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Subj: Sword & sorcery reviews 27-29: Deathstalker 2,3, and 4
Posted: Wed Aug 17, 2022 at 11:46:18 am EDT (Viewed 105 times)
I've burned through pretty much all of the good S&S, like Conan and Fire and ice and I've got mostly schlock left. And you don't get more schlocky than the Deathstalker franchise.
And franchise it is. While it is nothing but a Conan rip-off, they made 4 Deathstalker films between 1983-1991 as well as 2 spin-offs, Barbarian queen 1 and 2. It that way it outdistanced Conan who had one bad sequel (Conan the destroyer) and 1 terrible spin-off (Red Sonja).
Each of the Deathstalkers was given a subtitle to try to distinguish it from the others, although they rarely describe the actual films. All of them have cover art from Boris Vallejo. I'm sure that art seduced kids in the video rental shops more than the Deathstalker title. Also, throughout all of the films, with increasing frequency, they recycle footage from the original deathstalker of fight scenes.
I reviewed the first and most well-known a while back. It stared Rick Hill as a muscled warrior with a bad blonde wig and went full on with the blood and T&A as well as a forgettable plot. They hero is bland and unlikable, nearly taking advantage of a few women, but at least looks the part.
Deathstalker 2: (1987) Duel of the Titans:
Coming out 4 years after the original, the genre was already showing fatigue. So, instead of playing it straight, the directors decided to embrace the cheap schlock and turn the film into a satire of S&S films.
This is certainly the most self-aware of any of the films, as most of the actors know they are in a goofy comedy and spend time winking at the camera. Part of this might have come from recasting the lead, Deathstalker. Deathstalker is now played by John Trelesky, who is trying to play more of a loveable rogue than Rick Hill did. He's much slimmer, lacking the barbarian muscles and seems more likely to trick you out of your gold and run away than fight, so he fits the tone well. But he does not look like anyone who has earned the name Deathstalker.
The female lead is played by Monique Gabrielle, a playboy model and laughable terrible actress. In fact, she plays two roles, the princess who helps Deathstalker and her clone, who serves the evil sorcerer. Helpfully, the good princess has straight hair and the evil clone a wonderful 80s perm. She's not afraid to show her best assets of course.
The self-awareness of this one is clear when Deathstalker is forced to wrestle an Amazon champion for his "crimes against women" in a modern-looking boxing ring. This self-sendup has made Deathstalker 2 much revered by fans, showing that S&S doesn't take itself seriously.
Deathstalker 3: warriors from hell (1988)
Apparently, producers unhappy with the satire nature of Deathstalker 2 and wanted a return to more serious S&S. As a result, we get Deathstalker 3 which is much funnier than 2, due to taking itself semi-seriously.
Deathstalker is again recast (its unclear if he is supposed to be the same guy, ala James Bond, or a new guy sporting the name. Most likely the same as he is considered a famous warrior). The new Deathstalker is John Allen Nelson, hands down the worst to fill the role. Rick Hill was muscular and stiff, John Trelesky had a slight roguish charm, John Allen Nelson has none of those. He's more like an annoying radio dj. Honestly, I have no idea what they saw in this guy. He's annoying as all get out, spouting lines like "What rewards do I get, besides everyone telling me how great I am?" In one scene they take off his shirt to torture him. the guy has as much muscle definition as me, that is to say, no muscles.
the female leads are a whiney princess and a wild girl raised by her mother who has never seen a man before. I guess that's the only reason she'd fall for Deathstalker. She and her mother have no money and no food except potatoes. But somehow, the girl can find hair spray to keep her hair standing up in glorious 80s fashion.
This episode is sent-up by the MSTk3000 guy in their best episode. It features the worst swordfight in motion picture history which I highly recommend. My favourite line is "It was a good idea to film the walk-through."
Deathstalker 4: Match of the Titans (1991)
The final one sees the return of Rick Hill as Deathstalker. Although he is wooden, he has more presence than the other guys and at least looks the part, although his wig has either improved or its his real hair this time.
Id guess this one was filmed in Bulgaria, judging by the names of the extras and a few real castles.
At least 45% of this film is recycled fights and orgies from Deathstalker 1. And the plot is a remake of the first film, with a sorceress holding a combat competition to eliminate all the best fighters. The only difference being that the sorcerer is a woman this time.
The only original thing is this time, Deathstalker meets another opponent, Vaniat, played by Brett Baxter Clark. Vaniant is being trained by a Burgess Merideth style coach for the competition. He's not allowed to eat meat, drinks only milk, excercises regularly and must refrain from sex. Basically, the opposite of Deathstalker, who of course kicks his butt. Valient looks so ridiculous, with a horrible orange tan, giant mullet and leather biker armour, looking more like he stepped off the set of Renegade with Lorenzo Lamas.
This might be the worst one as it lacks the self awareness of 2 and the unitentional comedy of 3.
Overall, all of these are pretty good for laughs.
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