Hawk the Slayer

Jack Palance as Voltan in Hawk the Slayer
Jack Palance as Voltan in Hawk the Slayer

Hawk the Slayer (1980)

As the movie blurb states and with not a word of a lie:

’Two brothers vie for the possession of a magical sword. Hawk (John Terry) is the younger brother, known for his duty, honour and courage. Voltan (Jack Palance) is the older brother who is known for his villainous ways. The lethal weapon bestows upon its owner incredible powers of destruction and Hawk, along with his comrades, the Elf and the Dwarf, must combat the forces of evil.’

And that’s pretty much it.


No, really.

That’s it.

There’s nothing more.

Oh well, okay then. There’s the awful 1980s synth music that sounds like a cross between some sort of dodgy 1970s porn soundtrack (probably German – they always were) mixed in with the whining, electronic outpouring of some makeup-wearing Ziggy Stardust-meets-New Romantics wannabe ‘rock’ star, circa 1980. I mean it really is truly awful. And I’ve listened to Lady Gaga. It’s that bad.

Then there is the acting. I say acting. I mean several large planks of wood moving at random around a set from which various noises emanate. I presume its dialogue. I’m not really sure. It sounds like dialogue. There are words in there, I’m pretty sure. And there’s a lot of shouting. Hold on let me write that again. There is a LOT of shouting. So I’m pretty sure the planks of wood must be the actors. But its hard to tell because none of the things the planks, sorry actors, are saying makes any particular sort of sense.

Well, until Mister Jack ‘Volodymyr Palahniuk’ Palance strides onto the screen. Then there is definitely acting. LOTS of acting. Just endless reels of acting. Rolling eyeballs. Curled lips. Snarling teeth. A grimacing face. A clenched fist. I’m not sure what it all indicates, but by God it looks impressive.

If only the same could be said for the sets. For they are all sets. In studio. Probably one big studio. And yet more planks of wood – and wonderful ‘stone-look’ walls that wobble every time someone walks pass, or shuts a door, or just gestures in a particularly energetic way (back to Palance again).

The special effects are everything we’ve come to expect from the early 1980s (or late 1970s – take your pick). There are wonders here that would make the effects team behind ‘Doctor Who cry. I know because watching this movie damn near made me cry. Obviously the film is set in a magical Fantasy land, and the special effects reflect that, with arrows that defy the laws of gravity (take that Newton!) and banks of fog that mysteriously jump around the screen at random (I say fog when of course I mean dry ice machines).

There are people who’d defend this movie to the ground. Men (no women. No woman has ever watched this movie. Ever. Period. End of) who swear that this film is some sort of underrated, hidden cinematic gem. They will tell you it is a cult. And therefore ‘good’ They will tell you that it is paragon of post-modern irony, and the humour derived from watching it is a deliberate subversion of the whole Sword and Sorcery genre, an appeal to cliché that is in and of itself the antithesis of cliché.

These people are mad.

They sit up at night so they can watch episodes of ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’ from the 1970s – on VHS video! They are dangerous. They also probably smell. If possible avoid. If not then deter them by informing them that you are a young, attractive, sexually active woman who ‘knows what she likes, and likes what she knows’ which will render them powerless and in a state of catatonic fright. If possible wear a wig.

Treat them as you should treat ‘Hawk the Slayer’. And avoid like the plague.

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