This was originally posted on Strange Kids Club as part of the So Bad, It’s Good series of articles I contributed to to for a few years.
Though I’m forever and always a horror fan, I have a deep-seated love of all movies low budget and high spirited. It’s one of the reasons I never gave up my VHS collection during the great DVD conversion of 20-ought-5 and continue to seek out and hoard them like VHS tapes will be some form of currency come the end times. The dawn of VHS represents, among other things, one of the first times in filmmaking history that almost any asshole with a desire to make a film could find a viable market in the burgeoning home rental market. No need to get that film to the big screen when you could get it to a mom and pop video store. Filmmaking was finally cheap enough to really take stupid chances or, in the case of Deathstalker, rip off big budget movies like Conan and make a quick buck off the table scraps of the big boys.
Deathstalker is just about as simple as it gets when it comes to plot. Our hero, the superbly and memorably named Deathstalker, is sent on a quest to find 3 artifacts: a sword, a chalice and an amulet. This right here is pretty much a ready to go out of the box story for any D&D campaign and for that I love it; I wouldn’t want it any other way. It doesn’t try and tell a lofty moralistic story about good defeating evil, it cuts right to the meat of why you popped this tape in the VCR in the first place: mindless fantasy, sword fights and, uh, ladies in very skimpy armour. More on the ladies later though.
In the process of searching out these artifacts, our hero discovers that the holder of one such artifact is holding a tournament open to all the warriors in the land. Being the muscled up barbarian warrior that he is, Deathstalker enters into the tournament, likely due to promise of wenches, drink and slaughter. Either that or he was running short on gold to spend on body oil. Take your pick, either seems a likely motivating factor. Seeing as this movie is named after him, our barbarian buddy defeats all comers, including a fantastically low-budget ogre.
Being on the shallow end of the budget pool and produced in the 80’s, Deathstalker of course has low budget movie master Roger Corman involved in it’s production. I’d be more surprised if he wasn’t, truth be told. He’s almost as bad as Lloyd Kaufman for being connected to projects. Actually, I take that back Mr. Corman; no one is as bad as Lloyd Kaufman for being attached to random crap. While I’m on the subject of Roger Corman, here’s a fun fact: Deathstalker and it’s eloquently titled sequel Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans act as bookends of a sort for Corman’s time spent producing movies in Argentina. Read into that what you will.
Deathstalker also marked the start of Playboy playmate Lana Clarkson’s foray into the world of barbarian movies. After her stunning debut in this film, clad in the most effective of female barbarian armor (a g-string and cloak), she went on to become a minor b-movie star as the lead in the Barbarian Queen movies… more on those cinematic gems another time though.
If you’re a fan of everyones favorite Cimmeran in any form, like to rock out to metal about slaying dragons and drinking mead or just enjoy watching movies that you only find when you stray from safety of the beaten path, check out Deathstalker. Its swords, mythical creatures and lack of wardrobe should sate your thirst for all things barbaric until it’s time to roll those polyhedron again.
Oiled up folks with fake weapons running around in the wilderness? Check!
Mythical creature makeups that look like you could make them in an afternoon in your backyard? Check!
Nudity for no real reason? Check!
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