Hawk the Slayer

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.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

1 thought on “Hawk the Slayer

  1. I remember sneaking in to see The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), it was also pretty cheesy, but I loved it then. A movie that is actually really good and stands up to the test of time is Dragonslayer (1981). A really good movie.

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