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The 80's got a lot of things wrong but (other than video games) it excelled in sword & sorcery movies. Thanks to countless airings on TV and a little bit of originality, The Beastmaster is among the greats. Of course it isn't 'Conan: The Barbarian' but anyone that's into fantasy stories from the era that dominated it has had to have seen this one. There's a reason TBS was nicknamed "The Beastmaster Station" and HBO dubbed "Hey, Beastmaster's On".
Rip Torn plays the sorcerer Maax, who is advised by witches that prophesy his death at the hands of King Zed's unborn child. Maax is overheard plotting the murder of the child by King Zed himself who banishes the evil high priest and his fanatic followers from his kingdom. That night, Maax sends one of the witches to use her dark magic to transfer the baby from his mother's womb into that of a cow. The beast is cut open, the child branded, and prepared for a sacrifice by fire when a lone peasant stumbles across the scene. He uses his caber, a bladed folding weapon, to defeat the witch in her own flames and takes the boy to raise.
As the boy, Dar (Marc Singer), grows older, he trains for battle with his adoptive father and learns that he has the special ability of communicating with animals. When Dar reaches adulthood, his village is attacked by the Jun horde lead by none other than Maax. The only survivor is Dar who now seeks revenge with his father's caber and the aide of his beast friends: a hawk, a pair of ferrets, and a "panther" that looks suspiciously like a tiger dyed black via movie magic. Like any other fantasy movie, Dar meets a few human companions along the way. Kiri (Tanya Roberts) the slave girl to the Jun's, the warrior Seth, and his young friend Tal join in the quest to end Maax's regime.
The Beastmaster is total nonsense fun and everything it was meant to be. There's always something cool coming up, from the amazing large scale sets (love the corridor sequences) to the Dungeons & Dragons-y monsters. There's hardly any costume department resulting in massive amounts of cleavage of both the male and female variety. But when there are creature costumes and make-up, it's among the best in the genre (for it's time). I even noticed quite a few points that obviously influenced Peter Jackson when directing 'The Lord of the Rings'. I'll suggest a video comparison to Grandpa Fred for an upcoming article in the 'Special Feature' column.
Before the TV show that starred a cast of renaissance festival look-alikes or the time traveling / made-for-TV sequels, there was the perfectly fine original. It holds it's own in a decade flooded with entertaining sword & sorcery films and even contributed a decent amount of inspiration for the rest. That's why I give The Beastmaster:
For some reason, no one seems to care that Dar and Kiri continue their relationship even after finding out that they're first cousins. Dar was King Zed's son, though separated at birth (pre-birth). Kiri calls King Zed "uncle" when reunited in the dungeon. Also, Tal who we find out is Dar's brother, calls Kiri his cousin. You can't refute that evidence. Yet the writers nor the characters seem to find any fault in kissing cousins. Maybe The Beastmaster also inspired Return of the Jedi…
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