Indonesian movies are always
a hoot, this one in particular. A totally crazed martial arts fantasy, THE
WARRIOR isn’t “good” by any means, but as surreal thrill-a-minute entertainment
it’s hard to beat.
Barry Prima, a.k.a. Bertus Knoch, was Indonesia’s premiere movie star
during the eighties, and 1981’s THE WARRIOR (or JAKA SEMBUNG) was the film that
made his name. Based on a popular sixties-era Indonesian comic and borrowing
liberally from the Japanese BLIND SWORDSMAN cycle, the Hong Kong chop sockey
films of the seventies and obscure (to Westerners) Asian mythology, THE WARRIOR
was an enormous success in its native land. Three sequels followed, including
THE WARRIOR VERSUS THE BLIND SWORSMAN in 1983 and THE WARRIOR VERSUS THE NINJA
The director of THE WARRIOR was Sisworo Gautama Putra, who was associated
with quite a few Indonesian classics, such as 1979’s QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC, which
he scripted, and SNAKE QUEEN (1982) and SATAN’S SLAVE (1982), both directed by
In some past era a peaceful country has been taken over by a corrupt
warlord and his gun-wielding minions. Jaka Sembung is one of many citizens
enslaved by the new rulers, but Jaka manages to escape his confines--and in the
process become a revolutionary hero. His status is heightened when he kills the
hulking, fire-breathing Kobar, who was employed by the warlord.
The latter is not at all pleased with Jaka’s heroics, and with the help of
a local sorcerer resurrects Kobar. The warlord then imprisons Jaka, crucifies
him and stabs his eyes out. Jaka, however, is not to be cowed, and uses a magic
necklace to break out of the prison. He ends up facing down the resurrected
Kobar, who uses his own magic powers to turn Jaka into a pig.
Luckily a good-hearted magician is afoot. He changes
Jaka back into a man and restores his sight by lifting the eyes from a dying
woman and bequeathing them to Jaka. Thus equipped Jaka heads back into action
against his oppressors. First he vanquishes Kobar by slicing him in half and
burning the remains, and then Jaka and his fellow freedom fighters storm the
evil warlord’s headquarters for a final gore-packed showdown.
THE WARRIOR’S mix of martial arts and black magic is so irresistible one
wonders why the combination hasn’t been utilized more often. Part of the film’s
charm, of course, is in the ridiculousness of the action and hilariously
primitive special effects (I should add that the Mondo Macabro DVD is horribly
dubbed into English, which seems entirely appropriate). There are also some
genuinely psychedelic elements that wouldn’t feel out of place in a sixties drug
While it seems pointless to complain about this movie--it’s a product of
the Indonesian cinema, after all, from which quality filmmaking is not
something one can reasonably expect--it does contain some inconsistencies.
Barry Prima has real presence as the title character (even though it doesn’t
appear he can act a lick), but surprisingly little screen time. There are too
many supporting characters that do nothing but clutter an otherwise
But then again, it’s my contention that any movie containing flying limbs,
floating eyeballs, kung fu zombies, levitating bodies, mass carnage and animal
metamorphoses simply cannot be anything other than a must see.
THE WARRIOR (JAKA SEMBUNG)
Sisworo Gautama Putra
Producer: Gope T.
Screenplay: Darto Juned
Cinematography: F.E.S. Tarigan
Editing: Muksin E. Hamzah
Cast: Barry Prima, Eva Arnaz, W.D. Mochtar, Dana Christina, Dicky Zulkarnaen,
Rukman Herman “...and A Cast of Thousands”