a ridiculous lion’s mask, though he still manages to look completely badass.
I’m willing to consider that I may have misjudged Ironmaster. It would probably be a lot more enjoyable to see in a theater full of B-movie fans or, perhaps, on a day when I was not crushingly hung over and in need of a nap. If you’d like to watch it, it isn’t yet available on region 1 DVD, though my friends over at Diabolik have the very basic PAL region 2 disc.