Pros: Lana Clarkson, loads of beautiful women, fun story.
Cons: Acting laughable.
If you lived through the Mom & Pop videostore boom of the late eighties, early nineties and like to check out the fantasy section then most likely you've seen these videos at one time or another on the shelves. However, if you ever rented them is another matter.
I've always been a 'closet' fan of fantasy films. The Deathstalker films intrigued me because they had an interesting cover and there were many sequels to them.
The unfortunate thing for me is that I am anal when it comes to seeing/reading/listening/etc. to things in the proper order. My local videostores always seemed to have Deathstalker IV but none of the others. How was one to get into the series?
I started out watching this series through another spinoff series from Roger Corman's Concorde movie company, Barbarian Queen. How could an adolescent teen resist Barbarian Queen? Well, the box cover to that one stated 'The blonde babe from Deathstalker is back!' Since I am a huge fan of the two Barbarian Queen films, eventually when I found a copy of the first Deathstalker I grabbed it.
The film is a low budgetter but extremely pleasing to those fantasy fans that wish for a little less 'elves' and 'fairies' and other kiddish things in life. The world of Deathstalker is rampant with evil magicians and rulers. Women unfortunately are basically treated as possessions which I suppose is what most male sword and sorcery stories contain.
Deathstalker is the name of a wandering warrior. He unwillingly becomes a 'chosen one' type of hero that must defeat the evil magician/ruler of the realm. On his way he is thrown various characters and bits that help him further his quest: a magical sword, some adventurous heroes to join in his quest and the like.
After a little while one of his party joins up, Kaira, played by the Barbarian Queen herself, Lana Clarkson. Whoa. Between Lana Clarkson and Bo Derek, I don't know who helped me get through puberty more but her scenes have definitely not been weakened by time.
Our adventurers travel to a tournament of warriors where they will pit their skills against all comers. The ruler has vowed that whoever wins this tournament will be his heir. Not bad, unfortunately this magician never ages.
The tournament is essentially just a front for the heroic adventurers to get close to the wizard to destroy him and abolish the evil powers he uses to control the land.
What I have always found interesting is the way they show the main credits on the box cover of Deathstalker. Richard Hill (who played the main character) and Barbi Benton. Ms. Benton, although I suppose famous, really had virtually no role in this film whatsoever. Perhaps it was because Lana Clarkson appears to have stolen the female lead in this film so blatantly. What else could have attributed to her own spinoff movie series?
The acting in the film by most characters is quite laughable but what could we really expect? Hill plays the lead character so wooden I felt like throwing some sandpaper so he'd soften up a bit. The same goes for the rest of the cast. The one exception is Clarkson's character Kiara who really only had a few lines anyhow and basically made it through the movie nude, thank the lord.
Filled to the brim with sexy, nude women, some decent gory swordplay and magic, Deathstalker delivers the goods quite well if you can handle campy b-movie fun.
If you visit Lana Clarkson's official site (http://www.lanaclarkson.com) she will personally autograph new copies of this and her Barbarian Queen series. While a little more expensive than the great low price I've seen at Amazon and other stores it's worth it if autographs are your thing.
There's a whole pile of sequels to Deathstalker out there but Lana doesn't return in any of them. Hence, I haven't really seen them... yet. For ten dollars a DVD, I'll probably get them regardless!
Update Feb. 2K3
Oh my God! It's all over the news...Lana Clarkson is dead! Shot to death in Phil Spector's home! Very sad. To anyone who knew Lana you have my condolences. She will definitely be missed by all of us cult film fans around the world. Goodbye, my Queen.