The Beastmaster (1982)
By: J.R. McNamara on September 4, 2009  | 
Beyond (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 113 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn John Amos
Country: USA
External Links
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I love fantasy films. Not as much as I love horror movies, but I have a great affinity for them…actually, not just the films, but the entire genre. I have Conan comics, Warhammer miniatures, Weiss and Hickman novels, statues and bookends of dragons all through my house: you get the idea, all that crap that really defines as geek as being a true geek. As a teen, during the lost but ne'er forgotten days of the eighties, the staple diets of my video hiring would be a horror film, and fantasy film, and a sci fi film… though more often than not 2 horror films and a fantasy film.

The problem with fantasy films though is not as many are made as horror films, so I would see the 6 or 7 titles my video shop had over and over again… hell, at one point I had seen The Sword and the Sorcerer so many times I could actually RECITE it verbatim… Richard Moll was my GOD!!!

In amongst these titles though was one that really stood out. It depended less on blood and gore, but actually gave our muscle-bound hero more than a sword, a square jaw and an innate ability to kick ass (though he did have those): it also gave him the ability to talk to animals, and see through their eyes… kind of like if Doctor Dolittle and Conan had a child, but with less singing or Schwarzeneggering.

The film was The Beastmaster!!

Written and directed by Phantasm legend Don Coscarelli and co-writer, and producer Paul Pepperman, The Beastmaster is a great swords and sandal's flick.

The Beastmaster tells of the legend of Dar (Marc Singer), a sandy haired, golden torc wearing, medieval nappy sporting, sword wielding, muscle-bound barbarian and his quest…well, don't all fantasy films basically tell that story? This time, we have the evil cultist Maax (Rip Torn) of whom destiny has told that his life will be taken by the unborn son of King Zed (Rod Loomis). Maax decides to destroy the unborn child, a sacrifice to his dark god, and has one of his witch cohorts magically remove the baby from his mother's womb, who is murdered, along with her husband in the process. The baby is placed in the womb of a cow (or an ox or whatever it is), and is to be sacrificed in a fire. Later that evening, he is removed from the animal, marked as a sacrifice, but before he can be murdered, he is saved by a villager who raises him as his own.

As a young man, due to his magical transference into a beast womb, Dar discovers he has an innate ability to speak to animals, which his adopted father tells him to keep to himself. Many years later again, by coincidence, Maax's cultists decimate the tribe that Dar calls home, killing every last villager and his dog! As he prepares the entire village for cremation, he remembers that his adopted father has left him a sword, a boomerang-y type thing and words reminding him that the mark on his hand is also that of his destiny, and should anything happen to the village, he should seek revenge, and the origins of the mark.  Along the path of vengeance he is joined by many, including a badly dyed black tiger, an eagle and a pair of ferrets, and his human associates: Seth (Two Evil Eye's John Amos), his sidekick Tal (Josh Mildred) and the incredibly hot… and I mean H. O. T. slave girl, Kiri (played by the sexy last Angel from the Charlie's Angels TV series Tanya Roberts, who was also in Tourist Trap and Forced Entry). Will Dar overcome all obstacles thrown in his path? Well, of course, and we will have fun watching him do it.

This film wasn't a great hit when it first was released, as the studio dumped it with little or no advertising at the end of summer in 1982. It was hoped the promotion was going to be bolstered by Tanya Roberts' appearance in Playboy, but that came a few months too late. The film though, found success on the burgeoning home video market and also on TV, where it became such a staple of the cable networks that one comedian of the time suggested that HBO actually stood for 'Hope Beastmaster's On'!! Its success didn't stop there though, it gave birth to two sequels (Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time and TV's Beastmaster: The Eye of Braxus) and a regular TV series starring Australian actor Daniel Goddard as Dar, who also wrote several episodes himself. Sure it took almost ten years from the original to the sequel but isn't success measured by longevity?  Well, isn't it?
The video is a bit here and there actually. Presented in 1.85:1 it at times it is so clear you can freeze frame the image and play join-the-dots with the moles on Singer's face, and at other times it has more grain than muesli, and more artefacts than a Roman dig. Still, the scene where you get to see Tanya Robert's painfully cold and erect nipples is perfect (they looked so cold I just wanted to hold them for her), so that's fine by me.
A surprisingly nice Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. I couldn't remember this film ever sounding so DAMN good!
Extra Features
First we have a great commentary by Coscarelli and Pepperman where they reminisce (it's been over 20 years remember) about the entire production of the film. It is fairly complete, with many amusing anecdotes, and somewhat of a lesson about what can happen to an artistic venture when it is taken over by un-artistic people who think only of money.

The Saga of the Beastmaster is one of those really complete documentaries done by Perry Martin, who made the 'Working with a Master' docos for The Masters of Horror discs, and the amazing Re-animator Resurrectus documentary for the 2007 release of Re-animator. In this one he explores the entire production of The Beastmaster, and features interviews with stars Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts (who is still as lovely today as she was then) and Josh Milrad, with Coscarelli and Pepperman and Conrad E. Angone, the production designer. This is an excellent production with some interesting anecdotes from the cast and crew, though tales occasionally overlap from the commentary. Of a particular point are some of Marc Singer's comments. It seems having such a unique opportunity to work with the various animals had a really profound effect on him.

More Classic Fantasy Titles show us three trailers for three other fantastic film: The Sword and the Sorcerer, Barbarian Queen and the S and M looking ( and now a must see for me) film The Perils of Gwendoline.

The next series of extras are basically, quite terrible. They are a series of stills and images of which some are so badly pixilated its not funny. The titles of these images are Production Stills; which looks like freeze frames from the film, Behind the Scenes; which features some shots of those that worked on the film, Production Art; which sees a series of drawings and painting show the design of weapons, creatures and landscapes of the film and finally Posters and advertising, which are probably the clearest images, and I must say I want both a Beastmaster napkin and matchbook!!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
As much as I am sure that the Lord of the Rings films set the standard for fantasy films today, I have to say I would much rather go back 20 years and watch a sword and sandals film, with the same 'quest' plot that most fantasy films have, but with melodramatic overacting and an abundance of hot chicks with no shirts on. The Beastmaster is a top shelf example of the genre, and sits quite nicely besides other fantasy films of the eighties like The Sword and the Sorcerer and Schwarzenegger's Conan flicks. If you liked them, you'll love this. The only thing that really lets this disc down is some uneven image problems. Sometimes its perfect and at other times average, but the real revealing suckiness of it all comes from some of the still images, which are so pixilated it looks like they were displayed with a Commodore 64 computer.

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