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Hawk The Slayer

Hen's Tooth Video // PG // November 1, 2002
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted November 15, 2002 | E-mail the Author
One of the neat things about being a child of the 80's was the wave of Dungeons and Dragons and Conan The Barbarian inspired fantasy films. Taking the mantle of the 60's Harryhausen and Hercules/Machiste/Goliath Italian peplum films, some remained kid friendly, others added healthy doses of drive-in exploitation sleaze, a little more gore, nudity but still had the same sense of pulp fun. It was a mixed bag, for every cool Beastmaster and Sword and the Sorcerer there were two lame Ators and three Ironmasters and a slightly pompous Legend or Excaliber.

As a kid, I really loved Hawk the Slayer (1980) and it was a frequent rental alongside Enter the Dragon, Strange Brew, and other films I seemed to never tire of rewatching. But, I haven't seen it in decades, since I was that kid with a stack of videos to keep my busy on summer days. After all these years, how would it fare? Would suspension of disbelief and nostalgia still hold up in a (slightly more) mature brain?

Our tale concerns the divided brothers Hawk and Voltan- Hawk the righteous and Voltan his evil opposite. After the two are initially divided by their love for the same woman, and Voltan's murdering of her when she rebuffs and scars him, Voltan further murders their father. Voltan aligns himself with the dark forces, amassing a small army and becoming known as Voltan "The Dark One". Meanwhile Hawk is entrusted with the powerful Elvin Mind Sword and roams the land doing good... After Voltan kidnaps a nun and holds her for ransom, a soldier named Ranoth enlists the aide of Hawk, and together they gather a small band of do-gooders, Gort the giant, Crow the archer elf and last of his kind, Baldin the dwarf, and a mysterious witch. They unite to get back the nun, defeat Voltan and his army, and tilt the scales in the favor of all that is good.

I have to say, that I thought it held up rather well. While I now see some story/acting/budget flaws the younger me no doubt glossed over, Hawk The Slayer was still a fun, though typical, fantasy adventure with great pacing and some nice imagination. Sure, I'm sure the kid in me that enjoyed it sort of helps, in the same way that I still like Krull, but it has a low budget charm. If Lord of the Rings is the highest class of such fantasy, Hawk The Slayer is its more comic book, b-movie, cheeseball brother.

Wrapped in a westernlike plot of black and white bad guys, the good guys enlisted to help the innocent as in Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven, it is full of the standard fantasy cliched gobbledy-gook- The diametrically opposed brothers. Voltan has a mincingly evil stepson named Drago, who tries to prove his evilness to his father. You have the big dumb giant, and the comic relief dwarf, who is played by an actor that looks like a shorter, British Giancarlo Giannini. The real standout is Crow the elf; with his clam exterior, high pitched passionless voice, and quick draw archery, he is the Spock, the Data, the Han Solo, of the film, a supporting oddball character that shines. Jack Palance, as Voltan, hisses adequately underneath a helmet that conceals his hamburger meat burned face. The witch conjures blankets of fog, snow, glowing superballs, and such to help out. Hawk slo–mo battles with his sword. The giant smacks guys with his hammer. The soldier and Crow use superfast bow skills, and the Dwarf, well, he has a whip. With a better lead, or at least some more energy from him, and a larger scope (more locations and stuff like the passage through The Forest of Weir (?) is played up as serious bit a fantasy, yet it ends up being just a brief jaunt through some cobweby woods while what appear to be burned muppets screech at them), it would be much better, but as it is, it is still a kid friendly bit of cult fantasy fun.

I grew up watching Ripley's, Believe It, Or Not with Jack Palance and he was always a semi-reliable presence and decent bad guy. Sure, by the late 70's he would often just phone it in, but it works. Honestly, for me, the charm of hearing him scream in pain in front of some mysterious dark hooded wizard and uttering such lines as "The hunchback may have many things to say, but you have already said too much." is irresistible. John Terry, as Hawk, has all the looks but is a bit of a one-note dullard. But this begs the question: "Does a fantasy hero really need acting chops or just a funky sword with a handle shaped like a fist holding a glowing green gem that you can telepathically summon into your hand?" Similair acting Vs. fantasy quirk questions arise when considering Lou Ferrigno's Hercules.

Like Sword and the Sorcerer or Backaroo Banzai , Hawk ends with that sequel promise that never came. Hawk and the remaining heroes hear that, "The wizards are gathering in the South." and ride off for more battles. I am pretty puzzled why it never had a sequel. It is cheap, but the production values are not so cheap that I would assume it was made-for-tv or some Iatalin/Spanish produced cheapie. Surely in the post Star Wars fantasy boom and the golden age of video the movie made a profit? But, for whatever reason, maybe because it isn't as naughty as other sword and sorcery pics at the time, it has remained a cult item.

The DVD: Hens Tooth Video

Picture: Widescreen. The print shows some graininess, more likely from the actual production, the rest is fine, good color and sharpness, with minor white spots. Fans who discovered the film on video should be pretty pleased.

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Sound is good, clear, with the synth score coming across the clearest and sounding like a soundtrack to a Renaissance fair disco party.

Extras: 12 Chapters--- Trailer--- Photo Gallery.

Conclusion: Well, for those that were fans of the film as a kid, they should be happy with this DVD which rescues it from the old, worn and out of print videos. For those new to the film or with dulled memories of it, the film and the transfer (adequate but not extra packed) make it a good rental. For me, it held up as a childhood favorite, a work of empty, cheesy fantasy fun.

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