Before Conan the Barbarian, Before Krull, Before Ladyhawke, there was one of the greatest Sword and Sorcery epics of all time, there was THE BEASTMASTER!
Today’s Key Movie:
Directed by Don Coscarelli,of Phantasm fame, The Beastmaster is a classic Sword and Sorcery film that follows a young man that gains the powers and control over beasts because he was born from a cow…wait…what?! Seriously. That’s what happened.
Okay, there’s more to it, an evil sorcerer named Maax (pronounced May-axe) , played by Rip Torn (yes THAT Rip Torn) tries to sacrifice the unborn child of the king since the child is destined to grow up and kill him. He has his evil witches magically transfer the child into a cow, for some reason, and their sacrifice is interrupted by a farmer who happens to be passing by. The farmer saves the child by throwing a special knife boomerang thing at The witch and raises the child as his own. The boy grows into Dar, played by Marc Singer, who develops powers to control the beasts of the land. He then must journey forth and fight a great evil, Maax, in order to restore order to the kingdom. Oh and he ends up with a pair of ferrets, a hawk and a tiger all of which that are pretty awesome. And there are crazy bat people that….well just keep reading.
Why this movie?
The Beastmaster is a film that, to me, was an instant classic. This movie had everything a young boy of the 80’s could want. Action, swords, high fantasy, magic, an awesome hero, a sexy love interest (played by future Bond Girl Tanya Roberts), and really badass villains. This was the kind of movie that you reenacted on the playground at school, the kind you acted out with your action figures. I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I would play out the adventure of The Beastmaster!
Although the movie came out in 1982, I didn’t get to see it in theaters. You see, the theater in my home town only had 2 screens so only big movies like Ghostbusters and Batman hit those screens. Not that I am complaining, there were a ton that were waiting to be discovered on VHS. This was one of them.
We didn’t have cable, it was far too expensive, so in order to watch something we either had to catch it off the air or watch it on VHS. VHS at the time was THE way to see movies at home, and the video rental stores were the only way to see these gems, unless you happen to have HBO and that was for rich folks! Every time we went to the video store, my father would let me pick a movie to watch. It could be anything, Horror, Action, Adventure, Comedy, as long as it wasn’t an ‘adult’ film, he was cool with it. Now days this would probably get the CPS called on him but back then, we were made of tougher stuff. So, on one of our frequent visits I saw a video case that called to me.
The case was one of classic fantasy art, featuring a muscular warrior standing on a rocky outcropping with his sword raised in the air while, at his feet, lay a scantily clad woman and a black panther. In the background an eagle’s head covered the sky with its eye perfectly in line with the heroes head, a starburst emitting from it giving the hero a crown of light. Surrounding them all, a gold ring with a human eye as the Jewel with the words The BeastMaster emblazoned above it. THIS was the movie for me and boy was I right.
I watched this film over and over. Every time it aired on TBS, I watched it, every time I got a chance, it was the film I needed to see. To this day, it remains one of my favorites. In fact the opening theme song still takes me back.
One note, this film has one of the coolest creatures to grace the screen. This thing was a humanoid with Bat wings and no face save a set of eyes. Dar encounters them in an out-of-place moment in the film that would show them ‘digest’ a man in their winged arms and leave only bones and goo. It was both terrifying and awesome all at once. We called them the ‘Bat People’ but IMDB refers to them as Winged Creatures, so who knows. They come back later to help Dar and we never know any more about them, but damn were they cool.
How did this translate to real life?
It doesnt. its just a damn fun film that could never be remade. Marc Singer would later star in one of my favorite tv series, V. For a time I would watch anything he was in.
There were two sequels and a tv series that were made afterward. Sadly, although the movie sequels star Singer, they were terrible films and should not be viewed as part of this story. The series, to my memory, was ok but none of them could hold a candle to the first movie.
This movie was also VERY loosely based on a novel by classic fantasy author, Andre Norton. I have never read it but I have been told that it was in title only.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
Yes and no. I recently rewatched this film, while writing this in fact. I have a basic rule, I can’t write about a movie that I haven’t seen fairly recently, just to make sure that my review isn’t completely colored by nostalgia.
This one has certainly aged well. It is amazing in its cheesiness and is an absolute joy to watch. If you are looking for an amazing, life changing film, this isn’t it. But if you want a fun film that is a totally 80’s High Fantasy romp, then you need to see it. The hokey dialogue and the over-the-top action makes it all the better.
For me, nostalgia doesn’t get much better than this one.
OK, where do I get this movie?
Amazingly enough this movie isnt available in digital format or even bluray. You would think a cult classic like this would at least be on Netflix, but it is not. You can still pick up copies of the DVD on ebay and Amazon for anywhere from a couple dollars to around $10. To me, its totally worth it.
You can also watch the full film on Youtube.
The awesome classic trailer:
Thank you for reading today. I hope you enjoyed the review. If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday. We also have a fun Retro TV Review series in which we are currently reviewing the entire Star Trek The Next Generation Series, episode by episode.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these movies as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!
Late To The Game 11/10/18