Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Hawk the Slayer (UK, 1980)



















I'm not sure but this could of been the acorn that sprouted the idea for the titles in the Conan flicks, bare with me. There was a sequel intended for this film that would have been called 'Hawk The Destroyer' (1981), so you can see the obvious similarities with film titles going on here. Probably a coincidence admittedly but I also think this could of been the first swords/sorcery/barbarian type of film that jump started all the rest during the 80's.

This is a hard film to review truth be told, its extremely dated and by the looks of things they didn't have a huge budget to play with. The whole thing is a mixed bag as you would expect being a very old fully British, possibly cheap, production. There's a bit of a Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons influence about the film if you ask me, the plot is your average sword n sorcery affair with a hero trying to avenge the death of his father and love at the hands of an evil warrior (his brother). The evil bad guy wants the power of the mindstone which his brother (the hero) has power of, so he kidnaps an Abbess to lure him. The hero forms a small band of warrior friends...a giant, a dwarf, an elf and a human peasant, the hero himself being a human of course. Each of these men have unique skills in combat with a big hammer mace thing, a whip, a bow, a crossbow and a sword.


When I say a Tolkien influence I only mean as far as the characters and fantasy locations, dare I say a certain Mr Jackson may have pinched some visual ideas for Legolas using his bow at lighting speed from this film? When you see Crow the elf battling there is definitely a similarity in concept that's for sure, although the visual method used to achieve this in this film is pretty crude naturally. Mind you this elf is so damn fast with his bow and arrow there is virtually no need for any other heroes. Other characters aren't made up with special makeup or prosthetics, the giant is played by Bernard Bresslaw who was a tall man, the dwarf is played by a short actor (not a little person), the elf has a small amount of prosthetics for his ears and that's it. But as far as monsters and dragons etc...this film has none of that, its actually a very grounded fantasy which I think leans more towards old English folklore and possibly a touch of wicca and paganism.

The musical score kinda typifies this if you ask me with a very odd mix of styles. At times we get this typical 80's pop fused with electronic synth (I think) that to me sounded like melodies from an Abba album! needless to say I don't think this score fit the film. Other times there is a much better softer score using more traditional instruments to create this olde worlde fairy-esque sound that would suit an old English fable to a tee.

I hate to say it but I couldn't help but chuckle at some of the things on display in this film. Like I said the visuals are weak, it looks like they've filmed everything in some local woods and shrublands just behind Pinewood studios. The sets are very obvious, very small and tight and sparse on detail, hair styles are still very much 1970's, some costumes are OK where as others look like they've cobbled anything together and I'm pretty sure they retrace their steps with locations a few times. The only expenditure appears to be the use of that swirly double ring thing that was used in 'Superman' as a force field to trap General Zod and co.

The other thing that is highly amusing is the fact the big bad evil tyrannical baddie is played by Jack Palance...and even in this film he's old! This guy has no special powers or weapons, he's just a badass apparently but you don't really buy it frankly. He has a nasty burn on his face so he wears a nifty helmet but that's it, he doesn't look intimidating at all. Mind you the hero is pretty bland himself, he barely talks, looks boring, but he has the mind power to wield his magical sword combined with the mindstone...not that it makes much difference really, just means the sword can float to his hand.

I don't want to give this film a low score because despite the dated visuals, cheesy ass fights and effects it does look like people have really tried to make an effort here. It does come across to me that the crew have done their best with the little resources they had which deserves kudos. It is very easy to just churn out any old loin cloth fantasy crap by just tossing in a few blondes with big boobs to attract an easy male audience and slapping in some blood and gore. But I think effort was made here and it does show. A cult film long forgotten, thou should seek it out.

6/10