The Warrior (1981)

The Warrior (1981)

Director: Sisworo Gautama Putra

Also Known As: Jaka Sembung

Tagline: “No power on earth—or in hell—could stop him.”

Plot: In 19th-century Java, the Dutch rule with an iron fist, led by a mustachioed commandant who looks like he should be playing hammered dulcimer in a ’70s bluegrass revival band.

From the masses arises a rebel, Parmen (played by Indonesian super-hunk Barry Prima), known by all as “The Warrior,” and locked up by the Dutch for being “too dangerous.” But no mere jail can hold The Warrior—not even one of those movie jails where prisoners smash up rocks while gun-toting guards hurl abuse. Parmen escapes, and the Dutch enlist a team of local traitors to bring him back. First up is fire-breathing strongman Kobar, whom Parmen defeats by exploiting his one weakness: the back of his throat.


Next up: a shaman who raises the decapitated body of an evil mystic, Ki-item, then raises the mystic’s head to complete the set. Ki-item bests Parmen in a psychic fight (which mostly consists of the two of them squinting and grunting at each other), and hands him over to the Dutch commandant, “the cruelest ruler of human souls since Caligula,” who has The Warrior jailed again, and gouges his eyes out (with a little gratuitous slapping thrown in for good measure):


Through force of will, the blinded Parmen manages to pull the spikes out of his rubber hand and escape…


…only to run into Ki-item, who turns him into a pig.


Blind Pig Parmen (a hell of a bluesman, by the way) scurries off, and eventually finds comfort in the home of a martial-arts master, who turns him back into a sighted human, then teaches him how to defeat Ki-item. Parmen accomplishes that goal with 15 minutes of screen time to spare, but after watching him beat the ultimate bad-ass, waiting for him to take down some hippie Dutchman feels anticlimactic.

Key scenes: In order to regain his sight, Parmen relies on a gruesome donation from one of his dead disciples:


Later, in his big fight with Ki-item, Parmen discovers that the bad guy can remove his limbs, fling them about, then reattach them, which leads to the movie’s most ominous (and awesome) line:


Can easily be distinguished by:
A plot that feels like it’s been cribbed from the oft-filmed legends of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung, then dressed up with superpowers and Muslims.

Sign that it was made in 1981: The Warrior offers a vision of Islam far different from what we’d see on a movie screen today. There’s nary a hijab in sight—just prayer mats and high-kicking.

Timeless message:  There is no god but Allah, and he’s all out of bubblegum.

Memorable quotes: Parmen and his disciples tend to have circular conversations filled with oblique aphorisms, as follows:

Parmen: “To love one’s home as I do, it is that strength that keeps me with my fellow man. A curse befalls any man who could abuse another of his own.”

Disciple: “It is not a coward who is told he will probably die at the earliest sunset. It is a fool who allows it to needlessly happen.”

Deep, huh? Indecipherable, but deep. 

Available on DVD from Mondo Macabro.

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