Februrary 2, 2013

Deathstalker 2: Duel of the Titans (1987)
Starring John Terlesky and Monique Gabrielle

Comments:   Oh how I love when I get to write about movies like Deathstalker 2.  Because this one isn't so much a good movie (it isn't) as it is a guilty pleasure.  This is one of those movies that I randomly stumbled upon on cable one night around 1990, and I loved it so much that I have spent of a good chunk of my life ever since trying to get other people to watch it and fall in love with it too.  

Yes, this is one of those rare mission movies.  For about 25 years, it has been one of my missions in life to get more people in the world to know about Deathstalker 2.


What is Deathstalker 2?  Well it is not so much a movie as it is an experience.  Because it is simply one of the most entertaining bad movies of all time.  There is NO way you can sit through this movie and not be amused by it.  The actors are having so much fun, and the director is having so much, that after about five minutes you don't care that you are watching a pointless sequel to some no name barbarian movie.  No, this movie is so much more than just "a sequel to some movie called Deathstalker."  

Like I said before, this is one of those movies that you randomly just run across on cable one night and you fall in love with it.

Monique Gabrielle at the top of her game

Okay let me get the plot details out of the way first.  Let me tell you what this movie is about, and then we can get on to the good stuff.

Deathstalker 2 is the story of a dashing young swordsman named Deathstalker.  He travels the world from town to town, plundering treasure.  And bedding wenches.  And fighting bad guys.  You know, pretty much the same as any good barbarian movie.  Basically Deathstalker is like Conan the Barbarian, only if Conan was less like Arnold Schwarzenegger and more like a surfer guy in the 80's.  Which, when you look at him, he kind of is.

Deathstalker on his way to the mall

Deathstalker is played by a smart ass named John Terlesky and, well, he is clearly having a good time in this movie.  In fact at no point in the movie do I believe that I am actually watching a movie about a barbarian.  No, it is pretty clear that John Terlesky knew that this movie was a piece of shit, so all he does is mug and grin for the camera and throw off bad one liners left and right.  It is really funny to watch how little he cares about this character.  He is by far the least barbarianish barbarian I have ever seen in a movie.  


Deathstalker throwing off another one liner

Okay, but that is only half of the movie.  The OTHER half of the movie is Deathstalker's traveling companion, Princess Evie.  She is played by B-acting legend Monique Gabrielle, and as a character she is just an absolute piece of work.  In fact Princess Evie is the reason that I love this movie so much.

One of the four emotions that Monique Gabrielle is able to convey

Okay, so Princess Evie has been thrown out of her kingdom.  She has been sent to live in exile by the evil wizard Jerak.  And she has been replaced on the throne with an evil twin version of herself.  So she has hired Deathstalker to restore her to the throne, and to defeat Jerak.  

Got all that?

It doesn't matter.  You aren't going to watch this movie for the plot.  What you are going to watch it for are John Terlesky and Monique Gabrielle.  Who are basically the finest comedy duo since Martin and Lewis.

Deathstalker and Princess Evie

Okay I already talked about John Terlesky.  I already told you how much he mugs for the camera and what an amazing smart ass he is.  He is one of those actors who you watch in a piece of shit movie like Deathstalker 2, and you find yourself wondering, "How come this guy wasn't in more comedies?  He was actually pretty funny."  At the time, he was basically like a third or fourth tier version of Tom Hanks.

But the real treasure in this movie is Monique Gabrielle.  Who, like I said before, has long been considered to be a B-movie legend.  Ms. Gabrielle must have starred in a hundred B-movies in the 80's and early 90's, and I can guarantee that you probably haven't heard of 95% of them.   But among fans of low budget direct to video movies she is kind of a big deal.  

And Deathstalker 2 will always be her masterpiece.

Monique Gabrielle as the evil version of Princess Evie

Let's see, how can I say this delicately?

Monique Gabrielle was not a very good actress.

Now she's not the worst actress I have ever seen.  I have seen far worse actresses in Mystery Science Theater movies.  But yeah, in terms of being the lead in a movie she probably wasn't the very best choice.  I mean, she is cute.  And she is certainly likable.  There is no doubt about that.  I have had a crush on Princess Evie from Deathstalker for years, and it is only because Monique Gabrielle was do damn charismatic.

But in terms of being a believable actress?  Uh, no.

For starters, Monique Gabrielle was only able to convey about four different emotions.

Surprised (left), and bitchy (right)

In Deathstalker 2 you will see the vast range of emotions that Monique Gabrielle was able to pull off.  They range from surprised/confused to scared.  And also from happy to bitchy.  And really, that is really about it.  Those are the Monique Gabrielle big four.

Oh, and here is the great thing about this movie.  Monique Gabrielle doesn't just get to play one character.  No, she gets to play TWO characters!  

Monique Gabrielle with her four emotion range gets to play a dual role.   Not even Meryl Streep gets to play a dual role!

And that is why this is the kind of movie you will always treasure.


Happy?    Frightened?  Who knows.

and right back to bitchy

So anyway, that is the movie.  That is Deathstalker 2.   It is John Terlesky and Monique Gabrielle trying their best to have fun with a movie that everyone who is making it knows is a huge piece of shit.  The movie sucks, the script sucks, the dialogue sucks, they don't have a budget.  Hell the army that Deathstalker has to fight consists of only three bad guys.  Seriously, listen to the DVD commentary of this movie sometime.  They only had enough money to pay for three extras, so every time Deathstalker fights bad guys he always fights three guys in masks.  They are just the same three actors who have been dressed up every time in a different mask.  On the DVD commentary John Terlesky and the director (Jim Wynorski) just start giggling about that.

The movie is just an enormous low budget piece of crap, but everyone in the cast clearly KNOWS it is an enormous low budget piece of crap.  So they just have fun with it.  And it turns into one of those movies that is so bad, and is so ridiculous, and is so over the top and fun because it knows it is ridiculous, that you just have to admire it.

Oh, and at one point Deathstalker has to fight the famous 80's female wrestler Queen Kong

Like I said at the start of my review, Deathstalker 2 is one of those movies that I just randomly ran across one night on cable around 1990.   I remember I was just flipping through the channels around midnight one night, and I happened to tune in to USA Up All Night.  And their late night movie that night was something called Deathstalker 2.

Hmm, I thought.  Deathstalker 2?  What is this?  It's not like I had ever actually seen Deathstalker 1.  So why would I care about seeing Deathstalker 2?

Well then the first five minutes of the movie came up.  Or, as I like to call them, the greatest lead in to a credit sequence in movie history.  And I was immediately transfixed.

Seriously, watch this clip at Youtube (it is 28 seconds long) and tell me you don't want to see this movie.  This is the opening to Deathstalker 2.  The evil sword woman actually says "I'll have my revenge.  And Deathstalker too."  And then the theme song comes up and the title screams "DEATHSTALKER 2"!  Tell me that isn't a bad movie that doesn't know it is going to be bad.  Okay, so I guess we are just going to go tongue in cheek and have fun with it.

Oh and also, midgets

I sat there that night and I watched Deathstalker 2 and I was just fascinated by it.  Wow, I had never seen a movie like this before.  Because the whole movie is just like that title sequence.  It is just pun after pun after pun.  And bad joke after bad joke after bad joke.  And John Terlesky and Monique Gabrielle clearly not even trying to give a shit.  In fact at one point in the movie the actors blow a take and crack up at the end of a scene.  And THE DIRECTOR ACTUALLY LEAVES IT IN THE MOVIE.  Yes, the actors deliver their lines and they break character and crack up.  Yet it stayed in the movie.  That is what you are in for when you watch this masterpiece of nobody giving a shit.  Deathstalker 2.  The movie where the actors and the directors just said "I don't care."

Seriously, at one point in the movie the camera pans over the scene of a barbarian village.  And if you look closely you can see the director's car parked off to the side.  Seriously, it is obvious in the movie.  I am not making this up.  There is a fucking car parked in a barbarian village.

Emotion number five?

I really can't say enough about how much I love this movie.  I just randomly ran across it one night in 1990 when I was sixteen, I fell in love with how goofy and how ridiculous it was, and I quickly developed a crush on the phenomenon known as Monique Gabrielle.  Oh and I also thought the music in the movie was cool.  You can kind of catch a glimpse of it in that Youtube clip I linked to, but it is like that all throughout the movie.  In fact, it is actually a pretty catchy little score for a movie that was so forgettable and unimportant.  I hate to admit this, but I actually have the theme to Deathstalker 2 on my ipod.  Please don't judge me.

Oh, here is the main Deathstalker 2 theme on Youtube.  See, I told you it was catchy.  Now you can have it stuck in your head too.  You're welcome.

There is a swordfight in the movie that is actually pretty badass too

I could easily talk about Deathstalker 2 and why it is so fun and why I love it so much for about twenty more pages.  But I know you are busy and that you have things to do, so I will end it here.  I probably wrote too much as it is.

All I will say before I sign off is this.  Monique Gabrielle is an atrocious actress.  Yet she plays two roles.  One of which requires her to just wander around and pout and scream "Stalker!" every ten seconds.   Yet despite all this she somehow manages to be likable.  I don't know how she manages to do that, but she does.

John Terlesky was like a fourth or fifth rate Tom Hanks.  He never really made it big as an actor, but for one movie he was surprisingly perfect.  In fact I'm not sure Tom Hanks could have played a better smart ass Deathstalker.

There is a really cool sword fight scene at the end of the movie.  There is a really kickass music score.  The DVD commentary is just funny as shit.

Oh, and I have to end by saying that Deathstalker 2 has one of my all time favorite things you can ever have in a movie.  It has a blooper reel.  After the movie ends, don't turn off the DVD because over the credits you get to see all the bloopers.  You get to see Monique Gabrielle choke when she is drinking a potion.  You get to see John Terlesky miss his mark when he is falling for a stunt.  You get to see Deathstalker burning his hand on a torch.  I wish every movie had a blooper reel.  It is the perfect way to end a movie like this, because the entire movie was a blooper.

I wish there were more movies in the world like Deathstalker 2.  Track it down and watch it for yourself.  I guarantee you will enjoy it.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Deathstalker 2:

GREAT PRE XENA ROMP. - 7 March 2000
If ever a movie failed to take itself seriously it is this one. A delight from beginning to end, "DEATHSTALKER 2" has a personable lead in John Terlesky who plays the title role with aplomb, handling the humour and action with tongue in cheek finesse. A supporting cast who are in on the joke helps immensely as does the pseudo epic score which accompanies the sometimes thrilling action sequences perfectly, a lot of people wouldn't touch this movie with a barge pole and a lot of people would be wrong.

Hilarious! -  6 February 2003
This has to rank alongside Roger Corman's best as one of the great cult favorites.

The acting is atrocious and the direction is primitive at best. But there's plenty of action and bare bosoms, which is what such movies are all about.

Terlesky seems to be getting by in Hollywood nowadays as a writer, director and actor in mostly B-movies, but D-2 represents the best of his early days.

"Is Deathstalker your first name or your last?" You gotta love lines like that.

A classic of sorts.

So what's to analyze? - 9 October 2002
This is easily the best of the Deathstalker movies. John Terlesky isn't the musclebound hulk that Rick Hill was, and certainly not the musclebound hulk in the Boris Vallejo painting they used for the poster, but he doesn't have to be. This is a Deathstalker who knows perfectly well that he's in a campy, B-grade sword-and-sorcery flick, and is determined to have as much fun with it as he can. He takes nothing seriously, and almost everything is done with a wink at the audience. He wonders aloud at one point where the cliche Spikey Trap O'Death is, and when the spikes immediately pop out of the walls he just rolls his eyes, says, "Son of a bitch!", and deals with it.

John Lazar as the villain Jarek knows it too. He's gleefully, manaically evil, but when he learns his adversary's moniker he can barely suppress the giggle as he repeats, incredulously, "Deathstalker?!"

Monique Gabrielle takes her parts seriously, and it's just as well. She's the one who's always in need of a rescue, and I suppose that *someone* has to put up a show of genuine peril. She also fills out admirably the part that's absolutely essential in films of this quality: she supplies the main set of on-screen boobs. It wouldn't be a proper B-grade sword-and-sorcery flick without them.

Sit back, have a beer or 5, and enjoy Deathstalker II. Laugh; you're supposed to. And stick around through the end credits for the outtakes. Those are funny too.

Sure it's cheesy, but it's deliberate... - 22 July 2004
Yeah, this is a sequel with nothing to do with the first one, and yeah, it's no Conan, but it doesn't try to be. Just remember who the writer/director is (the esteemed Jim Wynorski), take your mind off the hook, and go with it!

The premise (soldier of fortune helps a princess in disguise regain the throne) is classic, but it's all told with such a goofy tone that comparison with a more serious film is, well, goofy.

If you have the DVD edition with the director's commentary, you'll see where Wynorski was going when he made the film. The script is full of in-jokes from other movies in the genre, jokes from television, and more than enough one liners to fill a dozen old Bob Hope movies. You also get John LaZar (from Beyond the Valley Of The Dolls) as the evil sorcerer, Monique Gabrielle (of a zillion b-movies) as the damsel in distress, and Toni Naples in black leather as Sultana, who swings a mean sword.

Add to that a gazillion extras (all masked so they can be used over and over in other scenes), lots of wooden swords painted silver, a fight to the death with Queen Kong (featuring Amazon ring girls holding up the round number painted on cardboard). Yep friends and neighbors, this one leaves no cliché unheard. Do I recommend it? Wholeheartedly. Genre fans won't be disappointed.

Monique Gabrielle is adorable. - 10 July 2002
The second part of the "Deathstalker" series has a spirited beginning, a fun score, and is overall entertaining because of its campiness, but it's not to be mistaken in any way as a good film. The big surprise here is that, unlike most former models, Monique Gabrielle CAN act: she plays two roles and she manages to give each one a distinct personality (intensely likable/intensely bitchy), and she's the best reason to see this movie. As for John Terlesky, he flashes a smile that is comparable to Tom Cruise's.

Superb tongue in cheek sequel - 10 June 2005
The first Deathstalker was a rather sombre, dull affair featuring a distinctly immoral and somewhat unlikeable 'hero' who thought nothing of forcing himself upon women and killing for the sheer hell of it.

Much of the film felt hideously disjointed and made little or no sense (other than to show busty topless maidens...erm...OK, so it wasn't all bad in other words) Overall, the film could only really be described as a sub par Conan rip off at best. Certainly not a movie that warranted a sequel......but, I am in fact very glad that a sequel came along, as what we have here is one of those rarest of cinematic phenomena, a sequel that actually surpasses the original. Although to be truthful in this case it doesn't merely surpass it, but totally eclipses it!

Deathstalker 2 is effectively the polar opposite of the first film. Whereas the original Deathstalker seemed to take itself deadly seriously (which was a grave mistake) this sequel actually plays more like an out and out comedy.

Now I know that genre purists may scoff at the idea of a Sword & Sorcery comedy, and if it's any consolation, I initially (before viewing the film) did to, but believe me, this movie works so well!

In fact, EVERYTHING works so well in this film!

The actors are all clearly having a ball with the material (especially John Terlesky in the title role), the ladies are all universally gorgeous and mostly seem more than happy to wander around topless (a staple ingredient in the genre), the main villain hams it up perfectly, there's a really great, catchy music score and the final climatic sword fight between Deathstalker and his nemesis is very well staged!

What more could you ask for?

I recommend this awesome movie wholeheartedly - its fun is more infectious than VD in a brothel!

Tongue in Cheek at its Best - 16 April 2010
There's not too much point writing a whole lot here as most people have said it already. Looking closely at the actors reactions and nuances you can tell wholeheartedly that this project was a lot of fun to make. Jim Wynorski not only gave us an enjoyable sword & sorcery film in its own right but DSII simply knows what it is and doesn't take itself too seriously.

What we end up with is a great movie that is a hidden gem in the plethora of '80's garbage. You can watch again and again because you always pick up a great line that you missed in the previous viewing because you were laughing so much.

And yes the two Australians that watch the movie religiously every week that they talk about in the commentary is me and my friend   :)

If you don't crack a smile at least a dozen times watching this film there is something wrong with you and whats more important in life than someone or some thing that can make you involuntarily smile!

* My favorite quote in Deathstalker 2:

Deathstalker: You have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch the prince of thieves.
[An arrow shoots into a tree right next to them]
[Monique Gabrielle attempt to portray shock and surprise]
Princess Evie

* My favorite scene in Deathstalker 2:

Oh let's just say the whole movie.  Any scene in Deathstalker 2 just makes me happy.

Deathstalker 2: Duel of the Titans at the IMDB

Deathstalker 2: Duel of the Titans at Wikipedia


If you try to buy a copy of Deathstalker 2, do NOT buy the one that is part of Roger Corman's SWORD AND SORCERY COLLECTION on Amazon.  That one is the approved director's cut and about 15 minutes of the movie has been cut out or edited down.  Which, sadly, seems to be most of the funny stuff.  No, if you want to see Deathstalker 2 in all its original glory, you can either watch it on the internet or look for one of the original standalone DVDs (like the one below).  Again, do NOT buy the one in the Roger Corman Sword and Sorcery Collection four pack.

This is the one that you want:

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