I’m not sure how it took Roger Corman, the king of the quickies, four whole years to crank out a sequel to his hugely successful original CONAN-inspired epic. Perhaps it was due to the fact that he was too busy cranking out his own knock-offs of his original knock-off, such as the rather inaccurately titled BARBARIAN QUEEN (1985)! Or maybe he just couldn’t get the right script. Yeah, that’s probably it.
I’ve got to come clean here; we at the VJHQ have a thing for Jim Wynorski. He kicked off his Corman career with the slice of mid-‘80s drive-in nostalgia CHOPPING MALL (1986) and gave us some damn fine sequels including the ultra-cheap, but highly entertaining satire of the SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE series, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II (1990). So good was this, in fact, that Wynorski actually cannibalized the script, changing only the setting and dialogue, and turned it into HARD TO DIE in that very same year! I can see Roger delicately brushing away a tear from the corner of his eye. Sadly, around 1992 Wynorski found the path to cinematic entertainment a rocky and treacherous embankment and his crew bus slid out of control on an icy road and he plummeted to his death. According to the VJ Encyclopedia Erratica, something few people know is that his less talented brother, Bill Wynorski, actually took his name (and pseudonyms) and started trying to imitate his style. True! Watch THE THING BELOW (2004) and tell me with a straight face that was made by the same guy. Not a frickin' chance in hell.
DEATHSTALKER II is a great example of Jim Wynorski’s fine legacy. Cheap as hell, fast-paced, intentionally amusing dialogue and lots of skin wrapped up in a package that is far more entertaining than it has any right to be.
Deathstalker (John Terlesky) is now not so much an ATOR-esque warrior, but clown prince of thieves. After snatching a jewel from a temple altar in a nod to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and fighting off some clumsy goons, the owner of said jewel, the evil sorceress Sultana (Toni Naples), swears she will “have her revenge… and Deathstalker too!” Yep, that pretty much sets the bar that we are aiming for. Cheap action, minor plagerism and rather goofy dialog.
The climax of the film features lines filched from GOLDFINGER (1964), gags lifted from Looney Tunes, a duel inspired by Errol Flynn and a pitched battle between what is left of Jarek’s guards and the tribe of Amazon warriorettes, with intricate fight choreography that must have taken a staggering amount of minutes to prepare. At the same time, I really can’t poke fun at the film for its liberties, since it does a pretty good job doing that itself. If made today, this would come off so self-obsessed and terminally hip that it would drown in the mire of its own self-infatuation. Here Wynorski deftly avoids those pitfalls and turns in a film that has plenty of oddly clever moments thrown into the cauldron of comedy. When Jarek’s one-eyed henchman decides he needs to “call him right now”, he pulls some coins out of his pocket, contemplates them for a moment and tosses them into a mist-covered pool conjuring up Jarek’s visage. It’s sort of a magical medieval payphone gag that is a total throw-away, but it’s kinda funny in a cartoon sort of way.
Unfortunately, the huge success of this film on video didn’t exactly translate to Terlesky’s career, but it did wonders for Wynorski who went on to make SCREAM QUEEN HOT TUB PARTY (1991) and 976-EVIL II (1992). Uhhhmmmm… yeah… bus crash, evil twin, I’m tellin’ ya, it all makes sense.