Masters of the Universe was released 30 years ago today and the movie is still just as decisive as it was back when it originally hit theaters. Some hail it as a cult classic and some call it one of the worst movies ever made thanks to cheesy comedy and a less than stellar performance from star Dolph Lundgren. Lundgren at that point had only been in two movies prior to Masters of the Universe, and neither of them had very many speaking roles, if at all. Apparently the Swedish actor had a pretty good contract for Masters of the Universe that protected his full performance from being tampered with.
The Hollywood Reporter reveals via the documentary, Toy Masters, that muscular He-Man star Dolph Lundgren had a very difficult time delivering the lines for the movie. A Mattel executive in the documentary says that Lundgren's contract allowed him three attempts to get the dialogue right before he would have his voice replaced by a professional voice-over actor, which he took very seriously. Producer Menahem Golan chose to keep Lundgren's voice in the movie, much to the disappointment of many on set.
Mattel marketing executive Paul Cleveland had less than a positive reaction to the decision to keep Lundgren's voice in the final product. Cleveland explains.
"I saw some rough cuts, I listened to Dolph Lundgren's voice and I just about had a heart attack. It's okay if He-Man has a little bit of an accent, but you have got to be able to understand him."
As it turns out, Masters of the Universe director Gary Goddard also wanted to have Lundgren's voice dubbed , but the actor's contract and the insistence of Golan kept anything from happening to Lundgren's full performance. The team had even brought in voice actors to try out and one of them was apparently "flawless," according to Cleveland.
It appears as if Dolph Lundgren's voice was the least of the production's worries at the time as the project was quickly losing money. In fact, the production had completely run out of money by the time it was supposed to film the last epic battle between the villainous Skeletor and He-Man. The set had been completely shut down, but Goddard was able to shoot some footage with a director of photography, Skeletor, and He-Man in the dark, to try and scrape together as best they could.
In the end, Masters of the Universe turned out to be a huge flop despite a powerful performance by Frank Langelia as Skeletor. The movie was universally panned and Lundgren has gone on to say that it is his least favorite movie that he has done. There was an intended sequel that was written after a tease that Skeletor had survived his fall in the first movie. The sequel had even been cast and was given a budget, but was shut down when the studio would not pay Mattel's licensing fees. While it's not the best movie of all time, it's certainly not the worst considering what they had to deal with while making it. And they are trying to do a Masters of the Universe movie reboot as we speak, so it didn't completely kill the potential movie franchise. You can check out a short portion of the Toy Masters documentary below.