Death just became a spectator sport.
Back of DVD:
It only takes one fatal flash of a broken blade to trap a young man in the arena of death... where victory is bought with blood and the greatest reward will be living to fight another day...
Unknown to Alex Freyer, after accidentally killing his opponent in a fencing match, his every move is being watched by a man with deadly ambitions... A man who presides over The Ring of Steel - an underground 'club' where the rich and powerful bet for the highest stakes - other men's lives.
Aaaahahahahaha! Oh god, this movie was so damn funny. I know it was released in 1994 but man this was so 80's it hurt. And look at that poster; it looks like a Mills and Boon romance novel. This is a by-the-numbers fighting movie that follows all the standard rules for this kind of film. Disgraced fighter? Check. An offer of redemption from a sketchy looking rich guy with a cane? Check. Kidnapping his girlfriend so he will keep fighting? Check. It's all just so gloriously unoriginal but who cares, this is 90 minutes of fun swashbuckling entertainment.
Alex Freyer (Robert Chapin) is a three times world champion in fencing, with a mullet and a thing for blondes (Darlene Vogel, playing Elena Carter). During a routine match he accidentally kills his opponent by sticking him through the head. Disgraced and not able to get his fencing job back he takes solace in Elena and an awful sex scene that seems so utterly out of place once you have watched the rest of the movie. There's boobs and everything.
On his way back to home with a six-pack and some chicken (I'm assuming) Alex gets rumbled by a gang of thugs. Just before they jack him for his wallet, a rich man (you can tell by his car) with a cane asks if he can watch. The thugs don't take too kindly to the interruption and make a move on him, but he defeats them by simply showing him the steel of his own fencing sword. The man makes an offer to Alex to join his underground fighting club - The Ring of Steel - which he declines, but accepts the mans business card. I don't know about you but if some stranger in an alley asked me to join his Ring of Steel i'd get a restraining order put out on him and give the business card to the police.
The next evening Alex and Elena decide to check out the strange man's Ring (lol, sorry okay I'll stop). It looks like a bad nightclub with people dancing to even worse music. The man welcomes the two and introduces them to his club manager, Tanya (Carol Alt), who steps down the staircase in a dress nearly as sultry as Jessica Rabbit's. You can also tell she's evil or something because the music changes to all minor chords; a dead giveaway. He is allowed to watch a fight between two competitors dressed like, I kid you not, the characters from the old Commodore 64 game Barbarian.
So if you image Drax (the guy in purple in the screenshot above) is the mysterious Man and the girl in the red bikini is Tanya, then you pretty much get the picture. Alex would be off screen with Elena and shouts "Noooo!" when one of the fighters, Jack, has his defeated opponent pinned down on the ground and is about to behead him. If this were Barbarian, the guy's head would roll and a small green demon would kick it across the arena. But it isn't, and he doesn't; he just glares at Alex for spoiling his moment.
This movie is filled with bad dialogue like "I couldn't have done it without you" to Elena when she really didn't do a thing, and "These are not weapons. They are instruments of truth!". But the best line would have to be Alex pretending to be a pirate and saying to Elena "Wench, prepare to be boarded!". I had to rewind and watch that again. It's even funnier later on when in one of the fights he participates in, Alex is in full pirate getup complete with a swashbuckling rapier sword.
Anyway, Alex proves that he is an awesome swordsman but he doesn't wanna play anymore, so the Man has to convince him by kidnapping his girl. To make it even worse Tanya keeps trying to seduce Alex, which pisses off wanna-be-boyfriend Jack, who gives him a thumping. Alex has three fights to win before he is allowed to leave. I'm sure you can work out what happens.
The fights themselves are pretty good, you can tell they had a fair bit of training. Robert Chapin has mostly stunts and effects credits on his IMDB profile compared to his limited acting career. There's a pretty good fight between two masked samurai at one point, but the funniest ones are with Jack the Beefcake. The end fight between Jack and Alex is great too with all the cliches you could want; fighting on a narrow walkway suspended over a ball of fire would be a prime example.
I have to mention one ridiculous moment. Some fat pre-Internet nerd comes to an 'open day' of sorts for recruiting new fighters that he thinks is a recreational society. He comes dressed in a viking helmet and fur coat and gets a good thrashing for his efforts. Hilarious.
You have to see this, and you should watch it with a group. I watched it alone but I will definitely make someone watch it with me again. You could tear this apart for ages. There's enough mileage in Robert Chapin's hair alone. It's not over-the-top violent and could have easily passed as a slightly stronger family-friendly movie if it wasn't for that sex scene in the first ten minutes.
This is the MIA R2 DVD. It's all pretty unremarkable really, but serviceable none-the-less. Video and audio are good enough though quite soft and the colours not very strong. The film is presented in fullscreen, though IMDB says the film was made in 1.85:1 widescreen. I didn't see any obvious pan-and-scan treatment so the fullscreen presentation was acceptable enough.
$5 from eBay UK + shipping