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Anchor Bay presents
The Beastmaster: DiviMax Special Edition (1982)

"Go crawl down a hole with your animals!"
- King Zed (Rod Loomis)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 17, 2005

Stars: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts
Other Stars: Tanya Roberts, John Amos, Rip Torn, Josh Milrad, Rod Loomis, Ben Hammer, Ralph Strait, Janet DeMay, Christine Kellogg, Janet Jones
Director: Don Coscarelli

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: PG for (brief nudity, violence)
Run Time: 01h:58m:25s
Release Date: January 25, 2005
UPC: 013131273199
Genre: fantasy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+B-B- B

DVD Review

The old joke is that in the early 1980s HBO stood for "Hey, Beastmaster's On", a simple punchline based on the gag that it was such a programming staple it often seemed like the only thing the fledgling cable network had to offer. For a low-budget sword-and-sandals flick from Don Coscarelli and Peter Pepperman—the makers of the even lower budget horror classic PhantasmThe Beastmaster may not have made its mark theatrically, but the endless showings on HBO gave it a weird kind of legitimacy, or at the very least, familiarity, that turned it into a modest cultural phenomenon.

It was difficult to NOT see The Beastmaster back then, and for the time it had enough going for it to make it enjoyable and beer-worthy pulp entertainment: Marc Singer's beefcake for the ladies, the brief nudity of Tanya Roberts for the fellas and some wonderful scenery chewing by Rip Torn as the film's big bad for everyone else.

The story is one of those good ol' ancient prophecy variety, borrowing liberally from Shakespeare and ancient myths in the telling of the prediction of a newborn boy who would one day rise up to destroy evil power-hungry priest Maax (Torn), who rules with a veritable iron fist. That soon-to-be-born youngster, magically drawn out of his mother's womb and transplanted in an ox (don't ask) is rescued from being tossed into a raging campfire by a kindly villager, and grows up to be Dar (Singer), a hunky, chiseled type with the ability to mentally communicate with animals. This ability to corral the powers of a hawk, a pair of ferrets and a black "panther" (actually a questionably dyed tiger), when combined with some nifty sword-wielding skills, is apparently all he needs to take care of all the evils in the world, and win the love of busty slave girl Kiri (Roberts), who when all is said and done turns out to be his cousin.

In the dusty recesses of my mind, the fondest recollection I had of The Beastmaster was Tanya Roberts, and for a PG film she manages to bare her intelligent breasts quite often. Over time I was sure my brain had tacked on some additional mental boobage, but I'll be damned after watching this again after all those years, and if she's not cavorting topless in a limpid pool (along with an unnamed equally topless blonde slave girl), she's standing at rapt topless attention when the ferrets scurry off with her slave girl togs. And that doesn't include the easter egg (02m:25s) found on this release of some excised Roberts nudity (some accidental, some not) that could have easily earned this even more legendary status than it already has.

For all its low rent goofiness, there is an undeniable comfort factor that I have with The Beastmaster that all of the bad acting and odd snippets of dialogue just cannot detract from. I'm drawn to this meandering costume drama because I remember liking it, and watching it today even I'll admit it's hard to isolate on what makes it so redeeming to me. But there's something here, I just don't know what it is. I'm attracted to this film for reasons that extend far beyond the tired fight scenes that seem right out of Stuntman 101 class, the laughable image of a supposedly ruthless "death guard" chasing two ferrets through a pyramid dungeon, Marc Singer's spastic bird calls that sound more like an ulcer attack, or the villager's huts that explode in giant, swooshing fireballs after a raid by the dreaded Jun Horde. All that nonsensical garbage gets washed away somehow by the package as a whole, and to this day if you asked me I would say, "Yes, I like The Beastmaster".

There is a lot of endless walking scenes going on in The Beastmaster, and the glaringly obvious filler effect is numbing. My fond remembrances of those repeated viewings on HBO helped gloss over the excessive filler and prolonged fight sequences that actually ended up making The Beastmaster about thirty minutes too long, something that director Don Coscarelli was unable to control, due to losing all creative control over the project when financiers heard the finished product was too short. The final (and only) cut is painstakingly long, with overlong fights that just never end, and had this been carefully trimmed to a tight 90 minutes it would probably be far less arduous to sit through.

But that's Hollywood.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Though this is a new DiviMax 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, it appears eerily similar to the inconsistent print found on the earlier release, because it still has the same horrible grain problem in between moments of bright, clean color. I'll grant you that for a low-budget fantasy film from 1982 this one looks far better than it should, but when it looks bad it just looks awful.

Reknowned Stanley Kubrick cinematographer John Alcott worked on The Beastmaster, and the problems of lighting a scene solely on torchlight is handled admirably here, and that's not even where the worst of the visual elements come into play. The Jun attack scene, in broad daylight, looks blocky and hazy. The good is during some of the sweeping panaramic shots, which all look finely detailed, and for those of you concerned, the Tanya Roberts sequences are still looking good, too. Debris and dirt have been all but eliminated on this print, which is a real plus, and even with the grain issues I'm certain this is the definitive treatment of the film.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio choices are plentiful, with 6.1 DTS-ES, Dolby Digital Surround EX and traditional 2.0 surround available. The DTS and EX mixes might be a touch on the side of overkill for a film like this, but I for one welcome the choice. Some of the noisier sequences make use of the sub channel and some fine directional pans stretch out the soundstage, but unfortunatley dialogue has the same kind of harshness one might expect from an early 1980s film. The most impressive part is the MGM lion roar before the opening credit sequence, which scared the living crap out of my rabbit.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Screenplay
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Poster
  2. Easter Egg
Extras Review: The Saga of The Beastmaster (55m:04s) is the big attraction here for fans, a brand new documentary from Anchor Bay featuring all new comments from writer/director Don Coscarelli, producer Paul Pepperman, production designer Conrad Angone and stars Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts and Josh Milrad. A full history, from origins on through production and the eventual HBO reign are covered, and it is genuinely touching to hear how much Coscarelli and Pepperman still love this project. They're input shows that I'm apparently not the only with a soft spot for this film. Singer gets a little too ethereal, chatting about his new age relationships with the animals, but he, Roberts and Milrad (who played the 12-year-old future king in the film) lob some interesting anecdotes, with nary a disparaging word. In between the chatter are some rarely seen behind-the-scenes production footage, and a great story from Coscarelli about Rip Torn's idea for his character. Good stuff all the way around.

The other extras are ported over from the previous release, including the commentary from Coscarelli and Pepperman, in which the two recall so many friggin' details that it will blow your mind that other filmmakers don't retain such exacting remembrances. These guys really prepared for the track, and despite whatever your own feelings about the film may be, their commentary (dead spots and all) is a strong one.

The screenplay is available as a PDF, and there is also the original trailer, a Stills Gallery (broken down into Production, Behind-The-Scenes and Promotional) and talent bios for Coscarelli, Pepperman, Singer, Roberts and Torn. An insert booklet folds out into a mini-movie poster, and also features some final words from Coscarelli.

Lastly, for all of you Tanya Roberts fans, an easy to find easter egg (02m:25s) features some additional nudity, including a longer take of the windblown tunic scene shown in The Saga of Beastmaster.

The disc is cut into 20 chapters, with no subtitle options.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Anchor Bay's royal treatment of one of the early 1980s' undisputed sword-and-sandals classics is nicely done, even if the film itself has maybe not aged so well. While most of the extras are actually ported over from an earlier release, a brand new documentary is the hook here for diehards, and if you are a fan it is loaded with great remembrances and behind-the-scenes clips.

If you're new to the whole The Beastmaster mythos (as was my 13-year-old daughter, she of The Lord Of The Rings-era epics) the pacing may seem to alternate from stagnant to repetitive, and the cuteness of the thieving ferrets only goes so far. Like the ugly witches with the hot bodies that help Rip Torn's evil priest, there are still some enjoyable parts to The Beastmaster, but it may just be my nostalgic memories getting in the way.

If you have similar recollections, this is worth a purchase.

 


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