nos·tal·gia: Hawk the Slayer

longing for something past

ORIGIN: 1770, Modern Latin rendering of German heimweh, from Greek nostos “homecoming” + algos “pain, grief, distress.” (i.e., you can never go home again.)

In 1981, HBO had about five movies that played over and over and over again: Star Wars, Friday the 13th, Billy Jack, The Little Dragons, and…Hawk the Slayer. Now, seeing as I was eleven years old, addicted to science fiction, horror, gunslinger/martial arts, cheesy teen romance, and, of course, fantasy, and I already had an obsessive personality, I watched all of these films ad nauseum. This may go some distance towards explaining a great deal about me, but that’s for another column.

My memory of Hawk the Slayer was that it was a dumb but harmless bit of 80’s sword-and-sorcery fluff. Well…I had the dumb part right.

Voltan (the Dark One, we’re informed…many times), played by Jack Palance, confronts his apparently-twenty-years-his-junior father and demands his birthright, the “keys to the ancient power.” Since Voltan (the Dark One) speaks with the Gravelly Voice of Evil Scenery Chewing and wears the Helmet of Evil Burn-Scarred Face Concealment, naturally the wise father refuses. What’s an aspiring tyrannical overlord to do in a situation like that? What’s that you say? Stab his extremely youthful father in the heart? Precisely. Baby-Daddy winces slightly as he’s brutally murdered by his Crone-Son and the bad seed exits stage left.

But wait, here comes the good son, Hawk (the Slayer). And lo the old (young?) man still has enough life in him to pass on to his youngest son those very keys to the ancient power that Voltan (the Dark One) had just demanded. Turns out those keys are the last elfin mindstone, kept hidden in the safest of all places, around Daddy’s neck, and a longsword with a pommel shaped like a closed fist, kept someplace equally safe, hanging right there on the wall. A little smoldering gaze at the mindstone, a sickly green glow, the sword pommel reaching out and grabbing the stone and voilà, now you got yourself the Mindsword. Daddy mutters through his sucking chest wound about how to think of the Mindsword being in your hand and it will be so, then croaks. Hawk (the Slayer) fiddles around with it and sure enough, if he wills it, the sword flies right to his hand. Which sounds much more impressive than it really is onscreen. Okay, it doesn’t really sound that impressive either.

John Terry in 'Hawk the Slayer'

Voltan (the Dark One) goes on a hissy fit rampage and begins burning and pillaging. Ranulf, a grizzled ol’ villager, stumbles wounded and barely alive from one battle to a convent, where he’s nursed back to health. Well, all of him but his hand, anyways, which was beyond repair. He tells the nuns of the evil of Voltan (the Dark One), and wouldn’t you know it? Here he is! Voltan (the Dark One) shows up, kidnaps the abbess, demands a ransom for her safe return, and just for fun injures Ranulf some more. Now a doubly injured Ranulf must ride out in search of help to rescue the abbess and battle the enemy. Long story short (too late) he finds Hawk (the Slayer)!

NOTE: From this point on, it would be helpful if every time I say “Hawk (the Slayer),” you imagine a sound very similar to the Ennio Morricone spaghetti western “whistle” music. Why? Because this film uses that sound virtually every time our strapping hero appears onscreen. No joke. Oh, and “Voltan (the Dark One)” can get a really cheesy whisper if you’d like.

All right, so there’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that, some exposition, Ranulf tells the story, and Hawk (the Slayer) [whistle music of drama] agrees to track down some old friends of his to aid in the battle to come. With the help of a blind witch who speaks in an annoying whisper and is never referred to as anything other than “woman,” even to her face (played by Patricia Quinn, AKA Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show!!), he magically whisks back and forth across the land to enlist Gort the giant with the really big hammer (heh), Crow the elf with the lightning fast bow and speech pattern of a retarded Vulcan, and Baldin the bullwhip-wielding dwarf. If these seem like Tolkienesque fantasy stereotypes…well, you’re clearly thinking too much.

Jack Palance in 'Hawk the Slayer'

The merry band of misfits scurries off to the convent. They try to rescue the abbess but fail, so they resort to plan B, and they go rob and murder a slaver so they can use his gold to bait Voltan (the Dark One) into a trap. But instead of the Big Bad himself, they manage to attract Drogo, SON of Voltan (the Dark One). The film isn’t clear on what this kid’s subtitle might be. I’m going with Whiny Bitch. He’s basically a complete and utter waste of cinematic landscape, considering the film he’s in, that really says something. But he does get one of the best (?) lines in the whole thing: “I am no messenger, but I will give you a message. The message of death!”

HAHAHAHAhahahaha!!! Yeah, that happened! And then they kill him.

Now the normally calm and even-tempered Voltan (the Dark One) is really cheesed off. He attacks our heroes at the convent, there’s a big final battle, some don’t live through it, blah blah blah…you all know where this is going, and frankly, I’m bored recounting it all at this point. Suffice to say, good wins the day, more or less, evil gets punished but threatens a sequel, and the only people that truly suffer are the audience.

And where does it all leave us? Where does it leave me? Am I sorry I rewatched it? Not really, actually. I mean, I most certainly paid the price for my curiosity, since I lost about 20 Sanity Points. But I did gain one thing, one beautiful, priceless revelation: Hawk (the Sla– okay, I’m done with that shit!) was played by none other than a very young John Terry!!! So now, during my inevitable rewatch of Lost, I get to see Christian (the Shephard) [whistle music of drama] and imagine him kicking ass with his vaguely phallic elfin Mindsword! And that, my friends, is the gift that keeps on giving.

On my brand new, just-came-up-with-it-this-very-second Nostalgia Scale, with 5 being “Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!” and 1 being “Oh the pain…the pain!”, I’m giving this film a solid 2.

4 thoughts on “nos·tal·gia: Hawk the Slayer

  1. Well said, kid. I agree whole-heartedly and I will probably go watch it again, (and subject it to a Hawk ”virgin”), later tonight. But I think, if you remember, your intro to that flick was while we were living in Aberdeen. We found it for rent in that cheesy little video-rental store in the mall. Anyway, good on you. Later.

  2. Huh, I didn’t know The Woman was the same chick as Magenta. O_o Awesome. I love the movie. Not because it’s good, but because I find it entertaining. And really, that’s what it’s all about. ^^

    So what would be the subtitle for the rating of ‘2’? “It’s just a flesh wound”?

    (I’m going to forever think of Drogo as Drogo the Whiny Bitch, now. :D)

  3. I had this queued up in Netflix, but after reading your review, I’ve removed it. I was going to replace it with The Beastmaster, but that film is STIIL UNAVAILABLE!

    Argh. 😦

    At any rate, thanks for saving me from 90 minutes (or so) of boredom. Guess I’ll go back to Rudy Ray Moore movies!

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