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Grab your swords and put on those sandals, because the fine
folks at Shout! Factory have a two-DVD set of barbaric proportions coming out
today! It’s another Roger Corman’s Cult Classics title to add to your growing
pile—a SWORD AND SORCERY COLLECTION featuring DEATHSTALKER (1983), DEATHSTALKER
II (1987), THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS (1984) and BARBARIAN QUEEN (1985). The
set features more cheesecake and beefcake than you can probably handle, being
released just in time to bank on interest in the new CONAN movie—exactly as
they did upon initial release!
First up is DEATHSTALKER, a film that‘s certainly not
intended for fans of BEN-HUR but, in and of itself, is quite entertaining. The
opening sequence perfectly sets the tone, presenting a band of disfigured
barbarians jumping and sneaking around some ruins. They happen upon a man and
his barely clothed female captive; the former runs off, chased by half the
gang, and the latter stays behind just to have one of her breasts exposed by
the remainder of the ruffians. We cut to the man stealing a horse in hopes of a
quicker escape, whereupon we’re introduced to our blond, chiseled-in-stone
“hero,” Deathstalker (played by Rick Hill), who monotonally proclaims, “That’s
my horse.” As quickly as the pursuing gang arrives on the scene, they’re
swiftly cut down to size—along with the horse thief—by the loinclothed
conqueror. He quickly makes his way to the captive girl, who is now tied to a
tree, and without missing a beat, exposes and rubs her other breast. End scene.
The plot soon thickens when a witch informs Deathstalker of
a chalice, an amulet and a sword that, when united, will bestow upon their
holder “the power.” He discovers the sword rather quickly, hidden by the witch
in a cave, and is informed that the other two are in possession of the evil
sorcerer Munkar (played to the slimiest by Bernard Erhard). During his
subsequent quest, Deathstalker befriends a man whom Munkar turned into a cave
troll, a female warrior (the late Lana Clarkson) who seems to feel only a mere
G-string to be adequate armor and a fellow handsome warrior in midriff-barring
armor (Richard Brooker, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III’s Jason). He learns of a
tournament being held at Munkar’s castle where warriors are invited to fight to
the death until one is left standing, thus inheriting Munkar's kingdom. They
arrive at the castle and are invited, along with the 20-some other
participants, to get drunk on mead, feast on meat and rape Munkar’s harem
slaves. These include Princess Codille (Barbi Benton), whose father earlier
asked Deathstalker to rescue her, to which our “hero“ declined. However, now
seeing that she is incredibly attractive (and incredibly nude), he decides to
add “save the princess” to his to-do list.
This film takes everything you’d expect from a
sword-and-sandal fantasy and pumps it all way over the top, offering a sleek 81
minutes of pure, merry nonsense. You won’t find this on any “Best of” lists,
and what it lacks in directorial prowess it substantially makes up for with:
John Carl Buechler’s trademark creatures, gouged eyes, decapitated heads,
cranium tattoos, mud-wrestling, pigheaded (literally) gladiators, freshly
torn-off arms used as clubs, black-magic sex transformations, crotch stabbings,
a good ol’ fashioned drawn-and-quartering and more needlessly exposed bosoms
than you can shake…er…something at. Toss in an audio commentary by director
James Sbardellati, Brooker and Buechler, and you have a disc well worth the purchase
price. But wait, we still have three films to go!
DEATHSTALKER II: DUEL OF THE TITANS showcases the further
exploits of the man who has vowed to protect any woman willing to expose her
breasts! Except this time around, we have the slightly less beefy John Terlesky
in the title role and softcore horror/comedy/“Popatopolis” king himself Jim
Wynorski (director of CHOPPING MALL, BUSTY COPS AND THE JEWELS OF DENIAL and
over 80 other gems) at the helm. The sequel opens with Deathstalker raiding a
treasure room, gingerly taking a sacred stone from its resting place and
tossing it into his pocket. Guards rush in, and he battles them off in comedic
fashion. With more guards on the way, he breaks through a window and drops to
the back of his waiting horse. Behind him, a half-naked warrior, Sultana (Toni
Naples), steps into the frame and proclaims, “I’ll have my revenge, and
Deathstalker too!”—at which point the title DEATHSTALKER II (get it?) burns
onto the screen in a fiery blaze of glory.
This new Deathstalker is much more laid-back and
wisecracking—but fear not, he still has that certain je ne sais quoi we’ve come
to know and love. Example? After the title sequence, we see a woman (Penthouse
Pet Monique Gabrielle) being hassled by a few guards. Enter Deathstalker.
“Ordinarily I don’t mind seeing a woman get a good beating,” he proudly
proclaims, “if she deserves it.” Of course! But this beating just doesn’t sit
right with our “hero,” who systematically takes the guards out. However, this
new Deathstalker doesn’t stick around to cop a feel like that old musclebound
hulk would have. No, he heads off to the bar to, well, feel up two other women.
Eventually, he encounters that same young lady he saved
earlier, and discovers she’s the wrongfully dethroned Princess Evie. She begs
him to aid her on her journey to reclaim her kingdom and overthrow the
villainous wizard Jerak, who has used his skill in the black arts to create her
evil doppelganger. With the promise of fortune and fame, Deathstalker accepts
and the adventure begins!
Aside from a single decapitation, most of the kills are
blood-free. There’s little emphasis on violence and brutality, and more on
slapstick brawls and smirking one-liners. Although one could find humor in it,
the previous movie was played pretty straightforward, making the giggles
unintentional; however, this one’s stamped with Wynorski’s signature wink at
the audience, making the hearty laughs feel warranted. It also helps that it’s
crystal clear all the actors were having a blast, just from their line
deliveries. Most of the costumes, styrofoam-stone sets and even a handful of
shots are unashamedly reused from the first film, and ominous neon lighting and
fog are overused to great effect. Even the film’s repetitive soundtrack is
parodied when a minstrel plays it on his guitar for the (mirror) princess and
she throws an apple at him, shouting with irritation, “Don’t you know another
This is the second and last of the films with a commentary
in this set, here by Wynorski, Terlesky and Naples. If you’ve never heard a
Wynorski track before, do yourself a favor and (at least) check this one out.
He always gives the exact same impression his films do: that he’s completely in
on the joke and has no qualms about both pointing out their shortcomings and
praising his own unique style.
Disc two gives us John C. Broderick’s WARRIOR AND THE
SORCERESS, a fantasy retelling of the classic YOJIMBO taking place on Ura, a
desert planet with two suns. David Carradine stars as the mercenary warrior
Kain, who’s caught between rival warlords Zeg the Tyrant (played by a
hate-filled Luke Askew) and the (very) large and in charge Bal Caz (William
Marin), along with his mutant midget-in-a-lizard-suit advisor. Their slaves
continuously battle over the town’s only well, giving Kain the opportunity to
secretly accept payments from both sides in exchange for his services, causing
both factions to assume they have the upper hand. Oh yeah, so if Kain’s the
titular “Warrior,” then where’s the “Sorceress,” you ask? Maria Socas plays
Naja, the former sorceress who bounces back and forth as a slave to both
factions, giving Kain a reason to stick around and save this damsel in
distress—though the fact that she is bare-chested throughout the entire film is
probably the more specific reason…
Although the genuinely realistic-looking sets and lifted
soundtrack from HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP are enjoyable, Carradine is the main
attraction here. He’s cool and collected as he breezes through 81 minutes of
violent swordplay and nudity (including a four-breasted woman), firmly carrying
the entire film on his shoulders.
The last of the bunch, and by far the most inferior, is
Héctor Olivera’s BARBARIAN QUEEN. For some strange reason, I took one glance at
the three power-bestowed female warriors on the cover and thought, “All right!
It’s time for the women to kick some ass!” but to my dismay, although winning
most of their fights, they are easily captured, need a male to save them and
still run around gratuitously nude without a clue.
Set during the Roman Empire, the movie takes place in a
village preparing for the upcoming wedding of its king and queen. Without
warning, a gang of loathsome, perverted soldiers led by the evil Lord Arrakur
(Arman Chapman) raid the place. Most of the male villagers are killed, with a
few held captive, while the women are raped, also with a few held captive.
Queen Amethea (Clarkson again) and several of her bustiest female companions
(including STRIPPED TO KILL director Katt Shea Ruben) journey to Arakur’s
kingdom to free their people, including her beloved king.
This trashy romp is no better or worse than its fellow
s-and-s flicks when it comes to plot. However, where the other films in this
set make up for their low budgets with decent creatures, gore FX and battle sequences,
this one simply ups the sleaze factor. All that aside, it’s basically what
you’d expect, and its speedy pace never fails to keep one’s attention. A
rousing score by up-and-comers James Horner and Christopher Young and some
memorably despicable characters keep this one on the list of entertaining
This set is a must-own for fans of over-the-top, sleazy
fantasy fare, or even just sleazy fare in general. Loyal fans of the Roger
Corman’s Cult Classics imprint will obviously want to add these first-time DVD
releases to their collections as well. And I can confidently guarantee that if
you watch all four films, roughly 52 pairs of breasts will grace your screen.
(Yes, I counted the quadruple-breasted young lady twice.)
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