Archive for February, 2012

Hey, gamer guys and gals, it’s time for another installment of the ongoing (and possibly never-ending) Pit of Swords and Sorcery, this one dedicated to a real gem and as far as I’m concerned a lost classic in the world of barbarian fantasy cinema, the incomparable Deathstalker II.

As you may have guessed from my review of the first entry into the epic Deathstalker cycle, our titular character is not exactly my favorite person in the whole world. He was arrogant, mean, mercurial, not terribly bright, and overall reminded me of an An Tir Varangian who’s lost his favorite drinking mug (that’s an SCA reference for those who don’t get it). Not the guy you want to save the world from evil.

This is NOT the Deathstalker that I remember.

Enter Deathstalker II. From what I gleaned from the DVD commentary track (see below), this movie started life as a straight sequel to Deathstalker, with the standard barbarian hero flexing his muscles and chopping foes into little bits. Director Jim Wynorski and star John Terlesky, however, decided that that wasn’t how they wanted to play it, and so rewrote it (apparently on the fly, in their seedy hotel room) as a comedy. How else can you explain Deathstalker’s amazing transformation from blonde beefcake barbarian to wisecracking, wiry, dark-haired rogue type? Either that or two people are calling themselves Deathstalker, and if the big blonde guy ever gets wind of it, I wouldn’t bet on the funny guy’s chances in a showdown.

So with a new hero, who owes more to Bugs Bunny than Conan, and equipped with a number of competent (or at least impressively cantilevered) co-stars, they set out to produce a low-budget barbarian movie. The result isn’t quite as big a mess as the first one, and the sincerity and charm of the filmmakers is apparent, but in the end Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans is yet another combatant relegated to my Pit of Sword and Sorcery Mayhem, where only the strong survive.

The epic begins in Indiana Jones territory, in the bowels of a dark fortress, lit by flashes of low-budget lightning (apparently the soundtrack of the film was fogged, forcing them to add the sound of thunder to cover up the excess background noise). Our hero swiftly puts in an appearance, sneaking down the corridor with a doe-eyed hottie tagging along behind. After a quick kiss for luck (and the last time our noble hero will ever see the doe-eyed hottie), Deathstalker creeps up to an altar and does the Indy thing, snatching a very cheap-looking gemstone from the Sculpie box on top. Well, he certainly looks pleased with himself (Deathstalker does that a LOT in this movie), but it doesn’t last long because suddenly a gigantic round boulder thunders down upon him, forcing Deathstalker to flee for his life…

This is what all the bad guy's minions look like for the entire movie. Primarily because it's always the same two guys.

Well, no that didn’t happen in Dungeons and Dragons, and it’s not going to happen here. This is Deathstalker 2, not Temple of Doom, and they couldn’t really afford any actual traps or mechanical perils. What they could afford were a bunch of thugs with black-painted wooden swords and bandanas obscuring their faces, which conveniently allowed them to reuse the same thugs over and over again through the course of the movie. And use them they do, for Deathstalker proves himself their master, cutting down several (with clanging sword sound effects to cover up the sound of fake wooden swords hitting each other), then laying out a couple with his fists alone, followed by a quick smirk in the direction of the camera. He’s already starting to get on our nerves, and we’re only about two minutes into the movie.

After a few more mooks (who look remarkably like the first bunch of mooks) get dispatched, Deathstalker flees, heroically leaping from a high window to his waiting horse below, then gallops away. Hot on his heels is another group of hooded mooks and their mistress, the luscious Sultana, a hot evil amazon-sorceress babe (those are the best kind) dressed in a fake leopardskin halter and cloak. She glares down from the high window as her foe rides to safety and utters her first line:

“I’ll have my revenge,” she says, “and Deathstalker, too!”

Wa-wa-wa-wa-waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh…

How many fake leopards do you think died for this outfit? Come to think of it, probably not many at all.

After this auspicious beginning, we cut to the credits, and hear (for the first of many, many times), the haunting deathstalker theme, a rousing adventurous score that was apparently composed on a Casio keyboard in someone’s bedroom. The titles flash before a burning background, and we’re told that this isn’t just any Deathstalker II; it’s Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans. Well, now, this sounds promising… So far there weren’t any titans, let alone duels, just a new, improved, 50% more annoying Deathstalker killing a bunch of minions who work for a hot chick in fake leopard skin. The prospect of an actual duel of the titans makes me want to watch it all the more. Right.

Hot on the heels of the stirring man title music (you can click on the link above and play it continuously while reading this review if you like), we cut to the exterior of a low-end (and since Deathstalker’s headed there, it’s probably very low-end) tavern, with two more guards (once more in blind-and-deaf helmets and black armor) tossing a very attractive young blonde woman out on her ear. This is our heroine, Evie, and while it’s true that she’s attractive — because she’s the infamous B-movie actress Monique Gabrielle — you’ll find yourself growing to loathe her as the movie progresses.

We start seeing ‘Stalker’s cartoon heritage almost immediately as he saunters up, a shit-eating grin on his boyishly handsome face and says, “Aaaaaaaaaaah, what’s up Doc?” Well, no he doesn’t really, but you sure as hell expect him to. What he actually says is, “You know, boys, ordinarily I don’t mind seeing a woman getting a good beating if she deserves it. But this doesn’t look like much of a contest to me.” Damn! That Deathstalker is one smooth hombre, no?

It doesn’t do much for the blind-and-deaf trio, who reply, “You picked the wrong town to stop in. Do you know who we are?” Well, what they said probably sounded more like “Mmf-ffm-mm! Frrmm vmf fpp’nnn!” before they looped the dialog, since I can’t for the life of me see how anyone could talk, let alone breathe, in those damned helmets.

They tell me that I look kind of like a young Tom Cruise. What do you think?

Given a straight line like “Do you know who we are?” Deathstalker can’t fail to come up with an impressive bon mot, and he does not fail to live up to expectations.

“The village idiot and the two runners-up?” he asks. Now if this was me I’d say something even more creative such as, “The winner of the ugliest whore competiton and the two runners-up?” but Deathstalker II apparently isn’t as witty as me.

So Deathstalker delivers this stinging retort, to which the leader of the mentally challenged triplets shouts, “Get him!” Oh, yeah. These guys aren’t gonna last long.

Thinking quickly, Deathstalker grabs a nearby shovel, flings a faceful of dung into one guard’s face (that helmet doesn’t protect him from anything), mops the floor with the second, and sends the third fleeing into the darkness. Not bad with a shovel, that Deathstalker, but keep in mind that he wasn’t exactly fighting Conan the Destroyer.

With that, Deathstalker puts the shovel away, grins at our cute little heroine, she cutely waves back and, having triumphed over the forces of evil, he swaggers into the tavern for an evening of fun and games.

Evie, our heroine. Don't you just want to eat her up?

And boy does this tavern look familiar. It has both the one-handed guy in the horned helmet from Deathstalker I, the hot asian-looking gal reclining on the couch from Deathstalker I, and even the pig-faced warrior from… you guessed it — Deathstalker I. It’s almost as if the cast of the first movie was transported here to follow our heroe’s adventures! And strangely enough, they all seem to behave in exactly the same way as they behaved in the first movie! Right down to the exact same gestures! It can’t be that they just reused footage from Deathstalker I, can it? No, never!

One occupant who wasn’t in the first movie is a bouncy, topless, furry-clad dancing girl, who flounces around with great enthusiasm, but is largely ignored by passers-by. If I were in that tavern, I would not have ignored her, that’s for sure… I’d have tucking gold crowns into her belt in a hot minute, and eventually would probably have invited her upstairs to study the biology of the two-backed beast, but that’s me, and this movie isn’t about me. It’s about Deathstalker.

Deathstalker then proceeds to wow the ladies with his patented wave-your-hand-through-the-candle-flame trick, which apparently thrills them so much that they’re willing to offer him a 10% discount on their normal rates, but before Deathstalker can reach for his money pouch to see how many gold pieces he has rattling around, our little blonde walking annoyance from outside shows up, cramping his style no end.

Apparently women in the Deathstalker universe are VERY easily entertained.

She demands help, and Deathstalker is understandably reluctant to give her more help than she absolutely needs. Unfortunately for our heroine, another helmet-headed guard (or is it the same one?) shows up and starts slapping her around. Well, Deathstalker is nothing if not chivalrous, so he reluctantly gives a bye to his two attractive companions and goes to aid Evie, thus starting… you guessed it… a bar fight.

The fight’s a bit more even this time because the guards don’t have their faces covered and their eyes obscured, so they can actually see what they’re trying to hit. Not that it does them much good — Deathstalker has the reflexes of an elephant and the strength of a cat… No, wait… reverse that. Anyway, he manages to outmaneuver most of the guards while the annoying Evie conveniently hides behind the bar.

Like most bar fights, this thing degenerates into chaos very quickly — soon everyone is fighting everyone, and innocent passersby who have no idea what’s going on are attacking Deathstalker en masse. It’s interesting to note in light of the film’s later events, that the evil Chin and all of his minions (see below) are involved in this fight. I guess they’re sizing up Deathstalker before going after him or something.

I think we're seeing why this movie was made.

While the previously-mentioned characters from Deathstalker I are nowhere in evidence (they must have left before the fight started), we do however get a real treat when the cute dancing chick decides that she’s had enough and flees the place. I think that the following sequence might be one of the greatest in screen history, rivaling the Siege of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King and the climactic battle sequence in Spartacus.

So, as if running, bouncing mostly-naked dancing girls aren’t enough, we are also treated to the pleasure of Deathstalker being strangled by a big bald guy (later revealed as Ed “The Head” Shemanski, but for the moment we think that he’s just as annoyed with Deathstalker as we are). Unfortunately, he is saved by Evie and we have to put up with him for the rest of the movie.

Right now, this is pretty much what we'd ALL like to be doing to Deathstalker.

Deathstalker polishes off a few more mooks, then flees with our blonde cutie-pie on a horse that just happens to be standing there, and we get another rousing chorus of the Deathstalker theme song. Of course the dipstick guards haven’t learned to leave well enough alone yet, and set after him on their own horses. Stalker leads a merry chase through the back lots and cheap studio spaces of Spain or Mexico or Italy or wherever the hell they filmed this movie, and we have the chance for a little witty banter such as:

Evie: I’m Evie!

Deathstalker: Deathstalker!

Evie: Deathstalker? Is that your first name or your last name?

Yuk yuk. Well, they eventually outrun the guards and their incredibly ineffective-looking crossbows (no I won’t bore you with any more description). Deathstalker takes the opportunity to tell Evie that he’s in the “wealth redistribution business,” which just coincidentally corresponds to what most of the right wing thinks about President Obama. When she asks if he robs from the rich and gives to the poor he replies that he robs from the rich and pretty much keeps it all, which is just coincidentally also what the right wing thinks about the Occupy movement.

By the way, this is the sort of thing you get when you GIS "Monique Gabrielle." Just thought you'd like to know.

The next morning (no, they don’t end up in bed together… get your mind out of the gutter), Evie whips up some horrific concoction containing chicken’s feet for Deathstalker who, being the chivalrous git that he is, informs her that it’s delicious and (wait for it), pours it out on the ground when she’s not looking. And if that hilarity isn’t enough, Evie says “I know I kinda messed things up for you before,” which leads to Deathstalker delivering an amusing spit-take.

She then informs him that she’s actually a seer and offers to tell Deathstalker’s future. She whips out a faceted crystal that looks like it was bought in the airport gift shop before the crew took off for the location (in reality, as revealed in the DVD commentary, it’s a crystal doorknob and she’s hiding the threaded portion in her hand), and tells Deathstalker that he is fated to rescue a beautiful princess in distress (hm. I wonder who she’s talking about?). The princess, she says, is in danger from the evil Jarek in the land of Jafir. There are many dangers ahead, she says — witches, dragons, ogres (“Must cut down on the tourist trade,” Deathstalker quips; what a card!). That sounds promising, but unfortunately while we see a couple of women who might qualify as witches, the rest of the movie is woefully short on dragons and ogres.

If he follows the prophecy, Evie says, Deathstalker will be a cinch to make legend status. “Right up there with Conan,” she tells him. Then of course, she swoons and falls clumsily into Deathstalker’s arms, and he predictably takes the opportunity to give her chest a quick squeeze. Then, poor sap, Deathstalker immediately decides to head off for Jafir, to fame, fortune and that shot at legendhood. Evie is a little surprised at the abruptness of his departure, but scrambles along behind him anyway, the little minx.

Jarek -- A dashingly handsome, devil-may-care villain.

Okay, we’ve seen about enough of our two heroes to last for several movies (no small accomplishment since there were four Deathstalker flicks in all), so it’s about time to bring on the bad guys. Cut to Jafir, a fell realm thick with miniature railroad trees, dry ice fog and an ominous black castle on a hill (“It’s only a model.” “Sh!”). In the depths of the model… Oops, I mean castle… our two villains are amusing themselves. And what a pair they are. First, there’s the evil Jarek, who got such a buildup in the last scene. He’s fighting more faceless muffle-helmed guards, gutting them with his broadsword, then calling for the next victim. This whole “guard for the evil dark lord” gig never seemed like an especially good one to me, given EDLs’ penchant for murdering their minions left and right. Jarek is particularly fond of this form of entertainment, and uses every cheesy broadsword swash and phony movie buckle while he finishes them off.

(Of special note to gamers is the fact that Jarek bears a striking resemblance to one Anthony Valterra, a former designer for Wizards of the Coast, and publisher of the infamous Book of Erotic Fantasy, referenced in my earlier entries about Sex and Roleplaying.)

Practice makes perfect.

Jarek’s partner in crime is none other than the wicked Princess Evie, played by B-movie sensation Monique Gabrielle, who is as evil as she is beautiful…

Wait a sec… Princess Evie? Didn’t we already meet her?

Well, yes, we did, and she too was played by the bounteous Miss Gabrielle. It seems (as Jarek explains as he’s butchering another mook) that this is not the real princess, but a magical clone that he created to take her place so he could run the kingdom from behind the throne. The two Evies are magically linked, so if one dies, they both die. Jarek is working on the problem and assures Evie, who spends the scene giving head to a banana, that he’ll have it fixed in no time, after which the real Evie is worm food.

Evie stalks out in ill humor, after which Jarek is visited by none other than Sultana, the “I’ll have my revenge!” chick from the opening sequence. As evil as she is large breasted, Sultana’s wearing a pretty hot leather and chains outfit, and sashays into Jarek’s inner sanctum to demand that he keep his promise to let her share the kingdom with her. She helped put the fake Evie on the throne, apparently, and now it’s time to pay the lusciously-endowed piper. Failing that, Sultana is willing to take Deathstalker instead, since she’s still pissed off with him for stealing that big hunk of colored glass in the prolog. She’ll drop her claims if given the pleasure of killing Deathstalker herself.

Deathstalker's mighty steed thunders past a discarded tire.

Jarek readily agrees, and informs her that he already has a man on the case — the infamous Chin the Buccaneer (whom we’ve already seen watching the bar fight earlier). Sultana stalks off while Jarek calls for his next living practice dummy. In the corridor, Sultana encounters the fake Evie (“Well, if it isn’t the royal slut herself!” she sneers), and the two exchange harsh words… Sultana tells Evie that she “really oughta mess you up” and suddenly we’re being teased with the prospect of a nice hot catfight, but unfortunately nothing of the kind ever materializes. It’s a real shame when movie directors miss such obvious possibilities for heightening the drama and artistic merit of a film, but then again I guess we can’t all be filmmakers like Russ Meyer or Andy Sidaris.

Back to Deathstalker and the real Evie, riding at breakneck speed through the wilderness, toward the citadel of the evil Jarek. As they ride along, sharp-eyed movie fans can spot an old tire lying forlornly in a pool of water (a fact that the director quite proudly points out in the DVD commentary… I love this guy!) while the Deathstalker theme song plays for what seems like the 400th time.

Cut to a boisterous tavern. Once more it’s a very familiar tavern, featuring guards, dancing girls, barbarians, acrobats bar wenches and naked mudwrestling babes from Deathstalker I (look closely and you’ll even see a glimpse of Deathstalker’s incompetent companion and possible alternate livestyle partner Oghris, looking just as dumb and ineffective as in the first movie). Mind you, without them the tavern would look very much like what it is — the redressed set from earlier in the movie with the cameras and furniture moved around a little, and about four patrons. Splice in a few hot pix from the previous movie… Pshaw! No one will notice. After all, no one saw the first Deathstalker movie either, did they?

Into this interesting amalgam of two taverns from two different movies saunters the sensual but deadly Sultana, who seeks out the notorious Chin, who’s seated at the bar. Together they drink beer out of cut-glass steins that look like they were purchased at the local Valu-Village and discuss how they’re going to handle Deathstalker.

Where have we seen THIS before?

“Deathstalker’s as good as in the grave!” Chin declares.

“Listen, sailor, don’t carve a tombstone so readily,” says Sultana, stumbling a bit as she delivers the line (who really talks like that anyway?). “Deathstalker has as many lives as a cat!”

“If he’s made of flesh and blood, he can die,” Chin says, as we cut between our two villains and those mudwrestling chicks from that other movie. “I’ll bring Deathstalker to you on a platter like a piece of raw meat.” He pauses and gestures down the bar. “And I’ve got just the butchers to do it.”

He then introduces his henchmen, a grim and strangely laughable group of killers and mercenaries. Given their buildup, you’d kind of expect them to play a bigger role in the story — they include “Crazy Otto” Rheingold (aka the Mad Prussian), Ed “The Head” Shemanski (part-time adviser to Atilla the Hun), John “The Baptist” Bombasso (who specializes in drowning, though we never see him actually drown anyone), Nick “The Crippler” of Kashmir, and in a triumph of good taste, a tough-looking little person named Buddy “Footstool” LaRosa (“Dismissed by Ivan the Terrible for excessive brutality”).

A nasty and dangerous-looking crowd of ruffians, eh what? Deathstalker doesn’t stand a chance.

Well, if that’s what you think then I’ve got some nice marshland in Ascalon to sell you. In the next scene we see Deathstalker and Evie (the “good” one) riding hell for leather through the same terrain they rode through before (though someone appears to have removed the old tires). Only we’re not supposed to notice, since now it’s night.

You killed my father. Prepare to die.

“Okay, men… Let him have it!” Chin orders, and his men, who are standing on a ridge above Deathstalker as plain as the nose on his face, let fly with a volley of explosive arrows, causing the terrain around our heroes to erupt into balls of flame and forcing them to abandon the horse and hide behind a hill.

“They’re trying to kill us!” Evie declares.

“Give the lady a cigar,” grumbles Deathstalker. Nothing like a little anachronistic humor to lighten the mood, huh?

Deathstalker equips himself with some nice shiny shuriken and sneaks off to take down the Chin Gang one at a time. This he does in record time without alerting anyone to his presence. This is surprising, since every time he kills someone, a deafening “sting” of music explodes from the soundtrack, probably intended to be dramatic, but succeeding only in being almost as irritating as Princess Evie.

He even throws a star at Buddy “Footstool” LaRosa, causing him to tumble back down the hill and — yes — explode. Now those who don’t know better would assume this is just Buddy’s arrows going off, but I happen to know that in WotC’s upcoming new fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, certain dwarves are actually highly flammable, and will blow up at the slightest tap. This leads some kingdoms in the Forgotten Realms to propose that warning labels be affixed to all dwarves, a suggestion that raises the ire of many dwarven clans, and leads to several major armed insurrections. In these battles, the dwarves emerge victorious by lobbing volunteers from catapults into the midst of the enemy formations, where they explode on contact, causing great mayhem and loss of life.

Either these are zombies or Evie has wandered into an Insane Clown Posse concert.

Anyway, Deathstalker barely breaks a sweat taking down Chin’s minions, even when Nick the Crippler threatens to slit Evie’s throat. Stalker laughs, slays Nick easily and in a few minutes he and his blonde snuggle-bug are on their way back to Jafir. Chin meets up with Sultana under a tree beside a stagnant pool full of Alka Seltzer. Chin uses the bubbling pool to communicate with Jarek, telling him of his pathetic failure, after which Jarek… again, no surprise to anyone… jams his sword into his own pool, killing poor Chin. Take it from a guy who knows — never, ever work for the Evil Dark Lord, no matter what he promises you. The best you can hope for is to end up as a eunuch guarding the royal harem. And that’s on a good day.

Jarek still has some surprises left in his bag of tricks. He pulls out a miniature coffin and begins to cast a spell. Look out, ‘Stalker! Evil is afoot.

Next thing we know, ‘Stalker and Evie are riding through an ominous, green-gel lit cemetery. How do we know it’s a cemetery, you ask? Why, because of all those cross-shaped headstones, of course! Calling them “headstones” is a bit of a misnomer, as they appear to be pieces of wood nailed together in cross shapes. Now, how a realm like Jafir, ignorant of the Christian traditions of Planet Earth, decided to use crosses as headstones is beyond me, but hell, we’re way beyond normal human logic by now anyway.

Admittedly this IS a good look for Evie's evil clone, don't you think?

True to form, Deathstalker wants to go into the graveyard and loot the mausoleum. It’s sure to be filled with gems and gold, he tells Evie who (for once sensibly) tries to talk him out of it.

Common sense does not appear to be Deathstalker’s long suit, so into the graveyard he goes. Predictably, when he creeps into the mausoleum, the door slams shut behind him and an image of Jarek appears, telling him that grave robbing is a crime and carries a “stiff penalty” (he said “stiff”… heh-heh). Of course, now the walls spout spikes and start closing in on him. “I’ve a rather pressing engagement to attend to,” Jarek says, “and I’ve arranged one for you as well.” Well, no one ever said that sorcerers had a very good sense of humor.

Meanwhile, outside — surprise! — Evie is suddenly beset by dozens of extras from the original Night of the Living Dead, complete with clown makeup and smeared mascara. She holds them off with a torch while screaming her lungs out (something that Miss Gabrielle was well known for in the glory days of her movie career).

Stalker has the good sense to clamber out of the tomb by scrambling up the spikes and bashing out the barred skylight. He leaps down to rescue Evie and the two flee the slow-moving zombies, leap astride their long-suffering horse, and thunder back on the road to high adventure.

Now comes a scene that, without the amusing and entertaining DVD commentary, I would have blamed on the director. We see horsemen riding through the forest, dragging some poor sap along behind them, until *WHAM* he fetches up against a tree and lies there like a sack of potatoes. “That’ll soften him up for the princess!” growls one of the horsemen.

This is all well and good, but the entire scene is taken directly from… guess what movie?

Don't do it, kid!

If you guessed Deathstalker I, you win a cookie. Remember right before those guys showed up at the old woman’s hut and she handed the guy a snake? This is the same scene, but with a little extra dialog to make it fit (yup — it’s Kang, general of Lord Munkar leading the parade!). The director, thank goodness, was not responsible for this travesty, and loudly complains that it was added without his knowledge or permission, on the commentary track. It’s nice to know that, even if he’s a hack, he’s at least an honest hack, to the extent that he doesn’t want other bad movies interfering with his bad movie.

Back at the palace, the evil princess Evie is lounging sensuously on her chaise, listening to an alarming-looking dwarf minstrel who is plucking his lute and playing, you guessed it, the Deathstalker theme. Now this little guy will probably haunt my nightmares for years to come, but it’s even worse when you consider that he bears a strong resemblance to Samwise from Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings. Gods help me, I’m starting to see twisted evil-looking hobbits everywhere now…

Blood of virgins... Oh, NOM!

After Evie tires of the song and throws something at the luckless minstrel, he flees. As she takes a bite out of her apple, she sees that her hand is fading into nothingness. Well, actually it flickers on and off several times as if they stopped the camera, removed her hand, filmed for a second, then put it back, but who watches these things for their special effects? Given this film’s budget, I doubt Peter Jackson himself would have done better. Well, he probably would, but that’s as may be.

Evie looks horrified and screams for her guards. Two pig-boys drag in a prisoner (presumably the poor sap from the “that’ll soften him up for the princess” scene). She gives the guy a sensuous smirk and beckons him to draw closer. The dumb kid falls for it, and in an instant becomes Princess Evie’s lunch — yes, in addition to being a magical clone she’s some kind of sex vampire who feeds off virile young studs. And that’s a bad thing, believe me. But then again, what a way to go, huh?

Back once more to Deathstalker and Evie on their long, arduous and increasingly dull journey. He chivalrously offers her the blanket as they sit by the fire, and she responds by offering to share it. He obliges, and she says, “Stalker? Is that your sword, or are you just happy to see me?” Gods save us all…

Yeah, we get it.

The next day, they encounter an amusing sign that points the way to Jafir, but also to such diverse places as Nokandu, Altair 4, Lemuria, Cimmeria, Freedonia, etc. Before they can fully appreciate the humor of the sign, however, Deathstalker and Evie are captured by the amazons and taken before their queen, who accuses our heroine of looking like Evie, the Demon Princess (now there’s a title to put in your resume…), to which Evie responds that she’s actually Reena the Seer. The queen swallows this hook, line and sinker, and sets Reena/Evie free, but tells Deathstalker that he’s to be put on trial “for your crimes against women!”

Personally, I’d have put Deathstalker on trial for his crimes against good taste, but that’s amazons for you. I notice that most of the time in movies and TV, “amazons” don’t conform to the classical Greek model. I’ve met a few amazons over the years myself, and I can swear to you that I have never, never met a tribe of women warriors who removed their breasts so they could shoot their bows better. And I’m grateful for this, since I like women (and most people in general) to be relatively symmetrical, especially when it comes to breasts. The amazons in this film are, thankfully, of the movie and TV variety — hot young women in skimpy outfits with big swords. These are the amazons I like, as long I stay on their good side, of course.

Amazons!

Deathstalker is most assuredly NOT on these ladies’ good side, and one of the most ludicrous scenes in the flick is on the way to prove it. Sentenced to trial by combat, Deathstalker warms up by jumping rope (clad in the most microscopic loincloth imaginable) and seems terribly offended at the whole affair, since as he says, he can easily beat any of the amazons with his hands tied behind his back.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t counted on being forced to battle the amazons’ champion, Gorgo (not to be confused with Gorgo, wife of King Leonidas of Sparta, but that’s another entire movie) who is, of course, the biggest and meanest woman imaginable. She is played by female wrestler Queen Kong, a woman of… well, pretty heroic stature, with a pretty nasty sneer and arms that are bigger than Deathstalker’s thighs. Of course, most people have arms bigger than Deathstalker’s thighs, since this is the lean, nimble Deathstalker, as opposed to the beefy, low-browed blonde Deathstalker of the other movies… Jeez, this guy is almost as hard to keep track of as Doctor Who.

And so battle is joined — and no, it isn’t the duel of the titans — that comes later. In this case it’s the duel of the skinny pasty but oh-so-well-toned rogue and the even pastier, but much, much larger female wrestler. Well, Gorgo (who is at least a head taller than her opponent) predictably mops the floor with Deathstalker, giving the filmmakers lots of opportunities for boxing/wrestling movie and lame jokes.

Evie gives Deathstalker the usual corner pep talk (“Wear her out, then attack! Go get her, tiger!”), then Stalker goes out and gets clobbered again. John Terlesky is a pretty agile and athletic guy, but some of the more violent falls are performed by his stunt man, and they do an admirable job of never showing his face. Of course, we also have “ring girls” carrying out the cards with big numbers on them between rounds, then we fade into a slow-mo montage of the rest of the fight, cutting between Deathstalker getting a serious asswhipping, amazons cheering and the amazon queen fingering and twisting her scepter in a fairly disturbing fashion.

Queen Kong exudes raw sexuality.

And all through the montage we hear a slow, stately and dramatic rendition of the Deathstalker theme song, suggesting that the composer’s Casio keyboard had a few extra bells and whistles added. Finally, just as all seems lost, Deathstalker does the Three Stooges move and boxes Gorgo’s ears, triggering the full-tempo, heroic version of the Deathstalker theme song as he finally turns the tables on his massive opponent, ducking under her blows and disabling her with a flurry of kung fu punches.

And yes, Deathstalker triumphs but, chivalrous to the last, refuses to kill Gorgo, instead sparing her and letting her lie in the middle of the boxing ring like a beached whale. While she built up our hopes that Deathstalker would die painfully at her hands, she ultimately failed, but in the end, don’t we all fail every now and then? And though our rage toward her for not actually ending this film early might be considerable, should we not follow Deathstalker’s example and forgive Gorgo?

Okay, so after the fight, Deathstalker gripes to Evie about her lack of support and the overall low accuracy rating of her various prophecies. She admits to being a crappy seer, but says that she really is a princess, explains Jarek’s evil scheme, and tells Deathstalker that she still needs his help, after which Deathstalker replies that he’d rather be an obscure thief than a famous fool, and stomps off in a huff.

Dancing amazon. No reason. Just a dancing amazon.

Back at the castle, the fake, evil, vampire Evie is throwing a hissy fit, throwing various implements at Jarek, who dodges them with ease. He mollifies her somewhat by telling her that he’s created an elixir (which looks kind of like Orange Crush or possibly Fanta) which will sever her ties to the real Evie. He demonstrates on a magical clone that he’s made, fake Evie is overjoyed, and downs the rest of the potion. Oops… Things are starting to look grim for real Evie.

Meanwhile, the amazons show that they know how to party. The tavern music from Deathstalker I plays while they dance and cavort; While there isn’t a lot of gratuitous nudity in the amazons’ celebration, there are nevertheless some very cute amazons dancing while Evie runs around asking if anyone’s seen Deathstalker. Oh, there he is… playing tonsil hockey with the amazon queen. I guess she got over her dislike of Deathstalker’s “crimes against women” and has decided that he’s her hot little studmuffin. As yet another variant of the Deathstalker theme plays mournfully in the background (yes, it’s the slow and sad version of the theme song), Evie looks all hurt and runs off into the night.

Inside the queen’s tent, Deathstalker treats her to his own brand of tender pillow-talk.

“Nice place,” he says. “Did you hire a decorator or did you do it yourself?”

The queen smiles sweetly at this (as who wouldn’t?) and replies, “You have wit. I like that in a man.”

Queen Kong provides more audience wish fulfillment by kicking Deathstalker's ass.

I think she probably muffed her dialog here. What the line probably actually said is “You are a half-wit. I like that in a man,” but they didn’t have the budget to reshoot the scene.

“When I first laid eyes on you,” she continues, “I thought you’d be just another barbarian. All muscle and no mind.”

“Well,” Deathstalker replies, “my father was a scholar and my mother was a bricklayer. I guess I got the best of both.”

Well, Deathstalker certainly set her straight on that score, didn’t he?

They booze it up some more (and the mournful version of the theme song continues). The queen urges Stalker to forget about Evie, since what he really needs is “a real woman.” To prove her point, she slips behind a curtain and begins to drop clothing. I don’t know about you, but this is one of my favorite parts of the evening. However, she has to go and spoil it by saying, “Just think — together we could rule as far as the eye can see, and the children of our loins can be masters of this kingdom for a hundred… no, a thousand years. Our lovemaking tonight may spawn generations of leaders to come. The passion in our hearts will burn like a great sensual fire, melding our souls into a whirlpool of unending ecstasy.”

Gods, woman… Thanks for killing the mood. After that kind of a buildup, can you say “performance anxiety”?

When Stalker expresses some hesitation at the prospect of being awakened at dawn the next day, queenie replies that it must be, as “the ceremony” is traditionally performed at daybreak.

Queen Kong approves of your shenanigans.

“What ceremony?” Deathstalker asks, and takes a big gulp of wine.

Okay, see if you can guess what happens next?

A) She says, “No ceremony, silly! I was just kidding,” and they screw like minks;

B) She turns, baring her fangs, her eyes blazing with daemonic fury and says, “The ceremony of your human sacrifice, weak and pitiful mortal!”; or

C) She says, “Our wedding ceremony of course,” at which time Deathstalker does a spit take and flees from the tent in fear.

If you guessed C, then you’re obviously an old hand at this. Had it happened to Wulf, the correct answer would have been B, and he’d have writhed in the daemoness’ clutches until Livia and Narisha showed up to rescue him, after which they’d have teased him about it for days. Damn. I might write that one next.

As for Deathstalker, he gets out while the getting is good, eliciting an “Oh, shit!” from the disappointed queen. You should thank your lucky stars that you missed out on that one, sweetheart — as soon as the honeymoon was over you’d have suddenly realized what a load you’d saddled yourself with.

Out in the forest, the distraught Evie is easy prey for the wicked Sultana, whose minions capture her and bring her back to the temptress’ lair, where she is suspended over a vat of boiling something-or-other (which under other circumstances would look something like a pot filled with water and dry ice).

Sultana is very nice to her victims, letting them rest their feet while being lowered into the boiling vat of death.

Sultana is more kind-hearted than she seems however, for she doesn’t really string Evie up by the wrists — she puts her feet in a pair of stirrup-type things and lets her stand comfortably before killing her. Sure, Sultana looks like a nasty bitch-queen sado-dominatrix whore, but in reality she’s a sweet, ol’-fashioned girl who never wants her victims to suffer too much before she finishes them off.

Sultana demands Evie reveal where Deathstalker is and threatens to drop her right into the dry ice bucket if she refuses. Evie replies that Jarek needs her alive, to which Sultana retorts, “Yes; to help himself to your castle, your kingdom and, by the looks of you, most of your wardrobe.”

Aha! I knew it the moment I saw Jarek. He doesn’t want the princess for the power, the riches and the influence. He wants her for the outfits.

Sultana threatens to sink Evie into the bubbling stuff up to her waist which, she says will diminish her enjoyment of “life’s sensual pleasures,” while not killing her outright. Now even I’m forced to admit that’s pretty low. Sultana demands Evie talk one more time. “Tell me now. Where’s Deathstalker?”

And right on cue, heroically bounding in from stage left comes…

Conan the Barbarian? Elric of Melnibone? Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser? Snails the thief?

Nah, none of those guys… Yes! It’s Deathstalker!!

Okay, not Deathstalker… Deathstalker II!

“Somebody looking for me?” he demands, flashing his patented shit-eating grin.

“Stalker!” screams Sultana. “Get him!” (“That was your plan? Get him??”) And of course her mooks surge forward to certain death.

Deathstalker does the Ronco Veg-o-Matic dance with the minions, while Sultana lights Evie’s ropes on fire so that they’ll burn through and drop her into the glop. Stalker and Sultana now have at it furiously, and she proves herself to be one of the better fighters in the piece besides maybe Queen Kong, but makes one false move, and Stalker guts her, then at the last moment, to everyone’s deep regret, leaps to rescue Evie from the oatmeal pot.

Together, they fall to the filthy floor, gaze deeply into each other’s eyes and…

No, thankfully they don’t start snogging on the dungeon floor, but instead vacate the place and continue their journey.

Hey! Those are stunt breasts!

Cut to Jarek’s fortress, where more mooks drag in Sultana’s battered corpse, interrupting Jarek while he’s at his desk, writing with a quill pen, apparently composing a list of which major male celebrities he’d like to sleep with. The guards manage to interrupt him right between Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling, but he gets up anyway, looks at Sultana’s corpse, pulls a swanky bell cord and triggers an acidhouse rave strobe light show. He then simply kisses Sultana and — presto! — she’s alive again.

“Welcome back!” Jarek purrs moodily and in a moment, as the strobe continues to flash, her top is off and he’s feeling up her flesh melons in no time (the DVD commentary reveals that these are not actually Toni Naples’ breasts, but those of a body double; Toni herself says she would have been happy to do a nude scene in the movie, but they never asked her… My god, people! Why the hell not??). While Jarek and Sultana’s breast double are doing the mambo, however, Evil Evie shows up, looks distraught, and stomps out in yet another evil princess huff. This is what you get when you hang out with the evil sorcerer, kid. Especially when he looks like a famous game designer. You might as well get used to it.

Outside the palace (which looks a lot like the outside of the tavern where Stalker met Evie), our two heroes peek out through the dry corn stalks. Evie leads Deathstalker into the palace, where they hear the sound of torture and find a slain victim hanging from the wall (“Looks like he died with a gag in his mouth,” Evie said. “Well if he did, he never got a chance to tell it,” Deathstalker replies. Gods, this is getting painful). Well, Stalker’s humor doesn’t do him much good, since he’s quickly captured by Jarek and the black helm brigade, while Evie escapes.

Evie again, right before she's rescued.

Jarek looks particularly pleased with himself. “Ahhhhh, Deathstalker!” he says. “You didn’t need to come through the servants’ entrance; I’d have welcomed you through the front gates. I’ve heard that despite your rather silly name, you’re actually quite an excellent swordsman.” Something tells me that the filmmakers were more than a little embarrassed at being stuck with this particular property, since they keep making jokes about ‘Stalker’s name. Of course, being named “Deathstalker” does indeed invite ridicule, but when your own screenwriter thinks it’s goofy… Well, there’s really no point in continuing.

Jarek orders his men to kill ‘Stalker, but the newly-revivified Sultana shows up and says, “No! He’s mine!” Evie sees this from a safe distance and flees, apparently leaving Deathstalker to a fate worse than death. Well, she’s about to face the same thing, since still more guys in bad helmets jump her in the forest and proceed to rip her clothes off. This is the first time we’ve seen Evie naked (but fortunately not the last), but it’s in such unpleasant circumstances that we don’t really care too much. Before the guards can have their way with Evie, the amazons show up again. The guards fall, stuck full of amazon arrows (damn, there seems to be an inexhaustible supply of those guys), and Evie rides back to the amazon camp.

Sultana considers polling the audience to see how she should torture Deathstalker.

Okay, now if I had been making this movie, this would have been a perfect opportunity for a little hot girl-girl action between Evie and the queen (given Monique’s other roles, I doubt she would have objected), but all we get is an extended scene in which she and the queen get massages and discuss how to rescue Deathstalker. Yet another wasted opportunity. The queen is understandably reluctant, since Deathstalker left her at the altar before they even got to the altar, but in the end Evie’s position prevails.

Meanwhile, back at the dungeon, Deathstalker is getting a crash course in the works of Edgar Allen Poe, strapped to a table with a knife-edge pendulum swinging back and forth above him. Sultana shows up to gloat, and asks “So where is the little princess?”

“Do you expect me to talk?” Deathstalker demands.

(Okay, all together now): “No,” Sultana replies. “I expect you to die!”

Well, if it was good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for Deathstalker, I guess.

“I’m sorry to see you go,” Sultana says. “We’d have made a great team.”

Stalker suggests that Sultana join the good guy team, but she demurs, since there’s no money in it. She then does what every other incompetent villain in every other action movie does, she leaves before Deathstalker is dead. Once more, the lack of access to the Evil Overlord Handbook leads yet another villain to ruin.

Something tells me she's done this before.

Deathstalker writhes on the torture table for a few moment, whimpers “Mother” (kind of like Bugs Bunny, huh?) before a grunty voice says, “Da Princess wantsta see ya,” and the pendulum is suddenly stopped.

Now, it’s a pair of pig-faced warriors who escort Deathstalker from the dungeon — there must have been a sale on the costumes or something. They lead our hero into the private bedchamber of… yes, it’s true — Evil Evie.

She sashays out from behind a screen, and Deathstalker remarks on her resemblance to the other, good, annoying Evie, which understandably pisses her off. She doesn’t seem to mind too much, since she immediately puts Stalker in a liplock and starts feeling up his package.

Deathstalker’s no fool — he knows what he’s gotta do, and quickly rises to the occasion. Figuratively and literally. He and Evil Evie fall together and begin to do the horizontal hula.

Well, finally seeing Evie (at least one of her) both naked and willing is actually worth the wait, as she’s definitely got a number of good features. Unfortunately, the ability to leave her humping partners alive isn’t one of them, as she gazes down at the recumbent Deathstalker, snarls cutely and says “Now, you’re mine!”

Oh, the terrible, terrible things that Deathstalker must do in the service of justice.

Unfortunately this sequence, which should have ended with Deathstalker’s oh-so-pretty face adorning the screaming-victim headboard of Evil Evie’s oversized bed is instead cut short by a mysterious figure who approaches with a heavy iron statuette, which she then uses to kosh Evil Evie right on the melon.

That’s melon. Singular. By which I mean her head. Get your mind out of the freakin’ gutter. You’re blocking my light.

Stalker’s savior is, of course, the real Evie, who isn’t terribly thrilled at Deathstalker’s cavorting with her double. Deathstalker thanks her for her timely intervention (as if he knew that E.E. was going to go all Anne Ricey on his ass), and the two head off back into the secret passages, presumably to go find Jarek and end his foul rule.

By this time Deathstalker’s more than a little suspicious of Evie’s ability to get him out of trouble, since so far she’s been about as helpful as a horse in a naval battle. She assures him that she knows the palace and its secret passages like the back of her cute little hand, and then…

Sultana and Jarek pose for their prom photo.

As might be expected, she then leads Deathstalker straight into the jaws of a trap. As they come out of a passage, they are suddenly surrounded by more black-armored, wooden-sword armed, paunchy guardsmen, led by the smirking Jarek and Sultana.

“How do they say it?” Jarek asks. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire?”

“That’s how they say it all right,” Deathstalker says, unable to think of a humorous retort. He makes to fight the crowd of guards around him, but Jarek thinks this is a somewhat foolish act.

“You can’t possibly kill us all,” he says. “One against 100?”

“Make that two against a hundred!” Evie shouts.

If I was Deathstalker at this point, I’d ask her to please not do me any favors, but before he can contemplate what a millstone ’round his neck Evie would be in a scrap, Jarek simply orders, “Kill them,” and leaves with a flouncy wave of his hand.

But this tale’s not yet over.

“Hey!” shouts a voice, and the amazons suddenly appear on the battlements, led by their queen, who’s apparently gotten over her annoyance at Deathstalker’s rejection. “What about we even those odds a little?”

The amazons unleash a volley of arrows, plugging a bunch of black-armored overweight guards, Jarek shouts “Get them!” and the free-for-all is on.

MORE gratuitous sex and nudity. I'll stop if you think it's too much, okay?

And so, as the Deathstalker theme plays AGAIN, we are treated to a ferocious (and actually pretty good) battle between the paunchy guardsmen and the hot amazon warrior babes, intercut with scenes from the previous movie, and occasional flashes of lightning for no apparent reason.

In the midst of the melee, Sultana looks bored, sighs and stalks off.

“Where are you going?” Jarek demands.

“Leaving!” Sultana snaps, and departs, never to return.

WTF? The DVD commentary explains that Sultana’s quick exit was necessitated by the fact that Toni Naples had to fly home and couldn’t work to the end of the film, so they simply decided to have her character get disgusted and walk off. Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention.

The battle progresses, with Deathstalker impaling pudgy guardsmen and Good Evie comedically clobbering people with a quarterstaff (actually it was a buck and a quarter… yuk, yuk, yuk. Oh god, they’ve got me doing it now…). Evil Evie shows up, complaining of a splitting headache, but Jarek sends her away, and himself retreats into the relative safety of the palace.

Fortunately for us, there are none of the quick, jarring and inexplicable jumps in plotting that plagued the original Deathstalker. While the battle outside rages, Deathstalker and Good Evie enter the palace, where she brandishes a dagger and tells Stalker she’s going off to find her evil twin.

There follows a Marx Brothers type sequence in which Good and Evil Evie stalk each other in the depths of the palace dungeon, interesting only in that it shows that Monique Gabrielle’s body double doesn’t have anywhere near as nice an ass as Monique herself. Eventually Good Evie finds Evil Evie and impales her with a thrown dagger. The evil double falls and dissolves into a cloud of smoke. Exit one evil magical clone.

The titular "Duel of the Titans." Where are those titans, anyway? All I see are a couple of douchbags.

Elsewhere, Deathstalker has finally found Jarek, and the two approach each other as Clint Eastwood style “duel” music plays (at least, thankfully, it’s not the Deathstalker theme again). After a brief exchange they rush at each other, swords drawn, and the duel of the titans is on. Well, the duel is on at any rate… To describe either of these guys as titans is a little bit of an exaggeration.

The duel lasts for quite a while, and among other things involves them kicking aside various cheap props and set dressing, including foil-covered bottles and the cheap plywood throne. The choreography isn’t too bad, and the sound effects make it seem as if they’re actually using real swords.

They fling each other about manfully, fighting along the banquet table (possibly covered with food left over from the previous day’s catering), Deathstalker defends himself with various mundane objects when he loses his sword, and is finally cornered by Jarek, who smirks in his usual annoying fashion, and closes in for the kill, sword poised for a final thrust.

Gaaaahhhh...

But Deathstalker’s got one last card to play — he’s seen a few Sonny Chiba movies, it seems, and as Jarek makes his big thrust (oh, shut up… I know what you’re thinking), he catches the sword blade between his hands, to Jarek’s severe annoyance, then breaks the blade, grabs the snapped-off hilt, and jams it under Jarek’s smarmy, annoying chin. Our villain expires with a silly, cross-eyed expression on his face, and Deathstalker runs out to receive the adulation of the victorious rebels.

Well, that pretty much settles things, doesn’t it? Princess rescued, evil magical clone slain, wicked sorcerer turned into a cocktail weenie, and the crowd of hot amazons (and a few guys who joined in with the rebels at the last moment in the hope of getting some) cheering wildly. Stalker and Evie bask in the glory for a few moments, and then suddenly it’s daytime and a completely different crowd is cheering. That’s because it’s the crowd from the tournament in the first movie, but by this time the two are so hopelessly blended together there’s no real point in even noting it anymore. Besides, the flick’s almost over and I’ve noted over 5,232 pieces of footage lifted from Deathstalker I.

Inside, Evie is on the throne, dressed in a pretty hot white number, and bids Deathstalker step forward. She’s searched for an appropriate reward to give to the victorious hero, and since after Jarek’s mismanagement the kingdom’s all but broke, she’s decided that the only thing she can offer is her own hot little bod. Not that that’s such a bad deal, but I doubt I would have taken it myself. Tying oneself down to a blonde princess with a ferocious sexual appetite is a sure route to early retirement and death, after all.

“So you really think our story’s going to make it into legend?” Deathstalker asks her.

Something tells me that white really isn't Evie's color.

“Oh, more than that,” Evie replies. “A thousand years from now players will reenact all our exploits.”

“Really?” Deathstalker grins boyishly. “Well, I sure hope they get a good-looking guy to play me.”

Gods, please kill me now…

So our young lovers embrace, the doors swing shut, and the film is…

Well, not quite over. We still have the extended dance version of the Deathstalker theme to play over the closing credits, with pictures of our various players, and of course, outtakes.

Huh? Outtakes? What the hell?

Yes, they run outtakes over the credits, including Evie choking on the potion, Deathstalker falling out a window onto his ass, amazon longbows malfunctioning, Deathstalker burning himself on a torch, Evie tripping on the stairs, crew cracking up at Evie’s naked writhing and moaning, and so on.

There’s also an extended credit sequence, but in the DVD commentary the director notes that most of the names of the crew were made up, and he doesn’t really know who worked on the movie.

Okay, ONE more, then I REALLY have to stop.

And so at last the final chords of the extended Deathstalker Dance Mix fade, and the movie ends. More coherent, funnier, better acted, written and directed than the first Deathstalker debacle, this film is nevertheless a prime candidate for the Sword and Sorcery pit, as the cheap sets, wooden acting and silly situations combine to make it something of a minor classic, and certainly one of the funniest low-budget barbarian movies ever made.

This incarnation of Deathstalker wasn’t to return however, as the series stumbled on for two more episodes, including Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (famous for its appearance on MST3K, this one starred blonde beefcake John Allen Nelson in the once-more musclebound barbarian title role) and Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans (as opposed to Duel of the Titans, I guess), in which Rick Hill from Deathstalker I returns to reprise his original dumb, wooden barbarian role. There have been no more Deathstalker flicks, which is a shame, and also the reason that I have begun work on Deathstalker V, in which the funny Deathstalker teams up with Sultana and together they track down and destroy all known copies of Rona Jaffe’s Mazes and Monsters.

Jim Wynorski, he's our man. If he can't direct it, no one can.

A little follow-up research has revealed some interesting facts about our film’s actors and creators. Director Jim Wynorski is something of a god among low-budget filmmakers. He’s produced 55 movies, written 48 and acted in 35. He sat in the director’s chair for 91 (yes, 91) films including Chopping Mall, Vampirella, Cheerleader Massacre, the Bare Wench Project (both parts I and III), The Hills Have Thighs, The Devil Wears Nada and of course who could forget the all-time classic Busty Co-eds vs. Lusty Cheerleaders. Most recently he has (unsurprisingly) made a comfortable home at the unfortunately renamed SyFy channel, producing and directing movies with titles like Dinocroc vs. Supergator and Piranhaconda! — in other words just the kind of movies you’d expect to see on the SyFy Channel.

Handsome John Terlesky has been in about two dozen b-flicks, but lately appears to have found his niche as a director alongside his mentor Jim Wynorski.  Mr. Terlesky has in fact had amazing success as a director of television series, with episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Boston Legal, Ugly Betty and the current hit Castle under his belt. Not bad for a guy who started out as a wisecracking barbarian.

John Terlesky today. Damn. Still lookin' good man.

Beautiful Toni Naples was in low-budget flicks throughout the ’90s but doesn’t seem to have worked much since 1996. It’s a shame, since she definitely lit up this film while she was in it, even if those breasts weren’t really hers.

Wickedly handsome John Lazar (Jarek) is primarily a stage actor, but also a trained martial artist, master swordsman and ballet dancer. He had roles in a variety of movies including the early Russ Meyer classics Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Supervixens. In 1997 he starred as Dr. Fez in a soft-core cable TV series called Click, which involved a magical button that can arouse women remotely (your guess is as good as mine) and in 2009 starred in a short film called Alice Jacobs is Dead which won a best horror film award at San Diego Comicon. Like so many other actors, Lazar is a fascinating study, and after reading this interview I’m even more convinced he’s awesome.

So, Jarek! You didn't die in that fortress after all! Now we'll truly see who is the finer swordsman!

Finally of course there is former scream queen Monique Gabrielle (real name Katherine Gonzalez), who from 1982 until 1996 appeared in 45 movies, and gained a significant following. These flicks included Airplane II, Chained Heat, Young Lady Chatterly II, Emmanuel V (in which she played the title role, which is odd since the original Emmanuel was brunette), Amazon Women on the Moon and Fear of a Black Hat. Her last movie is listed as (I kid you not) 2002’s Planet of the Erotic Ape. I’m not even going to bother looking for that one.

Since that time, information on Monique is scarce. Some online sources state that she dealt with anxiety issues and ended up doing a couple of hard-core adult films, including one called Ravished, though details on others are sketchy. The most recent rumor I was able to find says that she is happily retired and living in California, and I truly hope this is true, since she certainly brightened the lives of a lot of young men (and, I’m sure, women) during her colorful screen career.

A Very Special Note

You may have noticed that I referred several times to a DVD commentary track. Now, it’s true that most low-budget flicks from the 80s don’t have a DVD commentary track — usually they’re rushed out with minimal special features and left to sink or swim on their own. Deathstalker II (available as part of the “Sword and Sorcery Collection” from New Concorde) is a delightful exception, however. Featuring commentary from Director Jim Wynorski and stars John Terlesky and Toni Naples (regrettably not Monique, I’m afraid), this DVD is worth every penny (especially since Deathstalker I is on the other side), and caused my own respect and admiration for low-budget filmmakers grow by leaps and bounds. Our three commentators are quick to point out goofiness in the movie (“Okay, look at the top of the screen! Look! There’s a car!”), and their anecdotes about making the movie (including their somewhat wry comments about Monique Gabrielle, whom they drove crazy by referring to her as “Moni-cue” all the time) are priceless. Check these guys out. They rule.


Sword and Sorcery Rating:

2-1/2 Broadswords
Well, at the end of the day this is a pretty run-of-the-mill story, but it’s certainly more compelling than Part One, and given that they pretty much wrote it on the fly, I’m giving it an extra half sword.

Comedy Rating:

3 Broadswords
Yes, it’s funny. Most of the jokes are really stupid and the contemporary references wear thin after a while. However, you’ll laugh. You may laugh in all the wrong places, but you’ll laugh nonetheless.

Violence Rating:

2-1/2 Broadswords
Though most of the mayhem is played for laughs , the flick has a couple of nice fight scenes and a suitably gory end for the villain. Still in all, there is more slapstick than swordplay.

Titillation Rating:

3 Broadswords
Some very nice shots of Monique Gabrielle in the buff, having sex and miming ecstasy for the camera, but there’s also breast and butt shots lifted from Deathstalker I. Also, they had to use stunt breasts for Toni Naples. And for the ladies, John Terlesky is buff and easy on the eyes. Definitely inferior to the first film in this category, but not by too much.

Awesomeness Rating:

3 Broadswords
Yes, despite it all (or perhaps because of it) I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Maybe it’s because I also listened to the commentary track (see following rating).

Special Bonus Rating:

4 Broadswords for the DVD commentary track
The presence of a commentary track on the “Swords and Sorcery Collection” DVD was an unexpected pleasure, and the comments from director Jim Wynorski and stars John Terlesky and Toni Naples elevated this disc from a curiosity to a minor classic. If you get this set, by all means listen to the commentary. Deathstalker will become your favorite sword and sorcery hero. Well, maybe not, but check it out anyway.

 

The Dawn of Zeitgeist

Okay, I’m going to try something and hopefully I will have the stick-to-it-iveness to follow through. I’ve always enjoyed others’ story times in which they described their rpg campaigns in exciting detail, each session like the chapter of a novel (my friend and fellow gamer Rachel did a very nice description of several sessions of our recent “Viridian Legacy” campaign, for example. I want to do this as well, but I’m facing the further challenge that we’re going to be running in a game written by others, the Zeitgeist campaign from En Publishing.

I dithered for long months about what to run after finishing Viridian Legacy. I initially wanted to run Pathfinder and use the  Zeitgeist campaign, but after reading the first adventure decided that I didn’t like the idea of the PCs actually working for the main country’s constabulary. I then began work on a new campaign world, but honestly it’s way too huge a task for me at this point in my life. Eventually I realized that I would have to do something or just give up on running a new game for a while. I returned to Zeitgeist and liked what I saw. I also realized that I could make whatever changes I wanted to both campaign and setting, to conform to the kind of game I wanted to run.

In the end I didn’t have to change too much. Instead of actually working for the police, the PCs are more like “consulting detectives,” called in by the constabulary when the situation is too difficult/dangerous/delicate for official involvement. This allows the PCs to operate independently and also gives them a sort of elite squad feel, something that I really wanted to do after watching Sherlock and noting the current revival of all things Holmesian.

And the Sherlock Holmes analogy holds together well, as so far Zeitgeist is one of the most interesting and mature campaigns I’ve ever read. Penned by the talented Ryan Nock, Zeitgeist takes place in what I describe as a steampunk arcanotechnological setting, where a new industrial revolution is sweeping away the old magical traditions and causing untold displacement throughout the world. To tell more would wander into spoiler territory and besides, you can go check stuff out for yourself on the EnWorld site.

Okay, that said, our first session (delayed from two weeks ago due to various peoples’ illnesses) is Monday and I’m hoping to maintain as dramatic and exciting a chronicle as I can. Note that, although I’m making various changes to the adventures to personalize the game for both me and the players, the original writing is the work of Ryan Nock, and I’m not in any way trying to present any of this as my own work.

Further (and gods only know if anyone’s going to even bother reading anything on this site but I’ll say it anyway), I’m going to be describing the actual adventures themselves, so my Zeitgeist entries will be highly spoiler-laden. If anyone is playing in this campaign or wants to play in it, I’d advise against reading these entries until after you’ve been through the adventure. That way you can see and laugh at everything that we do wrong :)

I’ll write up the characters and their first adventure, The Island at the Axis of the World, over the next couple of weeks, but for now here is a dramatis personae that runs down all the real-life people who will be participating in our fateful and portent-filled campaign. I’m including as much info as I remember about their characters. More details forthcoming.

Anthony Pryor (GM): Well, you probably already know me. I’ve been bumbling about the roleplaying hobby and its attendant industries for years, as player, game master, writer, editor and creator. I’ve run games and campaigns for just about every roleplaying game in the cosmos, from White Box D&D through AD&D, 3E, 3.5E and Pathfinder, and for GURPS, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, World of Darkness, Savage Worlds, Traveller and more.

Beth (Celedon, Gunslinger): The GM’s girlfriend, but this probably won’t get her any particular advantages. Beth is a gaming/computer nerd like me, and it makes for a wonderful relationship. Her half-orc gunslinger Celedon is a beautiful half-orc who seeks vengeance for the death of her human husband and is loosely based on the role that Raquel Welch played in the movie “Hannie Caulder.” She also works part-time as an artist’s model, and scandalous pictures of her are all over town, thanks to the new inexpensive printing presses.

Dale (Sherronford, wizard?): The GM’s BFF, and long-time gaming buddy. Writer, gamer, librarian, happily married for longer than many people have been alive. In fact we met on a dark night back in the late 70s when wargamer Dale was first introduced to the strange and exotic game of D&D. Dale’s roleplaying and storytelling skills are considerable. Sherronford (whose class escapes me right now… I think he’s a wizard) is a brilliant student of deductive logic and has solved many baffling crimes.

Lev (Cagliari the Bard): Talented musician and Morris dancer (no, really). Lev has a fine collection of exotic musical instruments, and is a seasoned character-builder. I haven’t had the chance to game with him in several years and I’m looking forward to renewing old acquaintances. Cagliari is a docker — a working class hero whose songs chronicle the trials and tragedies of the common folk, and who works tirelessly on their behalf against uncaring nobles and corrupt city officials.

Rhia (Major Jehanne Montreve, Ranger): Rhia and I go way back, with experience as romantic partners, musical collaborators and fellow game designers under our mutual belts. Currently singer in our band, Megatherium and co-parent of our dog Okami. Major Montreve is Sherronford’s sidekick, a former military medic and experienced war veteran. After bravely serving under fire in the most recent war, Montreve has transferred her sense of duty and loyalty to Sherronford, assisting her ingenious friend any way she can.

Teverant (Choth, Alchemist): Tev is also a friend from way back, having encountered me during my insane sojourn to southern California back around the turn of the millennium. He and I have been roommates, coworkers and bandmates, and he’s currently Megatherium’s drummer. Tev’s alchemist Choth is probably the most exotic of the bunch — a ratling who lives among humans, tinkering with machines and engines, and concocting explosives and potions.

This motley group has on occasion aided the royal constabulary of the city of Flint on many occasions, and now they have been asked to assist at one of the most significant events in the history of the nation of Risur — the launch of the steam-powered ironclad Coaltongue.

The curtain shall rise soon. Stay tuned.

 

Okay, it’s time for another installation of the Pit of Swords and Sorcery. Tonight we’re spotlighting one of the great S&S flicks from the heyday of the genre — the 1980s. I saw this on late night cable long ago and only recently rediscovered it as part of a DVD set titled The Sword and Sorcery Collection. How could I resist?

And here’s a fair warning before we start. I know that on several occasions my posts have included “for mature audiences” and “NSFW” warnings, but so far, aside from some bad language and a picture of Thora Birch with her shirt off, it’s been pretty tame. Now however we’re delving into significantly mature/NSFW territory as we explore what is certainly one of the classics of sword and sorcery cinema — the incomparable Deathstalker, the Last Great Warrior King.

So for the record — don’t read this at work unless you want to get called into the boss’ office and get a lecture about wasting company time looking at inappropriate websites. There’s bad language. There’s nudity. There’s boobies. There’s mud-wrestling. There’s gratuitous ass-shots. There’s a naked Barbi Benton. There’s…

Oh hell — you’ve already scrolled down the page to look, haven’t you?

Just a quick reminder of what this movie is all about.

Okay then. On to the show. Deathstalker stars blonde beefcake barbarian Rick Hill, former playmate (and Hugh Hefner’s longtime girlfriend before he became a mummy and began to entice pneumatic young women with huge piles of cash) Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker (whose chief claim to fame was playing Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th), and the late, great B-movie queen Lana Clarkson, known today as the woman who was murdered by legendary record producer Phil Spector. We haven’t even started and already the film has a sense of doomed tragedy about it.

Deathstalker doesn’t waste any time with trivialities like “20th Century Vole Presents…” or “A Samuel L. Bronkowitz Production…”, but instead jumps immediately to the title, just in case you forgot what movie you rented. BTW, there’s no “the last great warrior king” here. That’s on the box only.

As the credits roll, we’re subjected to slow-mo pictures of ugly guys in bad costumes leaping over the camera, and thank the gods that this story takes place in the days after undergarments were invented. The ragged swordsmen amble around some ruins for a while, holding wooden swords and axes and looking menacing. Their appearance leads me to suspect that there may have been an orc or two a few generations back in their family trees, but I’ll let that one go for now.

Oh my god, he's GORGEOUS!

So there’s a guy in a furry vest with a captive woman. The half-orcs attack the guy and chase him off, leaving the ugliest of their number to have his way with the slave-chick. While fleeing, furry vest guy runs into a brawny bronzed blonde barbarian, who looks kind of like Prince Charming from Shrek 2. He and the furry-vest guy join forces and make short work of the half-orcs who are holding the woman captive.

It turns out that furry-vest guy made a bad choice of allies, since the blonde barbarian then kills him and takes his loot, grimly saying, “This just isn’t your day, is it?”

Now at last, the victor claims his spoils… In this case the slave girl, whom he unties (nice guy), then subsequently undresses (wait a minute…). He then starts feeling her up and then begins tonsil-jousting with her, and she seems to cooperate, probably because if she’s going to have to have sex with someone, it might as well be the blonde beefcake guy and not the half-orcs.

Just as he’s about to unhitch his drawers, an old guy shows up from nowhere and demands to know the barbarian’s name. Blondie tells him to “wait outside” (no mean feat, since in this movie everywhere is “outside”), but when he turns around to finish untying his breeches, the slave girl has buggered off. Damn.

Maaatloooock...!

Blondie mutters, “This isn’t my day either” and grumpily follows the old guy to a rather tattered looking camp where a tattered-looking king is holding court. With all the enthusiasm of a retirement home resident demanding his jello, the king declares himself to be the rightful ruler of the land. His court magician, the evil Munkar, has seized the throne, but a brave man could enter Munkar’s castle and kill the usurper.

“You’d need a fool,” says Blondie.

“Not a fool,” replies the king. “A hero.”

At this point, there’s a sudden explosion of choral music and the camera zooms in on Blondie’s sweaty, chiseled features. I kept waiting for a halo of light to appear around his head, but I guess that type of FX were too expensive. All this apparently means that Blond-n-Beefy — treacherous, lustful, obnoxious though he may be — is our hero. And I guess he’s also Deathstalker, though we haven’t learned his name yet.

In any event, Deathstalker turns the king down, even after the king reveals that his daughter is being held captive by Munkar and his evil minions (remember this; it’s probably important later). He walks away, leaving the king fuming.

Cut to the fortress of evil… You can tell it’s evil because it’s dark, foreboding and ominous. One wonders what it looked like before the forces of evil took over. Did they redecorate, perhaps, or was the castle always that gloomy? If so, it’s not surprising that the good guys moved out.

If this wasn't crucial to the plot, the director would never have included it in the movie, would he?

A screaming woman is being carried down the corridor by a couple of guards, who deposit her on the ground none too gently and say (conveniently), “Things have changed since your father’s reign, haven’t they, princess?” Yes, it’s the bountifully-endowed Barbi Benton as the captive princess. Now that would certainly motivate me to go kill the evil sorcerer. Well, maybe not, but you get the idea.

The princess has been deposited in a room full of naked woman, which implies that she’s now part of someone’s harem of slave girls. Mind you, I wouldn’t fight if someone threw me into a harem, but the princess is apparently made of sterner stuff, and puts up a bit of a fuss until the sadistic guards finally knock her out.

Next there’s a scene of evil horsemen dragging a bound captive behind them. I guess they’re dragging the guy to show how evil they are, because once he fetches up against a tree we never see him again (at least not until his reappearance in Deathstalker 2, but that’s another review). Now the evil horsemen arrive at the hut of Toralva, the old witch woman.

“I want the sword! I am Kang, general of the great lord Munkar!” cries the leader.

“Be on your way,” replies the old crone. “I will not give you the sword!”

Now, out of nowhere, Deathstalker charges into the fray, distracting the evil horsemen. The witch woman, in a triumph of special effects, is holding a staff in one shot, and an enormous boa constrictor in the next. She intones, “Transform staff into serpent!” so that we’ll figure it out, then actually hands the snake to Kang.

Here, have a snake. No, really... I insist.

Yes, she hands it to him, since it’s obvious that he’s taking the poor frightened reptile out of her hands and winding it around his own neck. For its part, the snake is probably saying, “Get me the hell off this picture! I wanna talk to my agent!” but all to no avail.

“Have a taste of my magic, Kang!” growls the old woman as the general writhes unconvincingly in the coils of the very groggy and scared snake and Deathstalker engages in mortal combat with the two remaining horsemen.

Like the villains in most of these films, the evil horsemen are handicapped by wearing helmets that effectively render them deaf and blind, and are easily dispatched by our helmet- (and for the most part clothing-) free hero. Given how successful near-naked warriors are in films like this, I’m beginning to suspect that armor is actually more trouble than it’s worth.

Meanwhile, Kang’s still struggling with the snake, which actually isn’t that big. He escapes, however, by using a magical amulet to turn himself into a hawk. Deathstalker tries to grab the amulet away, but is evidently too big and musclebound to do more than gawp helplessly as Kang wings his way back to Munkar’s loving arms.

The witch (who actually looks a little like Beetlejuice) explains that the amulet is one of the “Three Powers of Creation”, two of which are controlled by Munkar. The third one is, unsurprisingly, a sword. The witch then tells Deathstalker how to find the Sword of Justice, which he can use to take back the Amulet of Life and the third item, the Chalice of Magic, and thus reunite the three powers and usher in a new golden age of peace and prosperity, in which everyone will live happily in gumdrop houses and no one will ever be unhappy ever again. We get a glimpse of Munkar amid all of this, and the guy looks kind of like a low-rent Ming the Merciless. One of these days someone will show an evil sorcerer who has hair and dresses in bright colors, but not in this movie.

I'm the ghost with the most, baby.

With this information in hand, Deathstalker sets off on his quest. I guess a dethroned king doesn’t get this guy’s heart racing, but an old crone who spins a fairy tale about three powerful artifacts does. She probably told him that the Sword of Justice was actually a Hackmaster +12.

Deathstalker eventually locates a cave where the keeper of the Sword of Justice dwells. It looks kind of like the treasure cave from Dungeons and Dragons, and Deathstalker is forced to kneewalk his way inside. There he meets an adorable little troll named Salmaron, whom he asks for the sword. The troll gripes about being stuck in the cave eating mice, bats and bugs, but before he can finish, a nasty ogre attacks. The troll takes pity on Deathstalker and throws him the sword, which he uses to drive off the ogre.

Deathstalker and Salmaron then sit down and complain about how unfair life is. Salmaron was once a mighty human warrior, he says, but was cursed by Munkar. He begs Deathstalker to help him. He can only be set free by “a boy who is not a boy.”

BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!

What happens next is a little confusing. Evidently the power of the sword turns Deathstalker into a boy, and he leads the unfortunate Salmaron out of the cave, where the troll falls into the river, turns into a rather unpleasant-looking human and Deathstalker turns back into his hunky blond self.

Now we cut away from ‘Stalker and his new friend, to the heroic Oghris, a second-string hero who is busy rescuing maidens from more orcish-looking thugs. He fails miserably and is about to be gutted when Deathstalker comes riding out of the mists, butchers the bandits, wipes his sword off on his pant leg with a flourish, then kills more bandits. One of them must have been carrying his lunch because apparently, Deathstalker stabs him right in the juice box, squirting purplish fluid all over his sword.

The last bandit tries to run, but the ever-heroic Oghris, better late than never, chases him down and butchers him.

Rather than sarcastically thanking Oghris for running down and killing the last bandit as he tried to escape, Deathstalker engages his new friend in conversation, learning that Oghris is bound for Munkar’s castle, where a great tournament is underway. The greatest warriors of the land have been called to battle, and the winner will have the dubious distinction of being Munkar’s heir, inheritor of all his secrets. He’ll probably have to shave his head and dress in black all the time, too.

Oghris in the aftermath of an asskicking. Get used to seeing him this way. A lot.

That night, our companions are chowing down and discussing their mutual philosophies of life, when they hear someone prowling around the camp. Oghris once more shows himself to be the Snails of the group, since a mysterious cloaked figure gets the drop on him, until Deathstalker steps in again to save Oghris’ bacon.

Once more humiliated by having Deathstalker rescue him from certain death, Oghris then attacks the cloaked figure and the two battle it out in the moonlight. Of course Oghris once more gets his clock cleaned, and as the cloaked figure steps back, the cloak flies open revealing a nice pair of breasts and an aerobicized tummy. When she throws her hood back, we see that our mysterious intruder is none other than the amazon warrioress Kaira, who wants to show she’s as good as any barbarian warrior by fighting just as naked as the men do. Of course, this band joins forces, though obviously Oghris’ masculinity is threatened by Kaira’s obvious superiority with a sword.

There’s a quick shot of the harem, with the princess complaining loudly, mostly to show off some naked starlets and to remind the audience that there’s a princess to be rescued, then we’re back with Munkar, who is feeding slave-boys’ eyeballs to his voracious pet handpuppet demon-thingie. Once more, we’re reminded of just how very, very Evil this guy is. A guard tells him that Deathstalker is coming, to which Munkar replies, “Very good!” Sounds as if Munkar has something up his sleeve besides a handpuppet demon-thingie.

Now here's what I call an amazon.

Okay, now to the good stuff. After an acquaintance of maybe 20 minutes or so, Deathstalker and Kaira are busy humping like mad in the bushes while Salmaron watches with evident satisfaction. Kaira at least manages to fake it convincingly, leaving Deathstalker to slap himself on the back and reassure himself that he really is a man after all, and that the big sword is nothing more than a weapon, and not compensation for perceived shortcomings.

In the local Renaissance Faire that has sprung up outside Munkar’s castle, nubile females are being gathered for the sorcerer-king’s pleasure (revealing that as backwards as this culture seems it is actually advanced enough to have invented thong underwear). This is no big surprise – evil sorcerer-kings tend to engage in just this sort of behavior. I think it’s probably in their job description. During interviews, they’re asked to loudly say, “Bathe her and bring her to my chambers!”

It's just another typical Friday night at the Elk's Club.

At last our heroes arrive in the village, and of course head to the place where most thirsty adventurers go – the tavern. Here, there’s the usual selection of ne’er do wells and thugs, along with more guards with nasty-looking halberds and more deaf-and-blind helmets.

This tavern is different, however, since it features naked female mud-wrestling. And here I thought this was entirely an invention from late 20th-century earth. There are also a bunch of guys carrying around screaming, kicking wenches, throwing them down on the floor and apparently having their way with them. Now when I GM, the taverns that characters visit all have a strict “No Raping” policy, but I suspect that Deathstalker’s world is much less advanced than mine.

The tavern scene is pretty long and pointless, featuring a big burly guy jumping in with the mud wrestling babes, the appearance of a pig-faced warrior (another sub-species of orc, I understand) and lots and lots of gratuitous breast- and buttock-shots. Mostly of women.

Our heroes hang out and take in the local color. Kaira kicks a brunette tramp off of Deathstalker’s lap, apparently playing the usual I-slept-with-you-once-now-you’re-my-boyfriend game (I speak from bitter experience here, believe me). All the while, the evil Munkar watches from the shadows and apparently plots against Deathstalker. He finally appears in all his glory, overacting like a champ and welcoming all the warriors to his kingdom. He really does look like an overweight, nerdy Ming the Merciless, even with his stupid scalp tattoo.

Oink, oink.

He tells the assembled fighters that all he has is theirs to share: “Food, drink….” (long pause and lascivious smirk) “… women.” To prove his point, he has the unfortunate Princess Codille dragged into the room, clad in a filmy peignoir and chained to the wall for the warrior’s pleasure. Who will be the first? Munkar asks.

Yeah, it’s the pig-faced orc guy. He snarls and drools and grunts with lust, advancing on poor princess Barbi, whose expressions of terror look more like laughter (she’s probably thinking about Hef). Well, the other barbarians aren’t about to take sloppy seconds after pigboy, so the mud-wrestling guy steps in to challenge the orc. Inexplicably, Oghris then shoves someone into someone else, which leads to a tavern-wide brawl, in which another dumb-looking outlander tries to rip the princess’ clothes off, a thug tries to molest Kaira (with predictable results) and about six warriors get together and try to drygulch pigboy. And oh, yeah, there’s even more gratuitous butt-shots.

Tell me the truth... Is this tattoo just a little too much? Be honest, now.

Of course, after Kaira does all the work — I still think she’s the best fighter in the group — Deathstalker unchains the princess and tries to carry her out, only to be intercepted by Munkar and his thugs. Munkar tells Deathstalker that he can have his way with the bounteous Barbi, and says he’ll come back to get her later. The brawl resumes, and we’re treated to more fighting, butt-shots and screaming half-naked women. Pigboy rips a guy’s arm off and then beats another guy over the head with it.

And so the night of revels comes to a confused conclusion. Later, Munkar is busy feeding his demon handpuppet (apparently its name is Howard) fingers and laughing maniacally for no reason. I’ve known a lot of evil overlords who did that. I think it has something to do with the stress of the job. Ruling the world and spreading evil is a very hard thing to do, despite the obvious benefits. Sometimes the only way you can break the tension is with a good “Bwahahahahahahaha!”

Munkar tells his Number One Flunky (whose name I’ve missed) that Deathstalker will not live to compete in the tournament. In fact, Munkar continues, once more breaking one of the cardinal rules of villainy by laying out his plans in graphic detail, there will be no winners. Once all of the greatest warriors in the land are slain, he will simply kill the winner, and then no one will be powerful enough to oppose him.

On the surface, this appears to be a sound plan. On the other hand, if he’s living in a country where all the decent fighters have killed each other, he could probably be conquered by an army of cub scouts with sharpened sticks. Munkar is another one of those evil overlords who simply doesn’t think his plans through.

Kaira in her heavy-duty battle armor. Damn, Lana Clarkson was hot. Damn you, Phil Spector.

Anyway, Munkar wants Flunky Number One to go kill Deathstalker before the tournament. Using his magic, Munkar transforms his flunky into the likeness of Princess Codille. Flunky doesn’t seem to like it at first, though once the transformation is complete he seems a little less anxious.

So Flunky-turned-Princess is dispatched to go off Deathstalker. But, Munkar warns, he must kill Deathstalker when “the sword is not in his hand.” Frankly, the double-entendre possibilities of that line are too numerous to mention.

Clad in a fetching maroon negligee, the disguised flunky sneaks into Deathstalker’s quarters, where the big drunken galoot starts pawing him/her shamelessly, and eventually starts stripping down, removing his sword belt first. Princess/flunk draws his/her dagger but Deathstalker’s too quick, and wrestles him/her to the bed. Oh gods, no. Please don’t let this scene go where I think it’s going…

Honestly, if an evil wizard put me in this body, I'd seriously consider whether I wanted to go back or not.

After some ferocious resistance, the fake princess finally admits that she’s not what she seems, after which Deathstalker throws her out, where she runs into Kaira, who thinks she’s the princess and tells her “We’ll get you some clothes and get you out of here.” Why the hell would she do something like that, anyway? No one else in this flick wears clothes…

Unfortunately, the fake princess reveals her true colors and transforms back into Flunky Number One, battles Kaira and is finally run through, though in the process he mortally wounds the unfortunate amazon, who expires in Deathstalker’s arms. Damn. I liked her.

The next morning, those warriors who aren’t terminally hung over or dead enter the castle in a grand procession. We cut quickly to the tournament, which will never hold a candle to Gladiator, but has some okay sequences anyway. Mind you, this is the kingdom of Low Budget, so the fights take place in a cleared patch of dirt surrounded by crowds and a couple of fake walls.

Well, hello sailor!

Oghris (clad in an even less masculine-looking outfit) has his bout and fights a guy who’s armed exactly the same as he is, which hardly seems fair. He does pretty well, but really seems to enjoy kicking his opponent. Eventually he stabs the poor guy and proceeds to the next round. I still think Oghris is a wannabe. Deathstalker doesn’t fight, or at least we never see him fight, and then we cut back to the evil castle at night.

Salmaron (remember him?) gets caught sneaking around and escapes by climbing out a window, falling several stories and landing kersplash in the pond in the middle of the harem chamber. Yeah, right. This happens to adventurers all the time. We get more butt shots as the women bend over the pool looking at the drenched Salmaron. He doesn’t seem to mind.

Meanwhile Munkar is entertaining himself in the torture chamber, where he finds Oghris tied to the wheel. How the hell did he get there, anyway? The movie isn’t explaining, so I guess it’s for us to find out.

Munkar releases Oghris and tells him that he wants Deathstalker dead. Oghris readily agrees. “I am his friend, after all,” he says.

Damn, that was quick. What happened? Was Oghris tortured until he changed allegiances, or was he always a greedy bastard waiting to stab Deathstalker in the back? The world may never know.

Oghris then goes to Deathstalker’s bedroom (hubba-hubba) and advises him to leave, telling him that Munkar plans to kill him. For no apparent reason, Deathstalker then puts down the Sword of Justice and attacks Oghris. They rassle for a while, both refusing to grab the sword (it’s a man thing, I guess). Eventually, Deathstalker flings Oghris down on the bed, leaps on top of him, and…

Please don't let this be what it looks like...

No, wait a minute. None of that stuff. They fight some more and finally Deathstalker breaks Oghris’ neck. Of course he does say “Goodbye my friend,” and the brunette bimbo that Oghris has been schtupping cries piteously, but it still seems kind of harsh since Oghris never really betrayed Deathstalker.

The next day (continuity on this flick has just gone completely out the palace tower window) the tournament resumes. Deathstalker’s pretty much alone by now – Kaira is a shish kebob, Oghris’ neck got broken, and Salmaron is nowhere to be found (last seen in the harem fish pond surrounded by naked women).

It looks as if Deathstalker has reached the finals, even though we haven’t seen him fight in the tournament yet. His opponent is… you guessed it, Pigboy. Though he’s big, ugly, sweaty and probably smells like a troll rugby team’s locker room, Pigboy falls to Deathstalker’s mighty blade. There’s more spurting grape juice and our hero (?) stands triumphant, all sweaty and bloody and ruggedly handsome in a barbaric kinda way.

Suddenly, the movie takes another huge and inexplicable jump. One moment, Deathstalker is standing before the reviewing stand looking triumphant, the next he’s sneaking down the corridors of Munkar’s fortress, while elsewhere Munkar caresses the chalice and mutters to himself.

More guys in restrictive helmets fan out across the palace, searching for Deathstalker, eventually rousting the poor gals in the harem. Fortunately, the harem babes are armed and, with the help of Salmaron and the mud wrestling guy (again, where the hell did he come from??) drive off the guards and apparently trigger a palace revolt.

Hey! Wasn't your tattoo on the other side in the last shot?

Deathstalker wanders around for a while until he finds a room where the Amulet of Magic is hanging from the ceiling (luuuuucky!). As he reaches for it, the evil Kang (remember him?) sneaks up behind him, knocks the Sword of Justice out of Stalker’s hands and tries to kill him with an axe but fails (you have the drop on the guy and you have a huge double-handed axe… how can you miss? Damned minions…). Stalker turns the tables, disarms Kang and stabs him, triggering another burst of grape juice from Kang’s trembling lips. Stalker reaches out and telekinetically wills the Sword of Justice to his hand (use the force, Deathstalker!) and uses it, first to retrieve the amulet and second to decapitate the already mortally-wounded Kang.

Now loaded for bear, Deathstalker wanders around some more, shouting Munkar’s name until at last the evil sorcerer-king appears for the climatic showdown. And what a showdown it proves to be.

Munkar magically transports Deathstalker to the battle arena, where he duplicates himself about 20 times and attacks. At least this guy knows the mirror image spell so he can’t be that bad a wizard. Stalker cuts down duplicate after duplicate, Munkar laughs maniacally, then Princess Codille shows up and pouts and Deathstalker fights Munkar some more. He still hasn’t figured out that the real Munkar is wearing a black velvet cloak, while all the others are wearing cotton-poly blend. Barbarians just don’t appreciate fine fabrics. Munkar then casts a heat metal spell, and Deathstalker’s sword gets all red and glowy and hard to hold onto.

“You have no defense against me,” sneers Munkar.

Mirror image creates 1d4 images plus one image per three caster levels (maximum eight images total). These figments separate from you and remain...

“Yes he does!” shouts Toralva (where the hell did she come from?) appearing out of nowhere. “Deathstalker, do not allow illusion to become fear. Embrace the power, take the chalice!”

Deathstalker rolls to disbelieve and must have rolled a natural 20, because all the illusions disappear, and he’s able to hold his sword again. But Munkar’s still there.

“The power is still mine,” he says, holding the chalice, which is glowing for some reason.

“I don’t want your power,” Deathstalker replies, advancing on Munkar. “I want this world rid of you.” Try saying that three times fast.

Now Munkar casts wall of fire (he must have access to a Player’s Handbook someplace), but Deathstalker walks right through it (the amulet probably provides Fire Resistance 20 or so) and grabs the chalice from Munkar. A huge crowd of villagers stands behind Munkar – they are obviously there to enjoy his coming humiliation.

Chalice? What chalice? Oh... wait.. Oh, heck... You mean THIS chalice! How did THAT get there?

Munkar then cringes so pathetically that Deathstalker refuses to kill him, saying that the power of the objects has controlled men for too long. I guess he’s planning to destroy them (that’s only a hypothesis, however) since Munkar screams “No! You don’t know what you’re doing!” whereupon Deathstalker pushes him down and all the villagers laugh. Well, they actually gasp, but I think they meant to laugh.

Now Munkar stands up and says, “You fool! You’ve ruined everything!” Of course, Stalker hasn’t actually done anything yet, but Munkar seems to think he has. Finally, because the damned sorcerer has grown so very annoying, Deathstalker just figures to hell with it and throws Munkar to the townsfolk, who then tie him to four horses and quarter the poor bastard. Meanwhile, Deathstalker finally destroys the artifacts by holding them up and saying “By all the powers of creation and chaos, I destroy you!” (I guess he can do stuff like that, since he’s Deathstalker.)

(Frankly, it looks as if there’s been some odd editing here, since when Munkar says “You’ve ruined everything!” all the villagers are covering their eyes for some reason, then later on when Deathstalker destroys the artifacts they cover their eyes again. I think that in the original version, Deathstalker destroyed the artifacts right after he pushed Munkar down, and the film ended with Munkar getting torn apart by horses. I think they moved Deathstalker’s destruction of the artifacts to the end to make it a little less bloody, but all they succeeded in doing was confusing us.)

Ow! OW! Holy shit, that's hot! Ow!

So, our hero has destroyed the three objects, and the world rejoices.

Then…

Then the movie ends and we roll credits.

What the hell???

What can you say about a movie like this? It gets some points for gratuitous nudity, and some of the fight sequences were pretty good. But as it progresses, Deathstalker becomes less and less coherent. Motivation is impossible to figure out. Why did Oghris agree to betray Deathstalker? Why did Deathstalker kill him? What happened to the princess? What about her father, the king (remember? At the beginning of the movie?) Why was Salmaron even in the movie, since he had absolutely no effect on the plot? Why was Munkar such an idiot? Why is Deathstalker the hero when he’s basically a jerk?

Well, the questions go on and on, and they will probably never be answered, since this movie is two decades old and most of the principles would probably like to forget it ever existed, though in all fairness I should note that there were no fewer than three more Deathstalker movies (only one of which ended up on Mystery Science Theater 3000). The fact that the late Lana Clarkson starred in both this and both Barbarian Queen movies adds a note of odd tragedy to the films, and makes them even less comprehensible.


Sword and Sorcery Rating:

2 Broadswords
Pretty feeble, with a turgid story, unexplained plot jumps and a hard-to-follow ending. Still, it conforms to all of the standard tropes, which is worth a sword or two.

Comedy Rating:

2 Broadswords
It’s got a few unintentional laughs here and there, but mostly it’s pretty stodgy.

Violence Rating:

3-1/2 Broadswords

What with the various stabbings, gladiatorial fights, mudwrestling matches and assorted mayhem, this movie’s a big earner.

Titillation Rating:

4 Broadswords
Maximum rating! Breasts and butts (both male and female) galore! Everything from naked amazons to mud-wrestling tavern wenches.

Awesomeness Rating:

2 Broadswords
Really pretty bloody awful despite all the exposed skin. Funny how the sequel proved more charming and less irritating.