Deathstalker (1983) is a terrible film

“We shall committ many sex crimes together, brother”

Quite often the phrase “for its time” is used when trying to evaluate movies, but I’ve no idea as to when the use of rape as narrative punctuation was ever considered an acceptable thing. I also appreciate that saying such things is a strong opening for a review, but when it’s in the lynchpin of the first, second, and every subsequent scene in this sword-and-sexual-assault fantasy its discussion needs to be as prominent as writer Howard R. Cohen and director James Sbardellati made it.

Introducing Black Metal coffee

One thing to make clear is that I don’t have any objection to its inclusion in a narrative on principle, so this isn’t a prudish reaction. Any topic is fair game for inclusion in a story, and the pseudo-medieval worlds in the fantasy genre did not suddenly stop having such violations happen just because there are elves wandering around. But the way it is handled here is the kind of power fantasy a thirteen-year-old would have before, hopefully, they did a decent amount of growing up.

“I used to be in He-Man!”

For example: the film opens starts with a group of humanoid monsters attacking a scantily clad woman, intending to either copulate with or cook with her (possibly both). Deathstalker, the titular heroic beef mountain of the tale (played by Rick Hill, wearing an incredible disco-era headband with a straight face) turns up and kills the monsters, and the victim’s instinctive reaction is to drop her kecks and make ready to be had firmly against the nearest tree. Obviously, there is no correct way to deal with such trauma and engaging in sexual activity after such events can happen in the real world, but here she is presented as some kind of sexy dessert reward for Deathstalker for killing all those other people he maybe realised were up to no good before he started hacking away at them.

“We get it, you vape!”

This sets the tone for the rest of the film in several ways. It all looks like and is as well scripted as a moderately well-funded live-action roleplay event for people who think the Gor series had too much subtext, there is always something happening every five minutes (even if it doesn’t really add up to anything), women wear diaphanous robes and exist purely for the excitement of the men using them like fleshlights, and Deathstalker wins all fights because he’s just great at killing.

“I told you, I’m not to be disturbed whilst showing the viewer that I’m evil”

There is a plot about Munkar the sorcerer (Bernard Erhard) holding a tournament, but it’s both quite terrible to the point of being hidden away out of embarrassment and a thinly veiled excuse for fights and rape scenes. Deathstalker makes friends with the himbo Oghris (Richard Brooker), so he has someone to deliver the viewer exposition with, and with the female warrior Kaira (Lana Clarkson), so he can have consensual but unconvincing sex with her the first night they meet and we to see her go everywhere with her boobs out. The determinedly thick could argue that this is a strain of feminism, but you would need a whole new team behind the camera for it to be anything other than something for a certain kind of individual to crank one out to.

This scene could have been interesting in a skilled pair of hands.

Fights happen, a lot; some of them are quite good, a lot of them are quite okayish, and one of them has a surprising amount of inadvertently homoerotic undertones which are at least 40% due to how oiled up the two male participants are and that they end up on a bed together, grunting heavily. There are some interesting gory moments, but they are mostly quite badly done. You do get to see someone have their arm pulled off and someone else gets beaten to death with the wet end, and that is ALWAYS funny. It’s also about 3 seconds long, which doesn’t make up for the 80 minutes of the rest of the film.

“I know, Thing. I used to play bass for Cradle Of Filth”

On a more positive note, the sound effects and the music are outstanding. In fact, someone could edit together a decent prog-rock video out of the whole thing as there are also a number of very nice shots throughout the piece.

“Did I leave the gas on?”

Similarly, someone could have taken the bones of the plot and rewritten 99% of the script before filming started to get a decent movie that doesn’t scream “TRASH!” from start to finish. But that didn’t happen, and instead, you have an infantile and ultimately boring film that did well at the time because boys with access to video stores couldn’t always get their hands on some wood’s porn. You cannot argue it’s a parody because it isn’t sending up the genre, and “ha! ha! He did a rape!!” isn’t a joke when it’s done with a straight dramatic face the first time, let alone after the second dozen such instances. This is just a bad film, and I encourage you to use the time you could spend watching this engaged in something more productive. Like sandpapering your own hands.

THe Raggedyman

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