They simply don’t make sword and sorcery fantasy movies like The Beastmaster anymore. This is an honest, vibrant and above all, cool movie. The characters we’re going to meet are cool and they will be wielding cool weapons. The animals they will be interacting with are also very cool and, in fact, they are their friends. Then you have this entire world bursting with life, danger, mystery, and most importantly adventure. And yes, it can sometimes get a bit too cheesy and over-the-top but hey, at least the whole thing is entertaining.
I remember watching The Beastmaster as a kid and simply loving it. I must’ve seen it at least a dozen times over the period of ten years. And each time I enjoyed it immensely. And not just because of Tanya Roberts running around half-nude as Kiri. After all, almost all of the characters here are half-nude. As I got older, I started to appreciate this unsanitized and sensationalist approach to storytelling.
I mean, the freaking movie opens with a scene where a group of shadowy figures enter a pyramid where half-naked priestesses are fucking a boiling cauldron. And remember, The Beastmaster is a PG movie. I still do not understand how they got away with people impaled on spikes, animal attacks, and nudity. It spawned two sequels of inferior quality but also starring Mark Singer and a television show that ran for three seasons.
Life in the kingdom of Aruk is difficult and unforgiving. Evil priest Maax rules the land with an iron fist afraid of no man. However, there’s an ancient prophecy that a son of a king would come and claim the throne. Meanwhile, Dar, an orphan saved by the villagers from an evil witch years ago is slowly becoming a man. And so, the prophecy unfolds…
Unlike other sword and sorcery movies that came out in the eighties, The Beastmaster had a decent budget. $11 million is a lot for this type of production where the salaries of your cast are minuscule. This also means that we will get impressive sets, props, and clothes. All of this helps greatly with the immersion and this feeling you’re watching an exciting and dark fairy tale play out before your eyes. However, I should point out that despite the simplistic and very familiar plot, the movie also explores certain issues in a very effective way.
Since these were the early eighties this means we’re going to get some pretty impressive animal footage. Actually, on the first day of filming, a bear attacked his handler with the rest of the crew running to the safety of their cars. We also have black tigers, hawks, and all kinds of other animals. And they will be used for all sorts of things. For example, after just five minutes you will witness a horrifying ritual involving a cow. A cow that’s soon going to be pregnant with a human baby snatched in the said ritual. This is just a taste of what you can expect in this movie.
I have to admit that when I was younger the sequence in the dark hallway where Dar must run away from that crazy masked murderer scared the shit out of me. I can still remember the sparks that flew when he would hit the walls. There are so many memorable scenes in The Beastmaster that I would have to go through the entire movie to list them all. I just want to mention how cool was the weapon Kapa Dar was using. Finally, Conan the Destroyer came out the same year so if you’re looking for something to watch, it’s a great choice.
Director: Don Coscarelli
Writers: Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman, Andre Norton
Cast: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn, John Amos, Joshua Milrad, Rod Loomis, Ralph Strait
Fun Facts: Dar’s black tiger is actually a regular tiger just painted black .