Journey to an age of awesome magic – that’s an 80’s tagline for you!
It is curious how 80’s pop culture was so wrapped up in the latest of things – even the future of things. We were enamored with the latest technology, hot new music, cutting edge music videos, etc. But there was also a strange trend of sword & sorcery epics that hit cinemas regularly in the early part of the decade. Maybe as we were so entranced being in the ‘now’ – parachute pants, Culture Club and the like – that there was a secret desire for a more humbling experience; a paean for the “good old days”. Of course, in 1983 it was not as if one’s grandfather were alive in the Middle Ages so it is odd that fantasy genre became as marketable as it did.
And if any time in history could have combined the Dark Ages with smoke machines, lasers and teased-out hair; and still make it work, it was the early 80’s.
But then we come to Deathstalker – yes, it is spelled as one word – a film that is almost unfair to review because everything about it reeks of awfulness. It’s as if the sole purpose of this movie is for the audience to make fun of it – which is going to be easy to do. To be honest, it would come as no surprise if the entire cast and crew knew they were working on a stinker of magnificent proportions. It really is that bad. And yet, unbelievably, three sequels were made!
The film has a very simple plot – there is not much of one. The main character is out in the wild raping and pillaging when an old witch somehow, randomly contacts him telling him how to find a mystical sword that will make him invincible. She then tells him of a villain called Munkar who has a mystical amulet and chalice, which when combined with the aforementioned mystical sword, would make the bearer… even more invincible?
Munkar is holding a tournament to find the most powerful warriors in the land – this way he can kill them and have no competition when he finds the powerful sword. Since Munkar is a wizard – and an evil one at that – he has already prophesized about Deathstalker having the sword. If he can kill him in the tournament, he can get the sword and be all-powerful. Or at least the most invincible-est wizard ever. But things don’t really go his way and Deathstalker gets both the amulet and the chalice and shoots a green laser from the sword and the movie ends.
The official trailer will show you all you need to know. Unless you want to see boobies and then you have to sit through the entire film
A deep and multi-layered story for sure but let us turn our attention to the Deathstalker himself.
The central character is a bulked-up thief, murderer, and womanizer. With all these attributes, it truly dazzles that he is the ‘hero’ of the film. And of course, the fact that the hero’s name is Deathstalker should make you question why we are rooting for him anyway – it’s just not the name for a hero is it? And let’s not forget the whole womanizing, stealing, killing thing going on.
Let’s pause there and look at how women are treated or thought of in this film. Mostly it comes off as a complete narcissistic (and chauvinistic) male fantasy – the sex and nudity are completely over the top! The women are there only to delight the men in the film as every woman (save one) is a sex slave in Munkar’s lair. And the men most certainly take advantage of this fact - breasts are constantly bared for no real reason and the sex happens often; just to give us something to look at! The gorgeous Lana Clarkson – bare-breasted under her very open robe - makes for quite the appealing warrior. All one can say after looking at her nubile frame is, “burn in hell Phil Spector”!
Even Deathstalker himself partakes in the pleasures of the flesh; in fact, his normal stance goes something like this: “Hi, my name is Deathstalker and I just ripped your top off. I didn’t get your name but you can tell me after we have sex.” He’s a smooth talker all right. It is possible that in 1983, this would barely have raised an eyebrow but 30 years later, it is quite surprising.
The gore spews freely – including a little creature in a box that eats a man’s eyeball – but the action is fairly tepid. The campy special effects are also completely fake-looking - like the miscellaneous trolls and beasts that look like men in cheap rubber suits sprayed in a clear slime, because fake creatures look much more real if they are covered in shiny goo.
And then there’s the pig man. Piggy looks like one of the Gamorrean guards from Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Return of the Jedi. At one point, we find him sitting at the dinner table, looking with disgust at the cooked wild board spread out before him. As he takes in the gastrointestinal debauchery on the table, he surely must be contemplating the irony of his existence, living in Mukar’s dungeon, a mere minion for the evil wizard, cast out from his native lands by the other pigs who shunned him for walking upright - and not possessing the body of a pig. But the conflict wells up within him as he picks up the boars head on a stick – and starts eating it! Sweet revenge? Hunger? Discuss among yourselves.
And there it is – far too many words devoted to a single, horrendous film that time has mostly forgotten. But I really must leave it here as I am currently seeking out a copy of Deathstalker II.