Huzzah and welcome movie lovers.
I have a question for you.
What do you get when you mix a total jerk, the guy who played "Bird Man" on the "Buck Rodgers" TV series, some "dead warriors" who appear to be pan-fried in snot and our future ambassador to Denmark (!) as twin princesses, one nice, one bratty, cavorting in an ultra cheap "fantasy realm"?
You have an incomprehensible hot mess AND "Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell" (1988), which is also an incomprehensible hot mess.
"I'm all...bat ears?": The head of tyrant Troxartas' security team.
Written by Howard Cohen and directed by Alfonso Corona, "Deathstalker and the Warriors form Hell" is the third-to-the last episode of this "Conan the Barbarian"-inspired series. (Ever hear of the other three? Me neither. Ever watch the other three? Me neither.) Taking place in an English/Middle Ages/Middle Earth-type realm that looks like a junior high Renaissance Festival, "Deathstalker" opens with its cast enjoying a village fete, complete with dancing, drinking, jousting and a fire breather (you can't have one of these 'do's without a fire breather).
Our hero Deathstalker (we're never told his real name) is happily partying like it's 1999. As portrayed by John Allen Nelson, he's an odd hero indeed: obnoxious, swaggering and self-centered. He's also extremely proud of his primary male accouterment and spends as much time chasing tail as he does fighting evil. Oh, and he's accompanied by a long-haired wizard named Nicias (Aaron Herman), who dresses like Cousin It and tells goat fortunes (hey, it's a living).
Amid all this strolls in Princess Carissa (Carla Herd, ambassador to Denmark from 2017-2021). She's the co-ruler of a people so down on their luck they don't even have a country. The lucky ones live in tents in the forests and the rest are stuck in packing crates. But plucky Princess Carissa has a plan: there's a secret city called Arandor that is just waiting to be inhabited. In order to reach Arandor, however, you have to connect two halves of a special rock--and as luck would have it, HRH has one of those special rocks. She believes Nicias has the other half because A) he is the last living resident of Arandor and B) he's a wizard and wizards are always carrying around crazy shit like that.
As it turns out, Nicias doesn't have the matching rock Carissa seeks, but he knows where she can find it. While they're conferring in a tent, a group of Black Knights arrive out of nowhere and start hacking people to death. Why? Because their boss--a tyrant named Troxartas--also wants to claim the city of Arandor for himself. AND he has one of those special rocks. AND he believes Nicias has its mate which, we have already established, he does not. Confused? Get use to it; it happens a lot in this movie.
Amid all the hacking and pillaging, Nicias tells Deathstalker to protect Carissa. He then makes himself invisible, leaving only his shoes behind. Deathstalker and Carissa meet up in the forest, but our hero doesn't seem very interested in helping her or her homeless people.
"Why is it I always keep getting mixed up with princesses?" Deathstalker grumbles. "Riding hundreds of miles, fighting whole armies, up against magic, maybe? In the end all I get is flowers on my head and everyone telling me how wonderful I am!"
It never occurs to this jerk that he could go into another line of work, like, say, blacksmithing, which pays well and is always in demand. However, doing so might limit his nooky opportunities, which seems to be Deathstalker's real objective. That's obvious when Carissa decides to turn in and Deathstalker tries to lure her into his tent by saying, "I've got the warmest blankets over here."
"I'll be warm enough," Carissa insists.
Undaunted, Deathstalker keeps pushing, insisting, "I never saw a princess yet who liked to sleep alone!"
Deathstalker's prediction proves correct...up to a point. Carissa does come into his tent, but only to warn him that the Black Knights have come to kill her...which they promptly do. No worse for wear, DS (as I'll call him from now on) simply pockets the magic rock and goes on his merry way. What he doesn't realize is that he's being watched via Tyrant Cam by Troxartas himself.
He's bald and he's bad: Troxartas (Thom Christopher) plots his next move.
As played by Thom Christopher, Troxartas is a cold blooded, bald headed meanie who is absolutely obsessed with uncovering the hidden city of Arandor, to the point that it's really pissing off his cuddlemate Camisarde (Terri Treas) because it's totally lousing up their sex life.
"You own every inch of land and every peasant between here and the sea," Camisarde points out. "And me!" (Pause) "If you ever notice."
Troxartas doesn't. Instead, he proclaims, "That city is power!" and "With this (holding the magic rock aloft) I'll live forever!"
Fed up with his ranting, Camisarde rolls her eyes and flounces off to figure out new ways to spice things up in the bedroom.
Meanwhile, DS is roaming the countryside, having adventures--not that it really matters, but, as long as you're here, I'll recount them for you:
Casisarde (Terri Treas) wonders when her cuddlemate Troxartas will stop fussing over those magic rocks and pay some attention to her.
Adventure #1: DS hops a ship that looks like a bamboo duck and hob-nobs with some wandering workers. Then the bat-eared Black Knights arrive looking for him and DS runs for his life like the self-serving jerk he is.
Adventure #2: DS stumbles upon the camp of bratty Princess Elizena (Carla Herd again), kid sister of the late, lamented Princess Carissa. In the never-ending quest to secure her people a homeland, Elizena has agreed to marry (sight unseen) baddie Troxartas. To avoid capture, DS slips into the princess's tent during a rest stop and threatens her with a stick. When he tries to slip out the back way, Elizena screams, "There he is!" and the Black Knights give chase. When they fail to catch DS, the Black Knights return and kill all of Elizena's guards in a fit of pique.
Adventure #3: Having outwitted the bat-eared Black Knights yet again, DS decides to steal a horse. He doesn't count on frizzy-haired hag Khorsa and her expert archer daughter Marinda (Claudia Inchaurregui) taking issue with this. When mom barks, "Search him!", poor, sheltered Marinda (who looks like she's just stepped out of a Whitesnake video) is so overwhelmed by DS and his manly package that she falls madly in love with him. As Miranda pats him down, DS smirks with delighted glee.
Adventure #4: Khorsa and Marinda allow DS to join them for a dinner of boiled potatoes. When DS objects to the menu, ma sputters, "Boiled potatoes is all we eat!" Khorsa then sends DS to sleep in the barn and warns her daughter, "Men like that only want one thing! Watch him carefully!"
Marinda watches DS so carefully, in fact, that she runs off with him. See, those bat-eared Black Knights are on his trail again. Marinda leads DS through an isolated, rocky valley all the while begging him to take her with him; she wants to see the "outside world" (and maybe eat something more than boiled tatters). DS demurs, however, claiming Marinda will "loose her innocence" if she enters the outside world. Also, to show us how he's grown as a person, DS remarks that Marinda is the first gal whose "innocence" he hasn't "stolen", meaning, maybe, he likes and respects her? That would be a first. Anyway, even though DS leaves Marinda's "innocence" in tact, he does kiss the hell out of her before he leaves.
"The Man Who Came to Dinner": Deathstalker (center) enjoys a meal of boiled taters with Khorsa and future cuddlemate Marinda (on the left).
Meanwhile, the sub-plots just keep coming! DS runs into Princess Elizena again! Princess Elizena meets up with Troxartas! Troxartas learns there is a third magic rock he needs to uncover the city of Arandor! Troxartas plans to marry and then kill Princess Elizena! Troxartas has an army of dead warriors! He keeps their souls in a jar, so they have to do his bidding! Wizard Nicias gets captured by Troxartas, who forces him to reveal where the third magic rock is! DS gets captured by Camisarde and she tortures him with burning statement jewelry! She also threatens his manhood! DS manages to over power her and tie her up! DS frees the dead warriors' souls! The long oppressed villagers rise up against Troxartas! All hell breaks loose! Marinda appears out of nowhere, yells, "Deathstalker!" and tosses him a mighty sword! Marinda gets shot with an arrow and dies! Isn't that ironic, since Marinda was an expert archer?! No more boiled potatoes for her! A village boy later shoots Troxartas and his reign of terror is over! Freedom at last!
Finally, Nicias puts all three pieces of the magic rocks together (if you're wondering where the third magic rock was hidden, tough taters. You'll have to watch the movie yourself to find out) and the land of Arandor emerges from the protective mists of time. Queen Elizena's people now have a home of their own. However, poor DS is heartbroken; he must burry his beloved Marinda. Although Elizena asks DS to stay in Arandor, he says no. Instead, DS must fulfill his destiny by helping disadvantaged people everywhere--even though he complains endlessly about the low pay, poor working conditions and lack of sexual favors he has to endure in order to do so. Thus, with a heavy heart, DS mounts his horse and rides off into a golden sunset and on to the pages of Junk Cinema history.
For a cheap rip-off of "Conan the Barbarian" that chokes on its own cheese, "Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell" has a very complicated plot. Perhaps only Frank Herbert or JRR Tolkien could appreciate the twists and turns of a story line involving a hidden city, magic rocks, twin princesses, the sexually frustrated wife of a power mad tyrant, a wizard who can disappear and turn into a bird, but can't fight off a mortal jerk, soldiers with bat-wing head gear terrorizing the countryside, dead warriors who want their souls back and mother/daughter horse breeders who eat nothing but boiled potatoes. As for me, even after multiple viewings of the flick, I still needed a score card to keep track of everything.
Besides the convoluted plot, the Deathstalker character isn't much of a hero.
This might be because the "Deathstalker" series came from the bowels of the beloved Roger Corman film factory, where cheapness and cheese are regularly pushed to the limit. According to the "TV Tropes" website, actor Rick Hall played the first DS "as a typical Barbarian hero minus the hero". This was primarily based on his yucky treatment of women (DS kills a beast man who attempted to rape a female, then turns right around and attempts to rape the gal himself.) In fact, MST3K was planning on showing the first "Deathstalker" movie, but after they edited out the violence and nudity, they realized they had only 30 minutes of film to mock!
The next DS was John Terlesky. Because of a short shooting schedule (two weeks) and other problems, director Jim Wynorski and Terlesky decided to improvise the film using "a broad outline of the original script and Bugs Bunny cartoons." This DS was suppose to be a "loveable rogue" who helps another princess. The second "Deathstalker" movie is considered the most light hearted of the bunch.
Which brings us to John Allen Nelson as DS number three. He decided to by-pass the "loveable rogue" stuff and instead gave viewers a DS that was "a jerk with a heart of gold mercenary". Unfortunately, as "TV Tropes" pointed out, Nelson "succeeds only in being a jerk." He also treats women yucky, too: he tries to get Princess Carissa into the sack, threatens Princess Elizena with a stick, thinks about assaulting Casisarde after he's tied her up and doesn't appreciate Khorsa's boiled potatoes. Sure, he doesn't take Marinda's "innocence", but that doesn't mean he didn't think about it.
John Terlesky returned for "Deathstalker IV: Match of the Titans", which was distinguished by a heavy use of stock footage. No word on the acting, but I'm sure DS was as unlikeable as ever.
Suffice it to say, if your movie is based around an action hero, it helps if the action hero is actually a hero. Even if your flick is low-budget, how much does it cost to make your main character someone people will root for? Regardless of who had the title role, DS was always a self-serving jerk who treated women yucky and was only interested in himself.
The supporting cast matched DS in jerkiness and ham-bone acting.
The two prime offenders here are Thom Christopher as Troxartas and Carla Herd as Princesses Carissa and Elizena.
Christopher must have thought "Deathstalker and the Warriors of Hell" was an important movie, because he plays Troxartas as if he were Richard III. He takes himself soooo seriously you wonder if anybody had the heart to tell him this was a straight-to-video hack job and not an atypical episode of "Masterpiece Theater".
As for Carla Herd, she's the most famous gal to appear in the "Deathstalker" movies--after Barbi Benton, of course, who co-starred in the first "Deathstalker". The important stuff about Carla is she later quit acting (smart move), got a chiropractic degree (smart move) and then married a real estate tycoon named Fred Sands (a really smart move). He, in turn, died and left Herd (now using the name Sands) a fortune. She contributed to Donald Trump's presidential campaign and was rewarded with being appointed our ambassador to Denmark. During her tenure, Carla pushed for the Danes to spend more money on their military. Wanna bet when Carla presented her credentials to the Danish court, she left appearing in "Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell" off her official resume?
"Are we in Copenhagen yet?": Future Danish ambassador Carla Herd Sands has an appointment with Queen Margrethe II...in 29 years.
Although "Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell" is in many ways an unpleasant, confusing movie, it's one of the reasons why Junk Cinema is so easy to love. Where else will you find a "Conan the Barbarian" rip-off set in "Europe" that was actually filmed in Mexico, with a jerk hero and the future ambassador to Denmark tagging along? And considering how violent and nudity-friendly the entire "Deathstalker" series is, this entry may be the best of the lot! And if "Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell" is the best of the lot, how bad could the other flicks be?!
Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
Well, it makes me wonder. Hmmm, I think I sense a future blog post...
Until next time, remember that boiled potatoes are a great side dish and help me SAVE THE MOVIES.
Deathstalker is bummed that he has to go back on the road after "The Warriors from Hell" ends.