I recently read the review posted on the Captain’s Quarters for The Beastmaster movie and she encouraged me to commence my own re-watch, as I have plenty of nostalgic love for this movie and she wanted to hear my thoughts on it now.
Spoilers ahead, so be warned.
According to Wikipedia, “The Beastmaster is a 1982 sword and sorcery film directed by Don Coscarelli and starring Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, John Amos, and Rip Torn. Loosely based on the 1959 novel The Beast Master by Andre Norton, the film is about a child who is stolen from his mother’s womb by a witch. The child grows into Dar, who has the ability to communicate telepathically with animals. Dar grows up in a village, where he learns to do battle, but the village is destroyed by a race of beast-like warriors under the control of the sorcerer Maax. Dar vows revenge and travels with new friends to stop Maax from causing any more problems.”
Honestly, it sounds a bit like something Young Millie would have written. Right on par with her Tarzan-meets-Jungle-Book rip-off about a baby boy who fell from the window of an airplane, landed safely, and was raised by various jungle animals so he could later face off against an evil scientist and creator of crazy machines like a mechanical battle elephant.
Much like me, the Captain has childhood memories of this movie:
“Basically the childhood impressions of this movie were of a falcon and the ferrets. I really wanted to talk to animals when I was young. Still kinda do. So I have false memories of the main character (Dar, to borrow Milliebot’s word, the blandtagonist) talking to his animal companions. Upon rewatch, he holds his head like he has a migraine and occasionally ye get a bird’s eye view with bad visuals. Seriously Dar is lame and just wanders around. He is supposed to be tracking down the evil Juns for revenge and never looks for them.”
I too, recall Dar being a decent, but run-of-the-mill Action Hero. I loved his ferrets so much. I’m sure I used to wish I could talk to animals, though I definitely spent more time wishing that Pokémon would become real. I remember a pretty lady, maybe a bad guy in a mask (or am I confusing that with Flash Gordon???), the creepy bat-monsters in the forest that would grab you and hug you and turn you to fuckin’ human mush, a ferret sacrificing itself, maybe a gross bug in someone’s ear controlling them for the bad guy, and lots of sweaty man muscles. I know I watched the movie multiple times as a kid – I enjoyed it and thought it was exciting and scary.
-rubs hands together- Let’s see how my memories hold up.
First off, a note on the visuals. I love cheesy movie effects – I don’t care how bad practical effects are, 9 times out of 10 they look better to me than most of the CGI work we have today. Long live practical effects! The movie opens with Maax and his three witches who bizarrely have sexy lady bodies and disgusting old faces. They’re writhing sexily over their vision cauldron and Rip Torn has an amazing hawk-nosed prosthetic. So, I’d say, effects are -chef’s kiss.-
We don’t really get a sense of Dar before the action “picks up.” As a kid, he’s saved by a knife-throwing old man whose knife makes an insane whooshing noise as it flies to meet the assassin trying to kill baby Dar, because, PROPHECY. There’s a scene or two with him as a kid that implies he can talk to animals because he made a bear go away instead of killing him and his adopted dad. It’s all rather boring. Then, suddenly he’s an adult and his village is under attack and there are women fleeing with their tiddies out.
I didn’t remember any of the beginning, but I did remember Dar’s adult diaper loincloth. Basically, after the town is massacred, Dar puts on a fancy skirt and a cheap Sailor Moon tiara and sets off on a revenge mission with his hawk buddy. If we ever found out the hawk’s name, I never heard it. I don’t remember his hawk buddy either – just the panther and ferrets. Speaking of the ferrets, they steal Dar’s fancy skirt while he’s training in his diaper and lure him into a pit of quicksand. They save him and then he saves one of them in return. Now we’ve got animal buddies two and three, Kodo and Podo. Dar isn’t very inventive when it comes to names.
We quickly round out the team when Dar saves what is actually a black tiger (or a real tiger dyed black?), Baghira Ruh. He says the hawk is his eyes, Kodo and Podo his cunning, and Ruh his strength. Now he’s whole or whatever. But he’s still boring – the animals are the only thing holding my interest.
Dar and company then happen upon two ladies swimming, so we get more tiddies. He cunningly uses Kodo and Podo to steal one woman’s clothes so she’s forced to wear her skimpy, hole-y, dirty underthings which just barely cover her. Dar then uses Ruh to pretend to attack the girl, so he can manipulate her into thinking Dar saved her from the fearsome beast! He seals the deal with a non-consensual French kiss for payment, and now we have Kiri, his 5th animal friend who brings powers of submission and sexiness. It turns out Kiri is a slave to some evil priests and Dar swears revenge against them when he finds out they whip her because only sexual abuse is ok, not physical!
Kiri runs away and I’m not really clear on whether Dar sets off after her, of is the city where she’s semi-captive is the same city he’s headed for on his revenge missions. At any rate, we get the scene that’s stuck with me the most since childhood. The dark forest-ish place with the creepy goop monsters!
There’s a soup cauldron with some dude’s head floating in it and a man in a cage. Dar easily releases the man, who runs directly into the horror from my childhood. These skin sacks basically have veiny flesh-wings, and a mouthless mask face (kind of like Spawn). They wrap their wings around you and smother you until you turn into a foamy green liquid and a pile of bones. As a kid, I can see why these things haunted me, even though visually they’re pretty cheesy now. But as an adult, I still find them pretty cursed, at least as a concept. But Dar is safe because these flesh goblins worship some sort of hawk symbol. So Hawk shows up and Dar can walk through this nasty bunch unharmed. After this, Dar finds a big fortress in the middle of the desert.
The scene shifts to hawk-nosed-badguy (Maax) legit throwing a toddler into a fiery pit. Yikes. As Maax gears up to chuck another screaming kid into the pit to appease his gods, Dar finally takes action. Or rather, Hawk, who swoops in to save the day in what is definitely the most impressive part of the whole movie. Hawk grabs this like, 3-year-old kid, and flies away, no problem.
Dar later delivers the kid to her parents in what I now realize is a village setting. I definitely thought it was a dungeon at first, and I wondered why Dar would be given free rein among prisoners. But it’s just a poorly-made set that’s supposed to be this dirty village at night. But hey, I still appreciate a practical set!
Some other things happen that are too boring to really describe: eye-spy ring, Ruh getting in and out of trouble, Dar being useless, Dar meeting some “pilgrims”, and way too much expositional dialogue after we’ve grown used to a mostly silent Dar. Dar and his two bros go to the fortress. Kiri has to endure some water torture before Dar actually saves her himself. He coerces her into making out with him again before he agrees to save everyone. Dar and Kiri end up in what’s actually a dungeon and we’re at another scene I remember.
I was right about the ear bugs – the bad guys basically stick a glowing leech into someone’s ear and it causes the person to go kind of crazy and become a hulking beast they can control. They stick a gimp mask on them, along with a diaper and some Mad Max-style studded chaps and bracers.
Kiri gets a “dress” that’s really just a shirt and could use some leggings and a blind guy calls Dar a freak and makes him cry. Kiri finds him crying and what I genuinely appreciate is that it’s no big deal. Despite Dar being a meatheaded manly man, it’s ok for him to cry. Surprising for an 80s action movie. But maybe he’s actually crying because he’s truly a blandtagonist and his only “personality traits” are strong and talks to animals. Without his animal friends, Dar is pretty useless, and just so, incredibly, dull!
We get a final face-off between Dar and Maax, in which Dar manages to save Kiri. But, because he can’t do anything right, Maax isn’t actually dead and Kodo loses his precious little ferret life in saving Dar’s ass yet again! I remember this scene too. -sadface-
Even after Maax is dead, the city gets together to fight some army that no one watching the movie actually cares about. Dar barely manages to defeat some guy in a mask who feels like he’s supposed to be important. Only, the army doesn’t give up after that guy dies, so the grody goo bats have to come help save the day after Hawk summons them.
After that, Dar gathers Hawk, Ruh, and Podo and just up and leaves. He doesn’t even say bye to Kiri. But it’s ok because she desperately chases after him. Throwing yourself at a man who only seems to hang around you in order to force kisses on you? RELATIONSHIP GOALS, GUYS.
Overall, writing this review was more fun and entertaining than watching this movie. Basically, the few scenes I remembered from childhood are the only interesting ones. Honestly, I would love to see a remake of this movie, though I would judge the CGI harshly. I feel like it could be spiced up with some good action scenes and maybe someone whose actually charismatic can be Dar. OMG, somebody call Dwayne Johnson – he’s jacked and charming as hell!
Anyway, I don’t ever need to watch The Beastmaster again unless it’s for a drinking game with friends. If you have fond memories of the movie like I did, you can definitely re-watch it, but chances are the scenes you remember are the only ones worth recalling. If you made it this far, I at least hope my review was an entertaining read!
*movie and book images from Google