The Beastmaster

The Beastmaster ★★★★

Yet another film I missed out on as a kid, which is a damn shame. I would have loved this shit in the heady days of my childhood. Probably would have watched it back to back with Conan the Barbarian, hundreds of times. I always liked Coscarelli for his horror output, but somehow never realized he was behind this. This is probably one of the few Sword and Sorcery movies that can stand toe to toe with Conan. Some critics even accused it of being a knockoff, but this opened in theatres a mere three months after Conan, which makes that a rather ludicrous claim. There are similarities, sure, but it's purely coincidental. What fascinates me, however, is how tonally all over the place this feels. Coscarelli wanted to keep this at a PG rating, so it could be seen by a younger audience, which you can definitely see in the overall vibe of the film. And yet, he managed to sneak some stuff into this that feels more intended for an R-rated film. But hey, maybe Coscarelli just understood that that's exactly what 80s kids wanted. That's why there were so many cartoons and action figures that came out of R-rated franchises in the 80s.

My one gripe with this is probably the length. It was a lot of fun for the most part, and well filmed, aside from some really bad visual effects here and there. However, at 2 hours, it does start to overstay its welcome a little. Maybe it's just because I watched at the end of the day and I was tired, but I was starting to drift off near the end. But, like I said, it was mostly a lot of fun. Felt like a 2-hour episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, except with a briefly topless Tanya Roberts and some creepy-as-fuck, weird-ass birdmen that melt your flesh off when they hug you (Winged Devourers). Plus the ferrets, Kodo and Podo, were cute as hell and stole every scene they were in.

Overall, this is definitely something I'll be returning to in the future.


Controversy:

There is a rumor that has long been circulating the internet, regarding the fate of the tiger that was used. Allegedly the tiger died years after filming from a slow and painful death caused by a reaction to the black paint they used on the tiger. I did some digging and it seems this rumor is unfounded. The dye that was used was a non-toxic, water-soluble, vegetable-based dye. It was completely safe. However, according to Coscarelli, the producer brought in a new animal trainer, who wanted to dye multiple tigers for the film, which required the use of anesthesia. One of the tigers apparently didn't wake up, which happens quite frequently with cats. These decisions had nothing to do with Coscarelli, and should not influence how you feel about the film. I mean something like 27 animals died during the filming of The Hobbit, but I don't see people talk about that nearly as much as people bring up the tiger in this. And for the record, I'm an animal lover. Especially cats.

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