In the 80’s, there were tons of sword and sorcery flicks. After “Conan the Barbarian” made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star in 1982, these movies were all over the Blockbuster Video shelves. There was “Beastmaster,” “Deathstalker,” “Barbarian Queen,” and their many sequels. Heck, if you were a film producer, had a couple of Playboy models on hand, and could get Boris Valejo to do the poster art for ya…you were halfway there! A strange entry in this mini-genre is a 1987 film based on a series of erotic sci-fi fantasy books that boasts over thirty installments. It’s time to journey to the world of “Gor.”
The film follows dweeby college professor Tarl Cabot (Urbano Barberini). Cabot is the owner of a strange ring passed down through his family which, legend has it, can open up a portal to another world. After being stood up by his girlfriend, Cabot finds out that the legend is true when the ring whisks him off to the planet Gor just before he crashes his car.
On Gor, Cabot lands right in the middle of a battle where the evil warlord Sarm (Oliver Reed) is stealing a village’s “Home Stone.” In the scuffle, Cabot ends up killing Sarm’s son…and so revenge is in order. But a trio of fighters, including the clothing-challenged Talena (Rebecca Ferratti…who, of course, posed for Playboy), nurse Cabot back to health and start to train him as a warrior. It seems that strangers from other worlds have visited Gor before, and Talena and company think they can rally others around Cabot to defeat Sarm and get back their Home Stone.
After a short training montage, the group heads off to a dusty village to get weapons and supplies. This dusty town is run by the nasty, snorting Surbus (Paul L Smith) and has plenty of sexy dancers, chick fights, and helpful midgets. The only thing this burg is missing is its own Thunderdome.
The previously mentioned midget offers to lead the travelers to Sarm’s hangout…where they are promptly captured. Now, Sarm tries to lure Cabot to his team with food and women…but our hero must find a way to rescue his centerfold companion and rid Gor of evil.
From what I’ve read, this film bears little resemblance to the book it claims to be based on. Needless to say, fans of the books have no great love for this film. But, the books seem to have just as many detractors…so looks like we’re doomed in either case. Can’t comment on the books…but the movie is pretty clumsy. It’s full of dialogue and action which are unintentionally comedic.
“Gor” managed a PG rating, which is strange considering that the source material is known for being, shall we say, sexually charged. What we end up with is a lot of camp. Make no mistake, this is a bad movie…but sometimes bad is good. Take Oliver Reed, he was a fine actor…but not this time around. His performance is over the top in every possible way…at times coming across like an evil chuckling Santa Claus. But, I gotta admit, he was my favorite thing about the movie.
You also can’t help but love Rebecca Ferratti as the warrior woman Talena. Gorgeous yes, but an actress she is not. However, ya gotta dig the big hair and the way she manages to take out tons of bad guys with a sword that is clearly too heavy for her to wield. Ooh, and I almost forgot to mention Jack Palance. He doesn’t show up until the last few minutes of the movie. Out of nowhere, boom, there he is! He just stands around and then delivers the closing narration in his usual breathy way. All to set up his role as the villain in the, you guessed it, sequel! That film, “Outlaw of Gor,” is famous for having appeared on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
In the end, I guess I enjoyed “Gor,” but certainly not in the way the filmmakers intended. The movie is funny! If you love a good bad movie, charge up your magic glowing ring and head for Gor.