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Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987)



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"One rescue a day -- that's my policy."

Deathstalker II has little in common with its odious predecessor. It's odious in a completely different way. Instead of morose stupidity that takes itself too seriously, this is a swords and sorcery tale that doesn't take itself seriously enough. The cornball one-liners come so fast and furious that it's impossible to catch them all (which is something of a blessing). When told about the witches and ogres en route to such-and-such a place, Deathstalker's comment is how it must hurt the tourist trade. After outwitting a band of enemies, Deathstalker says, "You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to catch the prince of thieves." An arrow plunks into a tree just then, and his companion, catching sight of the badguys, blurts in horror, "It is pretty early in the morning!"

The first Deathstalker movie had a hero that remained emotionless from start to finish. The series took a turn with this second entry, and now he's amused from start to finish. The plot involves all manner of cliches and seems to revel in them. There's a room where the walls squeeze gradually together. There's the giant axe that swings lower and lower over the table Deathstalker is bound to. (A really bad reference to Goldfinger is made here.) There's the band of Groaning Dead People that attack slowly with their arms outstretched. And there's a long scene where Deathstalker ("Stalker" for short) must enter a wrestling ring and defeat a big fat snarling warrior woman. (The scene is preceded by an excerpt from the theme to Rocky.) Referring to all these perils, Deathstalker asks a seer if these feats of derring-do will make a legend out of him. "Right up there with Conan," she answers. I don't think so.

Returning from the original Deathstalker, which bad movie fans will be pleased to see, are the Gamorrean Guards from Star Wars and the "brothel violence phenomenon," where large scale fistfights break out spontaneously.

Among the stupidities here are the people who scream before attacking from behind, to give fair warning of their approach. And in one of my favorite scenes, a woman is resurrected from the dead by the badguy's magic strobe light. The soundtrack is a stupidity of its own; harsh, dramatic electronic sounds accompany the most banal of on-screen action at seemingly random moments.

In spite of all the stupidity, however, watching it can be a minor pleasure. In fact, the climactic swordfight even rouses some excitement, and there are some good outtakes at the end. One with a high tolerance for wretched filmmaking and a penchant for silliness may actually enjoy this, even if most of the laughs are at its own expense. But I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone else in a million years.

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