Fantasy
Beastmaster
.
Dir: Don Coscarelli
Star: Marc Singer, Rip Torn, Tanya Roberts, John Amos
Cert / Year: 15 - PG / 1982
Format: DVD R0
'

Conan meets Dr Doolittle.

Dar (Marc Singer) is the lost son of King Zed (Rod Loomis). He was kidnapped in a cow while still unborn by witches working for the evil Maax (Rip Torn) (Yes I know, but it does get better). This bizarre parentage gifted Dar with ability to see through the eyes of animals and communicate with them telepathically. When his village and his adopted father are killed by a band of warriors working for Maax he decides to seek revenge. Helped by an eagle, a black tiger (it looks like someone had to dye a lot of tiger hair), and a pair of ferrets, he sets off in his quest. Along the way he has to deal with magic creatures and religious zealots, rescue the lovely Kiri (Tanya Roberts), and help the young prince Tal (Josh Milrad) and his minder Seth (John Amos) rescue his father. All in a days work for the Beastmaster.

Having read this far you may be thinking this all sounds a bit pants, but hold on, what sounds silly actually works well. By adding the animals it changed what would have been an inferior Conan clone into a interesting original piece of fantasy. Ok so we still have the familiar muscle bound, loin cloth wearing, sword welding hero. We have familiar locations, such as giant stepped temples, primitive villages and deserts. We have black armour clad mercenaries and mystical creatures. But is this a bad thing? In this case no, the formula works so don't change it, and more of the same is very welcome.

As I have mentioned full credit must be given to the use of the animals and the animal trainers. At this budget the animals are not CGI but real and a real effort has been made (not to mention the patience it must have took) to get the right shots of them. For example the tiger attacks look genuinely scary, I for one would not have been a stunt man on this picture. The stars of the movie have to be frodo and codo the two ferret thieves, these animals are so good you will genuinely care about them.

The story is the usual revenge story but it does have some good twists, the best of which is the way in which a extra battle is added to the end of the movie after you think the main bad guys have been defeated. The animals are not just window dressing, they are given tasks and whole scenes, and they do form an integral part of the story. Apart from this the script is sufficient without ever being outstanding, lets face it it's the action that counts not the dialogue. There is just one point of note and that is the character names, it seems that in this land of ancient times letters were at a premium so no one is allowed a name of more than four of them.

The direction is by the man who bought us Phantasm, Don Coscarelli, and is well up to the task. Occasionally the B movie origins show, but some of the fight scenes are genuinely impressive. Scenes to look out for are the night time battle outside the city, and the scene where Dar meets the strange vampire creatures. These creatures, like a lot of the effects in the film, are simple but work very effectively. The "animals eye" views (achieved by use of some sort of special lens I think) are particularly effective in communicating what we are seeing is what Dar sees through them. Not all effects work, the witches (girls in bad Halloween masks) look poor, but overall a good show.

I've wibbled on about animals enough how about the humans, well Marc Singer is a very effective actor. Never an A list actor, but very good he whatever he's in, and here he has bulked up to impressively Conan like proportions (one for the girls). For the lads we have ex-Charlies Angel Tanya Roberts to look at in a series of skimpy (or non existent) outfits (one great scene has her disappearing into a secret room to change only to reappear with in near identical kit, nice one). Rip Torn has been around for ages (soon to be seen again as Zed again in Men In Black 2) and gives a well over the top performance as Maax. The supporting cast range from good, John Amos, through noncommittal, to poor as in Darís adopted father.

Beastmaster is a good fantasy film. It mixes some original concepts with some good acting and impressive action scenes. It may not always work but it succeeds for more often then it fails. It is very entertaining in a Conan the Barbarian sort of way, and if your a fan of one you will definitely enjoy the other. It must have found a lot of support as it has spawned two sequels and a TV series. Look out for the bizarre time travel \ fantasy cross over Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time (1991), and Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1995).

Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD
Picture 4:3 Relatively grain free but full screen only.
Audio Dolby Surround My copy occasionally suffered from some frightening distortion.
Features None/TD>
Verdict It is a Region free (R0) Directors cut, I'm not sure what is different in this cut of the movie (from what I can remember nothing). The presentation is awful and no extras. In short this a terrible disc. However there is an excellent Region 1 disc.

Rating: 0 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home