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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Deathstalker II (1987)

With Deathstalker II we get the last Sword & Sorcery movie that Roger Corman produced in Argentina but unlike the first Deathstalker, which had a darker more serious tone, this film directed by the always fun Jim Wynorski has a decidedly more comic sensibility.

Deathstalker II poster

What’s interesting is it didn’t start out that way as the screenplay by Neil Ruttenberg was more in keeping with the original but once on location Wynorski tossed that script out and proceeded to make it up as he went along. Each night after a day of shooting Wynorksi and his American cast members would go back to the hotel to work on the next day’s pages and with Warner Brothers cartoons being the only English programming on Argentina TV this greatly influenced the tenor of the film and why Deathstalker II comes across as hybrid of Looney Tunes and Conan the Barbarian.

Temple of Dumb 
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Paper Mache .

One quality that makes a true Corman production is its ability to recycle elements; whether that be using the same sets, the same actor for multiple parts, or even using footage from previous films.

recycled nudity 
Recycled Nudity

recycled ham 
Recycled Ham.

The Three Henchmen 
Recycled Stuntmen.

According to Wynorski the plot of Deathstalker II was loosely inspired by Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night where the carefree hero meets a damsel in distress and eventually love prevails amongst their madcap adventures. Now aside from the hero bearing the same name as the character portrayed by Rick Hill in the first movie there is no connection between this film and that one, and its comic tone almost makes this film more of parody of the first movie than a sequel as it is very self-aware.

whats in a name 
Deathstalker? Is that your first name or your last name?

The plot centers on Princess Evie (Monique Gabrielle) who has had to flee her kingdom to escape the clutches of the evil sorcerer and master swordsman Jarek (John Lazar) who has put an evil double of Evie on the throne. Evie is forced to take on the guise of a seer named Reena to enlist the aid of Deathstalker (John Terlesky). Reena encounters Deathstalker just as she is about to be raped by some local guards and to say his reaction to seeing a woman about to be sexually assaulted is a tad odd is an understatement, “Ordinarily I don’t mind seeing a woman get a good beating, if she deserves it, but this doesn’t look like much of a contest to me.

Apparently Deathstalker takes relationship advice from Sean Connery.

This is what really sets apart the two Deathstalker films, if this line had been delivered by Rick Hill in the first movie it would have just added to his creep factor while here, and delivered by the charming John Terlesky, it comes across as funny and roguishly charming. Jim Wynorski completely understands what makes a likable rogue character and proves it by shamelessly ripping off Indiana Jones and James Bond constantly throughout the film. Even Jarek has considerably charm as the villain, which makes him more of an interesting character than your stock moustache twirling baddie we get in most of these types of films.

Jarek the Sorceror

Ard from Heavy Metal
Is it just me or does the slightly effeminate Jarek the Sorcerer remind anyone else of Ard the king from the Den sequence in Heavy Metal?

Under her guise as Reena the Seer and with her Crystal Doorknob of Power Evie is able to convince Deathstalker to travel to a far off land, rescue the beautiful princess, slay the evil sorcerer and become very, very rich.

magic doorknob 
She had him at very, very rich.

Meanwhile Jarek isn’t letting the grass grow under him as it is very important to him that he gets the real Princess back because her and her magically created evil double are still physically linked and if the original dies so does the copy.

evil clone 
The Evil Evie and her Freudian Fruit of Doom

Jarek enlists the aid of Chin the Buccaneer (Marcos Woinsky ) and Sultana (Toni Naples) who has her own score to settle with Deathstalker as it was her temple he robbed during the film’s opening action piece.

The sultry Sultana.

Chin on the other hand is just in it for the money and recruits some extra help in the form of the Fearless Five.

 “And last but not least a real find, Buddy ‘Footstool’ Laroza, only recently dismissed by Ivan the Terrible for excessive brutality.”

This group of thugs are here only to be easily dispatched by Deathstalker to show off his awesomeness so they are stabbed, broken and blown up by our hero without much impact on the story. Trivia Note: The character Chin is only in the film to allow Jim Wynorski to make an obscure Hawaii Five O reference.  I kind of admire that.

Give it to me Chin, what have you got 
Give it to me Chin, what have you got.

On their quest to overthrow Jarek and reclaim Evie’s throne our heroes must survive many travails such as…
exploding arrows 
Exploding arrows

wall of death 
A crushing wall of spikes


The Amazons 
…and of course Amazons.

Our heroes’ journey is interrupted by a group of warrior women who put Deathstalker on trial for crimes against womanhood. Apparently his exploits with the fairer sex has gotten around.  Even for a movie such as this the following sequence stands out as rather bizzare as all of a sudden they are spoofing Rocky (right down to the music cues) as Deathstalker must face off against Gorgo (Dee Booher aka Queen Kong) a 300 pound Amazonian giant in the ring.

She craps thunder 
“Dolph Lundgren sends his regards.”

Of course Deathstalker prevails and having finally learned that Reena has lied to him and is actually Princess Evie he gives her the ole kiss-off and proceeds to make out with the Queen of the Amazons only to sneak away when he finds out he will be forced to marry her in the morning.

a fate worse than death 
Certainly a fate worse than death.

out of the frying pan 
Meanwhile Evie is captured by Sultana and is hung over a pot of boiling oil.

Deathstalker arrives in the nick of time and quickly dispatches Sultana with a thrust through the gullet and then our two leads finally make it to Evie’s castle. Though they sneak in easily enough things go south rather quickly as Deathstalker is captured and sentenced to death…again. Deathstalker is strapped down below a bladed pendulum by the resurrected Sultana and manages to rip off both Goldfinger and The Pit and the Pendulum in one scene.

Pit and the Pendulum 
No Deathstalker, I expect you to die.

Because Evie can’t go five minutes without getting into trouble, though she miraculously managed to evade capture when Deathstalker was caught, she is captured and about to be raped by a group of guards just outside the castle. She is rescued at the last minute by the Amazons from earlier and though we do get some nudity here the scene sticks out as rather distasteful in an otherwise fun romp of a movie and is more in keeping with the first Deathstalker.

A bit too rapey 
For a minute there I thought I was watching Deathwish II

Deathstalker is freed from this latest deathtrap by the Evil Evie who wants to seduce our hero so she can suck out his life force but the real Evie arrives in time to save him from La Petite Mort.

I’ve noticed that our hero spends a lot of time in bed.

The film wraps up rather nicely as Deathstalker and Evie find themselves surrounded by Jarek and his minion only to be saved once again by the Amazons.  Sultana, fed up with the whole affair, just takes off while everyone else breaks into battle mode.

Amazons to the rescue 
A Deus Ex Machine of Amazons.

wicked ending 
Evil Evie meets her end at the point of Good Evie’s knife and dissolves into ash
Finally Deathstalker and Jarek face off and though this is no duel at the Cliffs of Insanity both actors comport themselves quite well with the sword fighting and when Deathstalker breaks Jarek’s sword with a palm strike and then stabs him with the broken blade…well that was pretty awesome even if it was lifted from Sonny Chiba’s Five Fingers of Death.

the duel 
That the fight was choreographed by actor John Terlesky makes it even more impressive.

Jim Wynorski and company clearly had fun making this movie, well except for Monique Gabrielle who apparently was not keen on the Third World amenities, but they clearly knew that it is better to have the audience laugh with you than at you and with blatant lifts from such sources as Raiders of the Lost Ark, James Bond, Laugh In and Abbott and Costello this entry in the Sword & Sorcery genre stands apart from most its brethren with its wit and charm, even if some of the jokes go a little too broad or are a little too old.

Mae West moment 
Stalker, is that your sword or are you just happy to see me.

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