Financed by famed low-budget director/producer Roger Corman in response to the popularity of the live-action Conan the Barbarian movie, Deathstalker would inspire three sequels and become the most famous (or is that infamous?) of the many low-budget Conan-ripoff Heroic Fantasy films that were made during The '80s.
The titular Deathstalker (in this film at least) is a typical Barbarian Hero, minus the Hero. In the opening of the film, we see him rescuing a bandit beset by beastmen... only to kill the bandit himself before trying to have his way with the bound Damsel in Distress the bandit was raping a moment earlier. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!
After initially refusing the pleas of the deposed king to slay his former Evil Chancellor, the Evil Sorcerer Munkar, and rescue his daughter (who is now a prisoner in Munkar's harem), Deathstalker decides to get involved after being told of the Three Powers Of Creation - magical artifacts that will give the one who holds all three together ultimate power - and that Munkar currently has two of the Powers; the Amulet of Life and the Chalice of Magic.
After retrieving the Sword of Justice and freeing the cursed guardian Salmaron (who decides to tag along with him), Deathstalker joins forces with two other warriors - Oghris (Our Lancer and Loveable Rogue) and Kaira (an Amazon in half a Fur Bikini), who are on their way to a tournament that Munkar is holding. The prize for the winner, after a series of deathmatches is to become heir to Munkar's empire. Deathstalker must contend with treachery on all sides as he fights to stay alive in the tournament and tries to locate the last two of The Three Powers.
This movie is probably the most violent and sexual of the Deathstalker Series. In fact, many fans of Robert E. Howard have noted that this film is closer in tone and content to the original Conan the Barbarian stories than the Conan the Barbarian movie was. Similar comparisons have also been made about this movie and John Norman's Gor books, particularly by fans of the later who are displeased that the Gor movies are surprisingly sex free. There is, however, NO relation to the Deathstalker novel series by Simon R. Green.
The film got mercilessly reviewed on Best of the Worst. It was also originally going to be featured as part of the live tour of Mystery Science Theater 3000 before they realized that editing out all the scenes with nudity would leave them with a half-hour long movie and decided to riff an edited version of the sequel instead.
Deathstalker contains these tropes:
- Action Girl: Kaira. Despite a Stripperiffic costume, she is a better fighter than Oghris.
- Amazonian Beauty: Kiara.
- Barbarian Hero: Deathstalker, though he isn't really much of a hero.
- Beast Man:
- One of the other warriors who enters the tournament has a pig's head.
- There's also the monster-men Deathstalker fights in the opening scene.
- Covers Always Lie: While the Boris Vallejo artwork is quite good, the Barbarian Hero and Damsel in Distress on the cover do not look anything like Rich Hill or Barbie Benton. Also, there are no ogres or trolls, like those on the cover, in the movie.
- Damsel in Distress: Princess Codille.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Salmaron claims some ability to foresee the future in his dreams. His predictions are far from accurate, however. See the entry for Prophecies Are Always Right.
- Fanservice Extra: This movie could be said to have something for everyone, featuring unclad slave girls and oiled-up muscle men in gladiator armor as minor characters/extras.
- Five-Man Band
- Fur Bikini: Kaira wears half of one. The bottom half, to be precise. For formal occasions, she wears a leather bra. The rest of the time, she is quite comfortable wearing nothing but a cloak, a loincloth, sandals and a scowl.
- Gender Bender: The evil sorcerer uses his magic to turn his minion into a copy of Princess Codille to murder Deathstalker. However...
- Glamour Failure: Somehow, Deathstalker detects that "Princess Codille" isn't a real woman while trying to rape her. It's implied that the first part of Munkar's henchman to change back when the Gender Bender spell wears off was probably the most important one.
- Godhood Seeker: Munkar's eventual goal.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Much of Deathstalker's behavior, particularly his treatment of women.
- Lampshade Hanging: Done by Deathstalker himself, when he hears about Munkar's tournament and the prize of becoming his heir: "It doesn't sound like much of a prize to me. Inheriting everything from a sorcerer who never dies." Apparently he was the only one to think logically about exactly what it means to be the heir of a man known as "The Immortal Wizard Munkar". Of course, that turns out to be a give away to Munkar's real plan - get all of the warriors capable of defeating him to slaughter one another so he can rule the kingdom unopposed.
- Mud Wrestling: One of the entertainments at Munkar's party.
- Ms. Fanservice:
- Barbi Benton, of course.
- Also Lana Clarkson, as the Amazonian Beauty who is topless is every scene she appears in but one.
- Nipple and Dimed: It's a B movie, what do you expect?
- Pet the Dog: Deathstalker didn't really need to rescue Salmaron to keep his sword, but doing so proves that he's not quite the ambivalent brute he wants people to think he is.
- Prophecies Are Always Right: Averted with Salmaron's dream visions.(As Oghris fights a cloaked, masked figure)Salmaron: (to Deathstalker) I had a dream that we would meet two men on the road. I didn't think it meant anything, but now...(As the fight continues, the hood falls back and the cloak parts, revealing the black-clad fighter to be a golden-haired, large chested amazon)Deathstalker: Two men, huh?Salmaron: Dreams are not what they used to be!
- Schmuck Bait: Near the end of the film, Munkar attempts to lure Deathstalker into a trap by leaving the Amulet of Life out in the open for Deathstalker to find in a seemingly empty room.
- Sex Slave: Munkar has a harem full of them.
- Sorcerous Overlord: Immortal Wizard Munkar has ruled ever since overthrowing the old king.
- Stripperiffic: Darn near everyone but Munkar and the witch. The harem girls are as scantily clad as one might expect but even the male warriors are wearing leather armor that does more to accent their muscles than protect their flesh.