Deathstalker (1983) Boars, Busts & Barbie Benton April 25, 2019 11:12
In the late 1950's to mid 1960's the sword and sandal genre was a popular money maker especially in Italy where they were churning out gladiator and Hercules films one after the other. By the 1970's the genre was tapped out and it was not until 1982's Conan the Barbarian, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, that it received a massive shot of testosterone and magic and a mutated version of the genre was born known as sword and sorcery. With this rebirth came a decade worth of Conan style knock-offs all worse or about as bad as the mediocrity of their originator, with one of the first and most revered being Deathstalker.
Rick Hill stars as Deathstalker, a blonde Conan wannabe, wandering the countryside stealing and killing to stay alive. He's informed by a local witch of three powers of creation in the form of a chalice, an amulet, and a sword. She tells him where he can find the sword and that the other two are in the possession of the evil magician Munkar (who rocks a cool scorpion tattoo on the side of his head) who is looking to gather all three himself and become the most powerful magician ever.
As "chance" would have it Munkar is having a competition, pitting the strongest warriors against each other to the death, the winner will inherit his kingdom (which consequently he stole and took the King's daughter (Barbie Benton) prisoner). The competition is a trap setup for Munkar to thin out anyone who would stand against him once he took control of all three powers. His hope is to lure Deathstalker to compete, kill him and take control of the remaining power. But Deathstalker has both brains and brawn, is not easily outwitted, and stands a good chance in defeating Munkar, gain all three powers and save the princess.
While Deathstalker is no masterpiece, the film is not only one of the first, but one of the better Conan knock-offs, and I'd go as far to say more enjoyable than even Conan the Barbarian itself. Rick Hill was a good casting decision and the best of the three Deathstalker's that appear in the franchise. While the film has it's share of camp like nude mud wrestling, half men half boars, and much more, unlike it's sequel it manages to balance out the camp and not become drenched in it. Like any good sword and sorcery film Deathstalker has a decent amount of skin, notably from Lana Clarkson (who will later be featured in the similar style Barbarian Queen films), and Playboy Playmate Barbie Benton as the Princess Codille. With that said the "leading ladies" are grossly underused and relatively pointless to storyline aside from eye candy alone, this is about the only thing the sequel, Deathstalker II, manages to improve upon.
Overall, in terms of entertainment value Deathstalker is an average b-movie yet one of the more solid sword and sorcery films out there, granted this isn't saying much considering most of the films in the genre are carbon copies of each other in terms of plot and execution, so perhaps its simply superior because it was one of the first. Either way if given the choice between Deathstalker or the film that influenced it all (Conan The Barbarian) I'd easily choose the film with boars, busts and Barbie Benton.