Monday, May 10, 2010

'The Alchemist' is so-so early effort of Band

The Alchemist (1986)
Starring: Lucinda Dooling, John Sanderford, Robert Ginty, Robert Glaudini and Viola Kates Stimpson
Producers: Charles Band, Lawrence Applebaum, Billy Fine and Jay Schultz
Director: James Amante (aka Charles Band)
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

When a farmer (Ginty) sets out to rescue his wife from an evil sorcerer (Glaudini), she ends up dead and he ends up cursed with immortality and occassional transformation into a monster. Nearly a century later, the reincarnation of his long-dead love (Dooling) and a hitchhiker at the wrong place at the wrong time (Sanderford) are drawn into a final showdown between farmer, sorcerer and a gaggle of demons.

An early effort from Charles Band this is a film that's hit and miss in the quality department... with more misses than hits, I'm sorry to say. Nonetheless, the film is a great example of how Band used to be able to create a suitably eerie atmosphere and make the most of his low budgets, an ability that seems to have left him in recent years, both as a director and a producter. There are still enough glimmers of the old Band that I hope a new Full Moon will rise, but it's been about a decade since he's even been as good as what we have in this film.

The film's biggest drawback is its slow-moving plot that's made even slower by obvious padding and by one of the clearest displays of Stupid Character Syndrom ever put on screen. (Lucinda Dooling keeps wigging out at the wheel of the car and almost crashing several times, yet hitchhiker John Sanderford keeps getting back in the car with her. Why? Well, because if he didn't, the film would be over. Once would have been enough to establish the gradual reawakening of the reincarnated soul, but Band and the writers drives the point home over and over to stretch the film to meet a minimum running length.)

Still, when the film gets going and the monsters start popping up and dimensional portals are opened thanks to cheap special effects, that old time Charles Band Magic is in full effect and we have a film that ends on a note far higher than everthing that led up to it indicated.

Everything except the acting that is. For the most part, the film's cast does an excellent job with what they have to work with. Ginty in particular does an excellent job as the emotionally tortured immortal, while Stimpson manages to effectively convey the fatigue of a woman who has spent her entire life tending to a sick family member. Dooling and Sandford are rather bland, but I can't blame the actors as their parts are written that way.

In final analysis, though, this film is really only for the Full Moon/Charles Band completists like myself. The rest of you are better off looking at the movies filed under the "High Rating" tag on this blog.

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Thanks for sharing your opinion. I love seeing what fellow fans have to say!