March 10, 2012

Reader's Choice: Deathstalker (1983)

Directed by James Sbardellati. Starring Rick Hill ("Deathstalker"), Barbi Benton ("Codille"), Richard Brooker ("Oghris"), and Lana Clarkson ("Kaira"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Shout! Factory)
Running time: 01:19:55
Country: Argentina, USA

Picked by venoms5

DEATHSTALKER was sort of an ambitious project for producer Roger Corman at the time; not in terms of budget and style, but because he shot it in Argentina as opposed to the Philippines, which is where he made a lot of movies for cheap in the late 70's and early 80's. Not sure where the movie stands amongst its fellow Sword and Sorcery movies of the 80's as far as when it was made or how important it was to the genre, but DEATHSTALKER is usually one of the first titles that comes up when people talk about the cheesy 80's Sword and Sorcery movies that tried to capitalize on the success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN and the like.

DEATHSTALKER kinda opens up like a Western, introducing the eponymous character as a mysterious drifter of sorts. His tendencies to be a womanizer are established right away when he saves a damsel from being gang-raped by a group of leprous villagers and proceeds to seduce her when it's all said and done. Without much build, Deathstalker meets up with a witch, who dumps some rather confusing and incoherent information in a brief exchange with our hero. The gist of it is that Deathstalker needs to acquire three objects - a sword, a chalice, and an amulet - in order to gain power, stop Lord Monkar's reign of terror, and rescue Princess Cordille.

"Join three things separate to be the power."

"The power will come to he who becomes a child."

Whatever, just bring on the titties and bad boob-jobs already.

While on his journey, Deathstalker acquires a group of allies, two of whom are lone warriors who are on their way to enter a tournament being held by Lord Monkar. The point of the tournament is to determine the most powerful warrior in all the land and who will inherit Monkar's kingdom. It's revealed early in the film, though, that the tournament is basically Monkar's way of getting all of the warriors who pose a threat to him to kill each other. Besides, Monkar possesses supernatural powers and is apparently immortal, but I guess the warriors competing in the tournament are too dumb to realize that he won't be giving up his throne anytime soon. In fact, Deathstalker himself questions the logic behind the tournament, which is one of the few occasions where he acts as the voice of the audience by questioning and speaking out against certain things in the film that would normally be ignored.

When Deathstalker and his band of misfits finally make it to Monkar's castle, you'd think it were a brothel. Naked women everywhere being manhandled by drunken warriors. Mud wrestling! This part of the film is a highlight and it pretty much sums up what DEATHSTALKER is all about. Gratuitous tits and ass, a weird group of characters (including a large man with the head of a pig) getting out of control and brawling, and, most importantly, (in true Corman fashion) stretching a dollar; it's like the filmmakers had this nice set built, and so they crammed as many actors in there as they possibly could and took full advantage of it.

I'm not familiar with lead actor Richard Hill, but he's pretty good in this as the lazy hero who eventually realizes his potential. He looks and sounds like Peter Weller on steroids. Other cast members include former Playboy playmate Barbi Benton as Princess Cordille and Lana Clarkson as the well-endowed warrior who joins up with Deathstalker at the beginning of the film and pretty much spends the entire movie topless or with pieces of black fabric barely covering her nipples. If the name doesn't Lana Clarkson doesn't sound familiar, do a little research on musician Phil Spector and his current incarceration for murder. It should also be noted that DEATHSTALKER looks really good despite its B-movie budget. According to either the producer or the director on the commentary track of the Shout! Factory release, Corman was given funding all at once for a total of five Sword and Sorcery movies, and most of said funding was put into this particular film.

With DEATHSTALKER, there's not a whole lot in the way of storytelling. Everything in the film seems to be an excuse to set up more female nudity and clumsy-looking fight sequences. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but people should keep it in mind when watching it. For what it is, DEATHSTALKER delivers the goods: silly gore, body oil, sword-fights, and plentiful nudity.

Score: 6


  1. DEATHSTALKER rocks, Aaron. I remember I was ten when I first saw this. It was the first flick of the night along with THE BEING and NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES (the Mattei one) and I assumed with a title like DEATHSTALKER it was some sort of horror flick. The sequels get worse and worse. Rick Hill was on an episode of CHEERS around this time. He's also in stuff like Cirio Santiago's pretty damn decent DUNE WARRIORS and the shitty beyond words DEATHSTALKER 4 and disappointing CLASS OF 1999 2.

  2. Wow, there was a CLASS OF 1999 2?!

    DEATHSTALKER was pretty fun. If I ever saw it back in the day, it's been so long that I didn't remember anything about it. Can't say that I've seen the sequels. Previewed the second one and it looked pretty bad and a lot smaller in scale. Thanks again for picking this movie. Like I said before, it gave me an excuse to pick up the Shout! Factory set. Even if the other movies are terrible, I'll at least get some mileage out of the first DEATHSTALKER.

  3. Yeah, stuntman Spiro Razatos directed it. It's drastically different from the first film. It has a bit more in common with THE SUBSTITUTE series than...well, I won't give away too much. Just have expectations real low on that one, too.

    DEATHSTALKER 2 is actually pretty funny in places and the outtakes during the closing credits are worth checking it out. There's also stock footage from the first movie in there, too. The other films in this set are "good" in their own way, just they're nowhere near the level of sleaze in DEATHSTALKER. WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS comes the closest. Check some of the images in my review, Aaron, and you'll see why, lol.

    Speaking of DEATHSTALKER, when the film played on TNT as part of a Barbi Benton birthday bash thing, the version they aired made up for all the footage they had to remove by replacing it with a lot of extra bits that included some extended shots when Stalker was talking to the exiled king, extra fight footage including a longer sword duel with Lana Clarkson and also, believe it or not, a shot of a decapitated head flying through the air hitting the ground. The shot of it hitting the ground isn't in the release version, but was on the TV version, amazingly.

  4. I'm shocked that they actually managed to squeeze a TV-friendly version out of this movie. I'm heading over to check out your reviews right now.

  5. I was shocked, too, when I saw it was playing. It was the only time I ever saw it on that station and it was specifically for a Barbi Benton birthday thing they had going on that day. The extra footage was kind of extensive. Some of it I understood why they removed it particularly the extended fight scenes. Also, the actor in the film Richard Brooker, the swordsman who befriends Stalker, was also Jason in FRIDAY PART 3D.

  6. Holy shit! While listening to the commentary track, I heard something about a hockey mask and "Jason" but didn't catch what they were referring to. I wish I would have done a little more research prior to writing the review; that would have been a cool piece of trivia to include.

  7. What's funny is, when I saw both of those movies, spying the name in the credits, I wondered if it wasn't the same guy (this was prior to owning a computer), but figured they couldn't have been one and the same as Brooker looks much leaner in DEATHSTALKER. But much to my shock and surprise, it's the same guy, lol! They must have padded him down a lot for the FRIDAY movie. I really should read the Crystal Lake Memories book from cover to cover as it may have some information from Brooker about this in there.

  8. Dude, just amend it. I do that, myself, a lot. Hell, half the time, I don't properly proofread till AFTER I've posted and often times I'll add shit I forgot. Just go ahead and add it in there!

  9. As much as I like FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3, I've never really thought of the actor who plays Jason in it. I remember seeing Brooker in the HIS NAME WAS JASON documentary, but as far as I know he doesn't really milk the fact that he played Jason as much as Kane Hodder and some of the other guys, which might be why it didn't even occur to me when hearing the "hockey mask" reference in the commentary. It will definitely make watching DEATHSTALKER a lot more interesting the second time around, especially since this was made not too long after FRIDAY, or maybe the same year. As far as his appearance in FRIDAY, I think he had also had a neck prosthetic to make him look more misshapen.

  10. I think the reason it might have looked so unassuming was because Rick Hill was much bigger than he was. I should also dig out this Fangoria issue where they interviewed all the Jason's up to part 8 at that time, I think it was. If I remember right, Brooker, like a lot of these guys, didn't like doing the role.

  11. Does any1 know where i can get the missing footage Richard Brooker keeps talkin about in the DVD commentary? He keeps sayin "this is not the Deathstalker i have at home," n keeps referencing to scenes that arent in the movie at all.