The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Deathstalker (1983)

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As you can imagine, this is a film that a review site like mine should have up, and now that it's on Instant, I have no excuses-- not that I had any excuses before.  It is something of a travesty that it's taken me this long to do it, but now that I am, it will be up on here for all of posterity.  Also, our friends at The Video Vacuum and Trash Film Guru have hit this one too if you want to see what they thought about it.

Deathstalker features the all too sweet Rick Hill as our eponymous bad ass hero, who is tasked to take out some nasty sorcerer dude that has a magical chalice and amulet.  The thing that can stop him?  A kick ass sword that only a great hero and total dude like the Deathstalker can wield, so he takes it and enters the sorcerer's tournament to find the greatest warrior in the land.  Is there any question who that is?

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This film is 76 minutes of pure bad-assery.  The moment Rick Hill pops on the screen until the end credits roll, it's a straight up awesomefest.  As far as sword and sorcery films go, this is about as good as it gets.  When I watch modern DTV attempts at this genre, and I'm very hard on them in my reviews, now you know why I'm so hard on them, because this is the standard that's been set.  I think if you combine it with The Sword and the Sorcerer and The Beastmaster (another film I've been woefully deficient in not reviewing here yet), it makes for a great trilogy.  Or you can just watch this three times in a row, it's that good.

And a major reason why it's so great and so iconic, is the hero, played by Rick Hill.  He's the perfect charismatic lead, between the way he delivers his lines, the looks on his face, his way with the ladies, even the way he walks.  Movies like this need actors like this, otherwise they fall flat.  There were other things that made this great, like the writing, including that great scene where Deathstalker finds out his companion is working for the baddie, and he overhears the companion tell the baddie that he's going to take Deathstalker's sword away.  When the companion meets Deathstalker in his room, Deathstalker stick the sword in the floor as if to say "it's right there, now all you have to do is pick it up", and then they fight.  Totally bad ass.  The thing is though, as great as that writing is, it falls flat if Hill doesn't sell it as well, and because he does, when we get to that scene, it's all the more awesome.

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As I went through the rest of the cast, I saw Lana Clarkson listed as the woman warrior Deathstalker picks up on the way to the tournament.  I didn't know this, but she was the woman Phil Spector murdered.  What a crazy thing to read about.  According to imdb, she was barely 21 when this came out, which surprised me, because she seems much more mature.  Her character, outside of Deathstalker, was the most interesting, and the lack of development for it was the only complaint I had with the short runtime-- though Roger Corman made up for it by giving her the lead in Barbarian Queen.

This was the evil sorcerer, and I noticed he looked kind of like Quan Chi of Mortal Kombat fame.  I know they found a lot of their inspiration for the characters from B-movies, so I wonder if this is where the idea of Quan Chi came from.  If that's the case, then why wasn't there a Deathstalker character in the game?  Maybe because it would've been too awesome.  As a baddie went, Munkar, who was played by Bernard Erhard, was pretty sweet.  I don't think it mattered though, he could've been running a nonprofit puppy rescue operation, and we still would've rooted for Rick Hill as the Deathstalker to kill him.

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Finally, I want to touch on the degree to which this film features scenes of men forcing themselves on women.  There are quite a few, which could be triggering to a survivor of sexual assault.  It was done in the film to play up on the exploitation/women in prison and barbaric world setting aspects, and it also worked in making our hero stand apart, because he never needed to force himself on any woman, they came to him willingly.  It was almost as if within that exploitation element there was the message that a real man like the Deathstalker doesn't need to force himself on a woman.  Regardless, I thought I'd mention it because it could be problematic.

This is the sword and sorcery movie you came for.  Rick Hill simply kills it, and everything else is great from there.  And at 76 minutes, how can you beat that?  Whenever I see another movie from the sword and sorcery genre listed at a 100-minute runtime, I'm suspicious, and Deathstalker is why.  If Deathstalker can do it in 76, you should be able to do it in no more than 80.  And while this is on Instant, I may just boycott all 100-minute sword and sorcery flicks and watch this instead.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087127/

4 comments:

  1. Excellent review! I saw this at the drive-in back when it was (relatively) new. It is amazing - but two quibbles - why no mention of Barbi Benton or the batcrap crazy scene where the baddie magically transformed his henchman into a Barbi clone? Nonetheless it's nice to see this movie appreciated. But what do you think about my favorite in the series - Deathstalker II - with John Terlesky and Monique Gabrielle running around under the direction of Jim Wynorski?

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  2. Niiiiice man. I've always wondered about this one, and as much as I love films like these, I've never seen it or any of the many sequels. Great review, as always, and hell, thanks for the "Instant" tip. I just put it in my queue and will surely watch it this weekend.

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  3. Need to check this one out. I enjoy sword and sorcery flicks as a whole, even the bad ones. But this one has a pretty good rep, and your review backs that up. Into the queue it goes.

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  4. Well, you definitely liked Deathstalker more than I did. I really wanted to enjoy it too... shame.

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