Directed by Don Coscarelli
Written by Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Starring Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn, John Amos
Review by Jordan
“I have my eyes… I have my cunning… and I have my strength”
What do an eagle, a tiger and a pair of thieving ferrets have in common? They’re all friends of the Beastmaster of course! Fate’s mighty, slightly pervy hero whose scantily-clad ways are bested only by his pilgrim acquaintance Seth and who vows to avenge the death of his father and clan; a quest that will reveal to him his true calling and if successful lead him to the fulfilment of prophesy.
Dar (Singer), a boy born of a beast who then brandishes the power of communicating with them, is the type of mythical, Herculean hero to fill the imagination of adolescent sword-and-sorcery fans, as he goes from tragically farewelling his life-saving dog to comically being saved from immanent death-via-quicksand by lovable ferrets with the seamlessness of a smash cut. His seriousness extends to setting young servant boys free from cages hanging above a human broth, right into the hands of the nightmarish sorcerers who put him there, but, in a manner we can all relate, when he spies the beautiful slave Kiri (Roberts) in a watering hole in his downtime, he is chilled enough to steal her clothes and con her into thinking she’s in mortal danger if they don’t get together. He’s just an all-round good bloke.
Released in the same year as The Sword and the Sorcerer and Conan the Barbarian, Don Coscarelli’s take on the epic fantasy genre popular at the time was an underperformer at the box office, that would instead find its following on cable in the coming years, even spawning multiple poorly made sequels. Shifting dramatically in mood one scene to the next and not concerned with who is killed or what their age, The Beastmaster wears its inglorious design as a badge of honour, and is fast paced enough to retain its guilty pleasure charms.
Much attention is also focused on Tanya Roberts as its most appealing drawcard; an opinion I won’t readily disagree with.
Surprising in retrospect, coming from the director of Phantasm (1979), Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) and John Dies at the End (2012) which are predominantly exercises in offbeat horror, this fantastical thriller that moonlights as the epitome of fan-service of a bygone era should be held aloft and highlighted as an example of the genre delivering on it’s promise: sweeping adventure, youthful romance, dastardly villains and mischievous ferrets.