DEATHSTALKER' PLAYS IT FOR LAUGHS
Miami Herald, The (FL)
September 6, 1983
Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic
Estimated printed pages: 3
The once-ballyhooed "sword-and-sorcerer" boom in films flopped faster than any movie trend in memory except, perhaps, Smell-O-Rama -- from the mediocrity of Conan the Barbarian it has been a short slide into the Valley of the Truly Wretched. So it is a pleasant surprise to be able to report the release of a hunk-against-the-barbarians film that, while not quite recommendable, nearly transcends its tatty genre.
The film is Deathstalker, and its hero is the muscled swordsman by that name who is pressed into reluctant service to recover the Magic Chalice of Power and the Magic Amulet of Power, thus reuniting them with the Magic Sword of Power, such unions being the conventional harbingers for the loosings of Good upon a Troubled World.
And there's trouble in this one, which appears vaguely post- Camelot; as the hero remarks early on, to a disenfranchised king who wants his help on a quest, "I steal and kill to stay alive, not for the luxury of glory."
The Deathstalker -- he is called Deathstalker by some, and Stalker by others, though no one uses his first name -- is reluctant to help largely because he has heard the story of how the Evil Sorcerer, Munkar, turned the last army to march against him into sheep. Deathstalker is offered an entire kingdom for his help, but observes, with the kind of concise analysis usually lacking in heroes of his ilk, that the kingdom "isn't worth much to a sheep."
Yes, Deathstalker has a humorous cast to it. In fact, there are times when the film reels rather drunkenly, abandoning its skimpy value as fable for the easy laugh. The result is a silly film that never takes itself seriously, which in turn makes it watchable. (The scene in which a hulking brute with the head of a pig tires of pummelling an enemy with his fists, and instead rips the arm off a passing warrior and uses it as a club is played for -- yes -- whimsy, and it works.)
This is also the first of the s-and-s films to give sex nearly equal time with disembowelment, a story concept we can only cheer. (Some of the sex is of the rape-and-pillage style, but the times, as we have noted, were troubled.)
There is no point in a detailed discussion of plot, quests being pretty much the same everywhere. Deathstalker hits the road in search of Munkar, meets an Amazon gal who fights with her shirt off, makes sausage of the pig-man and generally saves the day.
Among the women he is obliged to rescue is a princess played by Barbi Benton, who apparently clings to the idea of an acting career like a castaway to flotsam. Sadly, Benton has not yet learned even how to feign alarm; she smiles winningly throughout her rape.
Richard Hill, on the other hand, though trapped in the beefcake role (he's the Stalker), plays it wry and never lets
himself look stupid.
Help always arrives, in the guise of comic relief. In one scene the Deathstalker visits the scene of a medieval women's mudwrestling bout that is interrupted by some posturings by Munkar, who announces that the upcoming gladiatorial games will determine "whether Good, or Evil, will rule." At this point, a large man squirts up from the mud, fist raised, and shouts, "Evil." It's hard to hate a film with a scene such as that.
Deathstalker (R) **
Richard Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson
Director: John Watson
Producer: James Sbardellati
Screenwriter: Howard R. Cohen
Cinematographer: Leonardo Rodriguez Solis
Music: Oscar Ocampo
A New World Pictures release
Nudity, implicit sex, violence and gore
At (DADE) Hialeah Cinema, Cutler Ridge, Westchester; (BROWARD) Coral Ridge, Southland, Diplomat Mall, Pembroke Pines, Browa rd Mall, Thunderbird Drive-In, Coral Springs Movie Center; (PALM BEACH) Cinema 70, Jupiter, PGA, Movies at Town Center