Thursday, 9 December 2010

Deathstalker (1983)

What can you say about a movie like Deathstalker? Of course it’s trash, but the question is, is it entertaining trash? The answer to that is, well yes, sort of. If you’re in the mood.

This 1983 production from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures was part of the mini-boom in sword & sorcery movies that followed in the wake of Conan the Barbarian. Corman followed his standard operating procedure of the time, taking the basic sword & sorcery formula and adding lots of gore, lots of sex and lots of nudity.

The plot involves some wandering warrior type, known as Deathstalker, who is informed by an old witch that he has a Destiny. He has to find a magic sword, and then other magical items. He will also have to defeat a powerful and evil wizard, who is also the king. The wizard-king has arranged a contest of martial prowess for the the mightiest warriors in the region. They’re led to believe that the winner will inherit the kingdom, but the evil wizard-king simply intends to destroy them all as threats to his power.

Deathstalker accumulate a group of side-kicks, including an amazonian warrior who always fights topless. I guess it distracts her opponents fairly effectively. In fact she seems to prefer doing most things topless.

The wizard-king has figured out that Deathstalker is his biggest threat, so he sends his best assassin to eliminate him. He transforms the assassin into the likeness of the princess Codille. The princess is played by former Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton. One assumes she got the part because of her willingness to take her clothes off. It certainly wasn’t for her acting ability. But then no female member of the cast manages to keep her clothes on for more than a few minutes at a time.

There’s lots of mayhem, and the plot contains most of the elements you would expect, as far as I could make out. Plot coherence wasn’t really a priority here. And perhaps you might not have been expecting the naked mud wrestling. It certainly adds a much-needed touch of class.

The sets and costumes are passable for a low-budget movie. The fight scenes are gory but not overly inspired.

The acting is the kind of bad acting you only really get in a bad 80s straight-to-video movie (I actually have no idea if this one ever got a proper theatrical release but it’s definitely straight-to-video quality). If I tell you that Barbi Benton acquits herself quite respectably by comparison with the rest of the cast you’ll have some idea how awful the acting is. Although perhaps I’m being unfair to her - being a nude model doesn’t necessarily imply a lack of acting talent. The rest of the cast have no excuses however.

I guess what you have to ask yourself is - how much do you enjoy low-budget 80s schlock? If you can treat it as a silly but fun popcorn movie it’s entertaining enough. As much as I adore trash cinema this one this one just didn’t quite do it for me. It’s certainly not for a lack of trashiness. It was more a certain lack of fun.


Marty McKee said...

Almost all Corman movies got theatrical releases right up into the early 1990s.

venoms5 said...

This is one of my all time favorites period. And yes, this one got released at the Drive In in my neck of the woods.

Strangely enough, when it played on the Turner owned TNT cable channel as part of a Barbi Benton birthday bash, there was about 15 minutes of additional footage put back into the movie. Not sure where this stuff came from but it was a lot of stuff including additional fight scenes and, believe it or not, at least one extra shot of gore--a head seen flying through the air is shown landing on the ground.

Samuel Wilson said...

Watching this does not prepare you for Deathstalker II, but then again, nothing really does.

venoms5 said...

I liked part two, it was fun, but I much prefer the original over all of them. They get progressively worse with the next two. I remember being really psyched to see part 4 as Rick Hill returned to the role, but damn if it was a horrible sequel. All the sequels reuse scenes from the first movie and also use music from BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS as far as I remember.

fred said...

the films have recently become available on Roger Corman's website:

Check it out!

venoms5 said...

Those are the old DVDs. Shout! is releasing the first two as a double feature soon hopefully with lots of extras as per their other Corman discs/blu rays.

abdul666 said...

"In fact she seems to prefer doing most things topless."
Historically the taboo on tits is one of the odd peculiarities of the misogynous religions of the Bible ('Woman is basically evil, the Temptatrix, the source of all sin, her whole body is obscene and has to be hidden under a burka' - during the Middle-Ages all Christian women were veiled, Western women get rid of the taboo on female hair only before WW2). Thus it make sense that in sword & sandal / sword & sorcery comics / movies women of 'pagan' background go topless (weather permitting) -yet not in Middle-Earth, Tolkien was a devout Catholic.