Review of The Beastmaster

By Vincent Canby
Published: August 20, 1982

”THE BEASTMASTER,” which opens at the National and other theaters today, is the kind of dopey, occasionally vicious adventure-fantasy in which an unborn crown prince is torn from his mother’s womb and magically transferred to a cow’s, an evil priest makes child sacrifices on whim and someone cries, ”Everyone to the moat!” and means it.
The movie, which is neither better nor worse than ”Conan the Barbarian,” which it resembles, stars Marc Singer as the prenatally purloined prince named Dar. Dar looks as if he lifted weights a lot but hasn’t, as yet, overdone it. Possibly because of his womb experience, he can ”talk” to animals, some of whom are his best friends. These include a handsome eagle, which scouts the primeval landscape for him, two frisky ferrets and a large black panther, played by an elderly tiger who’s been given a none-too-convincing head-to-foot black rinse.
It’s meant as a tiny bit of praise to say that the movie, which was made in southern California, looks as if it had been shot in Spain or Yugoslavia. It looks both big and cheap.
It also features one good actor, Rip Torn, as the evil priest, wearing some steel teeth and a hooked nose that is detachable. The cameraman was John Alcott (”Clockwork Orange,” ”Barry Lyndon,” ”Vice Squad”). The entire endeavor is a comment less on the state of the art than on the state of Hollywood employment.
”The Beastmaster,” which has been rated PG (”parental guidance suggested”), contains a lot of unnecessarily explicit violence and some partial nudity. Vincent Canby
Animal Friends
THE BEASTMASTER, directed by Don Coscarel- li; written by Mr. Coscarelli and Paul Pepperman; photographed by John Alcott; edited by Roy Watts; music by Lee Holdridge; produced by by Mr. Pepperman and Sylvio Tabet; re- leased by M-G-M-U.A. Entertainment Compa- ny. At the National Theater, Broadway and 44th Street; 86th Street East, at Third Avenue; Olympia Quad, Broadway and 107th Street; Coliseum, Broadway and 181st Street, and other theaters. Running time: 120 minutes. This film is rated PG.
Dar . . . . . Marc Singer
Kiri . . . . . Tanya Roberts
Maax . . . . . Rip Torn
Seth . . . . . John Amos
Tal . . . . . Josh Milrad
Zed . . . . . Rod Loomis
Young Dar’s father . . . . . Ben Hammer
Sacco . . . . . Ralph Strait
Young Dar . . . . . Billy Jacoby

0 thoughts on “Review of The Beastmaster

  1. The early 80’s…ah yes! Everyone had a copy of a Tolkien book, nerds and jocks alike played Dungeon and Dragons, every girl imagined herself a Unicorn riding princess, and ‘Sword and Sorcery’ B flicks spawned like young rabbits on Viagra!
    I would by no means compare ‘The Beastmaster’ with ‘Conan the Barbarian’ which was by far better written (based on actual novels written by Robert E. Howard) and produced by De Laurentis. Conan was necessarilly rated ‘R’ because it brought to life in Howard’s assertion that barbarism was better than civilization. ‘The Beastmaster’, in contrast, was a PG movie that was more a product of the fantasy zeitgeist of the times and contained much less ‘metaphysical pondering’ (i.e. “Conan, what is best in life?…’Defeat your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women.’…’That is good!”)
    Nevertheless, ‘The Beastmaster’ delivered a compelling story and awesome effects albeit pre-C.G.I. when movie watchers actually had to use some imagination to get into it. I’ll admit it, I saw this movie at the theatre and as a kid loved it! And towards the beginning of the film, we pre-pubescents were treated to Tanya Roberts topless skinny-dipping in natural spring water! Who could ask for more?
    I think the action and stunts for this film were impressive for the time and have even held their own compared to today’s standards (although lower budget). It was good enough because the script had good ‘glue’–a story the audience could get into, could feel, and could share the main character’s perspective. Near the end of the movie when Dar (Marc Singer)(as descent an actor as Rip Torn)jumps thru the fire and kicks the leader of the barbarian horde (the Judd horde?)in his antlers thus gaining revenge for the slaughter of his tribe, it is an invigoratingly climactic moment. And when the bird-men show up out of fucking nowhere, that’s an even bigger twist and jaw-dropper…and when Tanya Roberts emerges from a boulder as Dar is leaving the city and she starts stroking his chest hairs–it’s enough to put a young boy in fantasy heaven! So go to the Sci-Fi section of your video store and look for this one! But get a 6-pack while your at it!

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