Hawk the Slayer was released about two years too early to fully cash in on the whole Conan craze, but it’s far from the worse sword and sorcery flick ever made. If you’re the kind of person who thought Krull made too much sense, then Hawk the Slayer may be the movie for you.
Hawk (John Terry) is a cunning warrior who aligns himself with a giant, a dwarf and an elf to rescue a holy woman from the clutches of his evil brother Voltan (Jack Palance). Voltan is hideously scarred so he hides half of his face under a steel helmet that looks like a cross between Darth Vader’s dome and the Phantom of the Opera’s mask. (I’m sure if Palance had his druthers, he would have covered the other half of his face too.) Like every good warrior in these sword and sorcery movies, Hawk carries around a mystical weapon that he picked up out of a medieval box of Cracker Jacks. In this one it’s called the “Mindsword”, a blade with a glowing handle that Hawk can make float around by using telepathy. In the end, Hawk and his brother duel to the death and we finally get the see what Voltan’s messed up face looks like. (Answer: A Personal Pan Pizza.) Oh yeah, and then there’s a gratuitous set-up for a sequel that mercifully never happened.
This movie seems kinda like a sword and sorcery version of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, (except it’s not very good) as Hawk and his compadres get into lots of drawn out duels that feature lots of close-ups of the actor’s eyes before they finally get down to business. The flick is also filled with incredibly cheesy effects (Silly String and Glo-Balls are used as magical entities) that will have you rolling with laughter, and action scenes filled with so much dry ice fog that you can’t tell what the Hell is going on. There’s also a way out of place, but highly enjoyable electronic score in there too.
It’s pretty bad, but it’s got enough moments of (unintentional) hilarity to keep you watching. The scenes of Palance groveling before a Grim Reaper like sorcerer in front of a red background are pretty hilarious, but the swordfights involving the ludicrous Mindsword will have you chuckling as well. (The final battle between Hawk and Voltan is filmed entirely in slow motion to hide the fact that it only lasts 45 seconds.)
Palance thoroughly embarrasses himself here and Terry ain’t much of a hero, but cult movie fans will have fun spotting Patrick (A Clockwork Orange) Magee, Ferdy (The Fearless Vampire Killers) Mayne, Catriona (The Beyond) MacColl, and Patricia (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) Quinn in small roles.
Say what you will about the film’s numerous shortcomings; at least it’s paced faster than a Mexican heading for the border.
Terry later showed up in The Living Daylights.
Palance gets the best line of the movie when he yells at a nun: “There is no cure for this face, woman!”