By Ray Schwetz
I loved the eighties. We had such fun trends in films. We had slasher films, teen sex comedies, John Hughes films, buddy pics, breakdance movies, and last but not least, sword and sorcery (or sandal) epics. Prime examples of these are: "Yor, Hunter From the Future," "The Sword and The Sorceror," "Conan the Barbarian," "Red Sonja," "Clash of the Titans," "Deathstalker," and Don ("Phantasm") Coscarelli's immortal masterpiece, "The Beastmaster."
This silly, but extremely entertaining film will always hold a special place in my heart. Why, you ask? Well, there are several reasons.
Marc Singer is Dar of the Emerites. He looks more like he walked off Venice Beach, but we're supposed to buy that he's a barbarian in the middle ages who can speak to animals. His friends are a tiger named Rool, a hawk, and two ferrets named Kodo and Podo. Insert Richard Gere joke here. He is upset because the Jun horde destroyed his people. Little does he know that Maax (played with zest by Rip Torn), the leader of the Juns, was looking to destroy Dar because he is rightful heir to the throne.
Tanya Roberts plays a half naked (sometimes fully naked) slave girl. Dar wants to get into her loincloth (who can blame him?), so he frees her. Along the way, he also hooks up with a young prince and his guardian, played by half naked John Amos. Yuch! Anyway, they set out to stop Maax from being a bad guy. You can pretty much guess the rest of the plot from there.
Despite the flaws, the film is hugely entertaining. Director Coscarelli, best known for the trippy "Phantasm" horror series, keeps the action moving at a swift pace. The cinematography is creative and quite beautiful. Tanya Roberts fans will get a pre-blonde eyeful. Also, the low budget special effects are fun. Those in the right mood will enjoy this rousing tale of sword and sorcery.
I wish I could say the same for the remastered Five Star Entertainment DVD. As some of you out there know, the Apex player has difficulty playing Region 2 titles that are anamorphic. It can't unsqueeze them. Apparently, "Beastmaster" is affected by this. However, even on my DVD-Rom, the disc looks pretty bad. Colors are washed out, the picture is soft and lacking detail, and the print used in the transfer has a few scratches and blemishes. The audio is listed as Dolby Surround. It's not terrible, but dialogue is muffled and there's very little separation or rear channel activity. In fact, I'd say the soundtrack is probably just 2.0 stereo. There are no extras, aside from a trailer, and the DVD is advertised as a directors cut, but I am hard pressed to see what the difference is. I heard rumors that there was more Tanya Roberts nudity, but this DVD resembles the same cut I remember watching numerous times on cable. Oh well.
I'm glad I picked up the DVD, since I'm a fan of the film, but I can't really recommend it. At 18.99 pounds, which works out to be about $28.50 US, the (basically) movie only disc is hardly a bargain. But if, like me, you really love the film, I'm sure it won't be available on domestic DVD soon. Maybe if the Jun horde visited MGM? Hmm.
Editor's Note: To view this disc it's necessary to have a multi-region player with a PAL-NTSC converter.
This PAL title can be ordered at Blackstar