From its first scene, this film sets itself apart from other sword-and-sorcery films of the era. When we meet Deathstalker, he encounters a guy trying to steal his horse; and a group of troll-looking fellas who are rescuing a kidnapped woman and tell Deathstalker they have no problem with him. Who should he attack?
If you said “first, the guys who look like good guys, despite their appearance; then second, the guy trying to steal his horse; then as an encore, stripping the kidnapped woman and almost having sex with her” then your power of predicting the oddities of these films is very strong indeed. Deathstalker is a bit of a slacker, a modern character trapped in this odd fantasy world, and his adventure is suitably strange.
There’s an evil wizard called Munkar, he has two of the three super-powered Thingies, and Deathstalker comes into possession of the third one fairly early on. Munkar is having a tournament, “Enter The Dragon”-style, and all the best fighters are going, to win the prize of being Munkar’s heir. Really, he’s just doing it to kill off all the best fighters and get the third Thingie. Deathstalker picks up two friends along the way – Oghris, in a pretty sweet half-mail-shirt outfit that shows off his six-pack; and Kaira, the beautiful blonde fighter whose outfit is effectively nothing, like a string that goes under her breasts to show them off.
Deathstalker wakes Kaira up one night by feeling her breasts, so they have sex and then he pretty much never speaks to her again. This is a perfect summation of this film’s attitude towards women, really – they are almost all naked at all times, and they exist to pleasure the men…and nothing else. Kaira is the only one who does anything, and she’s still just there to fawn over the main character; the rest of them are in a harem and are desperate to be with the assembled tournament fighters. To say this film has a rather neanderthal take on sexual politics is an understatement. I mean, there are a lot of boobs in this film – I occasionally make the joke that some films feel like porn with all the porn taken out, but this feels like porn with everything but the penetration left in. Still, I can imagine the teen boys this was aimed at being quite pleased with its existence in the 1980s, and that’s all the producers were bothered about.
Thanks to the low budget, the many magical transformations in this movie are dealt with off-camera. The best example of this is Munkar turning one of his underlings into a woman to go and trick Deathstalker, so bits of his body keep changing while the camera keeps swapping position on him; but it becomes a bit cheesy by the end.
If you can ignore the way women are treated in this film, it’s pretty funny. Deathstalker is quite a modern movie hero for a film from 1983, and there’s a decent sense of humour running through it. The actual plot is pretty rotten, mind – the tournament is represented by a few half-hearted montages, and you never really get much of an indication why Deathstalker is doing the things he does. But it’s short (a little over 75 minutes) and if you really like boobs, you’ll find few other films that cater to you so completely.
Get ready for some sequels! Part 2 is directed by our old friend Jim Wynorski, so I’ll say that’ll be pretty okay, then there’s a 3 and 4 which I’ll guess will be increasingly humourless and cheap. Meet me back here when I’ve reviewed all four to see if I’m right!
Rating: thumbs up
POSTSCRIPT: Lana Clarkson, the woman who played Kaira, was the woman who Phil Spector murdered in 2003, I just discovered. I’m sure these reviews have featured other murder victims, but this one bummed me out.