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Set ‘at the dawn of time,' Umberto Lenzi's Ironmaster introduces us to Ela (Sam Pasco), a barbarian that runs afoul of a man named Vood (George Eastman). Why is this a problem? Vood has learned how to use fire to create steel and how to use steel to commit murder,more specifically he kills the tribe's chief!
Vuud is kicked out, but manages to put together a rag tag group of subordinates who live with him at the base of a volcano, which makes creating blades reasonably easy by the standards of the era. Now jutting about dressed with a goofy (and amusingly fake looking) lion's head atop his dome, Vood is bound and determined to kill off the other barbarians and rule the land. Of course, Ela intends to stop that, but not before making time with a hot and heavily made-up cavewoman named Isa (Elvire Audray).
Produced by Luciano Martino and set to a seriously cool score from Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, this French/Italian co-production shot partially in South Dakota was clearly influenced by the success of Quest For Fire but Lenzi being Lenzi manages to put his own strange spin on things. Not only do we get caveman on caveman combat, but there's also a subplot involving some apeman types running around causing trouble, their apeman balls flapping around in the breeze making a strange scene even stranger. Just throw logic out the window here, it's better that way even if Lenzi and company are clearly playing things completely straight.
To be fair, if this was made on a low budget it does at least have some pretty decent production values. The locations work just fine, they're remote enough that they seem primitive, the type of place where, yeah, fine… maybe cavepeople would live here. The costumes are mostly of the loin cloth variety but they look like actual loin cloths, so the movie has that going for it. Some of the fight scenes are nicely choreographed (Lenzi was often at his best when shooting action) and the film is quick in its pace, never dull.
As to the cast? Well, one-shot male lead Sam Pasco, a model for gay stag magazines before and after working on this picture, looks buff enough but lacks charisma. He's fun to watch, just not particularly good in the role: muscular, sure, but very wooden. The stretches of the film where his character is growing closer to the very pretty cavewoman played by Elvire Audray are the last interesting in the picture. Audray doesn't bring much to the movie aside from her attractiveness, but the movie doesn't ask much more of her than that. She stands around and looks pretty, Isa is hardly a strong female character. Thankfully, there's good old George Eastman running around with a sword in his hand and a lion's head atop his frame. Eastman is in his element here, clearly having a blast hamming it up perfectly as the film's main villain. Danilo Mattei and Walter Lucchini from Lenzi's notorious Cannibal Ferox also pop up in this one, as does William Berger from Keoma, Dial: Help, Devilfish and loads more Italian exploitation pictures.
Code Red presents Ironmaster framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from a ‘2016 HD master with Extensive and Painstaking Color Correction' and for the most part it looks really good. The picture is a bit soft in spots, but this looks to be how it was shot. Otherwise, the image is quite clean and boasts nice color reproduction. Detail isn't reference quality given that aforementioned softness but it certainly looks good, as does texture. Skin tones look fine, black levels are decent and there are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction
The only audio option for this release is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD Mono track. Again, no problems here. The dialogue is perfectly audible and the levels are properly balanced. The film's genuinely awesome score sounds nice too, with just the right amount of ‘oomph' behind it when the movie needs it.
One Million Years Ago is a nineteen-minute interview with Umberto Lenzi where he speaks about working with Luciano Martino on the script, his thoughts on Pasco's performance, working with live animals on the set and more. Of Buffalos And Lions is a ten-minute interview with actor George Eastman who speaks quite positively of working with Lenzi, his thoughts on the story, what it was like on location during the shoot and other related topics. The Quest For Iron spends twelve-minutes with Set Designer Massimo Antonello Geleng who shares some fun stories about what all went into portraying the era in which the story is set, the use of matte paintings, and crafting the volcanos used in the film.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options.
Ironmaster is a blast. Pasco might be as wooden as a well-oiled, musclebound board but thankfully Eastman chews more than enough scenery for the both of them. There's some fun action here, some memorably odd set pieces and great sets and costumes too. It's not a particularly original film but it sure is a lot of fun. Code Red's Blu-ray release looks really good and has a few decent extra features as well. Recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.