The hunchback will have something to say about this: A rambling appreciation of Hawk the Slayer.

During the 1970’s, at least 40% of all vans had a “FRODO LIVES” sticker on their bumpers and a glorious airbrushed sub-Vallejo mural involving a wizard attacking a dragon whilst a princess clad in a chain-mail bikini stared lustfully up the wizard’s robes. Fantasy was skunkweed thick in the air, making a Cimmerian haze where guys who couldn’t make it as Robert Plant could pretend to be Conan instead. Where mead and wenches could not be found in the land of polyester, bongwater and a Farah Fawcett poster would suffice. The 1970’s obsession with fantasy gave birth to Dungeons and Dragons, multiple Lord of the Rings prog rock concept albums, and, as the 70’s gave away to the 80’s, there came Hawk the Slayer.

It goes without saying that Hawk the Slayer is my favorite fantasy film. It’s magnificently cheap and tacky like a living paperback cover. It feels like it should have animated yellowed pages flipping over between every scene. The film takes place in a mystical land where dry ice fog is never dissipated by the sun and boa constrictors routinely spend their days draped around trees. The tale is as old as time: a hero (Hawk) must face his brother (Vultan- yes, really) in a titanic battle for good versus evil. This time, however, one brother is a callow youth who looks like he levelled up to a 4th level fighter-mage just last week and the other is, well, Jack Palance in a half-helmet. Hawk is a hero who has his own synth flute motif following him on his quest. Vultan is a man so wicked he threatens nuns by chopping a loaf of bread in twain. Hawk must assemble a crack team of heroes to help him battle Vultan’s hordes. Out of the whole of Mistonia (it might as well be called that as their major export must be mist), he picks: a one-handed man with a mechanical repeating crossbow, an elf whose longbow skills shame Legolas mightily and whose Vulcan-style acting shames Leonard Nimoy mightily, a “giant” who is at least three inches taller than the rest of the cast, a witch who wears a blindfold and uses neon glowing hula hoops to teleport people, and a dwarf who is obsessed with whipping various things. Together, they form the Fellowship of the…well, ransom. Instead of an epic quest, Hawk is mostly concerned with a kidnapping plot. It isn’t until he turns Vultan’s adopted son into dogmeat that any truly epic struggle commences.

The film is filled with odd moments that only a pre-Conan fantasy film would have tried. Rather than adhere to the muscles-and-blood aesthetic employed by the 80’s, Hawk the Slayer keeps its hero clothed and its deaths bloodless. When Hawk’s sword floats through the air on obvious wires to embed itself in a brigand’s stomach, said brigand clutches the blade in his hands and practically bellows “NOW I DIE!” before flopping off-camera. Crow the elf (fantasy rule #287: when in doubt, name your character after an animal) has a miraculous bow technique that consists of looping and speeding up the same shot of him twanging an arrow so the audience understands that he’s really quite fast. The witch manages to employ the whole of her magical skill and coats Vultan’s one guard in silly string fired from her staff. Later, she makes things a bit mistier (as I said, mist is their chief export) and, in her most inspired scene, sends neon rubber “fireballs” hurtling at Vultan’s army. Hawk’s sword of power contains an “Elfin mindstone” that appears to be a plastic egg painted green and lit up from the inside. Vultan consults with his evil master in a neon pink chamber that I like to call “The Vegas Limbo”.

As you can see, the color scheme in this film is very Mordor 54, the happenin’ club for all the cocaine wizards. This fantasy-disco style extends to the very finest element of the film: the soundtrack. Hawk’s synth flute trill is merely the prelude. Every action scene is punctuated with funktastic swells of dance beats and enough flute to make Ian Anderson jealous. Words fail to convey how inappropriately appropriate this soundtrack is. Conan brought in stomping brass and thunderous drums. Hawk the Slayer kept the screen groovin’. For the average viewer, the journey would likely end in anger. For me, it began with a kind of confusion and blossomed into a full-blown love affair.

Hawk the Slayer has its own love affair with the magic of slow motion. Hawk and his horse splash down a stream in slow motion. At least half of everything Crow does is in slow motion. Even the climactic final fight manages to squeeze a few more moments of slow motion out of the film. My only regret is that the film didn’t slow itself down so I could enjoy it for another five or six hours.

Fantasy is a tricky genre for film. Every epic (Conan, Lord of the Rings) has its low-budget analogue (Deathstalker, the Dungeon Siege movie I mentioned earlier), but Hawk the Slayer is no analogue. It’s a singular experience, and, for a film made in 1980, it manages to avoid ripping off Star Wars in almost every way (except Vultan’s helmet, which is like a fly being crossed Darth Vader after a teleport pod accident). It’s got more in common with Terry Brooks or Karl Edward Wagner (in its more lamely gritty moments) than any other fantasy film. This oddly sub-literary quality is source of Hawk the Slayer’s appeal. If you’ve read more than a dozen novels with covers involving sword-wielding men doing battle on vaguely fiery landscapes, then Hawk the Slayer will stir you.

If you haven’t been doing that, then you should start immediately. Then you will watch Hawk the Slayer and hope that Vultan’s sleep of death truly isn’t over. The witch promises she will meet Hawk again. So far, despite a promised sequel, we’re still waiting. And, if you are a Hawkaphile, you join the Quest for the Missing Fantasy Epic.

And, yes, there really is a hunchback, and he does have something to say about the situation. If you want to know what, you’ll have to rent it. The power of the Elfin Mindstone commands you!

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Doctor Who…ops, I Forgot to Post For a Month.

So…where were we?

…that was a month ago?

Four episodes of Doctor Who have come and gone and we’ve almost made it back to Lake Silencio for The Doctor’s demise. Where have I been? Oh, here and there. Like The Doctor, I have a tendency to drop in and out and ignore any sense of schedule. Anyhow, allons-y!

Top 6 action figures that could be made from the past four episodes:

1. Doll Amy (“Night Terrors”)
2. Amy Pond [warrior version] (“The Girl Who Waited”)
3. Handbot (“The Girl Who Waited”)
4. The Beast (“The God Complex”)
5. River Song [astronaut suit] (“Closing Time”)
6. Madame Kovarian (“Closing Time”)

The fact that there’s so few things that would make genuinely compelling toys strikes me as indicative of the show’s new remit, wherein monsters are sidelined for human menaces. So far, Season 6 has reminded me a great deal of the middle of the Peter Davison years. There is an ongoing storyline, a consistent cast, and a lot more interpersonal dynamics than battling monsters. The interpersonal dynamics themselves have a tendency to be reiterated from week to week, so we discover that Amy really loves Rory at least three times this season. This season has produced one genuinely great menace: The Silents. Thankfully, The Silents seem to have so far avoided the trend of recent foes and have yet to be loved into submission. Even the 40’s Wonder Woman comic didn’t have this much loving submission. Every alien species is now capable of being thwarted by a hug. The Master himself once was hugged into suicide. Now we know why The Doctor was so removed in the classic series- his hugs destroy lives. I’m hardly the sort of person who keeps hoping Tom’s coming back with his magical scarf to sweep us all back to the way it was done in ’75…but I do wish every now and then love didn’t defeat anything.

This repeated motif will work (in my opinion) if they tie it into River Song’s murdering of The Doctor. Love conquering all makes sense in that instance…or if for once love falls on its backside and fails like the Metallica/Lou Reed album.

Everything hinges on the finale, really, which makes this post somewhat irrelevant. It’s easier to say where you’ve been once you arrive at your destination. So here’s a series of exceptionally terrible Doctor Who jokes:

Q: What does The Doctor say when he rides a rollercoaster?
A: Doctor WHOOOOO!

Q: Why did Amy almost marry a lion?
A: Because it was RORY-ing.

Q: What did Davros name his lollypops?
A: Dal-LICKS.

Q: Why did Depeche Mode get nano recorders put under their skin?
A: They wanted to enjoy the Silents.

Q: What did River Song say when she saw The Doctor after a workout?
A: “I said ‘Hello, Sweetie’, not “Hello, Sweaty’!”

“I don’t like mysteries. They give me a bellyache. And I’ve got a beauty right now.”


On September 8, 1966, the world heard its first “He’s dead, Jim”. The Star Trek legacy begins with “The Man Trap”, which happens to be one of the most overtly pulpy stories in the original show’s three-year run. The title itself has a kind of men’s adventure vaginal fear to it. “The Man Trap”. Of course it’s a woman!

It’s a plot that’s comfortingly familiar: the invader looks just like us. What’s amazing is how fully-formed Star Trek is from the first episode. McCoy is crusty and a little lonely. Kirk’s full of bravado and fast decisions. Spock has recovered from his emotional outbursts in “The Cage”. Anonymous crewmen are dying by the shuttleload. The bottom-slapping sexism of the swingin’ 60’s Starfleet is in full effect (with one of the great Playboy Club Enterprise quotes: “How would you like to have her as your own personal yeoman?”). Already, they’ve beamed down to a barren planet in which one man harbors a deadly secret. The blueprint of the series really begins here, with a shaggy monster wandering around the Enterprise corridor rather than in the psychological tension of “The Cage”.

Star Trek was pitched as “Wagon Train to the stars”, but this episode is more like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or any of the other spy shows from the mid-60’s. There’s an enemy hiding amongst the regulars. It can adopt any form, including one of the stars. One man is working with the enemy out of a misguided sense of loyalty and love. There’s even a romantic subplot involving the salt vampire first taking the form of McCoy’s ex. Westerns never dealt with duplicity and identity is this manner. In the end, McCoy must choose between love and loyalty himself. This kind of Cold War collectivism is integral to Star Trek as a whole. Starfleet, despite (or because of) its diverse cast, is basically America in space, right down to taking out the enemy with some good-old two-fisted brawlin’ before the shootin’ starts.

Maybe it is kind of a Wagon Train to the stars, now that I think of it.

Even though the plot is the kind of thing Amazing Stories might’ve published in the 40’s, there’s a lot of forward-thinking moments in this episode. Merely having Uhura flirt with a fellow African-American crewmember must have sent a few hillbillies into a frenzy, let alone the playful banter with Spock. Certainly, it’s very dated and vaguely sexist, but it’s a small step toward casting Tyler Perry as the head of Starfleet, but sadly not putting him in drag. Speaking of the J.J. Abrams film, the very notion Uhura is harboring some secret affection for Spock may stem from here. At least in the movie she doesn’t ask Spock about Vulcan’s moon.

Interestingly, this may be the only classic Star Trek episode where a sexy monster seduces the crew but never has a go at Kirk. Maybe he felt left out and spent the next three years making whoopie to anything remotely feminine and bipedal.

Maybe he should’ve asked it about Vulcan’s moon.

Tim’s Weird World Video Moment: Sledgehammer (1983)

Straight from our VHS rental collection, here’s the second shot on video horror movie ever, Sledgehammer.

Doctor Who: Let’s Inconvenience Hitler By Putting Him in a Cupboard!

(Season Six, Episode Nine)

The problem with discussing any Doctor Who, new or old, is that any opinion is almost immediately drowned in the deluge of fan chatter. Doctor Who fans are a notoriously chatty bunch- and I suspect someone’s already drawn parallels between Melody Pond/River Song and Perdita from A Winter’s Tale and the great central question at the heart of The Silence with the universe-cracking question Deep Thought built the Earth to pose. Also, at least fourteen new fan fiction stories have been written involving Mels, River Song, and two Doctors (I vote Hartnell and Hartnell with his astrakhan on…and maybe Pertwee if he promises not to karate everyone in sight). The universe of Doctor Who is like watching a city at dusk as all the nights pop on and the night sky is eaten away by the false day.

So what’s a blogger to do?

Let’s talk about what characters from tonight would make great action figures.

1.) River Song (Commando): She’ll come with two machine guns, two pistols, a knife, and a banana only lethal to aliens with an aversion to potassium.
2.) Mels: Comes with Doctor Who’s Action Corvette (with the logo helpfully stickered on the side). Also comes with an envious Jon Pertwee.
3.) Antibodies: Come with special “death tingling” sparking action.
4.) Hitler Punchin’ Rory Williams: Basically just a Battle-Punch He-Man with a varsity jacket and browner hair. Also comes with a mustache Skeletor you can lock in Castle Skeletor’s most convenient cupboard.
5.) The Doctor (Cabaret): Rubbery legs allow kids to make him jig and almost die at the same time! He comes complete with a Sonic Cane and an envious William Hartnell who is quite upset the only sonic his cane had was squeaking on the floor.
6.) River Song (Nazi Outfit): Even Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS would have a hard time keeping up with newly regenerated Nazi-slaying River.

My idea for a spin-off story from “Let’s Kill Hitler”: The Justice Department travels back in time to capture The Master in his Anthony Ainley form. However, one person defends him: Nyssa of Traken, the daughter of the man whose body he possessed.

My other idea: The Eleventh Doctor and the recently regenerated River Song accidentally meet up in 1983 at the US Festival where an alien species known as the Locus are forcing the crowd to jump for their very lives. Only with the help of rock ‘n’ roll wildman David Lee Roth can they tame the brainwashed crowd with high-flying kicks and cool synth riffs.

In brief: The episode itself is marvellous and crammed to the roof with a dozen ideas that would be an interesting story on their own. It takes one of the great time-travelling cliches (killing Hitler) and makes it a footnote in a landscape of time-travel, regeneration, adoration, and origins. This is what the Steven Moffat era does brilliantly. Will all the fractured pieces of River Song wind up forming a coherent whole? Stay tuned for next week- same Who Time, same Who Channel.

 

-Timothy Eubanks

New Arrivals: August 27th

Records

  • The Beatles: Blue Box (every Beatles record in one box! Japanese pressing) $300
  • Metallica: Ride the Lightning (sealed) $15
  • Johnny Cash: Sings Hank Williams (original Sun) $10
  • Led Zepplin: III $15
  • The Smiths: Louder Than Bombs $20
  • Creedance Clearwater Revival: Greatest Hits ($6)

Questions? Concerns? Ramble? Email me @ hifiskye@gmail.com

New Arrivals: August 23rd

Records

  • The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (mono, has original inserts which includes stand-up cutouts, first pressing) $40
  • Dead Kennedys: Too Drunk To Fuck (UK single) $10
  • Ya Ho Wha 13: Magnificence in the Memory $20

Games

  • NES: Adventure Island ($3), Castlequest ($3), Section-Z ($3), R.C. Pro-Am ($3), Super Mario Brothers 3 ($6)
  • SNES: DK Country ($10), Lion King ($5)
  • N64: Zelda Ocarina of Time ($15)
  • Game Boy: ($13)

Email me at HiFiSkye@gmail.com for questions. We cater to customers on the web as well as in store or flea market locations.