Deathstalker & Deathstalker II Double Review

Deathstalker & Deathstalker II Double Review

Deathstalker & Deathstalker II double-film review. By Joe Muldoon.

Deathstalker (1983)

The first of ten Argentina-based films that the legendary Roger Corman produced in the ‘80s, Deathstalker marked itself as one of his earliest forays into sword and sorcery. Accusations of plagiarism are often levelled against the genre, and they’re not entirely unfounded – frankly, most of the ‘80s output is comprised of Conan the Barbarian knockoffs, only with the exploitation and sleaze dialled right up.

Despite what you may go away thinking as the end credits roll, there’s allegedly an actual plot behind Deathstalker – a very thin and quickly forgettable one, but a plot nonetheless. Our tale has a lone warrior, the titular Deathstalker (Rick Hill), sent by a mysterious witch on a quest to retrieve a number of items: a sword, an amulet, and a chalice. At least, that’s the initial premise.

Mostly forgotten by the film itself shortly after the quest begins, the story morphs into something not entirely dissimilar to Enter The Dragon; our hero enters a tournament in which the mightiest warriors are pitted against one another, the winner standing to inherit the kingdom of Munkar (Bernard Erhard), a much-feared sorcerer.

The story is mostly secondary to the valiant swashbuckling, an excuse to mash as much sword fighting (no pun intended) as possible into an 80-minute window. There’s something quite thrilling about a bunch of oiled up herculean men dashing around a fantasy realm on horseback, slashing down faceless foes with gay abandon, taking refuge in rowdy taverns as night falls. That said, enjoyable though Deathstalker is on the whole, its nonchalance surrounding needless instances of sexual violence is rather troubling, marring an otherwise good film.

Deathstalker II (1987)

The followup to Deathstalker and the first of three sequels, Deathstalker II is perhaps the ultimate sword and sorcery parody. Though its predecessor didn’t take itself entirely seriously, Deathstalker II fully embraces the campiness and ridiculousness of the Deathstalker mythos, any veneer of seriousness tossed by the wayside. Counterintuitive though it feels to say, this film is best enjoyed totally uncritically, a full acceptance of its stupidity.

Considering the mostly-absent plot of its forebearer, Deathstalker II’s story is surprisingly coherent. Following Munkar’s defeat at the end of our previous picture, a comparably leaner Deathstalker (John Terlesky) is up to his usual tricks, drinking and womanising as he pleases, typically within the confines of a rough and ready tavern. A young seer, Reena (Monique Gabrielle), enlists the help of the wily warrior, seeking to depose the villainous wizard Jarek (John LaZar) and his vicious ally Sultana (Toni Naples) from the lands.Unbeknownst to Deathstalker, his new companion is actually none other than Princess Evie, whose place on the throne has been stolen by the evil wizard, his ally, and the princess’ evil clone. As the pair embark on their quest, trials and tribulations inevitably befall them, the smart-mouthed warrior batting challengers with clear glee.

To his delight, his heroism will become the stuff of legends.In the same way that The Slumber Party Massacre inadvertently became a beloved staple of the slasher genre, Deathstalker II is such a success that it is arguably better than most of the films it parodies. A rip-off of Conan the Barbarian? I say an improvement. There’s no shortage of trashy low-budget B-movies to choose from, but Deathstalker II manages to skilfully and mostly tastefully toe the line between bad and good; the story is unoriginal, the skimpy costumes are of noticeably poor quality, and the acting is self-consciously bad, not amiss from a porno – but this is why it’s amazing.

The director is aware of it, the writers are aware of it, the cast is aware of it (with there being instances of them visibly stifling laughter after delivering some of the silliest and naughtiest innuendo imaginable); Deathstalker II is utter rubbish. But it oozes camp charm and is the most fun you’ll ever find in the sword and sorcery department. When a film is this fun, the quality is almost inconsequential.

By Joe Muldoon

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