Better than it might have been, given the limitations of this kind of brand-name filmmaking. Saddled with an outworn but still salable concept, director Mike Hodges faces the unenviable task of reinventing a fairy tale: his competition is our childhood memories of the material, colored with a sweep and grandeur that the old Universal serials, seen as an adult, don't really have. Hodges doesn't shirk his duties, and though the film lapses too often into easy facetiousness, much of it feels surprisingly substantial. The action moves smoothly and logically, finding a rhythm that engages your attention despite the patent lack of inspiration and genuine commitment. A respectable time-waster. With Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, and a highly entertaining Max von Sydow as Ming (1980).