The Beastmaster (1982)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 6, 2009  | 
Anchor Bay (USA). Region 1, NTSC.
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn John Amos
Country: USA
External Links
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Maax (Rip Torn, co-starring with his appliance make-up eyebrows and obviously fake hooked nose) is a bad dude. He's consorting with sexily gyrating but hideously deformed witches to gain ultimate power – this should not be a new storyline for you who are down with the whole sword and sorcery vibe. He wants to sacrifice the King's unborn son to his god, Ar – the King is understandably not too keen on this, and banishes Maax. Personally, I'd've ripped his throat out, but then, I'm a vengeful dude at the best of times.

These fantasy films do tend to rely on prophecy a hell of a lot, as a plot device, I've noticed. This baby's no different. Maax gets his way, fiendishly, via the services of a witch who appears to be able to subdue her victims by emptying the contents of a glow-stick on their necks. Maybe she's been to too many raves – who can say? Thence Dar is born, from a cow… warrior prince with the ability to communicate with animals, hence: The Beastmaster. Mind you, he's only a cub himself, and therefore, rather vulnerable to Maax's not so tender ministrations.

A wandering farmer with a very special sort of circular throwing knife saves the young Dar, who's been branded by an evil witch with the sign of Ar, and was about to be sacrificed by fire, and maybe things are going to be okay, but a number of years later, and Maax's troops turn up again. Dar, by this time, has made his control over animals be known, and has grown into a great big fuck-off warrior.

Don Coscarelli has made it known in a number of Commentary tracks on various movies of his that he has considered this to be his most difficult film, and I can't say as I'm surprised. Imagine wrangling all of those animals! What a nut-butter that must have been. The panthers (well, the tiger spray-painted black, as it obviously is) and crows and bears, oh my! I mean, an actor you can direct, but a panther? Not the easiest job in the world…

Dar's village gets razed to the ground by these terrible cunts called the Juns, with himself as the only survivor, and naturally, as per the course of these fantasy films, he wants revenge. And so, he takes off with his creature buddies in tow to do so, his favourite dog having being crossbowed into the next world. His fellow villagers have been impaled, Vlad Tepes style, or otherwise slaughtered, and Dar is not a happy camper. It's vengeance time! And off he goes, running across the landscape…

Forgive me for saying so, but this part of the movie does seem like a gay Norsca ad, at best.

It's at this point where Dar meets up with his two most steadfast friends, Kodo and Podo, two ferrets he's ganged up with for the purposes of bettering the world. So besides these rats we also have an eagle, and a "panther" Dar saves from some real arseholes who are trying to hunt down such a creature.

And then we get to see Tanya Roberts – Kiri, the temple girl – topless, which is a beautiful sight. She is one stunning red-head, and I'm very partial to those, as I'm very sure I've mentioned before. But this is all one of Dar's nefarious plans, albeit one I have to salute – who wouldn't use their friend in order to see a pretty girl's boobies? It even leads him back to his destiny, Kiri being a temple servant to Maax.

Dar gets led to see some bad vampiric mother-fuckers (called, oddly enough, the Birdmen – they're certainly not like any chaffinch I ever met), but luckily due to his relationship with animals, gets away, because these guys are fucked up and true evil. But they do become useful later on in the film. Watch and learn.

Dar goes to the local metropolis, the road to which is lined with impaled dudes – not the most welcoming of sights – think back to Conan's first venture into a city; it's not going to be embracing Dar lovingly to its bosom, and you know it. Cities in these films are nests of corruption and worldly experiences, and that's never a good thing. And considering Maax rules this place, you just know it ain't gonna be good. For starters, Dar walks in on a human sacrifice in the town square – infanticide, no less – all dedicated to Maax's god, Ar. He can't be a very nice god, if he demands to have little kids to be flung into pits of flame for his own name's sake, but then his high priest isn't a very nice fella either. At this point I do have to ask the question – can an eagle actually lift and fly with a five year old child in its talons? I'm thinking not, but Dar, like the big boy-scout that he is, is doing good deeds, or at least, getting his animal mates to do them for him. Like all good zealots, Maax turns this to his own advantage, citing that Ar wants the children of the townsfolk, and the eagle lifting off with the child is proof. Personally, I don't think that Ar wants anything of the kind, but the townsfolk are too frightened to resist.

It's kind of hard for me to take Rip Torn seriously as a villain. I mean, he's a great actor and all, but after years of watching him on The Larry Sanders Show, he's kind of hard to see as a menace of any kind. Anyhoo, he wants Dar taken, and sends off a bunch of his nude-nut priests to do so, armed with…a ring. Now unless it's the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings, that's not likely to be the most efficacious of weapons. As we see.

It's here that Dar meets up with Seth and his little sidekick Tal (Coscarelli does have a thing for including young fellas in his movies – I don't mean that in a bad way, he's obviously including the little tykes so that his target audience – in this case young teenage boys – can feel involved in the film), pilgrims, as they call themselves, on the way to worship at the temple of Ar. Here's the scoop: they're really out to free Tal's father, Zed, the rightful king Maax has supplanted and imprisoned. Worse yet, Maax is planning on sacrificing Kiri, who just happens to be Tal's cousin – who the fuck in their right mind would want to kill such a hot piece of arse?! Madness, I tell you.

And so Dar, Seth, Tal and Kiri set out to rescue a kingdom. Once inside the temple they (minus Seth who has gone to find help in other quarters, although according to his way of dressing, that help may well be a legion of Oxford street hairdressers) narrowly avoid death at the hands of what appears to be a feral black metal band, judging from the spiked vambraces. Of course it's a trap, and only the rankest of intellects wouldn't have guessed so, which doesn't say a great deal for our heroes…

Rescue over, and escape from the rabid black metal guy finished with, and it's time to go. I have to ask – why are so many of the fellas in this film pretty much wearing only their undies? It disturbs me, and adds only too much to the homo-eroticism of the film that only Tanya Roberts' bad self (Bond girl that she is) alleviates.

The King is an idiot, as it turns out, and spurns Dar's aid. What a tool. Almost immediately Dar's aid is needed, with Kiri, Seth and Tal in peril, likely to be sacrificed by Maax. Time for Dar to shine, and time for this film to wrap. But not before a battle-tastic, flagrantic ending.

And where was Reggie Bannister, Coscarelli?
Surprisingly for a DiviMax edition, really not all that good. A soft image, with lots of speckle and grain. I was expecting a whole lot better.
This was rather good. I never knew there was 6.1 until this movie came along – and the remixed soundtrack rocked my world. Big and loud and way cool.
Extra Features
There's a documentary called The Saga of the Beastmaster, with many interviews with the cast and crew, that's a must for fans of the film, as well as a commentary track with Coscarelli and Pepperman, the writers. We're also given the theatrical trailer, a rather extensive gallery of production stills, behind the scenes photos, promotional art – not my cup of tea – I'm here for the moving images. There are some text talent bios, the original script is available as a DVD-ROM file, and if you really want to let people know you're a nerd with homo-erotic tendencies, then you can pin up the fold out poster in your cubicle at work. There are some liner notes too, but all that stuff is dealt with in the other extras, really.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Great fun, and a tremendously entertaining popcorn-muncher, The Beastmaster is a blast. If you're a fan of the sword and sorcery thing, this is a must, even if it is a little on the homo-erotic side, to put it mildly. That's the problem with trying to make a big macho film – it can tip over into the realm of camp, very easily, but then I've always said the same about football, too. Nah, this is twenty-odd bucks you won't begrudge spending. If you saw this as a kid, yes, it's still that good.

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