Well, after another break, the time has finally come to jump right back into Dungeons and D-Listers – with something a little different: a quadrilogy! I’ve already taken a deep stare at Dungeons and Dragons, a long, oft-wincing gaze at Beastmaster, and now the time has come for yet another fantasy classic… one that is considered, much like Beastmaster, to start off with its strongest installment and go downhill from there.
Yeah, everyone. It’s time for Deathstalker.
Y’know. That guy that stalks death.
I honestly can’t decide if this flick was a fantasy masterpiece or a total pile of shit. I have good reasons for thinking both, and – obviously – I’m going to tell you why. Starting with the latter, ’cause fuck making sense.
I doubt it’ll take much convincing to get the lot of you believing that a movie called Deathstalker that was shot in Argentina in 1983 wasn’t particularly good. And it wasn’t. As far as movies go, with like, character and plotlines and effects and anything making sense or flowing well, Deathstalker disappoints because it’s just a shitty movie. There’s not much you can expect from it and it doesn’t defy those expectations. It’s not a directorial masterpiece that turned its low budget on its head by using strange or innovative effects. It isn’t a genius spectacle of writing with dazzling dialogue and plot twists. It’s a corny, campy, shoestring budget 80’s fantasy flick made by the same team that would later go on to make Barbarian Queen… oh, and by the way, they’d use some of the exact same sets to do it.
Yeah. The city at the end, where the tournament takes place? Totally the exact same city in Barbarian Queen where the tournament takes place.
Come to think of it, I think they used the same dungeon too.
So what else is there to say about how bad this is? Eh, not much. The bad parts are pretty bad in exactly the ways you’d expect a movie like this to be. The good parts (and the funny parts) are much more interesting to delve into – so let’s take a look at those instead!
An interesting bit about this that I noticed right away is that the hero (played by Richard Hill) is… well, he’s a dick. Just plain and simple, honestly. His name is Deathstalker (his actual fucking name – this isn’t like Beastmaster where his name was actually Dar. His name is Deathstalker), he makes his living as a brigand, and he gives a stupendously small amount of fucks about everyone who isn’t him. Early on in the film he’s confronted by an ousted ex-king who pleads with him to go to the city and fight against the evil sorcerer, Munkar (hehehehehe).
Dark sorcerer and connoisseur of Troma sock puppets.
The king offers Deathstalker riches, he offers him glory, he offers him position, and each time Deathstalker declines, considering it to be a suicide mission. The king then attempts to appeal to Deathstalker’s sense of honor, telling him that his daughter is being kept in the city as a rape-slave. Deathstalker is thoroughly unimpressed and flat-out rides away.
Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
“What? He didn’t offer me her hand in marriage or anything!”
Oh, by the way, speaking of rape – I tried to keep an “Attempted Rape Counter” for this movie. I managed to get up to three before Deathstalker and his quickly-gathered gang of sidekicks entered the city, at which point the counter began to escalate at immeasurably-rapid levels for a little while before slowing down again. Long story short, I lost track. Sorry about that. If I had to guess, though, I’d say… ten? Eleven? Somewhere in that area. Surprisingly few accomplished rapes, but a great number of attempted ones.
…Where was I….
Right! I had a point with the whole “Deathstalker is a total dick” thing but it requires more context, which I will now add. Deathstalker followed early-edition Dungeons and Dragons aesthetics nearly to a tee. The costumes, the settings, the cities, the random objects, items, and trinkets – and most importantly, the villain. Munkar (heheheheh, sorry, it just sounds so funny) is the evil mage. He has long robes, a sinister goatee, and a big bald head with a bizarre-as-fuck tattoo combover. I swear I’ve seen pictures of him on early-edition rulebooks. In addition, while context clues led me to think that the beastly creatures seen in this were supposed to be “ogres,” their green skin and porcine features make them resemble, unmistakably, 2nd edition orcs.
Tell me this motherfucker isn’t one sinister-ass evil wizard. Look me right in the eye and say it.
Now, tack on the fact that Deathstalker himself is the quintessential Chaotic Neutral player-character. The one that, if you’ve played D&D, you know by heart. The “total badass” who’s too cool for his own good, the one whose player has no qualms about turning into a total monster if it seems like it’d be fun. That character (usually played solo) who’s unpredictable, amoral, uncompromising, and just a little bit psychotic. The character that’d be evil if the DM let him, but settles for the next best thing. That character. That character is Deathstalker, and he plays his part perfectly. Following behind him is all of the violence, sex, and mayhem that one can expect to follow that sort of character.
That is what makes this a borderline fantasy masterpiece. As I said, it’s not a good movie, consisting of the classic “reluctant hero needs to gather various items in order defeat the otherwise-undefeatable bad guy” with almost no deviation from the standard pattern. But it’s the character, the aesthetics, the overall mood that makes it so that, whether intentionally or not, Deathstalker is an instantly-recognizable, and therefore familiar and comfortable, Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Whether or not this makes the movie “good,” it nonetheless pleases me. I just can’t help it.
I should also mention that this movie has more nudity than Conan the Barbarian and Barbarian Queen combined. I had to physically restrain myself from humming DJ Assault’s “Ass and Titties” every 5-10 minutes, and occasionally for very long stretches. This hits full swing when the characters reach the city, but it begins even before that – Lana “Actually the Barbarian Queen” Clarkson literally just wears a thong and a cloak. Then, once we get into the harems, rape-orgies, and other such festivities, this movie becomes one hell of a flesh fair.
Thaaaaaanks Roger Coooorman.
I’d take a look at the plot, but what the fuck is even the point of that. Bad guy owns castle. Good guy needs to gather items to defeat him, gets first one almost instantly. Good guy goes to the evil castle, gets inevitably betrayed by one of his companions, fucks everyone, gets the other items, and kills the bad guy. I guess there are a few head-scratchers, such as the fact that Lana Clarkson’s character is killed halfway through in a pathetic sword-fight with a no-name incompetent henchmen in what may be the most anticlimactic death ever. Also that Deathstalker nearly rapes a guy who’s using illusion magic to look like the princess. Oh, and that Munkar (heh) gets drawn and motherfucking quartered at the end.
Okay, so maybe this did have a couple noteworthy extra scenes, and I did like that the demonic sock-puppet was named “Howard.” I originally thought that it may have been a nod to one of the fathers of fantasy, Robert E. Howard, but I do believe it was actually a nod to the author of the original Deathstalker book, Howard R. Cohen. Neat, huh?
Okay, so all said and done, and especially considered as a product of its time, Deathstalker was pretty good and did a decent job with the budget that it had. It sure as hell could have been worse, anyway. Let’s just hope that none of the three (!) sequels kill me the way Beastmaster‘s did.