It’s here. The wait is over. On October 7th, 2016, the Maradonia movie was finally posted in its entirety on YouTube…with a watermark…and by the account, “Americas Top Stripper”, which is a little ironic considering Gloria Tesch’s chosen career.
I’ve written about the tortuous, five-and-a-half-year production debacle that was this movie before, so I don’t need to recap everything. Between their cinematographers calling them out for shady business practices, multiple people getting fed up with and quitting the project, their IndieGoGo campaign which raised 8% of their goal, and the torturously bad 9-minute trailer – there’s honestly enough there to fill a small book.
Over the years, I’ve had email correspondence with a couple people who were involved with the production of this movie, and if their accounts are reliable – and I have no reason to believe they are not – Gloria’s father Dr. Gerry Tesch who “directed” this movie, squandered the majority of the family’s money financing the film. The fallout resulted in his wife leaving them and the Tesches being evicted from their house. Which is honestly a little depressing, even more so because the end result was this absolutely stunning god-awful piece of shit movie.
I actually enjoy bad movies, I have an entire shelf of some of the worst things ever committed to celluloid. Stuff like The Room, or Birdemic, the masterpieces by Neil Breen, or anything directed by Uwe Boll. And I can say with confidence that Maradonia: The Shadow Empire blows them out of the water.
So let’s get to it!
Cast of Characters
Joey (Michael Rodriguez) – I expect his directing notes were “You know how teenagers are constantly annoyed by everything that happens always? Do that, but turn that shit up to eleven.”
Maya (Gloria Tesch) – Gloria Tesch looks like an alien wearing a skin suit who watched an episode of Jersey Shore and thought that acting like an entitled bitch was the best way to blend in; but she doesn’t actually understand human speech and has to sound out words phonetically.
King Apollyon (Gustavo Perez) – This guy actually has a pretty illustrious IMDB page, like his uncredited appearance in Ocean’s Eleven as Gambler, or his role in Armageddon, as an uncredited Reporter. After years of appearing as an uncredited extra, he finally had his big breakthrough as a starring character in….this.
Wizard Oraculus (Bob Glacier) – I’m not sure if this actor died midway through filming and was just propped up, Weekend At Bernie’s-style to finish the shoot, but it would make a lot of sense if he did.
Prince Abbadon (Nishant Gogna) – He is unique among the cast of sounding like he has said words before.
Arabella (Marina Terkulova Tesch) – She is really into snakes, although not quite as much as another character we’ll meet.
Fairy Libertine (Monica Milan) – Half of the time she appears in the form of slow-motion footage of doves, so for consistency, when she appears as a human she tries to speak in slow motion.
General Genarius (Greg Jowers) – He looks like Chandler from Friends took molly and discovered a deep and abiding love for LARPing.
We smash cut open to a choir vocalizing as text proclaims “Maradonia” and then “3400 PAGES OF BRIMMING ADVENTURE.” What, wait the hell? Does this movie begin with an advertisement for the Maradonia book series? Have they ever watched a movie before?
We get a zoom in on the…poster for their movie, and a variety of unrelated, grammatically incorrect words and phrases like “HISTORY REWRITTEN IN BLOOD STAIN”. It’s the same opening as the trailer, so I assume the Tesches just figured, hey, we already cut together a trailer, and it’s not like we filmed enough footage to make an actual movie.
We zoom out on a map of Maradonia from the book, cross-faded with a shot of two wolves running across the scene, followed almost immediately by the exact same shot IT’S A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX GET OUT NOW.
Finally we open with a gorgeous helicopter shot navigating over a swiftly flowing river – literally the best stock footage money can buy. And we have text on screen – AND a voiceover narration. Because the Tesches apparently can’t trust their audience to able to read the text, so they had to have someone read the words that are on the screen.
Actually, that’s probably not a bad thing, because let me take a moment to tell you about the music, which is infuriating. It’s your fairly basic stock music of dramatic fantasy-like orchestra and vocalization. And it never. Fucking. Ends. Literally. There isn’t a single goddamned moment of this entire movie where there isn’t music playing. It also makes it so it’s next to impossible to hear the actual dialogue in a number of scenes because they have no idea how to mix sound properly.
Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but I really hate that they’re shoehorning 9/11 into this. “Hey, when 9/11 happens and 3,000 Americans die, and hundreds of thousands more die in the conflicts to follow – yeah, that’s a sign that shit is going down in another world.”
Some stock footage informs us that we are at “The Glacier Palace of “The Shadow Empire”, and a very poorly CGI’d dragon flies overhead. It’s slightly higher quality than the animated birds in Birdemic. A few horses gallop along a path, we get another establishing shot of the palace, and we cut to what is pretty obviously a fancy house in Miami. A hooded figure walks up to a few guards dressed in plastic Roman soldier costumes scrounged up from the time Gerry Tesch’s church did a play about the crucifixion of Jesus. And then there’s…another establishing stock footage shot. Why are they doing a second establishing shot?
Oh okay. It’s for the sky to turn dark red and purple in an effect that is not terrible, at least for this movie. And….title card!
And then…we get more text on screen that is being read by our emotionless narrator over stock footage from a movie that must have been filmed sixty years ago. I assume the Tesches knew they didn’t have the budget to stage any fight scenes, but figured they needed some war shots in there to make it seem like a real fantasy movie.
Blah blah, there’s a violent war, prophecies foretold of it, their will to fight diminished, people are afraid, one area refuses to get involved, so they were attacked and destroyed. We see a young child clutching a stuffed rabbit wander out from behind the destruction, which is a couple of boulders and a few 2×4s nailed together that vaguely resemble an on-fire house, and a few corpses with no visible wounds. His mother is dead. We get a brief shot of three evil fairies cackling with laughter…and then opening credits? Goddamnit, can we please get to the movie?
Over MORE stock footage, our narrator continues to explain – this time without the words appearing on the screen – that some children would come and fix things. And finally – FINALLY – we get our two heroes, hacking their way through the jungles of south Florida with a machete that Joey carries around because…Florida?
Maya is tired, so they stop for a break to eat some apples and for Maya to try and figure out how a flashlight works. Maya asks Joey if he ever wonders if everything happens for a reason. Joey shakes his head, but they hear hoofbeats, and Maya flips her shit, thinking it could be “those creatures from the caves with swords”. They rush off into the underbrush, leaving a blanket and flashlight behind. And then the flashlight starts doing its best Edward Cullen impression by…sparkling. Hmm. Maybe this will be explained later in the film.
A couple bad guys on horses ride up with shots that are extremely out of focus. One of them yells about being able to “smell the humans”. In the bushes, Maya confidently points off screen and says “Look, horses!” Yes, Maya, keep describing the things you see. Joey has a more sensible question, which is “Did he just call us humans?” I can’t help but feel like this scene would carry more weight if we knew what had happened back at the cave with the swords.
Maya wants to go home, but Joey points out that they have no idea where home is, and they really need to find some shelter and figure out what the hell is going on, which isn’t the worst idea in the world, so they sneak away. As this is happening, the bad guy shouts “I WILL FIND YOU!” while waving his katana around in the air. He helpful expands: “I’VE BEEN LOOKING AND SEARCHING!” Yes, little buddy, we got that.
The bad guy, who really just has some poorly applied makeup on his face, wonders out loud whether the children could be magicians and if the flashlight is magic and drops it in terror after he accidentally switches it on. Hilarious!
We get some shots of them running through the forest, then asleep on the forest…then asleep on the forest from another angle…then asleep on the forest from a handheld camera…then a close-up of Maya’s face through a bush – until an alarm goes off, Maya wakes up, smash cut to an eagle flying over New York City. Not a lot of people know this, but New York City actually has a thriving eagle population.
There’s an old guy with an enormous, glaring, in-your-face Trumpian hairpiece who is reading a book. He has a giant painting on the wall of parrots and a couple of birds in a cage. He helpfully exposits to the empty room that “I have to go to work, I have to go to school” and bids his parrots farewell. He then continues “I think I will take a good hot shower, I think that will help me, wake me up.”
…Okay, I think I have it. This is a framing mechanism – the entire Maradonia movie is being imagined by an old man who is struggling with dementia while reading the book, and the haphazard, nonsensical, out-of-sequence structure is meant to illustrate the gaps in his memory as he attempts to make sense of it all. Given that, rather than calling him Senile McToupeeHead, let’s go with Parrot Guy.
We cut to a classroom where a teacher is explaining about colors used in painting. He pretty obviously didn’t have a script for this part and was instructed to improvise some bullshit about painting, but he does his best to sell it. He explains that they’ll be talking about what colors work together today, and is interrupted by Parrot Guy, who turns out to be “Professor Epstein.” The teacher explains that Parrot Guy will be taking over the class because he has to leave in a few minutes. So apparently they will not be talking about what colors work together.
As the teacher packs up, he notices a girl (Emily) standing at the back of the class stroking the painting of 9/11 conspicuously hung in the back of the room.
Emily explains – through her tears – that her father died on 9/11, and says that nobody can answer her questions about why her dad had to die and where all the evil is coming from.
It’s intended to be a big heart-wrenching moment, but it isn’t, because this Emily could not act her way out of a paper bag with a topographical map and voice-guided GPS.
And then we cut to white…and then cut to a black shot with…dozens of CGI white birds flying overhead, while the clip of her asking “why” repeats, word for word. I am not fucking with you. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.
We cut back to the classroom and the teacher looking a bit troubled. Now, there’s a lot of ways to handle this situation – you could try to come up with an aphorism about different motivations of people with conflicting goals and ideals and how the Big Questions in life aren’t easy to understand, or maybe you could decide that in front of a class full of kids isn’t the best place for the conversation and just try to calm a grieving student down, or maybe you pawn her off on the guidance counselor or the school principle, but, you know, this guy teaches art. Word for word:
“That’s very complicated to explain. Um, I wish I had more time but I have to go. Maybe Professor Epstein can pick up from here.”
Dick move, bro. Dick move.
Parrot Guy wanders up to the sobbing fourteen-year-old girl and lays a comforting hand on her shoulder which isn’t even slightly creepy, and explains that he, in fact, lost his son on 9/11. He says he’ll try to answer her questions from his knowledge and experience and sits down in front of the class. He has his giant book from earlier and explains that he’d brought this “ancient history book” to read on his lunch break, but now he thinks he should read some of it…to this art class. Because he thinks it’ll help answer some of Emily’s questions, see.
He begins to explain that all of this got started, when a war broke out in heaven.
“In heaven?” a startled youngster exclaims.
“In heaven?” another youngster, even more astonished, exclaims.
….what the fuck type of ancient history book is he supposedly bringing into this classroom? The Bible? Is he literally calling that an ancient history book, and has he never heard of the goddamned First Amendment?
(For readers outside of the United States, bring a religious textbook into a classroom and teaching about events that happened in heaven “as ancient history” is blatantly illegal and would result in this school getting immediately sued)
He goes on to explain that this war occurred in the kingdom of light.
“The kingdom of light?” gasps an amazed student.
“The kingdom of light?” echoes another student, her little mind blown.
For those interested in the drinking game, take a shot every time a character says something and another character repeats it word for word for no fucking reason.
Parrot Guy reads that there was a Light Carrier named Apollyon who served the Light King. Over stock footage of doves flying through the sky, the narrator abruptly changes to a female voice explaining what happened, which is basically identical to the downfall of Lucifer from Christian mythology. Summary: Apollyon wants to be the top boss, God is having none of that shit, there’s a fight and Apollyon is cast down, and his henchmen are…punished.
God monologues for a bit about how Apollyon is bad as we pan over stock footage of mountain ranges and nebulae. He exposits that Apollyon will be cast down to Earth, to the land of Maradonia – apparently Maradonia is on Earth (and it looks just like Florida!) and he’ll be able to terrorize it, until the planes hit the World Trade Center, yadda yadda yadda. This is now the third time we’ve heard all of this exposition.
Now Apollyon gets up to give a motivational speech that is cut back and forth between a few still images of a demon woman and audio of someone screaming in pain.
This is not video of a demon woman screaming – it’s still images inserted into the movie being rotated like they’re in a fucking PowerPoint presentation.
Which, knowing what we know about Apollyon from the books and his Club of Evil, I wouldn’t be surprised if he made his minions sit through demonic PowerPoints.
Also, Demonic PowerPoints would be a great name for a band.
We cut back to the classroom and they’re in an uproar, desperate to learn what’s happening next in this story. He explains that the story of Apollyon goes on, but the story of the two children… had just begun.
….so….I guess that means it’s time for the movie to actually begin? That prologue only took 18 ½ minutes. We just spent a sixth of the movie preparing for the movie to start.