= Highest Rating
Deathstalker is a
low budget cheapie made to cash in on the brief
sword-and-sorcery fad spawned by 1982's Conan
the Barbarian. It's horribly acted,
the script is an insult to the worst-written comic
books, the special effects are pathetic and the
sets look like they're made out of cardboard.
the life of me I don't understand how the film
generated three —
count 'em — three
it have been the copious amounts of T &
A on display? Granted, all that naked female flesh
certainly doesn't hurt...
We're introduced to the titular
hunk of bronzed beefcake (Rick Hill, whose hair
keeps changing length during the first 10 minutes)
when he saves a woman from being raped by a band
of ape-men with leprosy. (That's what they look
like, anyway.) So what does our paladin of justice
do after rescuing the fair maiden? He strips off
her tunic and starts fondling her breasts. He
sure didn't kill all those thugs for nothin'!
Yet the girl seems receptive as her 'savior' is
a bit better looking than the diseased humanoids
he just skewered. Deathstalker's reward, however,
is interrupted when he's approached by a messenger
summoning him to an audience with the deposed
King Tulak. The old monarch wants his throne back,
so he needs a brave warrior to infiltrate the
castle of the evil usurper Munkar and slay him.
The man who succeeds will be handsomely rewarded.
Deathstalker isn't interested. Munkar is the land's
most powerful wizard and only a fool would take
him on. Tulak wails that Munkar has taken captive
his own daughter, the Princess Codille, and that
a true hero wouldn't think twice about riding
off to save her. Not my problem, Deathstalker
tells the king, blowing him off.
Now the film takes a somewhat
confusing turn. Deathstalker goes to visit an
old witch-woman whom he apparently knows. When
he arrives at her hut she's being set upon by
a squad of Munkar's soldiers, who've come to learn
the location of a magic sword. Deathstalker kills
most of them and drives the rest off. The witch
then explains that he must seek the aforementioned
sword to keep it out of Munkar's evil hands. Combined
with two other magical items —
an amulet and a chalice, both of which the wizard
already possesses —
the sword will grant unlimited, ultimate power.
"You will be the power!" she tells Deathstalker,
who agrees to fetch the sword. Thus armed, he'll
ride to Munkar's castle and figure out a way to
kill him. (Now wait a minute... In the beginning
of the film, Deathstalker was dead set against
challenging Munkar, dismissing the notion as foolish.
So all of a sudden he changes his mind? It's hard
to tell why, exactly, since Hill is a complete
block of wood, mostly just standing around with
his mouth hanging open and a vacuous look on his
tells Deathstalker where to find the mystic sword:
in a cavern, guarded by a goofy-looking plastic
puppet with an attitude. Our hero's claiming of
the blade breaks the spell that turned the guardian
into a puppet, and the creature reverts back to
his normal —
even goofier —
human form. (This guy's supposed to be the film's
comic relief. He fails dismally.) Now teamed with
a useless sidekick, Deathstalker unexpectedly
picks up two more traveling companions as he makes
for Munkar's citadel: Oghris (Richard Brooker),
a skilled swordsman, and Kaira (Lana Clarkson),
a statuesque blonde warrior woman who prefers
to fight topless. (Yowza!) Oghris informs
Deathstalker that the wizard is holding a special
tournament to crown the greatest warrior in his
domain. The winner will be named Munkar's heir-apparent.
Such a contest would seem the perfect cover for
Deathstalker to get a crack at the sorcerer and
the two magical items in his grasp. Besides...
he can get some nookie from Kaira on the way.
So, as in Enter the
Dragon, the bad guy calls an assembly of bad-asses
together to fight over who's Numero Uno.
The scheming Munkar (Bernard Erhard) naturally
plans to execute the winner, thus ridding the
land of all warriors strong enough to oppose him.
He also has foreknowledge of Deathstalker's coming
and arranges a few deadly surprises for him, of
course to no avail. Playboy Playmate (and supposed
actress) Barbi Benton is the princess held captive
in Munkar's harem; she gets a memorable scene
in which she's chained to a rock, her diaphanous
gown ripped off by a lusty tourney contender.
which ran on USA Up All Night seemingly
every other week back in the late '80s-early '90s
is one of those flicks in which the best thing
about it is the poster art. (In this case by renowned
fantasy artist Boris Vallejo.) The script is stupid;
production values are quite shoddy. It's a terrible
movie, yes... but that doesn't mean it isn't entertaining.
A headlong belly-flop into the Cinematic Fondue
Pot, the cheese here is almost too thick to cut
even with a magic sword. This is exactly the kind
of film that's best enjoyed while inebriated.
You'll get some unintentional laughs —
the purposeful humor almost never works in such
and there are naked women running around to boot.
(An element of morbid curiosity may draw some
viewers as well. Lana Clarkson, the film's bare-breasted
warrior chick, was shot and killed Feb. 3, 2003,
in the Alhambra, California mansion of Phil Spector,
music producer. She was 40 at the time
of her death. Spector, who claims Clarkson committed
suicide, is currently the focus of a homicide
DVD, released over three years ago and still in
print (selling for under $10), is like most of
the company's product I've seen:
it gets the job done and no more. The fullframe
transfer is a bit muddy and rough around the edges;
there's some grain, minor print damage and night
scenes are often murky, but at any rate it looks
better than it did on TV. I don't know what kind
of theatrical release, if any, Deathstalker
received back in '83... It would seem to have
been made with the then-burgeoning VHS rental
market in mind. I doubt anything is lost in the
4:3 presentation. The mono audio track is decent
enough for a low-rent flick like this — 5.1 Surround
isn't really needed when your music score is performed
on a Wal-Mart Casio.
Some minor extras are
tossed in as a bone. Aside from genuinely quite
thin (and useless) talent bios, four trailers
are included: Barbarian
Queen II (both starring Clarkson, as a
proto-Xena female warrior), Deathstalker
II and the one for Deathstalker
This DVD went OOP in 2005. Shout! Factory will be
releasing a newly remastered edition (as part of
a 4-film "Sword & Sorcery" collection,
to include Deathstalker II,
Barbarian Queen and
The Warrior & the Sorceress)
in August 2011. Phil Spector was eventually convicted
of Lana Clarkson's murder in 2009, more than six
years after the crime.