Deathstalker II (1987) Swords & Slapstick August 3, 2020 10:30
If the original Deathstalker was a low budget knockoff of Conan The Barbarian, Deathstalker II is a low budget knockoff of the original. So if you enjoyed the original film prepare yourself for disappointment (unless you're a fan of Jim Wynorski) as Deathstalker II is no Swords & Sorcery film but a sub-genre within the sub-genre that should be referred to as Swords & Slapstick.
Deathstalker II kicks off with a much skinnier and more wisecracking Deathstalker (John Terlesky) rescuing a recently banished Renna the Seer (Monique Gabrielle) from getting beat up by a group of castle guards. Renna convinces Deathstalker to come with her and help her to rescue a princess whose been ousted by a sorcerer named Jarek (John Lazer). What she fails to mention is that she is the princess and that the sorcerer has taken over her kingdom by creating an evil clone of her who rules and his side.
Deathstalker II is another early entry in the filmography of director and writer Jim Wynorski, whose early work that I've seen so far I'm not a big fan of. My overall problem with Wynorski is he's very manic in his films and doesn't seem to know how to stay within a genre and not mix in things that don't fit into the world he's working with. Deathstalker is supposed to be this Conan the Barbarian figure yet he recasts the perfect Rick Hill with a stereotypical goof ball surfer dude, and turns the film into mixture of The Three Stooges and Conan.
Deathstalker was amusing on it's own mediocrity, as most low budget American films are, Wynorski ruins that by turning the film into a comedy set in a very mediocre Sword & Sorcery film, now the film is simply bad and not funny at all because the comedy is extremely forced. It's a art that his predecessor Roger Corman so brilliantly balanced yet Wynorski can't (or doesn't want to).
What I can once again give Wynorski credit for is he knows how to cast the right people (with the exception of the main character). What this film manages to do better than the original is the women. Penthouse Pet Monique Gabrielle, while incredibly annoying as Reena the Seer, is amazing as her evil clone and what a body! Toni Naples is great as Sultana, the right hand woman to Jarek the Sorcerer who wants to kill Deathstalker and Princess Evie and rule with Jarek. And Maria Socas is breathtaking as the Amazon Queen. So while Wynorski, like in The Lost Empire, is all over the place in terms of the film somehow he manages to do a really good job casting actresses in his films, if the script had been of similar caliber there would have been something more here to praise. What an amazing film the original Deathstalker would have been if the actresses and Jarek replaced the girls and villain in the original.
Overall, I'll admit I'm not a big fan of American cult films in general, so that might be why I don't enjoy this film as much as others. Corman had a skill of adapting films from other countries for American audiences so a lot of his films have some of that foreign aspect I enjoy. Wynorski is no Roger Corman, even though he worked under him for many years, he didn't appear to pick up this skill. Ultimately for me Deathstalker II tries too hard to be funny instead of just being a low budget fantasy adventure film that is funny based on it's own mediocrity, which is what I expect from the Deathstalker franchise.