In an amazing fantasy world the hero Deathstalker (John Allen Nelson) is enjoying a pleasant day at the local fair. But he is also keeping an eye on his wizard friend Nicias (Aaron Hernan) who is telling fortunes for the peasents. Before you can say Conan, a bunch of evil men in black armor ride up and attempt kidnap Nicias. Deathstalker fights them off, and Nicias uses a spell to disappear, but not before giving a lovely girl a magic crystal.
Naturally this girl turns out to be a princess, and she is on the quest for the other half of the crystal. If the two are combined they will lead to a city of fabled treasure. Of course there is an evil warlord named Troxartas (Thom Christopher) who is also after the same crystal. The princess is killed and Troxartas assumes that Deathstalker has the other half of the crystal. So he uses his nightmare powers to summon undead warriors to track down our hero. Along the way Deathstalker faces other perils including the feisty twin to the dead princess, a couple of potato loving hermits and a noble woman who loves torturing captive men. Will Deathstalker have a chance in hell (see what I did there) in surviving his most dangerous adventure yet?
|Deathstalker unleashes the smarm.|
The first film was pretty much a Conan the Barbarian imitator, but with a bit more skin on display. The second film injected some humor and upped the skin quotient a bit. But here we have the third film which has neither the violence or the skin of the first two. The budget seems extremely low, the script cobbled together at the last minute and the cast, well, we’ll get to them in a minute. The final result is like a D&D fever dream. It is wonderful in it’s wretchedness.
|"Squeak I say! Squeak!"|
It takes a skilled director to really make a no budget fantasy film work. Unfortunately, we don’t get that kind of skill here. Nearly all the production elements, from costumes to sets are really unimpressive. Toxartas’ castle doesn’t look too bad from some angles. The interiors are the best part, some of them actually looking like they may not be on a soundstage. Really, the location shooting helps the film a bit.
|Wait till Radagast hears about this.|
Am I being too harsh? Not really because the borrowing doesn’t stop there. When you start the film, you hear a full orchestral score kick in. It’s a heroic theme with a big bold sound. It is also borrowed from another film from the Corman factory: Battle Beyond the Stars. Yep, James Horner’s score kicks things off for us. Don’t get too excited, because that is the only hint of anything that impressive you’ll hear from that point on.
The rest of the score is simplistic meandering on an old Casio keyboard. It repeats endlessly and seems to only be about a minute long. There are maybe three or four tracks to pick form and they all are done in the same style. Think along the lines of Puma Man but without the catchy appeal. Just when you think you can’t take it any more, something new but still borrowed shows up. This time from Brain Eno and his Prophesy piece from Dune. It is surreal to hear that music for a silly scene of Detathstalker stealing horses.
|The chilling sound of cardboard against cardboard.|
Then you have Carla Herd in an amazing double role as the twin sisters Carissa and Elizena. One sister is the confident, brave and noble one. The other is the bratty, spoiled and selfish one. Herd isn’t bad doing the bratty sister. But she isn’t so hot as the noble sister. Her early scenes with Deathstalker contain some pretty confusing reaction shots and odd line delivery. It is possible the editing is to blame (more on that later). Sadly she is just not much of a leading lady.
|Like my gem? It is a doorknob from my grandmother's|
The supporting cast falls right in line. Some of them are over the top and ridiculous. Aaron Hernan as Nicias is a perfect example of this. He takes the blowhard wizard stereotype to a whole new level. Then you have the people that really couldn’t be bothered to be in the movie, because you know, whatever.
|Yep, the man on the left is Vadinho from Puma Man.|
But the worst offenders are eponymous Warriors from Hell. We get not just one scene dealing with their resurrection – but two scenes. Yes both are hilarious because we get to see Christopher chew all the lead paint on the scenery. But the build up leads you to believe that these bad boys are going to be a major problem for Deathstalker. When you see them in their glory, well they look like a bunch of dusty guys in fake armor with white stuff in their hair and beards (I’m not sure what that stuff is supposed to be). So they are visually disappointing. But you think, well maybe they’ll be part of a huge battle scene with Deathstalker or something. Nope. They don’t do a damn thing, but end up as targets for stupid dead people jokes.
|"Is it wrong for me to want to see him get tortured?"|
So here is the hearty recommendation from a guy who loves these bad 80s fantasy flicks, it really doesn’t get much worse than Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell. It ends up beating Cave Dwellers and Outlaw in sheer stupidity on nearly all fronts of filmmaking. And for all that, it is a blast to watch. And when you add Mike and Bots firing on all cylinders for Season Seven – well you’ve got a one hell of an episode.
|Troxartas has sprit, yes he does!|
Highlights include lots and lots of bat jokes as the evil henchman rides around with a couple of silly batwings sticking out of helmet. Mike and bots have them squeeking out their lines on several occasions as well as having the terrorized villagers shriek “Rabies!” or “They get in your hair!”
Deathstalker is not immune to riffing. After about five minutes of his smarmy performance Tom asks, “Is it too early to hate this guy?” Later after Nelson lets a little twang escape from his smirking face Crow asks Mike, “Were there crackers in the middle ages?” Mike replies with “Apparently.” Near the end after Deathstalker escapes tortured but gets captured… again, Crow declares, “I’m glad he gets hit a lot.”
|Deathstalker encounters the potato people.|
Deathstalker III contains two of the oddest characters in any fantasy movie I’ve seen: a mother and daughter living like hermits in the mountains. They raise horses… I think, and they eat nothing but potatoes. Deathstalker runs into these two and the daughter falls head over heels in love with him (Krom knows why). After the mother declares in an emphatic voice “Potatoes are what we EAT!” A whole set of hilarious potatoe bases jokes are unleashed. They pop up when you least expect it. The boys also modify the line, saying it with the same determination, such as “Horses are what we RIDE!” or “Swords are what we SWING!”
The fantasy nature of film actually provides a bunch of Lord of the Rings based humor. It was surprising to hear these when this episode aired back in 1995, years before Peter Jackson's films were released. One of my favorites is when the old wizard Nicias is being tortured by Troxartas. Nicias bemoans, “This is not the life for an old man like me.” To which Tom adds, “I should be playing canasta with Saruman.”
The complete ineptitude on display in Deathstalker III makes for some hilarious general riffs. Like when Mike says, “The director’s vision: vagueness mixed with confusion.” Or his observation near the end of the film when he says “This is one of the most ambitiously bad movies we’ve ever done”. I have to agree with him.
|Huzzah! Mike is at the Ren Faire!|
This is easily one of my favorite episodes from the Comedy Central era. Deathstalker III is a wonderfully bad movie on it’s own, but Mike and the bots make it even funnier. The riffing is some of the best in the series. The host segments are pretty funny, but I’ll admit that Pearl gets really annoying with all her whining (which is the whole point). That may drag down the score a bit.
In the end I have to give it 5 Warriors from Hell out of 5.
|Least impressive warriors from hell... ever.|
|Take a guess what Troxartas is doing to Nicias|
in this picture.
This episode is available the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXXV.