The Alchemist (1983)

After watching “The Alchemist” I made the unpleasant discovery that lead actor Robert Ginty passed away last September, at the relatively young age of 60, as a result of cancer. It was quite a shock, because tracking down Ginty movies had sort of become a running joke between a buddy and me. With the notable exception of “The Exterminator” – which is a powerfully raw and underrated vigilante exploitation highlight – the name Robert Ginty almost certainly guarantees bad and cheesy but nevertheless entertaining movies. I had tremendous fun watching so-bad- it’s-good rubbish flicks like “Scarab”, “White Fire”, “Warrior of the Lost World” and “Maniac Killer”. What made Robert Ginty so cool was that he had a really “dumb” face. There’s an expression in my country that perfectly describes his facial expressions and attitude: The light’s on but there’s nobody home. Michael Moriarty (“Q-The Winged Serpent”, “Pale Rider”) has that as well. If I could go back in time to the 80’s, I’d make a film which stars Robert Ginty and Michael Moriarty as two dim- witted crime fighting brothers. That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Either way, rest in peace Robert Ginty, and thank you for the laughs we had on your account.

Ironically enough, in “The Alchemist” Ginty depicts an immortal man who’s doomed to live in the woods like an animal, due to a curse placed upon him by a malignant alchemist in the year 1871. The alchemist lured Aaron McCullen’s wife Anna away from him through black magic and hypnotism, but in an attempt to get her back Aaron accidentally kills his wife instead of the evil DelGatto. 84 years later Aaron still lives in the same cabin in the woods, with his daughter who looks old enough to be his mother, and nothing better to do but hunting down deer. But then the 1950’s reincarnation of his wife travel through the area, accompanied by a random hitch-hiker, and Aaron sees the opportunity to break the spell once and for all. In all honesty and strangely enough, the basic idea behind “The Alchemist” really isn’t that bad at all! The execution is clumsy, with atrocious acting performances and seriously cheesy special effects, but the actual concept is acceptable. The story lines are quite thin and the script is rather senseless, but the film contains some delightful random moments. The acquaintance between Lenora and the hitcher, for example, is hilarious and good for almost fifteen minutes of completely irrelevant padding. She picks up a mysterious guy, they promptly start bickering, she drops him off but gets her car in the mud, he helps her out, she drives off but comes back and they fall in love. It’s truly hysterical. Beginning director Charles Band – who did a much better job with this than with the god awful “Parasite” – loses total grip on the film once passed the hour, with cheesy demonic creatures randomly running amok and excessive gore to compensate for the lack of coherence. The charismatic Robert Glaudini is sadly underused as the titular alchemist. A couple of more sequences with his evil appearance would definitely have made the film more horror-like and exciting.