• Beastmaster, The

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: June 6th, 2018.
    Director: Don Coscarelli
    Cast: Mark Singer, Rip Torn, Tanya Roberts, John Amos
    Year: 1982
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    The Movie:

    There was a time in the eighties where, had you told me that The Beastmaster was anything less than the greatest movie ever made, I would have challenged you to a fight after school behind the bike racks. Too young to have seen it in theaters, like most people my age I saw it on TV. A lot. This one was repeated time after time on HBO (“Hey, Beastmaster’s On”) and, in the great white north, First Choice Superchannel. I didn’t have First Choice, but a friend of mine did. He taped it during one of these airings and a bunch of us went over to his house to give it a watch, and that was it – I wanted to be The Beastmaster when I grew up. He had it all – a cool sword, amazing special powers, a hot chick and super neat fighting skills. He was the very embodiment of what a pre-pubescent boy in the eighties would see as the male ideal and a hero to look up to.

    More than thirty years later, if you tell me that The Beastmaster is anything less than the greatest movie ever made, I probably won’t fight you anywhere, let alone behind the bike racks in a schoolyard (such behavior rightly tends to get middle-aged men arrested). But I would politely argue that, despite its many and obvious flaws, it’s still a whole lot of fun. For those unfortunate enough to have never seen it? Well, that’s what the plot synopsis part of any review is for, so let’s get down to it…

    A young boy (Billy Jacoby!) is pulled from his mother’s womb, born from a cow by way of some witchcraft and then branded and raised by a farmer with a Krull-esque throwing star thing who saves him from a witch. Then, after being raised by the farmer as his own, he sees the farmer and the rest of his clan – even their awesome dog – slaughtered by a barbarian horde. This boy, now fully grown, is Dar (Mark Singer). He learned at a young age, when he came face to face with a man-eating grizzly bear, that he has the power to control animals… and so he becomes The Beastmaster! Gifted with a fancy sword, a swell loin cloth and a distinct lack of body hair he decides to hunt down and do away with those who would spread evil across the land, chief among them their leader, Maax (Rip Torn), who has a thing for sacrificing children.

    Along the way he befriends two ferrets that help him out of some quicksand, a giant black panther and a hawk that rips peoples’ faces off. He also makes the acquaintance of the beautiful slave girl Kiri (Tanya Roberts) and a hunter named Seth (John Amos). Inevitably they team up to take down Maax once and for all and make the land safe for decent folks from all walks of life.

    The Beastmaster has a lot going for it. It’s a bizarrely creative film with some great set design and fantastic locations (the American southwest serves quite nicely as the backdrop for all of this). It’s got a fun score, plenty of action and some genuinely effective humor. It’s also got nudity and ferrets. FERRETS! How many other movies co-star ferrets? Not many, let alone ferrets that can save you from quicksand or steal a lady’s clothes. Throw in some bears, a bad ass eagle and a super cool panther and yeah, there’s enough going on here to hold most viewers’ attention easily enough. At almost two hours it never feels overly long as director Don Coscarelli (he of Phantasm fame, obviously) paces the picture well and keeps the action moving nicely. This makes up for a seriously goofy premise.

    As to the acting? Well, Rip Torn is great as the main bad guy. He chews through the scenery quite nicely and definitely commits to what is generally a pretty wonky part. John Amos is also quite enjoyable in his role. He’s effortlessly cool and seems to be having a good time here. That’s where the praise for the acting ends, however. Mark Singer is fairly vapid here, he doesn’t have a whole lot of charisma and lacks the right screen presence to really succeed as a tough guy. Tanya Roberts… well she looks good here. Her acting was probably secondary in terms of why she was cast – because she’s terrible.

    But hey, it is what it is, a product of the early eighties sword and sorcery boom made on a pretty modest budget by a skilled director with a lot of cool animals and weird effects work. It isn’t a perfect film, and part of the appeal is certainly going to be nostalgia (at least for those of us of a certain age), but all in all it’s entertaining and it's fun. It’s hard to go wrong with entertaining and fun.


    Umbrella Entertainment brings The Beastmaster to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Without the older Blu-ray release that Umbrella put out in 2013 on hand we can’t say if there are any differences with this reissue – but it’s likely the same disc aside from the fact that the 2013 release was Region B (despite the Region B note on the back of the packaging, this 2018 disc played fine on out Region A Samsung UHD player and would appear to be region free). As to the quality of the image, it’s not bad. A newer scan would have likely improved on things but there’s good clarity and detail here, especially in close up shots. Colors are very nicely reproduced as well. There’s a little bit of crush in some of the darker scenes and some periodic minor compression artifacts but the majority of the time the image looks quite nice. There’s very little print damage and the film’s grain has been left intact, there’s no evidence of obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement here.

    Audio options are provided in DTS-DH 5.1 Master Audio and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. No subtitles or alternate language options are provided. The 5.1 track is pretty decent, there’s good surround activity noticeable throughout and this does add to some of the fun inherent in the action scenes. Dialogue is generally pretty clean and pretty clear and more or less confined to the front of the mix. There are no issues with balance and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. You can select the lossy 2.0 track not off the main menu but by using your remote. It doesn’t sound quite as punchy as the lossless mix, but it’s there for those who want it.

    Extras start off with the audio commentary that was recorded years back for the old DVD release with director Don Coscarelli and producer Paul Pepperman that is quite enjoyable. These guys have a good rapport and are pretty honest about what was involved in getting this movie made. They talk about their inspiration for the picture, trying to accomplish everything that they wanted on a modest budget, working with the different animals that were needed on the shoot, the locations that were used, the cast and crew and plenty more.

    Also carried over from the 2005 R1 special edition DVD is the fifty-five-minute featurette The Saga Of The Beastmaster that is made up of interviews with Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman, Conrad E. Angone, Joshua Milrad, Tanya Roberts and Marc Singer. It’s an interesting look back at the making of the movie made up of what were, at the time, current cast and crew interviews and some cool behind the scenes footage.

    Aside from that we get menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    The Beastmaster may not be the masterpiece I was convinced it was as a kid, but it is still a Hell of a lot of fun. Mark Singer makes for a great hero, Tanya Roberts is a stone-cold fox and the movie is filled to the brim with crazy villains, creepy monsters and super cool animals! Umbrella’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite nice and contains an interesting commentary and featurette as its main extras. Plenty of entertainment to be had with this one!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      Cheers for the review. First I've seen. A favourite when I was a kid. Btw Deathmaster is out in Germany in August