Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Beastmaster

    

“He is a friend, he is the Beastmaster!”     

  Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs- not as good as I remembered it being, but still pretty funny.  

 This is another one that hit high on the nostalgia scale for me. I originally saw this on VHS when I was about 6-ish, once again through parental incompetence. My parents, bless their hearts, were terminally confused about ratings and films back then. They came home from the video shop one day with The Beastmaster, thinking it was some sort of kiddie friendly Disney claptrap. Needless to say, it isn’t. From that moment forth, The Beastmaster held a special place in the heart of young Jarv, but I hadn’t seen it again (it hasn’t got a UK DVD release) until very recently.     

 I have to admit, I was marginally disappointed with this. It’s a Sword and Sorcery by numbers piece of claptrap, but it isn’t anywhere near as brutal, there are nowhere near as many shots of gratuitous boobs  and the sword fights are a bit more inept than my nostalgic recollection of it. Having said that, it’s still pretty fucking funny, but not for the reasons I thought.   

"What the fuck am I doing here?"

 

Rip Torn plays Maax (pronounced “May-axe”, just in case anyone mistakes his name for a constipation remedy), a batshit insane high priest of R. Which is intrinsically funny, now I come to think of it- they couldn’t even be arsed to give the evil god a proper divine title. He’s got a thing for child sacrifice and a coven of evil witch/ demon type thingies to do his bidding. One day, they give him the prophecy that the King’s son will kill him. Being a genius, he sneaks one of his witches into the King’s bedroom in order to prevent this untimely event. Obviously, Maax was a boy scout, because his Witch is prepared with a cow (the security obviously isn’t up to much in the palace. This isn’t exactly an Al Qaeda suicide bomber). The witch transfers the unborn child into the cow (not joking), and then attempts to murder him. Unfortunately for the witch, a local peasant is on hand to rescue the baby. Years later, the fully grown lad called “Dar”, who is the Dr. Dolittle of Barbarian Heroes, is the sole survivor of an attack on his village. He goes on a quest for vengeance, recruits some animal buddies to help out, dodges some evil Batmen (don’t ask) tries to shag a slave girl (who turns out to be his cousin, but they don’t seem to care much), then kills Maax.     

  

All good clean Barbarian hero type fun. The thing is, this is actually quite a polished film. Sure, Rip Torn gets to sink his teeth into the scenery at every available opportunity, but as a rule, the acting is quite good. Marc Singer as Dar is not only the proverbial brick shithouse, but also plays Dar with a sort of twinkly eyed charm. Tanya Roberts is serviceable as Kiri, but gets her tits out on first appearance, so clearly understands the nuances necessary to play a slave girl in a barbarian film. The big surprise, though, is the presence of John Amos as Seth. He’s great in this film- and shows remarkable dedication to hitting bad guys on the head with a big stick.     

   

 The direction is also well thought out, there are plenty of epic feeling aerial shots of Dar swinging a sword around (he could actually have done with a bit more practice, because he fucking sucks with it in battle), and everything has a properly staged feeling about it. The score in particular is superb. It’s a big orchestral number and really gives the feeling that you are watching a saga. Overall, it’s very tidy stuff.  

  It’s also very silly stuff. Dar’s animal companions are an Eagle (his eyes), a tiger painted black (his strength) and 2 ferrets named Kodo and Podo (his cunning). Leaving aside the enormous stupidity of the animal companions, the sword fighting itself is also sort of tame. Dar is hopeless in a fight- he loses his sword and has to resort to chucking bad guys around. Then there’s the Batmen with their nefarious hugs of death. They’re fucking funny- not at all frightening although I’m nearly certain that they’re meant to be. There’s other moments of gross stupidity in this film. For example, and I didn’t know this, but a small Eagle can apparently carry a large child. That’s useful information. Also, if a big lumbering barbarian cunt throws ” a caber” which looks suspiciously like a metal boomerang (see below) at you, he will miss. However, make sure you watch its return path. Finally, it appears that the ultimate prop for picking up semi-naked women is a large and angry-looking black tiger. This is essential knowledge that I’m sharing here.  

    

 However, what elevates this film above many of the other Sword and Sorcery efforts, are the “Dead Guards”. There’s a great section where the baddies detail exactly how you make one. Sort of Nigella makes a henchman style. Anyhow- this is how you do it: Take one peasant. Torture him for a while until his marinated in his own pain. Add some suspicious looking bondage gear, complete with dubious gimp mask. Garnish with magic glowing green leech. Allow to rest for a few minutes. Once complete, you will have an almost indestructible psychotic henchman. Hilarious. Overall, I did thoroughly enjoy this again. Sword and Sorcery films are invariably stupid (honourable exception to Conan) and all follow the same basic formula. The Beastmaster follows this formula to the letter, but is still one of the superior entries in the genre. I’d recommend this, but with the caveat that you have to be prepared for some Richter scale stupidity. I just wish they’d been a bit more hard core, and upped the nudity and death. Conan has gallons of both, so there’s no excuse really. 

    

I did make the mistake of triple-billing this with its less than stellar sequels, which I’ll be reviewing next, Needless to say, I don’t recommend doing that. 

  

 Until next time,  

 Jarv

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

54 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Beastmaster”

  1. xiphos0311 says :

    The movie has attack ferrets that alone elevates it over the run of the mill barbarian movies that involve Dr. Dolittian like power.

    • Jarv says :

      I know, but it’s a bit of a spoiler what happens to them. Which, incidentally, they completely ignore for both sequels- and they keep changing the big cat.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        If I remember correctly they had ferretlings right?

      • Jarv says :

        Kodo dies killing Maax, and Podo gives birth just before Dar makes out with his cousin to soaring music and a frankly inexplicable aerial shot that pans around for a good few minutes.

  2. Jarv says :

    Completely forgot to say- this is another slice of 1982’s golden B-Movie cake.

  3. xiphos0311 says :

    I was about 12 when this came out needless to say I snuck into the theaters A LOT to watch it. Tanya Roberts feed bags spent many an hour in my head.

    • Jarv says :

      I’m watching a lot of Barbarian Hero nonsense at the moment and aside from the deeply disappointing Beastmaster sequels, there’s a fair amount of Boobage in all of them.

      Some, like Deathstalker, take it to extremes. But Deathstalker has PIGMEN so I can forgive it.

  4. xiphos0311 says :

    Deathstalker I’m drawing a blank on that one.

    • Jarv says :

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087127/

      Fucking hilarious. Loads of violence, nudity, shitty special effects, PIGMEN, and other comic gold.

      Christ, here’s a sad individual’s summary of it:

      There are twenty-five breast shots, twenty-seven butt shots, six sword fights, fifteen impalings, two amputations, one arrow in the neck, three beheadings, on horse dragging, one eye-candy, one finger food, one mud wrestle, one pig face, one magical trans sexual operation, two bitch slappings, one crotch stabbing, one head smashing, and one draw and quartering.

  5. DocPazuzu says :

    Damn… I’m all for loving shit, but there’s something wrong when the good parts of a film actually bring its Changs down a notch or two in the review.

    The Beastmaster more than makes up for all its non-Deathstalkerish failings with loads of heart and sheer fun.

    In fact, I would say it’s…. delightful.

    DocP

    • Jarv says :

      It didn’t take it down- per se, and I love this film very much, Before I watched it, I had it down as a 3 Chang film, but it just wasn’t what I remembered. It’s such a silly concept, and they play it completely straight, but they just chickened out on the gore and boob front- he’s a fucking barbarian hero- I demand at least one decapitation.

      It certainly does have heart though, and funnily enough, the scene where Dar cries is brilliantly handled (it should be beyond parody).

      Beastmaster 2, on the other hand, is flirting dangerously with a 0.5 chang rating

  6. Stuntcock Mike says :

    Yes, I’ll confess. I have indeed ‘bated to this gem.

  7. just pillow talk says :

    Eye ring! Eye ring!

  8. koutchboom says :

    That is a pretty fucking awesome poster.

  9. Bartleby says :

    Great review. Jarv, sent you an email.

  10. koutchboom says :

    Man why don’t movie channels show stuff like this anymore?

  11. Bartleby says :

    sad bit about the tiger. The reason why he never returns for the sequels, besides the number of years in between, is that he dfied shortly after the first film. The truth is, they wanted a panther, and they spraypainted the tiger black, which eventually killed it.

  12. Bartleby says :

    they obviously did spray paint the tiger, and I remember seeing a documentary about animals in the movies, and someone specifcally pointing out the tiger in this film because it did die shortly after. It’s was another tipping point for the animal rights people I believe.

  13. Bartleby says :

    whether the paint was ultimately responsible is anyone’s guess though

  14. DocPazuzu says :

    I read an interview with Marc Singer in Starlog ages ago (yet long after The Beastmaster came out) and he spoke very fondly of the tiger and how much he missed it. Never mentioned it having died, though.

    He also said that the sword was amazing and could have, in his own words, “slice a Sherman tank in half”.

  15. koutchboom says :

    What!! There was a Beastmaster TV show?

  16. koutchboom says :

    And this was directed by Don Coscarelli. Hmmm I need to see Phantasam.

  17. xiphos0311 says :

    Starlog! I miss the days of getting info from that mag or Fangoria once a month.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      I always liked those ‘Genre movies being made’ segments in Starlog-everything there was (really) in developmental hell. Heck they were looking at doing a Wizard of Id movie in ’88 w/ Paul Williams as the King. I woulda watched it-

  18. xiphos0311 says :

    Spray painting the the tiger sounds like a euphemism for something else.

  19. Abom says :

    Isn’t Don Coscarelli the director who did that “Great White” knock-off of Jaws?

    Hey, if you’re gonna knock-off a movie, can’t do much better than that.

    Marc Singer, post-V, kicking ass and taking names.

  20. Abom says :

    Phantasm! That’s right–I saw those a couple years ago. Watched all of ’em in order

  21. just pillow talk says :

    Wow…Doc P and Abom posting.

    See what the Beastmaster has generated? I think you need to rethink your Chang rating of the film Jarv…

  22. lordbronco says :

    Jarv: Tear Down This Wall!!!!

    This movie deserves a 3.5 Chang rating.

    Your position is untenable.

    Don’t make me threaten to stop posting in some kind of mammalian conniption fit of internet inadequacy!

    My country is willing to negotiate with yours *IF* you settle for a 3.0 rating as a concession.

    Otherwise, we may have to place an embargo and a trade treaty on your Queen!

    Lovingly,

    -LB

    • Jarv says :

      It’s a good film- 2.5 Changs is right. In comparison to most Barbarian films that aren’t called Conan its a 900 Chang movie, (especially it’s sequels). It’s roughly 5 times better than BM2- hence the rating.

      It’s got heart, and is enjoyable- a bit more nudity and beheadings would have boosted it to 3 Changs.

  23. DocPazuzu says :

    Let’s not forget that The Beastmaster was a PG movie — with tits, late term abortion (without painkillers), people being digested alive, children burned alive, and a dog shot with an arrow.

    TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!!

  24. Droid says :

    Surprise, surprise I’ve never seen this. Sounds pretty fucking stupid though.

    I remember seeing the VHS cover of this at my local video store growing up. Even then it looked stupid.

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