The Beastmaster

The Beastmaster

*1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

There was a time when sword and sorcery seemed like a shortcut to box office gold. It was just after Star Wars and everybody wanted to see films about heroes and princesses, battles and destiny. Space opera required costly effects but anybody could slum it in the desert. Marc Singer made a passable low-rent Luke with sufficient muscle for the semi-naked swordplay, and Rip Torn could always be relied upon to ham it up in a villainous role.

With Tanya Roberts to provide a bit of glamour as supposed slave girl Kiri, the Beastmaster team must have thought they had it all set. Then, for some inexplicable reason, they added a big cat, a falcon and some comedy ferrets...

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Competing with Hawk The Slayer for the title of worst mainstream sword and sorcery epic, The Beastmaster nevertheless enjoys a cult following and makes frequent appearances on the small screen. Its far-fetched premise (our hero was magically teleported from his royal mother's womb to that of a cow, so he has a telepathic link with animals) at least serves to make it stand out from the competition.

The main plot - would-have-been-prince Dar survives destruction of village and sets out for revenge against an evil sorcerer - isn't quite as distinctive. Events are spiced up by the appearance of some unusual monsters but essentially there's no difficulty Dar can get into that his animal pals can't save him from, which doesn't allow for much tension. Still, there are a handful of entertaining fight scenes and the special effects, whilst not exactly flawless, at least suggest that the production team were having fun.

Ultimately, The Beastmaster is low grade pulp with little sense of purpose, but Singer's clumsy dialogue and attempts to combine beefy manliness with chatting to ferrets lend it a certain camp charm. The animal actors outclass most of the human ones and are sufficiently smart as to leave one wondering who exactly is working for whom. Whilst the pacing is awkward, there are quite a few subplots to bulk the film out so it doesn't drag too much. There aren't many worse fantasy films out there, but there are certainly worse things to do with a Sunday afternoon.

Reviewed on: 17 Aug 2011
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A warrior with a psychic connection to animals fights against an evil sorcerer.
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Director: Don Coscarelli

Writer: Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman

Starring: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, John Amos, Rip Torn, Josh Milrad

Year: 1982

Runtime: 118 minutes

Country: US, Germany

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Conan The Barbarian
Red Sonja
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