Hawk the Slayer on Blu-ray

Sunday, 05 July 2015 23:00 Written by 

Hawk The Slayer - out now on Blu-rayHailed as a cult classic, "Hawk the Slayer" is a sword-and-sorcery tale of brotherly conflict, dark magic and medieval-style battles. Relative newcomer John Terry (Lost, "Full Metal Jacket") stars as Hawk, a wiry young innocent whose father and wife are butchered by his jealous brother Voltan (Jack Palance - "Shane", "City Slickers"). Swearing to avenge their deaths, Hawk builds a small but loyal band of fighters to take on his brother's army.

Heavily influenced by the likes of JRR Tolkien and endeavouring to ride the sci-fi/fantasy wave crested by "Star Wars", this ITC-produced movie may not boast the budget of some of its 1980s' counterparts such as "Krull", "Ladyhawke" and "The Beastmaster", but it has plenty of action, a fantastic villain and a crafty sense of fun that keeps it bubbling along despite the on-screen death and destruction.

Hawk's band includes Bernard Bresslaw (of “Carry On” fame) as Gort the ever-hungry Giant, Morgan Sheppard ("Transformers") as crossbow expert Ranulf, Ray Charleson ("United 93") as Crow the aloof archer, and lastly Peter O'Farrell ("Legend") as Baldin the dwarf. Baldin has an appetite to match Gort's, and a cunning wit to outfox the big man every time that food makes an appearance.

The special effects are occasionally quite primitive but so much of the action and stunts are done in the frame that it simply adds to the charm of the piece. You cannot help but chuckle when the quick-fire editing shows Crow and Ranulf cutting an army down to size in seconds by jumping between arrows and bolts leaving their weapons and then suddenly arriving in the chests of their victims.

The acting standard is quite broad, with Sheppard lending some gravelly-voiced gravitas in contrast to Terry's plank-like blank expressions. The actor playing Hawk does make up for his deficiencies somewhat by moving fluidly and helping to accentuate the other colourful characters, especially Gort and Baldin who share some wonderful moments at the dinner table. Patricia Quinn ("The Rocky Horror Picture Show") is quite spooky as the imaginatively-named Woman, a whispering seer/witch who gets Hawk out of some tight spots.

Critical to the film's success, however, is Palance. The towering actor sports a helmet that could not do much more to mirror Darth Vader's head-gear if it tried, albeit with one half of his face obscured because of a nasty burn suffered in one of the movie's flashbacks. Palance is huge in every scene, both physically and in terms of presence. As the wrathful Voltan, he makes the other characters tremble, and the audience shrink into their sofas.

Writer/director Terry Marcel ("Prisoners of the Lost Universe") does a workman-like job, where the crude editing papers over the cracks during some of the battle scenes. Thankfully the score by co-writer and producer Harry Robertson is wonderfully evocative, even if it does seem to borrow from Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds a little too keenly. It also gives the nod to Clint Eastwood's 'man with no name' movies as each time Hawk appears, a distinctive panpipe refrain alerts us to his presence.

"Hawk the Slayer" was apparently envisaged as the first part of a saga, but sadly no sequels were ever made. Personally I think it is high time that somebody took up the challenge, and remade this entertaining film on the back of a new wave of fantasy-love championed by Peter Jackson and Game of Thrones.

Special features include:

  • Original theatrical trailer (HD)
  • Raw textless elements (HD) - unedited clips and title animations
  • Clapperboard: Revenge by the Sword
  • By the Sword Divided: candid on-location interviews
  • Sharpening the Blade: behind the scenes
  • Image gallery (HD)
  • Original script PDF

There is some great content amongst this lot, especially the Clapperboard episode. Jack Palance comes across as a truly fascinating man in each of the interview clips, and one senses the trepidation on the part of the interviewers who struggle manfully to draw out some insightful responses from the stern actor.

The HD picture quality of the main feature is very good, especially considering the amount of smoke and other particle effect noise in many scenes. There are a couple of moments when fine lines appear down the screen but only fleetingly.

“Hawk the Slayer” (1980) is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Network. The main feature has a running time of 93 minutes approx, carries a 'PG' certificate and retails for £14.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Monday, 06 July 2015 08:05

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