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It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie

Reader Review

Hawk the Slayer

Posted by: Steve Ellis
Date Submitted: Thursday, March 18, 1999 at 03:00:24
Date Posted: Thursday, March 18, 1999 at 11:57:29

Question No. 76: "Is your lead character named after an animal?"

Being British, I am privileged by having access to about a million made-for-TV movies that will never be on "pay per view." Hawk the Slayer is one such movie. It has all the hallmarks of a potential stinker and yes, it manages in parts to surpass its own highly set poor standards. From the "giant" who is a little more than four inches taller than the rest of the cast, even in his heavily platformed shoes, to the badly "composed" early eighties soundtrack played on a synth that Jeff Wayne would have thrown out for sounding "just too weird," Hawk the Slayer has it all.

A lot of my geeky D&D friends used to tell me that the film is great really in a sense. And they are right "in no sense whatsoever."

There are two brothers. One, Hawk, who wanders the earth getting into adventures -- saving witches from pig farmers (played by a fine English actor, Warren Clarke) and such like. Hawk is the hero of the movie -- you can tell because he wears white, is clean-shaven, and has a magic sword. The second is called Voltan (or, if you prefer "Vooollllltaaaannn"), who wanders the land burning villages, killing children, and being in league with an "evil wizard." You know that Voltan is the bad guy because he shouts, wears black, and is played by Jack Palance (a bold casting move, that). He doesn't have a magic sword but makes up for it by wearing a strange helmet that covers half his face.

Early on, Voltan "the dark one" (as he is referred to in hushed tones) kidnaps a nun and locks her in a cage in his tent (his evil knows no bounds). And so the scene is set for a fantasy remake of "The Magnificent Seven" and poorly choreographed fight scenes with a helping of badly filmed flashbacks and awful special effects thrown in for good measure.

Hawk, learning that Voltan as kidnapped a nun, decides to get some of his friends together to rid the land of Voltan once and for all. His friends -- a dwarf, an elf, and a giant -- are spread around the place, so how can he get them all together? He goes to visit the old woman he rescued from the pig farmer in scene one. After all, it's a fantasy film, and she is an old woman -- she must be a witch. Oh yeah, and she lives in a cave, in the middle of a forest.

He tells the witch of his quest, and she teleports him to each of his friends. As luck would have it, as he arrives, each one of his friends is in one sort of dire situation or another, but thanks to Hawk's timely arrival, they all live through it none the worse. We meet the "giant" to start with. Bernard Bresslaw, a die hard member of the "Carry On..." team, forever remembered as Sid James' sidekick, plays the him -- his strength and "mighty" hammer (a poorly constructed latex affair) are his skills. Secondly, we meet "Crow," the elven archer, master of the bow, with the biggest pair of pointy ears you've ever seen. Finally we meet the last dwarf, played by a guy with a goatee beard. I don't know what his specialty his. He has a whip, but you never see him use it. In fact, the dwarf is strangely missing from the big fight scenes. Later in the film, Hawk asks him to check out the nunnery they are holed up in to see if it can be held in fight. You expect the dwarf to use some special skills or magic or something. No. He merely runs around the building opening and closing the doors and windows. His report is something like, "There are two doors." Wow. Being a dwarf must be pretty special. No wonder they all died out.

Anyway I digress. Having rescued his friends, they have their first team briefing. This is where I think the casting director probably got fired. "You idiot...dwarves are short, and giants are giant. You're fired!" Yes, the dwarf is only two inches shorter than everyone else, and the giant can't be more than two inches taller than everyone else. Even the occasional odd camera angle can't help.

Even though Voltan, sorry, VVVOOOLLLLLTTTTAAAAANNNNN commands an army of ruthless soldiers, they decide that the five of them (Have I mentioned the one-handed archer, wielding a sort if Uzi-Crossbow, joined them? No? Oh, well, he did.) can take the army on. The witch (who only talks in whispers it seems) offers to lend them a hand with a bit of the old magic. What does she do? Does she make it rain lightning bolts? Does launch fireballs into the army? Does she even send some of them to sleep? No. She makes it a bit misty. (She is truly a mighty wielder of the arcane arts.) And we then get treated to the first "proper" fight scene, albeit filled with smoke (someone on special effects had a field day with a smoke machine). Actually, the fight scene starts OK. Hawk, with his sword glowing, cuts a swath through the army. Gort (the giant) smashes soldiers with his giant hammer, and the dwarf is nowhere to be seen. Then, Crow (the elf archer) starts running around shooting people with his bow. Did no one notice that it's the same shot of him firing the bow over and over again, in quick succession? There's one shot where he jumps over a fallen tree and fires his bow, killing a soldier. Then they replay the scene over and over just switching the soldier each time...he must kill about 20 soldiers in less than 10 seconds. And as for that Uzi-Crossbow thing Ranulf fires -- the arrows look like pencils. They're certainly no bigger than a pencil -- how exactly does a pencil penetrate plate armour? Anyway, they don't rescue the nun (played by a fine English actress Annette Crosbie, from "One Foot in the Grave") because Voltan has her in a cage, and the magic mist starts to wear out. Apparently.

We are treated to a number of flashbacks in which we learn that Voltan and Hawk are brothers. Hawk gets married to Voltan's girlfriend, while Voltan is fighting wars with their father. There's a fight, and Hawk gets injured, Voltan gets burned in the face by Hawk's wife with a torch, and Hawk's wife gets murdered by Voltan. Palance overacts a "revenge" speech and then goes off to steal the family heirloom -- a magic sword. Unfortunately, he can't find out how it works (there aren't any instructions) so he settles for just killing his father instead. Hawk turns up and his father, about to expire, explains where the 'on' button for the sword is. "Just imagine the sword in your hand and it shall be so." Really complicated then? Why am I explaining all this? Because it provides background for a confusing scene at the end of the film.

Hawk and Co. get captured by Voltan in the nunnery. They tie all of them to some large stone pillars with some string. Forgetting for a minute that one of them is a giant and has "unmatched strength," why doesn't Hawk imagine the sword killing everyone in the room? Or cutting the ropes that tie them to the pillars?

Anyway, the witch turns up once Voltan's entire army has fallen asleep (yes, really) with the exception of one guard. How does she incapacitate the guard? She fires "silly string" (the stuff that comes in cans that looks like string) out of the end of her mystic staff, completely covering him head to foot in it. Not just covering him -- burying him in it. Why doesn't he call out? In fact, why does silly string incapacitate him at all? I guess I just don't appreciate the awesome power she wields. So with Voltan's army all asleep and their only guard buried under silly string, do they kill Voltan? No. They leave the nunnery to "regroup." Bear in mind that there's only four of them (the dwarf bought it when he kicked Voltan in the face). Once they've regrouped (and buried the dwarf) they decide to go back to the nunnery to settle it once and for all.

Fortunately, the army is still asleep when they return, and no one has noticed the guard buried under the silly string. Once more, the witch lends her magical might to the battle, evening the odds. I bet you can't wait to hear what she does this time; she has a pretty impressive track record so far. She blows the doors open (waking everyone up) and then fires fluorescent rubber balls into the nunnery. I kid you not. What they do exactly is unclear -- even though there are hundreds of them bouncing around, they don't seem to hurt anyone. Not surprising really, I mean, they are only rubber balls after all, unlikely to cause injuries. Hawk cuts, Gort smashes, and Crow shoots. Soldiers die. Crow gets stabbed (I don't remember how). Ranulf gets murdered, and Hawk is disarmed saving Gort. Voltan tries to kill Hawk, Hawk "thinks of the sword in his hand, and it is so," and he kills Voltan. Crow stays at the nunnery to be healed (sensibly ruling him out of any sequel, however unlikely that might be), and Hawk and Gort ride off to the north to fight some evil wizards. The End,

In conclusion, it's a turkey. But it's a turkey worth watching, especially if you've ever played/watched or been involved with role playing games like D&D. The first time I watched it (when I was seven), it inspired me to do D&D. The second time I watched it (much later), it inspired me to nearly wet myself laughing. I now own this on video and watch it regularly, usually having watched "The Princess Bride" (which is fantastic) first. I haven't even mentioned all the fine English actors that turn up in the film. That in itself makes the film more watchable and leads to quotes like, "Isn't that so and so from (insert any British sitcom here)." And the special effects are breathtaking. Breathtakingly bad that is. I can imagine conversations like this one:

Director: "I want to make this part of the forest (the whole film is shot in a forest) look especially scary. What should I do?"

SFX Guy: "Why don't we hang a python from a tree?"

Director: "Excellent! Make the sword glow some more as well, would you?"

Music Guy: "Yeah, and I'll put some weird synth effects in that sound a bit like a rattle snake."

Scene to watch for: The dwarf checking out the security arrangements at the nunnery.

Best Line: "VVVVOOOOLLLLTTAAAAANNNNN, you will DDIIIEEE by my sword."

Things that make you go "Huh?": Any of the witch's "magic" spells.

Response From RinkWorks:

Jack Palance should have learned his lesson about bad fantasy movies with this stinker -- instead, he went on to make other such stinkers, such as "Gor."

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