The Beastmaster

The Beastmaster ★★★½

"Dar. The gods have put their mark on you, and someday you will find out why."

Maax, a high sorcerer, is informed by one of his seers of his impending death at the hands of the unborn son of the king. He immediately commands his witches to extract the child from the womb and kill him. While the extraction is a success, a villager stumbles upon the scene in the nick of time to slay the witch, save the child and raise him as him own. Dar, trained to fight by his adopted father, possesses a special gift. He can communicate with and command animals. Many years later the sorcerer returns with an army and slays his adopted father, his entire village, and his dog. Dar, stricken by grief and a yearning for revenge embarks on a quest with his animal friends and allies he meets along the way to kill Maax and his evil disciples.

I never realized Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame directed this. I am one of the few horror buffs that was never too crazy about that franchise, and now that I've seen this, I think this is Coscarelli's best work. The 1980s were the golden age for a select few amazing genres of film and one of those is the sword and sorcery fantasy flick. Films and franchises like Highlander, Masters of the Universe, Flash Gordon, and The Neverending Story . Films like this paved the road for awesome 1990s Sunday afternoon television fantasy series like Hercules: The Legendary Journey & Xena: Warrior Princess . John Amos, the owner of McDowells in Coming to America fucking rules as Dar's ally Seth. Rip Torn knew how to play a villain better than most and it was on full display here. Everyone's favorite hybrid of Kevin Bacon and Kevin Sorbo is Marc Singer and he kicks big time ass as Dar. In the 1980s you'd expect them to pick someone like Dolph Lundgren for a role like this, but they did the right thing and snagged a natural.

As a young boy, my Pop Pop was my best friend and The Beastmaster was one of his favorite films. Although I'd seen it with him quite a few times I didn't remember a thing about it. A day or two ago my Letterboxd friend Lou (rhymes with wow!) wrote a great review on this and it reminded me that it's time to do a review of my own. The set design has that certain perfect look achieved by physical props and early CGI that just doesn't exist anymore. Vast swaths of the scenery look an awful lot like the same locations used in westerns. I would bet money on it. Actually, a lot of aspects of this film remind me of the old westerns from the noble revenge plotline to the musical score, which happens to be top notch.

I love this cheesy dumb fantasy cheesiness. Dar is out there kicking ass with animal friends against an evil sorcerer to free the king, avenge the deaths of both his real mother and adopted father, and he still finds time to spit game to a beautiful woman and come off smooth as fuck. Dar rules. I need to buy this film to avoid relying on streaming services. This is the ultimate movie to have on repeat while sleeping. Everything about it is prime 1980s feelgood zesty cheese. Ok, I'll stop using the word 'cheese'.

Pop Pop was right. RIP. My heart wanted to give this four stars but my mind had to step in for the sake of my rating scale. This is a 3-1/2 star banger that rides the line with 4 based on sheer entertainment and fun. When I started this today I realized there was a sequel and I scoffed at paying to rent a digital film. There is no scoffing anymore, I am on board! I just hope it doesn't lead me into the TV show because I have no time for TV series right now. The Beastmaster is one of many crown jewels in what I consider to be the best age for film, the 1980s. Highly recommended to anyone looking to suspend some disbelief and take a cinematic journey that they won't soon forget.

Deep Thoughts: Maybe I understood it wrong, but isn't Dar trying to bang his cousin? Whatever, that's probably too much thought. I don't understand allying with the Eaglemen either but ok. Who cares?

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