Tuesday, July 7, 2015

slayer-rific.

With news of a sequel finally being confirmed I reckoned it was time to delve back into The Arena vaults and re-jig the review of the best (and possibly first) sword and sorcery movie ever made.

And for those of you under 40, ask your dads.

Enjoy.

Hawk The Slayer (1980).
Dir: Terry Marcel.
Cast: John Terry, Jack Palance, Bernard Bresslaw, Morgan Sheppard, Annette Crosbie, Shane Bryant, Ray Charleson, Peter O'Farrell, Patricia Quinn and Catriona MacColl.


I am no messenger. But I will give you a message. The message of DEATH!



It is a time of darkness (around 3;30 in the afternoon by the look of the sky) when evil walks the land.

Witches wander the woods whilst common folk sit on tree stumps wearing tights and tidy beards and every bad man possesses a shiny helmet.

One such chrome hatted horror is the wicked Steve Voltan (Jack Palance in a performance so over the top he's almost in orbit) who, after a huge argument with his dad (probably over not paying his board or being out too late), kills the old fella before doing a runner.

It's like the Jeremy Kyle show but with more tooled leather.

Enter from stage left the luxurious locked nice son Hawk (John - not the footballer - Terry) who's just turned up to see if his dad needs any shopping done.

Cradling his dying father in his arms (but luckily not in his mooth) our hero listens intently (tho' from Terry's acting he could have constipation) as the old man mutters on about the kids of today having no respect and the price of bread before finally bestowing the mysterious 'Mind Sword' on his son.

A magical weapon with bizarre powers represented by a kids torch stuck to the hilt.

As dad breathes his last Hawk turns to camera and vows to avenge his death.

But not before he gets his hair blow dried and his eyebrows done obviously.

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"Don't touch the hair."


Meanwhile Voltan's evil ways have eclipsed the entire kingdom; his followers appear to have stolen all the buildings and replaced them with paintings, night time has been outlawed and replaced with a nicotine filter and the whole country has been reduced to the wooded bit next to the play park behind the directors house, just ever so slightly redressed between scenes in an attempt to confuse the locals.

Luckily there's at least one real building left in the land, a convent run by Victor Meldrew's missis and a last shining beacon of hope in an otherwise dark world.

And currently limping bravely towards this beacon  is the bearded and bashed Ranulf (genre stalwart Sheppard), sole survivor of one of Voltan's massacres.

Arriving at the front door he's quickly ushered into the dining hall and inbetween mouthfuls of egg and cress sandwiches and crisps helpfully informs the nuns  - and by default the viewers - of just how evil Voltan is.

It appears that the evil one attacked Ranulf's village without reason or warning, hacking the women and children to pieces and digging up the adventure playground before twisting the swings around so high that no-one could use them and sitting on the slide.

I shudder as to what he did to the men folk tho' as their fate is never mentioned.

Maybe he sent them to work in his secret licorice mines?


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Hel-met.


Luckily for Ranulf he's a bloody good runner  - who seems not too bothered to lose his family, perhaps they weren't speaking?-  and managed to escape before things got too bloody.

Tho' he does appear to have left most of his hand behind and what's left of it is beyond saving,  so the nuns wrap a scarf around it and send him to bed.

On the other - only?- hand his beard and crooked teeth are perfectly fine so it's not all bad.

It's not all saucy young nuns and snacks tho' as before long Voltan appears at the convent intent on bad deeds, first he roughly takes Annette Crosbie to his lair (dirty boy), before demanding 'all the gold!' as a ransom.
 
Understandably pissed off at all these naughty shenanigans Ranulf, blaming Voltan for cutting short his promising career as a professional knitter decides to challenge him to a duel but unfortunately falls for the villains taunts of "I can fight you with one arm behind my back" (probably) which results in our bearded pal getting a damn good kicking.


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"You should really see a doctor about that son."


Left battered, bruised and surrounded by crying nuns, Ranulf quickly rides off - he's getting good at this legging it lark - to the Abbey for a meeting with the High Abbot (unfortunately not Russ), who after much chin stroking sends Ranulf off to search for one who can help defeat Voltan.

A man named Hawk.....The Slayer.

Obviously everyone else was busy.


Ranulf quickly leaves to begin his quest to find Hawk but is almost immediately  accosted by some gypsies and after refusing to buy some pegs is locked up in a cage.

Come on, how unlucky is this guy?

Help is at hand tho' when Hawk just happens to come riding past - with his sexy blind sorceress companion (the raunchy redhead that fuelled so many teen fantasies thanks to Rocky Horror, Patricia Quinn) that he rescued from being burnt as a witch a few scenes earlier - and kills the dirty criminals using his 'Mind Sword'.

Which it turns out is exactly like a normal sword apart from the fact that it can float into its owners hand as if carried - just out of shot - by a member of the crew.


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Spock: The Pikey years.


After listening to Ranulf's tale of woe, Hawk decides to help rescue Ms. Crosbie  and begins to round up his posse from 'the mystic hood' as they probably said in the olden days to kick Voltan's arse.

Contrary to what you might be thinking this isn't as heroic and selfless as it sounds seeing as he was on his way to kill Voltan anyway, it just means that now he'll be getting some readies for doing it so it's not long (well the film has a fairly short running time) before our hero has got his merry band (The Slayerettes?)  together.


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"'Ere Sid! This is a real carry on!"

This (slightly) super six consists of Hawk himself, Ranulf, the aforementioned sexy sorceress, a seriously short mallet wielding 'giant' named Gort (Carry On star Bresslaw), an elf dressed in a knitted tracksuit Cameron Crow (Charleson, famous for playing the Bishop in London's first multi-racial production of Jean Genet's 'The Balcony' fact fans) and Alec Baldin (professional short-arse O'Farrell) an overly tall dwarf with a bullwhip, pointy shoes and a fish fetish.

Voltan must be shitting himself.


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"Trout in mah mooth!"


Heading back to the convent, our heroes soon get to work protecting the nuns, eating sandwiches and trying to work out how to get enough gold to lure Voltan into a trap.

You see, they've figure out that it'd be impossible to literally get 'all the gold' seeing as no-one is quite sure where it's all kept but reckon that some - mixed inn with some chocolate coins and old Ferrero Rocher packets would probably be better than none.

I mean Voltan only has one good eye so it's not like he'll be looking too closely.


After much deliberation and deciding that whoring out the nuns for pennies would be a bad idea, our heroes decide the easiest way to get the gold is to head out into the woods and relieve Tony Trafficker, the local news agent cum slave trader of his stash.

Oh yeah and free his slaves too obviously.

Surprisingly this all goes without a hitch and our merry band are soon back at the convent celebrating with crisps and lashings of ginger beer.

There's always one miserable git who manages to sour any celebration tho' and in this case it's Hawk himself.

Seems he's beginning to have second thoughts about trusting Voltan to keep his side of the bargain.

Seeing as he's already killed their dad and - in a soft focus flashback sequence - Hawk's wife Eliane (the legend that is Catriona MacColl) you can kinds see where he's coming from.


Pissed up on Buckfast and spoiling for a fight our heroes grab their weapons and head out to Voltan's castle in order to rescue Annette (and no doubt keep the gold for themselves) and hopefully persuade Voltan to change his ways and therefore avoid any unnecessary bloodshed.

Or any prohibitively expensive action sequences obviously.

It'll come as no surprise when I say that this plan fails abysmally and the dirty half dozen end up retreating back to the abbey with bruised ego's and slightly ruddy arses.

From having them kicked that is.

Minds like sewers you lot.

It's not all bad tho' as during the botched rescue, Hawk did manage to run his nephew Drogo thru' with a sword.

Which is nice.


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"Buns you say?!?"


Obviously this doesn't go down too well with  Voltan, who on hearing the news of the death of his son goes completely mental and after throwing a dinner service at his trusty servant decides to attack the abbey, kill everybody in it and just take 'all the gold' for himself.

Which if you think about it is much more in keeping with his evil image.

With the help of a well-meaning (yet ultimately misguided) nun he breaks into the abbey whilst everyone is sleeping/hungover and captures our motley crew, tying them up in the basement ready for a wee bit of torture porn.

And he's going to start by introducing his brother Hawk to a red hot poker.

All looks lost but can the sorceress use her magical powers plus her seemingly unending supply of glowing ping-pong balls and silly string to rescue our heroes from evil?


Five go mad on meth.

Before I go any further can I just say I fucking love this movie and nothing - or no-one - will ever change my mind.

It's sad but true that Terry (co-writer and producer of Norman J. Warren's Prey- see? this blog's not just chucked together randomly) Marcel's vastly underrated British entry into the early 80's sword and sorcery genre is often ridiculed for it's poor effects, lack of budget, pseudo-disco score and the varying quality of the performances but if you can look past that lot you'll find a gem as bright as the one in the 'Mind Sword' just under the surface.

Well maybe not that bright otherwise you'd probably go blind but you get the point.

OK I'll admit that the cast are, on the whole as stilted and wooden as the trees surrounding them, but this almost high arch delivery evokes a less sophisticated age.

Take John Terry's performance as Hawk, who's to say that medieval noblemen didn't speak in broad Yankee accents and I've never read anything in history books to say that they had to move their upper bodies whilst talking.

Who knows, it might be that seeing as the 80's was the height of the toy tie-in, Terry might just be the greatest actor of them all, choosing to play Hawk as a living, breathing full size Palitoy action figure.

Now how's that for post modernism?

Luckily the late, great Jack Palance appears to be compensating for everyone else's lack of energy, spitting and snarling every single syllable like some huge brutish bull terrier with it's balls being slowly squeezed by a fresh smelling Emma Thompson whilst Air's Sexy Boy plays in the background and all the time whilst wearing a swing bin on his head.

C'mon, what's not to love?


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"Touch my ring!"


Of the other cast members Ray Charleson's portrayal of Crow the Elf, whilst seemingly spookily mysterious to me as a child now just comes across like a whispering pikey peadophile bedecked in his mums best PJ's, which I admit says more about me than him whilst Bernard Bresslaw is basically having a dry run for the same character in Krull a few years later.

Only in that they could afford to give him some built-up shoes and a mask.

Tho' in all honesty it doesn't make it any less a bind to sit thru', at least with Hawk the cast look like they're at least enjoying themselves, unlike Krull where half the budget seems to have gone on inserting poles up the casts arses.

Talking of arses, Patricia Quinn is as sexy/scary (tick as applicable) as she was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Hammer House of Horror episode Witching Time (the first full frontal nudity I ever saw) even tho' she's forced to wear a headband with an eye chalked on it and an old sleeping bag but let's be honest here, can you imagine any other actress managing to pull that off and still look sultry?

Thought not.

Patricia Quinn: You would (and your dad probably did. Twice).


Of the rest of the cast, the fantastic Morgan Sheppard is all hangdog looks, world weary sighs and muscular thighs (well maybe not the last bit) whilst O'Farrell gives it his all, which seeing as he's stuck wearing a pair of child's black ballet tights, winkle-pickers and a hoodie with a plastic mackerel in the pocket is pretty damn good if I'm honest.

Talking of plastic joke shop toys, any film that makes no apologies for using silly string, glowing ping-pong balls, pound shop spiders and hula hoops stolen from the set of Superman II as a serious replacement for a lack of effects budget deserves all the praise you can muster.

I mean you have to at least admire the crews balls for even thinking about attempting a movie of this scale on a budget that wouldn't even begin to cover the cost of Lena Headey's tattoo camouflaging cream on Game of Thrones.

Headey: No reason.


And what of the high energy synth score by ex Six-Five Special and Oh Boy musical director Harry Robertson I hear you ask?

Well it's nothing short of genius, giving Claudio Simonetti a run for his money and perfectly evocative of a spooky age of sorcery, swords and magic.

Albiet one where holiday resort discos are all the rage obviously.

Just give it a listen now and see if you're not transported back to a time of mucky maidens and medieval mayhem.

Or at the very least overtaken by the urge to give your evil sibling a damn good hiding.

Had there been any justice in the world someone would have penned lyrics to this and given us another Eurovision hit thereby ushering in an age of Hawk-based fashions and films.

Instead we got Prima Donna: Love Enough For Two and the cementing of Thatcherism.

Bastards.


But then again, I may be just a sad, sad fan boy who needs to get out more.

2 comments:

lightning Paw said...

Rearrange these words, sir;
NEED
NO
!!

supperhooper said...

PLEASE HELP!!! Is there a sequel or prequel to "Hawk the Slayer" due to fucking hollywood and the flim industry being inept at making such classics. As this and Krull (to name but two)despite being of the 80's, the excellent production, the superb portrayl of the most imaginative and complex characters put the "so called" multi-million pound film industry and plastic actors (i let Will Smith off) could not even pull off creating such a classic as "Lord of the Rings" even though it was bloody written for them. So please direct me to any flims of the same caliber as "Hawk the Slayer" before i am subjected to repeats of this morden day crap for the whole of christmas and for the rest of the year due to the repeats putting me into a vegetive state.