With the success of the fantasy film Sorceress it’s no surprise that Roger Corman would strike while the irons were hot and begin to churn out more of the barbarian/fantasy genre films. This time New World Pictures heads to Argentina where you could find skilled labour at low-budget prices and even better when you could also use the same sets for multiple pictures. With the first nine movies to be shot in Argentina Deathstalker clearly set the tone for those that will follow with; sex, violence, sorcery and plenty of nudity.
The film opens with a group of mutant post-apocalyptic-looking creatures that swarm a man who has recently robbed a local village and made off with a girl for a little afternoon delight. The man abandons the girl to their lusty advances so we are left unclear as to who we are supposed to root for here.
He is chased around some ancient ruins while some of the Monster Men try to continue with the sexual assault on that poor girl but just as the asshole adventurer spots a horse, and a possible escape, the owner of said horse shows up in the form of today’s hero, Deathstalker (Rick Hill).
Deathstalker easily dispatches the band of ghouls and when the adventurer/rapist offers to share the gold and the girl Deathstalker kills him. Not sure if this is a case of our “hero” being morally superior here or that Deathstalker is just not that into sharing. He cuts the girl free but immediately starts to make out with her, now, she does seem to be a bit into it at first but when Deathstalker is distracted by one of the King’s men she makes her escape so I’ll just assume she was probably faking it, which leads to the films biggest problem. When writing barbarian fantasy it is tricky to get the roguish character traits correct for if you do get them right you have yourself a nice Hans Solo-type rogue but get it wrong and he can come off as a creepy asshat and not the devilishly may-care kind you want. How they solve it in this instance is to have a clearly defined villain who is even a bigger creep than the hero.
Deathstalker is brought before a king in exile and is informed that that evil sorcerer Munkar (Bernard Erhard) has taken over the kingdom and if Deathstalker would be so kind as to kill the sorcerer and save the princess he would earn a high position in the King’s court. Unfortunately, Deathstalker replies, “I steal and kill to stay alive and not for the luxury of glory.” Then he rides off. Reluctant hero or jerk, you decide.
Meanwhile, in a dark foreboding castle, the good Princess Codille (Barbie Benton) is dragged into Munkar’s harem to await her fate.
Note: I’m not sure why this castle is dark and foreboding as its previous occupant was a good king. I know evil corrupts but it apparently also drives property value down rather quickly.
Deathstalker finally agrees to go on a quest when he encounters the witch Toralva (Verónica Llinás), who he finds fighting the General of Munkar’s forces, but it turns out that the General was, in fact, Munkar in one of his many forms as with his magical items he not only wields great power but can shapeshift himself or others into any form. Toralva pulls a Moses and turns her staff into a serpent to strangle Munkar but he, in turn, shapeshifts into a form of a falcon and escapes with his magical amulet.
It is from the Toralva that Deathstalker learns that there are three Powers of Creations and that Munkar controls two of them and that he came to the witch to find the Sword of Justice which is the third power. Deathstalker must find the Sword of Justice, then steal the Amulet of Life and the Chalice of Magic from Munkar and join them together to BE THE POWER.
He is also informed that he who wears the Sword cannot die. Now that is a handy item to have and not something a hero usually has in his possession in a good fantasy story as it really takes away some of the suspense if you know the hero can’t be killed, but as Deathstalker is constantly setting it down or dropping it on the ground it all works out. With annoying riddles provided by Toralva, he is led to a cave where he encounters an imp and an ogre. The imp is named Salmaron (Augusto Larreta), a thief that was cursed by Toralva, who tosses the Sword of Justice to Deathstalker so he can easily defeat the ogre., tension and suspense not needed.
Salmaron tells Deathstalker, “I can only be led to freedom by a boy who is not a boy.” So they touch the Sword together and then…
Lucky for Deathstalker after exiting the cave he reverts to his adult self as Salmaron turns from imp to man. Deathstalker enlightens Salmaron on his mission to unite the three powers so that he can become the POWER and thus the quest truly begins.
One partner does not a fellowship make, so Deathstalker encounters two more companions on his way to face Munkar; the first is Oghris (Richard Brooker) who Deathstalker aids in fighting off a band of rapists who were attacking a peasant woman, and then there is Kaira (Lana Clarkson), a female warrior who apparently likes to wander around at night half-naked, and neither one of them wins points for fashion sense.
From Oghris we learn that Munkar is holding a tournament and that the winner will be named Munkar’s heir. Deathstalker rightly thinks something is fishy about that as what’s the point of being an heir to an immortal sorcerer? Later we find out that Munkar’s plan is to have all the great warriors of the land compete and kill each other off and then when only one is left he will kill him or her, thus ending any possible future threats to his reign. As evil plans go that is a pretty good one.
Will our heroic companions thwart those dastardly plans of the evil sorcerer Munkar? Can Deathstalker rescue the fair Princess? Will Kaira find a shirt?
As heroic fantasy films go director James Sbardellati’s Deathstalker is a pretty decent entry in the genre, if you can look past all the sexual assault going on that is, and the beautifully constructed sets by the Argentinian artisans are quite excellent as is the make-up effects by John Carl Buechler.
The movie is chock full of action, sex, nudity, gender-swapping as well as betrayal, sacrifice and not to mention sisters mudwrestling in the court of the sorcerer.
Rick Hill does a decent job as the hero and can certainly flourish a sword well, Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton does what one can do with the damsel in distress part, Lana Clarkson suits the Amazonian friend role and was certainly a trooper to put up with her costume or lack thereof, but the stand out is Richard Brooker as Oghris as he is just so much fun to watch and whose character is easily the most interesting, also anybody who wears that ridiculous midriff-baring armour and not crack up laughing is okay by me. I certainly look forward to checking out Deathstalker II.
Not the classiest entry in the Barbarian/Fantasy genre but I found it quite entertaining, the leads were fun the women were gorgeous and if they had left out a few of those sexual assault moments this could be a real gem.