Saturday, August 27, 2011

Deathstalker (1983) and Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987)

I didn't bother seeing the recent remake of "Conan the Barbarian" (and from the box office and reviews, if looks like I didn't miss anything.) Instead, I bought and watched the contents of "Roger Corman's Cult Classics: Sword and Sorcery." As I've mentioned in the past, Corman was quick to ride on the success of the original "Conan", with movies like "Sorceress" and "Barbarian Queen" flooding theaters and VHS rentals back in the day. The most successful of these though, was the "Deathstalker" series, which took the basics of the Sword and Sorcery genre and added more exploitable elements to them. So with all that out of the way, let's take a look at the first two movies in the franchise.

"Deathstalker" deals with a man named...well, named Deathstalker (Rick Hill), who ends up on a Journey to find the three powers of creation or something, rescue a princess (Barbi Benton) and stop an evil wizard named Munkar (Bernard Erhard), whose holding a big "'Enter the Dragon' with swords and blood" style tournament. He's not alone though, as he has a warrior woman in Kaira (Lana Clarkson), an old hermit in Oghris (Richard Brooker) and a man named Kang (Victor Bo), whose missing Kodos.

If there's any problem with "Deathstalker", it's that the main character is a huge asshole. There's really no reason to root for him other than his mission to stop Munkar, and the fact that he's practically a rapist is pretty off-putting. Apart from that, this is fun but minor exploitation with enough severed limbs and heads, female nudity, mud wrestling, and humor to make for a fun afternoon viewing. The sense of humor in particular stands out, as it keeps this from feeling like yet another drab "Conan" rip-off. At least it's one that doesn't take itself too seriously.

The humor was amplified in Jim Wynorski's sequel "Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans", in which our hero is now played by John Terlesky as someone whose still an asshole, but is less of one, as well as a smart ass. Here, he must help Reena the Seer (Monique Gabriel), whose actually a princes that's been cloned by the evil sorcerer (is there any other kind-hey, I think Deathstalker actually says that at one point!) Jarek (John Lazar) who now control her kingdom. Oh, and let's not forget the evil Sultana (Toni Naples) who wants Deathstalker dead, and an army of Amazonian warrior women.

If there's anything holding this sequel back, it's the unnecessary stock footage taken from the original, as well as a few moments that feel too goofy for it's own good. That out of the way, this is also a fun little movie, with Terlesky being a lot of fun (and clearly having fun) as our wise cracking hero. Gorehounds might fine themselves disappointed in the fact that the bloodshed is more minor here, but there's still enough boobs, amusing one liners, zombies and all around fun to make for a nice time. Also, nice electronic score by Chuck Cirino.

To be honest, these aren't good movies in the traditional sense of the word. That's just fine though, as they clearly know they aren't. These are to the point exploitation movies that deliver whatever base interests you have, and that's all one could ask for from movies called "Deathstalker."

Ratings:
DeathStalker: 6.5/10
Deathstalker II: 7/10

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