November 10th, 2014: Hawk the Slayer

Hawk the Slayer

What It’s About:  In a time when “evil stalked the land”, Voltan (Jack Palance) arrives at his father’s (Ferdy Mayne) castle, demanding the key to his power, and stabbing him when he refuses, then fleeing into the night. Seemingly a minute later Hawk (John Terry) arrives, and his father explains to him the secret of the Mind Sword-a sword with a hand in the hilt that holds onto a glowing green rock. All Hawk has to do is think it and the sword will fly into his hand.

Years later Ranulf (William Morgan Sheppard) is left for dead by Voltan. He finds sanctuary at a Convent, where he is nursed back to health (he loses his hand, however). The Abbess (Annette Crosbie) is captured by Voltan, who demands a ransom for her release. Ranulf goes to the High Abbott (Harry Andrews) to beg for help, and he suggests that Ranulf seek out Hawk. Hawk, meanwhile, saves an old woman (Patricia Quinn) from men who call her a witch; she is, in fact, a good Sorceress, and she tells Hawk to seek out Ranulf. After Hawk saves Ranulf from bandits, she teleports Hawk using two magic hula hoops to each of his fellow adventurers, men he’s trusted in the past and each the last of their race.

There’s Gort (Bernard Bresslaw) the “giant” (actually just a tall guy) who wields a huge hammer, has a huge appetite and a small brain. There’s Crow (Ray Charleson), an Elf who is a phenomenal archer, who talks like a robot (I assume they got “Elf” and “Vulcan” confused due to the pointy ears) and misses his people. Finally there’s Baldin (Peter O’Farrell), a roguish dwarf who wields a whip and a sharp tongue, and who plays a lot of tricks on Gort.

After gathering his forces, the team prepares to defend the abbey, over the objections of Sister Monica, the nun in charge. They raid a hunchback slaver to get the money for Voltan’s ransom; when Voltan’s son, Drogo, tries to steal the money for himself Hawk and his men kill him. An enraged Voltan prepares to attack; but with the aid of the Sorceress, who blankets Voltan’s camp in fog, they winnow down his forces. The fight is on and the only questions are whether Hawk can continue to out fox Voltan, and which of Hawk’s men will die.

Why Watch it Today?:  Jack Palance died on this date in 2006.  Palance spent much of the 70s and 80s in villain roles just like this one, adding a bit to the better films.  Hawk the Slayer is a bit too episodic, bu that fits its tone of “an early 1980s Dungeons and Dragons game that was filmed” and it’s fun if you’re willing and able to roll with its cut-rate effects and heinous disco score.

Other Choices:  Palance’s most iconic role (for Boomers and fans of Westerns, at least) may be playing the sinister gunman hired to deal with the farmers in Shane.  He also has a rare leading role in tense war drama Attack, and a more forgettable one when he is improbably cast as Pancho Villa style revolutionary in The Professionals.  

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