Deathstalker (1983) – Film Review
A Bad Movie Studios Review
So, I decided to take a break from the production of my short film, “The Unexpected Evil of Dr. Baracula”, and take a little time to focus on what’s been my bread and butter and the whole reason I started my Bad Movie Studios page on Facebook, movie reviews. Now originally I was going to do a review of Troll 2 (1990). I had recently watched the documentary Best Worst Movie (2009) which was about the rise of Troll 2 as a sort of cult classic. I made a short semi-review of that movie and you can check it out at the Facebook page for more information on it. Well after that documentary, I was psyched to do a review of Troll 2. But unfortunately It was taking just a little too much time for me to find a good copy of it. My local video stores didn’t have it, I couldn’t find it anymore on Netflix, and I didn’t have time to wait for it if I chose to order the film. So I decided that I would just move on and pick another movie, and hopefully get back to Troll 2 another day. I should also mention that the process of putting a film into production has really shortened my available time, hence why I didn’t want to wait. But I also wanted to make sure that I posted another review instead of being totally one track minded. So then I debated between doing Deathstalker and Dracula vs Frankenstein (there are 3 well known versions of that film, I was going for the independent film released in 1971 starring “Zandor Vorkov”, J. Carrol Naish and Lon Chaney Jr. It’s probably the most famous one and it has a cult following). Unfortunately, Dracula vs Frankenstein has been even more difficult to find than Troll 2, so that got scrapped. Again, I’ll try to get to it another day as its a movie I really want to do. So instead, I’m doing Deathstalker. Now so far I’ve only done reviews of Horror movies, and that would really be the case since its fall and Halloween is right around the corner (as a note, check out my review of Halloween (1978). But I’m gonna deviate from the beaten path this time around. But I assure you that I’ll get back to Horror pretty soon.
I was first introduced to Deathstalker while watching some videos on Cinemassacre.com, the home of James Rolfe A.K.A. The Angry Video Game Nerd. He does a segment every year called Monster Madness that I love, and it would be suffice to say that he’s been a big inspiration to me when it comes to my relationship with films in general. After watching his video where he talked about the movie, I highly recommend seeing it by the way, I knew I had to check it out. Of course it’s been a few years since that video came out, but I’m glad I’m finally getting to talk about Deathstalker. Now this movie is an Argentine-American fantasy “sword and sorcery” film (quite a combination) that came out at a time when the genre was at it’s peak with movies like Conan the Barbarian (1982) and The Beastmaster (1982). Although not directed by him, the movie was produced by Roger Corman, the legendary B-Movie wonder of cinema. He’s known for making movies on the fly with very low budgets, and getting out multiple movies a year. What’s interesting is that the box office returns were pretty good considering how much the movie was made for. It cost around $425,000.00 to produce, but made almost $12,000,000.00 overall (I’m using Wikipedia for these numbers, so they might not be 100% accurate). Either way though, this movie DID become profitable, and it spawned 3 sequels. Yes, there does exist a Deathstalker series, with Deathstalker 2: Duel of the Titans, Deathstalker 3: The Warriors from Hell, and Deathstalker 4: Match of Titans. All of these movies were produced by Roger Corman.
Something I’ve noticed that I always talk about in my reviews, is the opening sequence or title screen. To me it’s important because it’s the usually the first thing you see when you watch a movie and it sort of sets the tone for what you’re going to be watching. The opening title for this movie, is pretty fitting, with DEATHSTALKER popping up on screen with that over the top barbarian type music playing in the background. One thing about this movie is that it’s shallow and it knows it. Right off the bat we’re introduced to 3 things that permeate the movie. Cheesy costumes, over the top action, ridiculous dialogue, lots of boobs, and rape. Yeah, you read that right, rape. In this movie, the Deathstalker is played by Rick Hill. Now a different actor plays the Deathstalker in every movie, with the exception of Deathstalker 4. Hill reprises his role in that film. I should make a note that the character is a total dick, spilling out poor one liners and acting like a total ass. Within the first 10 minutes, you pretty much understand that his character is out for himself. He’s a bit similar to Han Solo from Star Wars in that way. Of course though, as with all films that follow the “Hero’s Archetype” he will eventually do right, save the world and claim his prize. And I’m not spoiling anything here, I’m just stating what happens with that film model. You see it everywhere, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, its pretty much Fantasy 101. And this movie is no different.
As with every review I do, I will try my best not to just talk about the plot, running down what happens scene by scene. That doesn’t convey a proper opinion or help you understand the good and bad of a movie, from the aesthetic aspects to the technical ones. Instead what I try to do is point out the features of the film, from the aforementioned aesthetic ones to the technical ones, and shed some light on them, giving my opinion and how well I feel they conveyed the message they were trying to. This movie on the other hand, will be a little different. It’s just so shallow, that it’s hard to make a lot of those points without just repeating myself. It’s such a mass of over the top, macho, nerd fantasy, that it has no solid base for real analysis and critique. Well it does, it’s just to simple to write about extensively. So because I’m going against the grain already be even doing this review, and even more so with the style of it, I’ll completely break tradition and give you my Overall Score for this movie here.
Overall Score: 67
This isn’t the worst fantasy movie ever, but it’s no Lord of the Rings. It isn’t good, but it is entertaining, and gives more than a few laughs at it’s over the op nature. It’s a movie bathed in excess, and that’s perfect considering the decade it came out in. The 80’s were all about excess. Look at Action films from the day like Predator (1987), Commando (1985) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985). Hell look at the Action stars of the time like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone (who’s movies I just referenced). Or look at pop culture. Take wrestling for example. Now anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a huge pro wrestling fan. In the 80’s, wrestling reached new heights of popularity. At the head of that wave of popular wrestlers, you have guys like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. Giant, mountainous, muscle bound freaks of nature. Deathstalker, is all of that. That sort of excessive, super macho theme flows in this movies veins. Chances are, if you like that sort of thing, you’ll get something out of Deathstalker. I would also recommend the movie to anyone looking for a few cheap laughs, or to people who enjoy bad films.
Now of course I can’t leave the review like that. It’s shallower than the movie is. So what I’m going to do is talk about a few scenes, moments and characters from Deathstalker that are just worth mentioning.
The first one comes around 10 minutes into the movie. After the opening sequence lets us know what we’re in for, there’s a conversation that the Deathstalker character has with this old man. The man reveals that he used to be the king, and that the evil wizard Munkar, who used to be his magician, has thrown him out and taken over the land. Pretty basic stuff considering the genre. He tells us that an army can’t stop Munkar, but that a single brave warrior can break into the castle and kill him. Clearly we’re supposed to see that he’s trying to convince the Deathstalker that he can defeat the evil sorcerer. Like I said, all of this is pretty basic stuff, very run of the mill. But it’s the Deathstalker’s response that is just ridiculous. The music kicks up and gets all epic, as the camera zooms right into his face. It gets really grandiose, setting up our anticipation of that great hero line, the one that’s gonna make us root for the Deathstalker to save the day. And what we get is, “Hero’s and fools, are the same thing.”, as the Deathstalker finishes eating his food, licks his fingers, and walks away. Literally every bit of momentum that the scene builds up is flushed down the drain. It’s absolutely hilarious. And of course the king tries to convince him to help because the bad guy has taken the princess. Classic.
The acting in this movie is just terrible. Not a single person delivers one line that doesn’t come off bad. It all just adds to the goofiness of this film. The make up effects and costumes are no better either, with everything looking like it belongs in one of my movies. And that’s saying something since my movies don;t have budgets, and this had almost half a million dollars. There’s even a scene where the Deathstalker is walking through a cave and approaches a creature, and the person in the costume actually fixes his mask. If you’ve seen the Cinemassacre video of this movie, you’ll see the scene in question.
Another great moment in the movie (again one that’s in the Cinemassacre video, I swear I’m not trying to copy the video, this scene just has to be mentioned) is one where there’s some sort of pig-man who’s eating at a dining table. He picks up the head of a roast pig that’s on the table, questions it, and then proceeds to eat the head. It’s just gold. And later when there’s a lot of fighting going on, he rips of someone’s arm and beats someone else to death with it. It’s the greatest scene to ever feature a pig-man in cinema history.
So check out Deathstalker. It’s a crazy, over the top, mess of a fantasy film that’s worth a watch. If nothing more than for a good laugh. The movie’s rather short too, about an hour and fifteen minutes, which helps. I think I’m gonna do a screening of it at a Halloween I’m trying to put together. It should be a good time.