The Beastmaster

Dir: Don Coscarelli, 1982. Starring: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn. Fantasy.
The Beastmaster

Beastmaster is classic of early '80s swords and sorcery films. Providing all of the staples of the genre, as well as providing some head scratchingly original material. Although it's one of those action films that you really need a sense of humor to appreciate, (Beastmaster is a total B movie) there is a coherent enough story line, interesting characters, and some pretty decent effects for the time, making it clear why this film has, over the years, gained a growing cult following. The Beastmaster begins with 3 disfigured witches peering into a cauldron and casting spells. After seeing a vision, they inform Maax, an evil high priest (Rip Torn) that he will be slain by the king's unborn child. Maax, in order to sacrifice the baby, sends one of his witches late at night to the child's bedside with a cow. The witch transfers the baby into the cow's womb with magic and escapes with the child to a remote place. Just as the witch is finishing her ritual, about to deal the killing blow, she herself is killed by a passing peasant with a bladed boomerang.

The peasant then returns to his village with the child and begins to raise the boy. In his childhood the boy, now named Dar, discovers that he has a telepathic ability to speak with animals and see through their eyes. Soon after the boy Dar becomes a fully grown Beastmaster, played by Marc Singer, his entire village is destroyed by savage, animalistic, barbarians. Dar then does the only thing any respectable Barbarian, animal controlling, orphan would do. He begins a quest for revenge.

The Beastmaster is seemingly low budget, and weird incoherencies in the editing of the film are numerous. But on the other hand, there are huge elaborate sets, really freakish and thoughtful costuming, as well as grandiose and epic cinematography, shot by John Alcott, best know for his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. The acting in the film is actually okay, given the nature of the material; it's exaggerated and dated, but oddly suitable.

The film also does well to not take itself too seriously, as a couple of the main story's driving characters are two ferrets named Kodo and Podo. They join an eagle, and a tiger painted black (poor kitty) to form Beastmaster's posse. Also making an appearance, Tanya Roberts plays Kirri, a slave girl who becomes Dar's girlfriend for the movie. And eventually Dar also meets Seth and Tal, a Warrior played by John Amos, and a boy who he is protecting.

Beastmaster is a big fat indulgence for fans of fantasy fiction, providing heaps of violence, fantastic creatures, musclebound machismo warriors, and even some Frazetta style nudity for the true adolescent geek experience. Totally cheesy, and totally awesome, this is a classic film of the fantasy genre, easily holding its place next to films such as Legend, Conan the Barbarian, Excalibur, and Willow.

Posted by:
Jonah Rust
Jul 20, 2009 5:11pm
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