|Dar (Marc Singer) and a tiger, in a frame from The Beastmaster (1982)|
I sincerely don’t like the ‘sword and sandal’ genre, but since I was in the mood of catching up with it a little bit, I thought I’d give a shot at some classics; thereby I present you my views on The Beastmaster trilogy (1982 – 1996).
|The Beastmaster (1982) poster|
The Beastmaster (1982)
A king’s son, Dar (TV actor Marc Singer), is hunted by baddie priest Maax [Rip Torn, later in Men in Black (1997)] and has to flee away from his father’s kingdom and live with another family. When his father is murdered by savages, the male lead will discover that he communicates with animals so well that he can use them to ploy his revenge; therefore the title.
Shot in deserted valleys just outside California (doubling for epic locations from another time) by renowned cinematographer John Alcott [A Clockwork Orange (1971)], this looks way better than it has any right to (the budget was a mere $9 million). Its PG rating and humor reveal that it is indeed entertainment for the whole family (I mean, how could it not be with all those adorable cute animals leading the thing?), but the occasional boob glimpse (Tanya Roberts is here) makes this one for the whore family as well.
Written by Don Coscarelli (who also directed) and Paul Pepperman (based upon Andre Norton’s novel, albeit sans credit), this was a big box-office success (it grossed $14.1 million) and became a TV favorite as well, therefore a franchise was born.
|Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal...|
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)
The protagonist’s evil half-brother Arklon (Wings Hauser, no introduction needed) and his ally (and equally evil) witch Lyranna [Sarah Douglas from Superman (1978)] travel into the future (via a time portal) and arrive in present day Los Angeles in particular where they plot to purchase a neutron bomb. Dar (a now aged Marc Singer, looking ridiculous in hero attire) and his animal friends must stop them.
The Back to the Future trilogy (1985 – 1990) was a big thing back then, and this is the approach employed here by the story (it was written by Jim Wynorski and R.J. Robertson and it was turned into the screenplay by that same duo and Sylvio Tabet, Ken Hauser, and Doug Miles) and the promotional materials (I mean, check out the font and colors of the film’s title). This approach is nothing unusual in the world of exploitation cinema, and the faults of this particular entry is its running time, which although it is a bit shorter than the first film, it is still much too long for its own good.
This is probably because by that stage, the straight-to-video guys took over, and other than the aforementioned people involved with the script (a few of them need to introduction), you should note that this was shot by Rohn Schmidt [The Terror Within (1989)], edited by Adam Bernardi [Ghoulies Go to College (1990)], directed by Sylvio Tabet (the franchise’s producer; Jim Wynorski was originally slated to directed, but plans changed at the last moment, leading to a court battle), and stars Robert Z’Dar [Maniac Cop (1988)], proving that things could indeed get cheaper. In an amazing meta moment, a theater marquee is advertising the current film! Made on a $6 million budget, it grossed less than $1 million, becoming essentially a flop.
|Beastmaster III: The Eye of...|
Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1996)
Baddie Lord Agon [David Warner from John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994)] kidnaps King Tal [Casper Van Dien from Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999)], and now it is up to the poor guy’s brother and titular hero Dar (Marc Singer, looking surprisingly in good form) and his friend Seth (Tony Todd, looking much too elegant to be here) to save the day. Will they make it against the titular monster (Michael Deak, a monster never looked that much like a guy-in-a-suit since the glorious 1950s)?
By 1996 the straight-to-television had taken over, as this was directed by Gabrielle Beaumont (a craftsman that has worked exclusively for the small screen), and it comes complete with sill sound effects and laughable sets; hell, even the soundtrack by Jan Hammer is outrageously bad. And, I didn’t get the bromance finale at all, were the two male leads supposed to be gay? Thankfully, it is much shorter than the previous two entries.
Consisting of a good film and two monster dogs, Beastmaster is a classic franchise of its kind, so if you are a fan of the genre you should definitely check it out, although you probably already have. In 1999 the Beastmaster was turned into a TV series that lasted for 3 seasons, but this is a story that I will not be telling.
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