James Sbardellati’s 1983 action film Deathstalker warrants further study since the movie brings into play a lot of interesting historical questions. Is there such a thing as a medieval thong? Were women in the Dark Ages in a perpetual state of being sexually assaulted? Was mud wrestling a pastime at this juncture of human history? (A Wikipedia entry claims that the “place and time of origin of mud wrestling is unknown.”) Conan the Barbarian (1982) paved the way for a number of sword and sorcery style fantasy movies. It is pretty apparent that the producers of Deathstalker were Schwarzenegger fans. A muscleman known as Deathstalker (Rick Hill) is charged to collect three objects that give a person absolute power, or something, it is a little vague exactly what the implications are.
An evil king is in position of one of these objects and Deathstalker collects a group of followers along the way, each possessing a necessary attribute for the mission. Someone must have realized that this follows the plot of the Conan movies too closely, because when they arrive at the king’s place, the plot changes course and becomes a sort of Enter the Dragon (1973) fight to the finish style competition. The competition sort of falls into anarchy as well, but what Deathstalker lacks in plot, it makes up for in gratuitous nudity. The nudity in Deathstalker is abundant to the point of being absurd; it becomes entertaining in its own right. Not just as titillation, but also in the arena of trying to imagine what advantage a Red Sonya type warrior-ess would have sword fighting with no shirt on. You would think some type of armor would be preferable, but I am not well versed in medieval history, so I can’t say for sure. Aside from (who are we kidding, in addition to) this, Deathstalker is pretty good fun in the vein of Conan. Among its positive attributes, a man with a pig head has a bigger role than in Return of the Jedi (1983), the evil king wears death metal inspired make up so you know he is evil, there are loads of randomly placed colored lights, angelic voices blare after every victory, and a fully clothed man gets turned into a scantily clad Barbi Benton using editing techniques instead of special effects. (Score one for French impressionist cinema.) It is not the most gender sensitive movie ever made, but good for lots of solid Dungeons and Dragons imagery and many laughs. It must have resonated on some level as there is a Deathstalker 2, 3 AND 4. Conan only got 1 sequel. -Billups Allen
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Billups Allen's interest in writing began composing lyrics for the band Shoutbus and later for the band Corn on Macabre. Lyrical duties led to writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine, writes reviews for Razorcake Magazine and the Tucson Citizen and hosts a radio show called The Groove Tomb. www.billupsallen.com