Forgotten Action Cinema: Deathstalker

There’s a scene about halfway through director James Sbardellati’s thoroughly unremarkable sword and sorcery yarn “Deathstalker” which features a particularly uncomfortable sexual assault on a toady little henchman who has been magically transformed into a woman by the film’s bald, pasty villain. It’s easily one of the most bizarro moments in the entire picture, save for the near rape of a female slave by a foul, disgusting creature that’s half human and half pig. The plot — a generic “muscular hero saves the world from the clutches of a ruthless tyrant with a penchant for death and destruction” — is just a flimsy framework for a series of loosely-connected set pieces, most of which involve some sort of naked flesh. Truth be told, there’s probably more rape and perversity sprinkled throughout “Deathstalker” than actual swordplay, a fact that actually causes this picture to lose a little footing with me. Gratuitous nudity is fine and dandy, but random, pointless misogyny doesn’t qualify as entertainment in my neck of the woods. That having been said, the rubbery monsters, unintentional homoerotic undertones, and multiple beheadings are great fun, and help ease the pain of the film’s more questionable moments. A moderately amusing mess, though infinitely enjoyable if you’re into low-budget 80’s fantasy and the cinematic offerings of Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton. For added pleasure, watch the three sequels back-to-back.