Friday, 3 July 2015

Hawk the Slayer (1980)

"Gloriously entertaining"

If there is one work of epic fantasy that deserves to be preserved on Blu-ray for all time, it’s probably LORD OF THE RINGS. Or GAME OF THRONES. Perhaps CONAN THE BARBARIAN (the 1982 Schwarzenegger version) would get a few votes. But the film that preceded it by a couple of years, and was the UK’s only contribution to this genre boom of the early 80s (at least until KRULL) probably wouldn’t figure highly on the list. However, there are still a few of us out there who have been waiting with barely-controlled enthusiasm for a Blu-ray release of HAWK THE SLAYER.

One of the more restrained acting scenes

It’s difficult to explain the appeal of the film to those mystified by its charm. Perhaps you had to be a certain age when you first encountered it. Tellingly, there are reviewers on Amazon who claim their children enjoyed it more than Peter Jackson’s acknowledged masterpiece, and perhaps that’s something to take note of. HAWK THE SLAYER may be cheap, it may be hokey, and it may be frequently ridiculous, but it’s packed with incident and the pacing doesn’t let up for a second. It may lack a charismatic leading man (sorry John Terry) but how can you complain when you have Jack Palance acting for two? Or three? Or possibly four? Only Shane Briant dares to match him and we all know what happens if you try and match Jack - he just turns it up from eleven to a hundred and eleven. Watch and revel! The giant may not actually be a giant or the dwarf a dwarf, but how can you complain when they’re introduced through such charming vignettes, one of them featuring Patrick Magee as a high priest wearing silver Doc Martens? Ray Charleson’s Crow the Elf  may have the most curious rapid-editing way of firing a bow and arrow, and his dialogue may be as flat as a pancake, but was Orlando Bloom really that much better? 

Going all the way up to eleven

Other fantasy epics have had the gorgeous locations of Tunisia, Malta, and New Zealand to help them create their lush and tropical environments, but only HAWK THE SLAYER somehow manages to make a Buckinghamshire forest look like something out of the end days of Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth. Kids these days may not be familiar with silly string but we certainly were - watch and marvel at the bravado of the film-makers as witchy Patricia Quinn despatches a baddie with it! 


And then there’s the music. Undoubtedly forward-thinking and cutting edge for its time, sadly this was before everyone realised (thanks to Basil Poledouris, David Whitaker and others) that the music of epic fantasy has to be epic orchestra and not tinny Jeff Wayne-style synthesisers, Morricone-esque flutes riffs and menacing zithers. That doesn’t mean it’s not great, though. In fact Harry Robertson’s ambitious (oh yes it is) music helps add to HAWK THE SLAYER’s unique charm. I own the CD and am proud to do so.

Oh yes!!!

Network’s Blu-ray is not a restoration, so expect speckles and crackles and some wonky colour stripes at points, but it IS nice to see HAWK out on this format. Special features include everything ported over from the Network Special Edition DVD (Clapperboard Special, Interviews for The Electric Theatre including a Jack Palance who clearly isn’t quite sure where he is or what film he’s in, trailer and behind the scenes footage). New to the Blu-ray are a couple of minutes of ‘Raw textless elements’ which are some more behind the scenes stuff without sound. As an added bonus you get the screenplay as a pdf, so you can recreate key scenes in your own home, if you haven’t been doing so already.

Floaty glowing sword fun

Gloriously entertaining, incredibly good-natured and thoroughly deserving of the love aficionados fashion upon it, it’s great to see HAWK THE SLAYER finally on Blu-ray. Now, where’s that sequel director Terry Marcel keeps promising us? 

Network are releasing the truly epic HAWK THE SLAYER in Region B Blu-ray on 6th July 2015