What do you get when you mix the Magnificent Seven, Star Wars, and Dungeons & Dragons? 1980’s cult-favorite swords & sorcery film Hawk the Slayer.
Coming out right at the height of D&D’s popularity in the early 1980’s, the film features a hero (Hawk) out to stop his evil brother Voltan (played by a scene-chewing Jack Palance, who wears a decidedly Darth Vader-esque costume), who has kidnapped an innocent abbess and holds her for ransom. Hawk gathers up his old companions, a giant, dwarf, and elf, each of which is introduced in an entertaining scene that ends with some evil-doer being slain or set to flight.
I don’t know if the producers were consciously aiming at the D&D market, but they couldn’t have been more on-point if they had tried. There are evil slavers, a mixed party consisting of different races, a magic sword, a clearly evil villain, betrayal from within, and a chest of gold to be had at the end. There are also some interesting family dynamics at play; not only are Hawk and Voltan brothers, but Voltan’s adopted son is slain at Hawk’s hands, in essence killing his own nephew. That’s something you could see in a Norse saga.
I don’t mean to elevate this movie too much. It’s decidedly and wonderfully chintzy, the acting is either over-the-top or blandly wooden, and the special effects are laughable. At one point ping-pong balls swarm around the bad guys, blinding them while the heroes attack, and the repeated quick-cut shots of the elven bowman and the one-handed crossbowman taking out dozens of foes in an instant are rightly mockable and memeable.
But the movie hit when I was 14, and right at the time I was becoming obsessed with D&D, and it was on cable (either HBO or Cinemax, I forget which) over and over and over. A great film it might not be, but it’s still great fun.