by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Film”

What I Noticed While Watching "Outlaw of Gor"

Posted 15 March 2009 in by Catriona

I should make it absolutely clear that, fantasy fan though I am, I wouldn’t normally watch Outlaw of Gor, which is not only based (albeit loosely) on one of John Norman’s novels, but is also so obscure a film that it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page.

(It does have an Imdb.com page, though—as does its prequel, simply called Gor.)

The sole reason I watched this is because it was on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is hard to explain, but does have a Wikipedia page, which offers the best definition of the show:

The series features a man and his robot sidekicks who are trapped on a satellite in space by an evil scientist and forced to watch a selection of terrible movies, especially (but not initially limited to) science fiction B-movies. To keep sane, the man and his robots make a running commentary on the film, making fun of its flaws.

I know: it doesn’t make much sense and may not even sound like fun, but we’re obsessed with it. Having found that a friend was a big fan, we’ve borrowed as many DVDs as possible from her, and in the last six months have watched our way through thirty or so of the worst films ever made.

One of which was Outlaw of Gor, in which I noted the following points.

1. Any film based on John Norman’s Gor books is considerably more fun once the film makers strip out the misogynistic domination fantasies that make up ninety percent of Norman’s plots.

2. Of course, then the film bears next to no resemblance to the actual Gor books.

3. And it still isn’t a great deal of fun, to be honest.

4. If your film is based to any degree on the Gor books—such as, for example, taking the name of Norman’s most frequent protagonist, Tarl Cabot, and setting the story on a planet called Gor—then no one with any degree of familiarity with the books is going to accept that your hero wants nothing better than to outlaw slavery.

5. I’m actually not going to complain—as the people who wrote reviews about this film on imdb.com did—about the fact that the Priest-Kings in this film weren’t actually alien insectoids, because, frankly, I’d rather have Jack Palance in a ridiculous hat than alien insectoids.

Luckily, this film has Jack Palance in a ridiculous hat, making this the third truly awful film in which I have seen Jack Palance—after Hawk the Slayer (the hero is, according to that Wikipedia page, “a hero in the Dark Age, where the Evil ruled the world,” which is the most non-specific sentence ever, despite the proliferation of the definite article) and Angels Revenge (we watched that as part of MST3K. When one of the robot sidekicks watched the camera follow a woman climbing up a ladder, he exclaimed, “Hey, buddy! You’re giving away the plot!” He wasn’t kidding).

6. If your hero tries to snap a sword over his knee to demonstrate his new pacifist stance, and instead simply bends it into a horseshoe, you have one of two problems: either Gor’s metalworkers are rubbish, or your props are.

7. Why is the hero a vegetarian? Or, rather, why is the sole apparent reason for the hero’s vegetarianism to introduce a scene in which he turns down a hunk of meat in favour of an apple?

I don’t think vegetarianism is a problem for a sword-and-sorcery hero—unlike the commenter on Imdb.com who called Cabot “emasculated” and said his vegetarianism “takes what is an otherwise namby-pamby hero and makes him even more so.” (I can’t link directly to that comment, unfortunately, but the comment thread is here.) I do think, though, that an apple-eating scene really only works for dramatic effect in the Old Testament.

8. The trivia section contains two facts, one of which is that the word “Cabot” is spoken more than fifty-five times in the first ten minutes of the film.

They are not kidding about this.

9. If I were a woman living in a pre-industrialised society in which there is significantly more dust than there is foliage, I would choose everyday outfits that required a slightly less rigorous private grooming ritual. Just for practicality’s sake.

Mind you, I would also make that decision if I were a female superhero living in a dystopic and alternative 1985—and, yes, I am looking at you, otherwise awesome adaptation of Watchmen.

10. Late 1980s hair is just straight-up bad. Late 1980s hair combined with beaten copper forehead ornaments and an outfit that makes you look as though you’re planning a set of aerobics tapes to rival those of Jane Fonda is hilariously bad.

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