Deathstalker II

Deathstalker II is the presumed follow-up to 1982’s low-budget Deathstalker. Aside from the title, it’s hard to consider this film a sequel. In fact, this film is so much more enjoyable than the first (or the third or fourth, for that matter) that such a statement is probably a good thing!

The film begins with Deathstalker (John Terlesky) infiltrating what appears to be a treasure room in a dark castle. He sneaks up to an altar, upon which rests some form of crystal artifact, and in a scene that recalls either Raiders of the Lost Ark or Conan the Barbarian (no, really!), gingerly takes it from its place of honor and pockets it. Without warning, a legion of robe-enshrouded swordsmen rush in, and Deathstalker battles them off in truly heroic fashion.well, somewhat heroic fashion. After dispatching a few of these menacing thugs, Deathstalker breaks through a shuttered window, drops to a stone bridge below, and leaps to the back of his waiting horse before escaping into the night. In his wake, a scantily dressed warrior woman named Sultana (Toni Naples) steps to the window from which he made his daring escape and watches him vanish into the darkness. Without missing a beat, she turns to her remaining guards and vows, “I’ll have my revenge, and Deathstalker, too!”–at which point the title card “Deathstalker II” comes up with a fiery background and a Morricone-esque theme, fully setting the style for this b-grade but surprisingly entertaining sword-and-sorcery “epic”.

In his travels, our hero encounters a lovely young woman who claims to be the wrongfully dethroned Princess Evie (former Penthouse Pet Monique Gabrielle). She implores him to aid her on her journey to reclaim her kingdom and overthrow the villainous wizard Jerak, who has used his skill at the black arts to create Princess Evie’s evil duplicate (Mirror-Universe Monique Gabrielle). With the promise of fortune and fame thrown in his lap, Deathstalker accepts the task and the adventure begins in earnest.

Along the way, the adventuring duo battle swarthy castle guards, undead zombies, sinister traps, amazon women warriors, an insidious pirate and his team of enforcers, the wicked Sultana, and numerous other hardships before finally reaching the castle and engaging in mortal combat with Jerak and Evil Evie. Who wins? Well, that would be telling, but suffice it to say that this is a quest that is certainly worth the 78-85 minutes(depending on which version you get)spent watching it.

Filmed on a budget of apparently tens of dollars, Deathstalker II is rife with high-quality costumes, props and sets. Beautifully adorned styrofoam rock walls can be spotted in the opening scene as well as in the following tavern sequence, which also clearly features a poured concrete floor and fluorescent lighting in addition to numerous wooden barrels marked “BEER”!!! The ominous woods are made even more ominous with the generous use of a fog machine and well-concealed klieg lights streaming from between the trunks and branches of the trees. Colored light gels and inspired location shooting provide unique ambience for each new area, and the climactic sword battle (the Duel of the Titans mentioned in the title) is actually very well-choreographed and presented with a dynamic musical accompaniment. However, these technical achievements are only the tip of the cinematic iceberg!

The actors chosen are all-too-clearly enjoying their respective roles to an enormous degree. Watch Monique’s eyebrows as she gazes into her crystal doorknob and tells “Stalker” about the adventure he’s about to undergo! Witness the unbridled amount of midget abuse that occurs throughout the film! Prepare for the Gladiator-like battle between Stalker and Gargo the Amazon! And be sure to spot the Fiat parked in the upper-left corner of the Amazon village scene!

If you’re in the mood for an unpretentious sword-and-sorcery adventure, Deathstalker II is your ticket. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is a lot of fun. Rent it tonight (or better yet buy it outright!), and make sure your fridge is fully stocked with brew!

P.S. Don’t pop this sucker out of your VCR/DVD player until after you watch the outtakes over the end credits! Think of it as your reward for giving this one a chance!