Friday, September 30, 2011

Swords & Cinema: Hawk the Slayer

I first became aware of Hawk the Slayer through Knights of the Dinner Table.  It is apparently Bob and Dave's favorite movie, and it's more or less lambasted as being the bottom of the barrel of fantasy movies.  I suppose it says something about my infamously bad taste that Hawk is one of my favorite movies.  It certainly isn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but there is something terribly evocative about it.

Our story begins "when the Legions of Darkness stalk the land."  Jack Palance, who plays the villain Voltan with all the range one would expect from Jack Palance, murders his father (who can't be more than 10 years older than him) in order to obtain a "secret."  He then leaves just before the younger borther, the eponymous Hawk, enters.  It turns out the secret was the power behind The Sword of Mind, and his father tells him how to activate it with his dying breaths.

At an unspecified amount of time later, a one-handed man finds his way to a matte painting of a convent. There he is welcomed by the sisters, who tend to his wounds.  He tells them that a "devil" destroyed his village and hacked its women and children to bits.  That devil's name was Jack Pal-- Voltan!  Our villain soon arrives and takes the Abbess captive, putting a knife in the one-handed man's chest.  He survives, and the sisters send him to their sacred fortress to raise a ransom.  There, he is told to seek out Hawk so that he might win the Abbess back.

Hawk, meanwhile, saves a witch from being burned, which seems to be a requirement in these movies.  Viewers may recognize her as the Rock Horror Picture Show's Magenta if she didn't wear a bandage that covered most of her face.  She tells him to ride south to meet the one handed man.  He does, only to find him being waylaid by a gang of bandits.  Hawk rescues him, and they return to the witch's cave.  From there, they embark on a series of adventures to recruit Hawk's old buddies.  Each is supposedly the last of their kind: an Dwarf, an Elf, and a Giant.

Once these demihumans are assembled, Hawk and his band attempt to rescue the Abbess and bring down Jack Palance.  I won't say much more than that because, unlike Deathstalker, I want you to watch this movie. The acting is a bit stiff, especially from our hero, and some of the effects are a bit cheesy.  However, considering their obviously low budget the makers of this movie did a pretty damned good job.  The soundtrack is a bit... odd.  It's a strange combination of Spaghetti Western and disco that somehow seems to fit the movie perfectly.

I think the best I can say about Hawk the Slayer is that it looks like the film version of a Dave Trampier drawing.  The sets and spell effects are especially interesting looking, even if they sometimes reek of the 80s.  If D&D didn't have some effect on this film, I'll eat my hat.

The Sword of Mind
This +1 two-handed sword acts as a +3 Sword in the hands of a Lawful character or creature.  The shares a telekinetic bond with its owner.  He or she may summon it from a distance of 30' (3") and may through it as if it were a dagger.  If thrown, the Sword of Mind still does damage as a two-handed sword.  When drawn, it gives the wielder a -2 defense bonus against missile attacks.


  1. All praise the Hawk! Magnificent movie - I did a write-up of the Mindsword recently as well:

    There's supposedly a long-awaited sequel being filmed at the end of this year/start of next called Hawk The Hunter (the second part of a trilogy no less)

  2. This looks awesome in its terribleness!

    Netflix. Done. I'm sure my wife will love it.