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Deathstalker (1983)

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Score: 6/10

Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 20 min.

Release Date: September 2nd, 1983 MPAA Rating: R

Director: John Watson Actors: Rick Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson, Victor Bo, Lillian Ker, Maria Fournery, Bernard Erhard

“D

eathstalker” begins the same way as “Barbarian Queen” – with a random rape in what appears to be the middle of the movie. What differs is the hero, who is an immediately likeable, herculean, blonde swordsman, unflinchingly coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress at the hands of a horde of raging mutant ape-men and a vile thief. He’s fully equipped with cheesy one-liners, his own theme music, an uncanny invincibility, and unyielding smarminess. He also doesn’t seem to care one bit that he can’t act.

Deathstalker (Rick Hill) is sent on a mission by dethroned King Tulak (George Sorvic) to retrieve three powers – one hidden in an amulet, another in a chalice, and the final in the powerful Sword of Justice.  With these relics the former leader can take back the kingdom from the wicked court magician Munkar (Bernard Erhard). Along the way, Deathstalker must recruit a few extra sidekicks (which appear to come from the “Xena” TV show). Oghris (Richard Brooker) is the first candidate, a young man with masterful sword-wielding skills, on his way to fight in a two-day tournament at Munkar’s castle, where the winner may claim both the title of heir to the throne and the hand of the beautiful Princess Codille (Barbi Benton). The duo almost immediately crosses paths with the lithe Kaira (Lana Clarkson), a shapely woman unafraid to unfurl her cape to reveal a striking lack of garments. Together they journey to the palace, where Munkar invents fiendish games of barbarism to do away with the pesky heroes.

“I may be a woman, but my sword has cut down greater men than you,” Kaira warns Oghris. “And I’ve dealt with better women – with a different sword,” he rebuts. At least, there’s humor, plentifully strewn about in the bad dialogue and in the frequent bloodletting. Hilariously low-budget decapitations find their way into every fight scene and some truly frightful makeup and sorcery designs go along with the swordplay. Ogres, giants, spirits, midgets, a hulking pig-warrior (who gets to beat people senseless with recently torn limbs), a Muppet-like mutant that eats eyes and fingers, and a hand-puppet-like monstrosity (along the lines of a twisted Yoda) are the highlights of the creature effects. The film unexpectedly possesses style and wit in not-so-subtle music changes, laughable character development, and even in the framing of imagery (women’s well-defined rumps consistently find their way into the foreground).

“Deathstalker” goes so far as to boast a decent production value, with adequate lighting, makeup, character ideas, and schlock. The music isn’t even half bad. And superior camerawork, fight choreography, sound effects, acting, and dialogue are evident when compared to the later Roger Corman swords and sorcery productions (most notably measured against the “Barbarian Queen” series). One of the gladiators beats a scrawny guy to a bloody pulp with a giant mallet and, not surprisingly, viewers get to see the aftermath. Additionally, with a pointless but very well-lit sex scene, nude mudwrestling just for the sake of nude mudwrestling, an out-of-place pillow fight, oodles of random nakedness, and of course, an orgy, the parts of the story that just don’t make much sense are quickly forgotten. Bare breasts and brutal violence always seem to present themselves just when audiences might start to focus on the more nonsensical bits.

– Mike Massie

 

 

 

 

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