Deathstalker & Deathstalker II | A double-bill of 1980s sword-and-sorcery schlock on Blu-ray
From Roger Corman comes a bountiful pair of babes-and-blades fantasy adventures – Deathstalker (1983) and Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987) – on Blu-ray from 101 Films.
First up, a fit-looking Richard Hill stars as the titular warrior Deathstalker who teams up with another muscle dude (Richard Brooker) and a sexy G-string-wearing female warrior (Lana Clarkson) to take part in a tournament in which the ultimate prize is the throne of the wicked wizard Munkar (Bernard Erhard).
This Conan the Barbarian cash-in is a whole lot of fun if you overlook the rapey bits. It looks pretty good given its modest budget, with some pretty effective make-up effects and a memorable (if overused) main theme tune.
The shadowy lighting and mist-shrouded exterior scenes echo John Boorman’s Excalibur, while the Argentine studio interior scenes have the look of a 1980s music video (did Russell Mulcahy see this before filming Duran Duran’s Wild Boys the following year?). There’s also lots of bare flesh on display – which is exactly what you want from this sort of schlock.
The special features include a commentary with director James Sbardellati, special makeup effects artist John Carl Buechler, and actor Richard Brooker (best known for donning Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask for the first time in Friday the 13th Part III), as well as a trailer and photo gallery.
Having impressed producer Roger Corman with the 1986 techno-horror Chopping Mall, Jim Wynorski was handed the reigns of Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans, and it’s a much-more comical affair than the first.
John Terlesky (who was also in Chopping Mall) steps into Richard Hill’s leather loin-cloth to save the kingdom from the tyrannical Jarek (John LaZar) and his seductive ally Sultana (Toni Naples), who have created an evil clone of the princess Evie (Monique Gabrielle).
The sequel opens and closes with nods to Corman’s 1960s Poe films (a castle matte painting and a pendulum), and in-between there’s lots more bare flesh on display, ropey acting, Chuck Cirino’s repetitive synth Western-styled theme, and the late Dee Booher (AKA professional wrestler Queen Kong) taking on a lithe Terlesky as Gorgo.
Wynorski called his film ‘anachronistic’, and it sure looks like it as it seems to be set in its own universe what with the Western bar saloon signs, medieval torture chamber and graveyard of zombies a la Thriller circa 1983. Good to see LaZar (AKA Beyond the Valley of the Dolls‘ Z-Man) though.
The special features include a commentary with director Jim Wynorski and actors John Terlesky and Toni Naples and a theatrical trailer.
Two more films followed – in 1988 (Deathstalker III: The Warriors from Hell) and 1991 (Deathstalker IV: Match of the Titans). Hopefully, 101 Films will release them sometime in the future for cult fans of the series – and completists like me.