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  Deathstalker A Firm Grip On His Sword
Year: 1983
Director: James Sbardellati
Stars: Rick Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson, Victor Bo, Bernard Erhard, Augusto Larreta, Verónica Llinás, Marcos Woinsky, Adrián De Piero, Jorge Sorvik, Boy Olmi, Horacio Marassi, Patrick Duggan, Maria Fournery, Gabriela Rubinstein
Genre: Action, Trash, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: In a time long ago, when magic ruled the kingdom, the Deathstalker (Rick Hill) was a hero who walked the land, or at least he was a hero to his own self as he was only out for number one when putting his neck on the line for anyone else was strictly for others. Today he interrupted an encounter between a thief who had kidnapped a woman of the nearby village and the beast men who wished to take her for themselves, as well as anything else the criminal had lifted, but Deathstalker interrupted them and saw to it that they all died by his sword except for the woman, who he began to seduce until he too was interrupted. It was a King who wanted to use his services, for he had been deposed by the wicked magician Munkar (Bernard Erhard)...

The sword and sorcery movies that arrived in the wake of the fantasy double whammy of Conan the Barbarian and Excalibur were curious things, especially those produced by Americans. Whereas Hawk the Slayer in Britain was more for kids, or families anyway, across the Pond they were producing a variation that was much the same in tone, yet added a bunch of adult oriented elements such as gory violence and nudity to make it plain that these were exploitation flicks for adults only, that in spite of the childish nature of their plotting. Deathstalker in particular, probably the highest profile New World release in this vein, played out a world of the most Neanderthal male reveries, and tried to get away with it by placing its tongue in its cheek.

For the movie's fans, they were well aware that this was pandering to the men in the potential audience, with every woman here aside from the occasional crone a sex object, and only warrior lady Kaira adept with a sword, though even she sported a costume that essentially rendered her topless throughout. She was played by Lana Clarkson, the other reason this attracted interest, for it was one of the most prominent roles from the actress whose biggest claim to fame was being murdered by celebrated record producer Phil Spector, and as with all her screen appearances there was an unintentionally ghoulish quality about watching the statuesque performer stride her way through this lurid material.

In fact, replace Deathstalker with Kaira as the protagonist and you would have a much improved movie, but that was not what the viewers necessarily wanted to see, and if they did then it was not what was on offer, so we were presented with the musclebound Hill in a blonde wig hacking and slaying his way through a bunch of supporting artistes, many of them Argentinian thanks to producer Roger Corman making a deal to manufacture product in that country. What our hero was supposed to be doing was having an awakening of his less self-centred side and doing a good deed for others instead of himself, which here was rescuing a princess from the clutches of the evil sorcerer. She was Princess Codille, played by Barbi Benton, a Playboy centrefold who made a few moves into acting in the eighties.

Not that she became a big star by any means, but she was adequately decorative and took her clothes off as required, that was what we were dealing with here. It was a slog, overall, as once you had the measure of the macho daftness there was very little variation in what was admitted a short experience (an hour and twenty minutes, more or less), though there were occasional scenes that were just weird or lascivious enough to wake you up a bit. Scenes like when Munkar turns one of his henchmen into the Princess to seduce, then murder Deathstalker, which served up a very sexually confusing sequence, though if you were questioning essential parts of your personality after this, rest assured there would be mud wrestling with ladies (sisters, apparently) along soon to reassert that orientation. There was no expense spared on the effects, though they did stretch to a glowing sword and amulet (and a goblet), and it all wound up much as you would expect with the virtuous triumphant over the nefarious. It was all a fairy tale, really, featuring a bunch of dodgy bits. Music by Oscar Cardozo Ocampo (that angelic choir and drum machine combo!)
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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