Thursday, March 24, 2011

Swords & Cinema: Deathstalker

This is the first in what I hope to be an irregular blog feature.  Basically I'll review a Swords & Sorcery, Horror, Sci Fi, or other relevant movie and then provide stats for something from that movie in Labyrinth Lord terms.  These will contain spoilers but since most of them will be terrible movies I don't think anyone will mind.  First up is the 1983 film Deathstalker:

Our story takes place in an unnamed fantasy kingdom in the psuedo-not-really-Middle Ages.  Our "hero," Deathstalker, treads the world looking for gold to steal, men to fight, and women to rape.  We first meet him when he "rescues" a young woman from both a band of inbred cancer patients and a man who has her tied up.  After slaying all of them, Deathstalker then attempts to help himself to the poor woman, but she's able to slip by when an old man intrudes and asks Deathstalker if he'd come to the court of his king.  

It turns out the king is a decrepit old man whose throne was lost to the evil wizard who now rules the land.  The wizard keeps the kings daughter locked in his harem and the king would love to see his daughter returned to him.  In one of the better parts of the film -- despite the acting -- Deathstalker refuses and rides off.  You'd have to be mad to take on the wizard.

Later he finds a number of the wizard's guards assaulting an old witch-woman.  He helps her overcome them, and then finds that the captain of the guards possesses the power to turn into a hawk due to a magic amulet the evil wizard loaned him.  She informs Deathstalker that the amulet is one of three items of power and that the possessor of all three would "be the power."  The wizard already has two of them, but the third -- a sword that looks like the Tizona could still be claimed by Deathstalker.  He says thanks but no thanks and rides off into the distance once again.

Unfortunately for Deathstalker it's harder to get away from a witch-woman.  He stops to drink at a pond and she appears to him, explaining that the sword just happens to be in a cave a few feet to the right.  He crawls inside and finds a strange demon-puppet who encourages him to fight a ogre-like creature.  Deathstalker is almost defeated but then is given the Sword of Power and cuts the ogre's weapon in half.  The ogre fails his morale check and flees the cave in horror.  

Then the most surreal thing I've ever seen in moviedom happens: the demon says that he can only be saved by "the boy who is not a boy."  Deathstalker then immediately becomes a small child and leads the demon out of the cave where he turns into Anthony Bourdain.  They then set out on their adventure.  The soon meet up with two other adventurers, a man in a strange half-shirt of scale and a bare-breasted warrior woman.  Deathstalker beds her in the same night they meet.  They inform Deathstalker that the wizard is holding a tournament to see who deserves to inherit his kingdom.  In reality he really seeks to slay the winner and leave the kingdom defenseless since all it's adventurers died in the tournament.

They arrive at the wizard's palace and he holds a celebration in honor of the upcoming tournament.  They now meet the wizard, who has a tattoo on his face of Shudde M'ell that constantly switches sides.  He brings out a woman and says that whoever can get her from the other man can have her for that evening.  The warrior woman starts to fight the men off to protect the woman but soon gets in over her head, at which point Deathstalker intervenes.  He, unsurprisingly, fights off everyone and the wizard announces that he'll send the woman up to his room later.

The wizard then turns one of his henchmen into the woman and tells him to go kill Deathstalker.  He enters Deathstalker's room and does attempt to dispatch our "hero," but Deathstalker overcomes him and is all set to rape him when he realizes that he isn't a woman.  Deathstalker, horrified, lets the man go.  The man then runs into the warrior woman.  She attempts to help "her," but he turns back into a man and they have a sword fight.  While the warrior woman wins, she is mortally wounded, and Deathstalker finds her just as she dies.

Then the tournament begins.  We see a montage of different, ridiculous fights ending with half-shirt man defeating his opponent.  He is then kidnapped by the evil wizard, but it turns out they were working together the whole time so it's no big deal.  The wizard wants him to get the sword from Deathstalker, which he attempts to do only to be slain.  Deathstalker then wins the final bout of the tourney, in which he fights an orc that has popped up at various points in the film.

Finally we have the big showdown between Deathstalker and the wizard.  First the wizard transforms himself into someone I don't think we've ever seen before.  Deathstalker cuts off his head but the wizard seems perfectly fine.  Unfortunately for our villain Deathstalker finds the amulet within the castle.  He seizes it, but we never find out exactly what it does.  The wizard then uses the chalice to transport Deathstalker and himself into the courtyard of the castle.  There Deathstalker overcomes a number of the wizards illusions, all created by the chalice.

Deathstalker then gets the chalice and throws the wizard to the hungry masses that have gathered around.  They either beat him to death or devour him, I'm not sure which.  Deathstalker decides that the items of power are too powerful for any one man to have so he destroys them.  Then the whole frame is engulfed by fire so I can only assume that destroying the items also destroyed the castle and it's surroundings.

This is not a good movie.  Parts of it are mildly entertaining, and despite the fact that the budget is so low some of the sets are genuinely evocative.  Still, too much of this film is filled with bad acting and the degradation of women that I couldn't feel properly entertained.  I suppose it's worth watching if you don't mind rape and constant rape references in your movies, but I doubt that's a large part of my reading base.  I've left out a number of scenes which seemed to have nothing to do with the plot whatsoever and much of it is goddamn incoherent.

I give this film 2 out of 5 sword fights.

Sinister Transformation
Level: 5
Duration: Until Caster is Slain
Range: See Below

The caster switches bodies with a person known to him.  He exchanges his Hit Dice, ability scores, and attack matrix with the victim.  The caster then can perform any actions the victim could and continues on in this way until he is slain.  Once this happens, the caster reverts to his original form and the victim remains dead.  The caster does not gain any knowledge the victim would have by using this spell; the transformation is only physical.  Still, due to the strange nature of magic, the caster cannot cast any spell he knows but the victim does not.


  1. This movie was horribly good - barely. Saved by the topless swords-woman and Barbi Benton - barely.
    Me and some of my players saw it last year at our local Mondo Mondays at our Art-House theater The Loft here in Tucson. Good times!

  2. I hope you continue this series. I love bad movies as game material. I've done something similar with City of the Living Dead and Howling 2. Keep it up!

  3. You know, this was just on the Horror Channel in the UK last night. I watched the first ~10 minutes or so of it, cringing all the while.