Turn Back The Clock
Hawk the Slayer
Distributed By: ITC Entertainment Group
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, I wrote a Turn Back the Clock article about a movie called Krull. I had seen the movie as a child and it had made a lasting impression on me, so much so that I had to get my hands on the film as an adult. While watching Krull, I wondered about scenes that I remembered clearly that were not in the version of the film I was watching. I soon realized that I had combined my memories of Krull with another movie that I had enjoyed watching around the same year called Hawk the Slayer. Having enjoyed Krull again, I decided that I simply had to get my hands on a copy of Hawk the Slayer as well.
In Hawk the Slayer, John Terry and Jack Palance portray Hawk and Voltan, two brothers who despise one another, both swearing to bring an end to the other. The movie opens as Voltan enters his father’s palace, ordering his father to turn over special powers that he believes rightfully belong to him. When he refuses, Voltan strikes him a deadly blow. However, on his deathbed, he offers up this very power – a sword with magical powers that will come to its owner when called for – to Hawk. Distraught over his father’s death, Hawk vows vengeance.
Shortly afterward, a man named Ranulf (William Morgan Sheppard) seeks Hawk out. Ranulf has recently survived an attack by Voltan’s army which destroyed his village. Ranulf barely escaped with his life and was nursed back to health at a convent. Unfortunately, the very same convent is attacked by Voltan’s army and the Abbess (Annette Crosbie) is kidnapped for ransom. The High Abbot points Ranulf in the direction of Hawk, the Abbess’ only hope. Fortunately, Hawk is more than willing to track Voltan down. As the movie progresses, we learn that Hawk has even more to avenge than his father’s death.
With the help of a witch (Patricia Quinn), an elf (Ray Charleson), a dwarf (Peter O’Farrell), a giant (Bernard Bresslaw) and Ranulf himself – all the last of their kind – can Hawk hope to hunt down Voltan’s army and bring the Abbess to safety? Will Hawk ever find the opportunity to avenge his lost loved ones? And just what is that thing that Voltan keeps coming to in times of pain? And why, pray tell, is Voltan wearing that mask-like helmet?
As a child, Hawk the Slayer was a way cool movie! An elf shooting multiple arrows from a bow faster than the eye can follow. A giant and a dwarf working together towards a common goal while pretending to loathe one another. Ranulf and his cool rapid-fire crossbow and that neat sword Hawk possesses. The fight scenes seemed so cool to me back then as did the special effects. And then I grew up.
As an adult, Hawk the Slayer seems so cheesy. The storyline is classic and still believable. Here is a son who believed he was doing everything right by leading his father’s army and fighting ruthlessly in his name only to return to find the women he loves in the arms of his younger brother. Never mind the fact that his father disapproves of the ruthlessness of his older son. This sibling rivalry and jealousy have plagued many a kingdom and is a valid storyline. Hawk’s need for vengeance for the death of his loved ones at Voltan’s hand is perfectly understandable and we warm up to Hawk and his friends’ plight right away.
Unfortunately, nowadays, with all of the upgrades in technology, we realize that the special effects were not really all that special. They were actually rather cheesy when compared to the special effects of this century. While I can say the effects are cheesy, I really can’t find too much fault with them. After all, they were probably ahead of their time back in the 1980s.
I think perhaps my favorite part of the film was the last of their kind element. I had read J.R.R. Tolkien’s books by the time Hawk the Slayer was shown on television. Dwarfs, elves, giants, swords with special powers and fantasy realms had become very interesting to me and this movie provided all of those things. Now, I see the significance of the idea that all of these characters were the last of their kind…except maybe the witch. Even Ranulf was the last of his kind, his entire village slaughtered by Voltan’s army. And Hawk clearly considered himself the last of his kind, disowning the man he once called brother. The “last of their kind” factor added a sense of urgency to their fight – at any time one of these men could be killed causing the extinction of their kind.
In researching the movie actors, I discovered something interesting. While watching Into the West, I found one particular actor to be very familiar, but couldn’t place the face. I saw him again in Lost, yet I still couldn’t place the face. Where did I know this guy from? Well, that actor would be none other than John Terry aka: Hawk the Slayer! Of course, I know where I’ve seen Jack Palance before! We’ve all seen him in City Slickers, but my favorite Jack Palance role is Mercy in Cyborg 2. Mercy contained a bit of the Voltan vengeance-filled anger combined with a bit of mystery to create the ultimate behind the scenes good guy role. In Hawk the Slayer, I feel Palance went a tad bit overboard and a bit melodramatic. If he had toned it down a bit, I believe he would have made the audience more sympathetic to his character’s plight. This would have offered an emotional tug of war for the audience, causing them to side partially with both sides and making the storyline that much more interesting. Though their parts were relatively small compared to those of John Terry and Jack Palance, every actor did a decent job on the film. Some standouts include Ray Charleson – not for his acting, but for his incredibly cool look as Crow the Elf, Peter O’Farrell as Baldin the Dwarf for his comic relief, William Morgan Sheppard as Ranulf for his sincerity and Patricia Quinn as the witch for her air of mystery. Funny enough, Bernard Bresslaw, who portrays Gort the giant also appeared in Krull as Rell the Cyclops.
Now, the ending of Hawk the Slayer gave viewers the impression that a sequel would soon follow, but no sequel ever came. That is, until now. I thought it was just rumor, but it would appear that decades later, someone has decided to go ahead with a sequel to Hawk the Slayer entitled Hawk the Hunter. Obviously, John Terry, et al would not be called upon to reprise their roles after all of these years, but rumor has it that producers have already chosen Tom Hardy to portray one of the roles in the film.
Hawk the Slayer is one of those cult classics with a rather quiet following. I’m certain that there are more people out there who remember bits and pieces of the film, but not the name, just as I did. If Hawk the Hunter were ever to come to fruition, there will be hundreds of people my age who will have that “Aha Moment” and remember the fantasy film they enjoyed as a child – “Oh yeah! I remember that movie! It was pretty decent for it’s time!” Fans of films like Krull, Legend and Labyrinth should find Hawk the Slayer a rather enjoyable film as long as they remember that the special effects are from the 70s/80s era. I can’t wait for the sequel!