The Beastmaster (Big Sky Video) (1982)

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Released 18-Dec-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Animation
Audio Commentary-Don Coscarelli (Director) & Producer (Paul Pepperman)
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo-Production Stills; Behind The Scenes
Gallery-Original Production Art; Posters & Advertising
Booklet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 113:34 (Case: 116)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:04) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Don Coscarelli
Studio
Distributor

Big Sky Video
Starring Marc Singer
Tanya Roberts
Rip Torn
John Amos
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Lee Holdridge


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Beastmaster is an interesting movie. Virtually ignored upon its initial theatrical release in 1982 - thanks in part to a botched marketing campaign - it became a "cable hit" in the US, eventually gaining such a following during its innumerable re-runs that it spawned two sequels (the second a made-for-TV movie), and finally a relatively short-lived TV series (an interesting side-note about the TV series is that it was produced in Australia, and a quick browse of the guest cast over the three years of production reads as a virtual who's who of good looking Aussie actors). This - the original The Beastmaster movie - remains the most well thought of production of the franchise. Combining an interesting story and decent characterisation (for this type of film at least) with an ever-so-slightly dark tone, it succeeds to the extent that it is easily better than the second Conan movie, and has aged better than the first (although it is certainly not a patch on that film).

    The story follows Dar (Mark Singer), the son of King Zed, and heir to the throne. Dar has a difficult start to life, being ripped from the belly of his mother by an evil witch in the service of the dark priest Maax - pronounced May-Ax - (Rip Torn sporting a large prosthetic nose) and placed in the womb of a cow. Rescued just short of being sacrificed, Dar is raised in a far-off village, never knowing of his heritage. As he grows, he finds that he has an uncanny ability to see through the eyes, and control the thoughts, of animals. When his village is completely destroyed by the barbarian horde - the Juns - and everyone killed (well, apart from him of course), he sets out for bloody revenge, and picks up his trusty travelling companions along the way - two ferrets, a black lion, and an eagle. During his travels he meets the lovely Kiri (Tanya Roberts), and his fighting accomplices Seth (John Amos) and Tal (Josh Milrad).

    The Beastmaster is obviously B-grade, but it lacks a lot of the corniness associated with other B-grade fare while at the same time managing not to take itself so seriously as to become pretentious. The feel and effect of the film, all achieved for a budget of $4.5 million US - small even in 1982 - is remarkably epic. This is helped by an almost universally successful use of sets and special effects. There are a few effects that are, shall we say, not too good, but in general the achievement for the age of the film, and its budget, is exceptional. The sets are huge and really help add a presence to the movie - a feeling that the environments are really there, not just propped up for the time it takes to get the shot.

    The performances are probably the weakest aspect of The Beastmaster. Mark Singer is definitely not the greatest of actors, while in other circles it has been said that the entire film was created around how good Tanya Roberts looked in a loin-cloth, although she at least displays more than one emotion. Rip Torn seems to be enjoying him self as the evil Maax, and John Amos is good value as the mentor to kings, Seth. One of the classic lines of cinema is "never work with children or animals", and while there are no pesky little kids to be found here, there are a large number of animals. Almost all the animals pull off their roles without fault, which is an extremely impressive effort when it is taken into account that most of the animals used were not trainable, and were simply acting to "find the food" prompts.

    The Beastmaster is a cult classic. It will never have the following or appeal of the more well-known (and better) Conan: The Barbarian, nor the ready audience afforded Lord Of The Rings, but for those who find its charms sufficient, it will bring a consistent smile.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer afforded The Beastmaster is probably the best that could be hoped for a low-budget movie that is now over 20 years old, which means it is quite poor compared to more modern films, but surprisingly good for its peers, with any problems almost entirely source-related.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is extremely variable, with some shots being nicely sharp and well defined, while others are very soft. Complicating the issue, there is a very large helping of grain with this movie, and while it is usually kept in check, there are occasions when it goes through the roof. Easily the worst instance is the first one, from 10:54 to 11:04, but there are a number of other bad instances. Shadow detail is not as variable - being quite consistently poor. It is occasionally difficult to make out action in the dark as any of the areas away from the light are simply swallowed by shadow. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are a little washed out, tending towards the orange, but given that the movie was filmed in the desert during the day, and almost exclusively by firelight at night, the sandy hues are quite reasonable.

    Compression artefacts are rarely a problem, with the only real issue created by the extreme grain from 10:54 to 11:04 where the grain causes severe pixelisation, but this is not really the fault of the compression. One advantage of the overall softness of the image is that there is absolutely no aliasing at all, leaving all straight lines free of the dreaded "jaggies". Film artefacts are another matter, however, appearing constantly, and often quite obviously (such as from 88:53 to 88:55, and at 58:00). They can be distracting at times, but again they are down to the obviously poor state of the source material. It is just a shame that economies of scale (this movie is never going to be a best-seller) will keep this sort of film from ever undergoing a full restoration.

    The subtitles are generally accurate, well paced, and easy to read.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 66:04 between chapters 16 and 17. While not placed as well as could be, it doesn't break any dialogue, and is good enough.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is the stand-out here, presenting the old soundtrack almost like it is a new one.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), and an English audio commentary track in Dolby Digital 5.0 (also at 448 Kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, which is an especially good effort given the age and nature of the film. Audio sync is generally good, although there are a few occasions, such as at 3:16, when it becomes a little suspect. These are few and far between, and pose no distraction.

    The score is credited to Lee Holdridge, and is a solid, if not spectacular, effort. It is well suited to the setting and genre of the film, but does seem to be limited in scope, consisting of only a few themes repeated often enough to make them familiar after only one viewing.

    Surround presence is actually quite good, delivering a number of directional effects, as well as consistently carrying the score. They even get used on occasion for ambient noise.

    The subwoofer is not quite so well supported, with the soundtrack lacking bass in general, although it still gets enough information to rumble along thanks to the score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras complement is actually quite good for such a low-profile release, providing some interesting insight into the making of the film.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, animated, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Audio Commentary - Don Coscarelli (Director, Co-writer), Paul Pepperman (Producer, Co-writer)

    This is a very good audio commentary. The two talk enthusiastically throughout, leaving only a few gaps. They reveal quite a bit of information about the film, how it was handled by the studios (poorly), and what they think works, and what doesn't. They are obviously friends, and realise that The Beastmaster is not one of the greatest films ever made. Very much worth a listen, and almost worth grabbing the disc for alone.

Theatrical Trailer (2:07)

    Presented at 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this trailer is very much showing its age, and proves just how bad the film could have looked. It also shows how far the science of making a trailer has come since 1982.

Production Stills (13)

    This is 13 images taken during production, mostly from scenes that do not feature in the film. For this reason, they are worth a look.

Behind The Scenes Stills (13)

    This is 13 pictures taken on the set during production, where the camera isn't pointing. Not particularly interesting, but in the absence of any featurette, worth a look.

Original Production Art (25)

    This is 25 illustrations of various aspects of production. As with the previous gallery, worth a look in the absence of any featurette.

Poster and Advertising (6)

    This section contains 6 stills of, ah, posters and advertising material. Straightforward really.

Booklet and Mini-poster

    I'm not usually one to be all that fussed about this sort of material, but this is an extremely worthy inclusion. The booklet features 16-pages of production art, and also contains the story of The Beastmaster the film, and how it has progressed throughout the years.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:     The quality of the video transfer for both versions is almost identical, while the addition of a DTS-ES soundtrack for a 1982 movie is not particularly compelling. Even the behind the scenes footage is not particularly compelling - it is simply half an hour of very poor quality home video footage taken on the set during production, and can be quite tedious to watch. Only the deleted scenes - featuring more of Tanya Roberts naked - are of any interest, and then only depending on your persuasion. I will give this one to the R1 as a narrow win, but it is possible to be happy with either version, especially as the big-ticket extra - the commentary - has been included on the region 4.

Summary

    The Beastmaster is a cult film, albeit one that is surprisingly good, and has stood the test of time extremely well. It is unashamedly B-grade, and delivers on almost all expectations for a fun sword and sorcery action adventure.

    The video quality is good for the age and genre of the film - which means that compared to recent films it is quite poor, but is still very watchable.

    The audio quality is extremely good, presenting a wide soundstage, and making use of many directional surround effects.

    The extras, although a little limited, are still extremely good for the low-profile nature of the film. They are interesting, and the commentary is one of the best out there.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, January 09, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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