Sunday, 11 December 2011

Review - The Beastmaster (1982 - Dir. Don Coscarelli)

So we come to the final entry in our Sword and Sorcery Season and I've saved the best till last. This was the first film I ever saw on a new-fangled technological device called a VHS Video Recorder/Player. It was round at a friend's house and what a cracking film to see. I was sold on the ideas of videos from that moment on.

Marc Singer (from the original series of V) plays our animal-loving friend. Due to a strangely attractive witch's intervention, he is born from the belly of an ox and from that moment on has a certain affinity for all manner of creatures. He can even see through the eyes of beasts and hear their thoughts. I sometimes wonder whether I was cut out of an ox's stomach because my rabbits talk to me (no, that's just clinical insanity).
Suffice to say, he goes on an epic quest in the search for vengeance, meets some chums and gets the girl.

Straight out of the Sword and Sorcery Checklist, Beasty comes up with a crafty plan to bed a bathing slave girl, Kiri (Tanya Roberts), who in true Sword and Sorcery style has a problem keeping her blouse on. In a similar fashion to Lupin, the Beastman comes across as a bit of a pervert, peeping and chuckling in a really dirty fashion. Funny, though.

The story is fairly bog-standard but it is very well told. Even with studio interference (what a surprise) and the insertion of some dubious visual effects shots (again, the studio's fault), the story is coherent and cracks along at a good pace. It's two hours long (blatantly ignoring the 'good film = one and a half hours' rule) but it more than justifies the extra length. It's almost got more endings than Return of the King. Almost. But  all of the plot threads get tied up satisfactorily. The story-telling is a definite cut above its genre-mates The Sword and the Sorcerer and The Warrior and the Sorceress from roughly the same time period.

There are so many memorable moments in this film: Beastial Man getting sucked down into quicksand and rescued by ferrets, the creepy tree/bird people who liquidise their victims and let's not forget the insane Death Guard who charge about causing mayhem and general unpleasantness. Shame we don't see more of them. Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) knows the power of the simple still shot. The brilliantly designed Jun horde (the baddies) stood atop a hill waiting to attack a village is another standout. Loads more great stuff awaits those willing to watch a slice of 80s obscurity. 

You could never accuse the leads of being great actors, but  the performances are enjoyable across the board. Even though it was filmed in December in the freezing cold (including the scene where Tanya Roberts swims in the pool), the actors all seem to be having fun. Marc Singer is likeable and obviously worked hard to get into shape for the role. His sword swinging abilities have become legend. Try to pick up any sword-type implement and not do The Beastmaster swing manoeuvre. It's a physical impossibility after watching this film.

A great film that still stands up today. Don't bother with the dubious sequels though. They're not directed by Mr Coscarelli and you can tell.

If you like this you could also try:
Phantasm, Spacehunter: Adventures in Forbidden Zone, Bubba-Ho-Tep, The Dark Crystal.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget to see "Sheena " for more of hot Tanya Roberts.