The Beastmaster (Beyond Home Ent) (1982)
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Animation
Audio Commentary-Don Coscarelli (Director) & Producer (Paul Pepperman)
Featurette-Making Of-(55:08) The Saga of the Beastmaster : Excellent .
Gallery-Photo-Production Stills; Behind The Scenes
Gallery-Original Production Art; Posters & Advertising
Trailer-(03:02) The Sword and the Sorcerer : 1.85:1, 16x9.
Trailer-(01:48) Barbarian Queen : (01:48), 1.33:1, 4x3.
Trailer-(01:35) (The Perils of) Gwendoline (01:35), 2.35:1, 16x9.
|Year Of Production||1982|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (88:27)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Don Coscarelli|
Beyond Home Entertainment
|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|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Beastmaster may have been a financial diappointment in its original theatrical release in 1982, but before the end of that decade this iconic sword, sex, and sandal epic had built a huge fan base. Rapidly disappearing from American cinemas, the movie quickly found its way onto HBO where it became an oft repeated favourite. Today, through the wonders of DVD, the blonde, muscle-bound hero has burst through the confines of the old square TV tube and been restored, at least partially, to his original splendour. Although this local Beyond Home Entertainment release apparently is not the more recent Anchor Bay restoration but the previous Big Sky Video released in the US in 2002, what we have is a handsome looking and sounding transfer, combined with an attractive set of extras, one coming from the Anchor Bay version, all adding up to a release that will be welcomed by the many fans of The Beastmaster.
Set in the world of mythology, with some foreward borrowings from Shakespeare, the story is concerned with the imminent birth of the boy child of King Zed. The child, it is predicted, will destroy the evil and power-hungry priest, and would be usurper, Maax (Rip Torn). Not surprisingly, Maax plots the death of the unborn child.With the assistance of three witches, the embryo is transferred to the womb of an ox, smuggled out of the palace by one of the hags and taken to a forest. There the hag delivers the child, brands it, but before she can murder the baby a passing farmer comes to the rescue. The farmer kills the hag and rears the child as his own, naming him Dar. While still an adolescent Dar learns in a confrontation with a bear that he has a mental bond with the animal world - the ox attachment! Years later the young adult Dar (Marc Singer) is working in the fields when his village is attacked by hordes led by Maax, wiping out everyone, including Dar's adoptive father. Dar survives, saved by his dog which lies dead beside him in the aftermath of the destruction. Dar swears vengeance and sets out to seek and destroy Maax. On his journey Dar is befriended by a hawk, is rescued from quicksand by two ferrets, and rescues a black panther. Sharing natural spiritual links, and the power of communication, Dar and his four companions continue on the quest for vengeance. After further adventurous interludes Dar is joined by the warrior Seth (John Amos), the twelve year old Tal (Josh Milrad), actually Dar's younger brother, and the sexy slave girl Kiri (Tanya Roberts).
Once we have these ingredients we know exactly what to expect, and the surprises are few. There's an underground clash with a zombie looking mob, ritual sacrifices of male children atop pyramids, firelit battle scenes, nude, or at least topless, bathing by Tanya Roberts, her natural endowments enhanced by obviously extremely icy waters, all leading to the eventual resolution we saw coming ninety minutes earlier. What places The Beastmaster above the likes of Conan and others of this breed, is the genuine naive enthusiasm which seems to permeate every frame. Central to this are the guiding enthusiasm of director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) and the athletic performance of Marc Singer in the title role. An accomplished actor with a theatrical background - his Petruccio in The Taming of the Shrew is available on DVD from the US - in a lengthy screen career Singer never really had the success he deserved. Possibly this role pigeon holed him, and he could only get away from it in TV mini-series such as Roots and V, returning twice to Beastmaster sequels. He is, however, perfect for this comic book epic hero. Tall, blonde, ruggedly handsome Singer has one of the best male physiques ever seen in a film. Wonderfully muscled, yet still slender and lithe he moves with the grace of a trained dancer. Wearing the skimpiest of costumes he is the perfect comic book "muscleman", indeed some of the shots of him look more like idealised comic book drawings than real life. Throughout the film the photography of John Alcot (Barry Lyndon) contributes immeasurably to the total impact, with his use of light and shadow frequently striking. Also beautifully photographed is the skimpily attired Tanya Roberts, the perfect female counterpoint to Singer's masculinity. With a lovely face, striking blue eyes and a sensational body - most of it revealed on more than one occasion during the course of the film, she is the second half of this physically perfect duo. Supporting these two are Rip Torn, marvellously overplaying his evil priestliness, John Amos, more restrained but still considerably bigger than life, and young Josh Milrad, who manages the ridiculously steep steps of the pyramid with considerable dexterity - and courage.
Technically the film remains quite impressive. Despite budget limitations, the sets constructed in the Californian desert look most authentic, with John Alcot's excellent lighting at times making much out of little. Costumes are also excellent, with comic book fantasies everywhere, from the poor peasants, to the ceremonial robes, voluptuously bossomed witches, monsters, sado-masochistic leather clad guards and mini-skirted slavegirls. This film was made in the days before digital special effects, so a number of tricks are accomplished with hanging miniatures, not always with complete success. There is one text book perfect shot, however, with the camera panning right to take in a complete circular walled city. It is a pleasure to see any example of old camera trickery, but doubly so when it is executed so well. Lee Holridge's score is "epic", and excessive but that is what is required in a film such as this. There is a marvellous moment, visually and aurally, when we first see The Beastmaster in full costumed glory, flaming torch raised high, the image dynamically punctuated by Holridge's music. This is the perfection of total comic book fantasy.
It is unfortunate that the film is over long. The director was sacked from post production on his film, and previously removed pieces were edited back into the feature - just because the powers-that-be wanted a "longer" film. There is considerably more on this interference in the fascinating documentary and commentary track. That aside, The Beastmaster is a great entertainment for those who can respond to splendid looking people doing splendid things, all in the name of family and honour. Despite - or maybe because of - the overly cute Disneyfied ferrets, and the spray painted tiger / leopard, I place this hero, and his film, at the top of the genre.
Now, if only someone would release Beastmaster II : Through the Portal of Time (1991) and Beastmaster III : The Eye of Braxus (TV 1995).
There are two audio streams, Dolby Digital 5.1 stream encoded at 448 Kbps and the commentary track which is Dolby Digital 5.0 encoded at 448 Kbps.
This is an excellent transfer of the Dolby Digital 5.1 stream.
The dialogue was perfectly clear and easy to understand.
There is an extremely slight sync problem in the opening scene with Rip Torn's dialogue, but this appears to be a post dubbing problem.
The musical score by Lee Holdridge is almost always present, and is the type of epic score you would expect. With plenty of orchestral fireworks, the surrounds are in constant use making for a really immersing musical experience. The sound is dynamic, at times quite spectacular, although there is a slight tinny edge to the strings.
The surround channels were also used extensively throughout the film creating ambience in the outdoors, such as wind (02:00), special effects such as burning villages (22:00) and Dar's "boomerang" weapon, which whizzes around the room in a spectacular fashion.
There is also a considerable amount of directionality across the fronts.
The subwoofer contributes regularly, both musically and in the "big" sequences, although not with the impact found in a more recent soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
Presented 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced, with live action and animation, with main theme audio.
Options presented are :
Scene Index : Twenty-six live action thumbnails presented on seven screen, without audio.
Audio Setup : Separate screen has the options : Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Commentary with Director Don Cascarelli and Producer Paul Pepperman (See below.)
English Subtitles : On / Off
Bonus Material : See below.
More Classic Fantasy Titles : See below.
Bonus Material :
Featurette : The Saga of the Beastmaster (55:08)
Presented 1.33:1, with a 4x3 transfer, this is an excellent documentation of the origins of the film, born from an adolescent boy's love of films, especially the "B" genres of monster films and "sex and sand" epics. Both Don Coscarelli and Paul Pepperman talk about their film, its stars - great stuff about Rip Torn - and their love of film with such enthusiasm that they could motivate the viewer to go back and have a second look at the Steve Reeves movies that gave them so much inspiration. Happily there is a plentiful supply of behind the scenes footage from the actual filming of The Beastmaster, of grainier quality but very acceptable nevertheless. There is a coverage of the film's production design, interviews with the stars, photographer John Alcott, location problems beginning in Mexico and then transferring to California, and the frustrations of the studio's interference, with demands for a longer cut. This is a really comprehensive documentary, and tremendously entertaining.
Play Movie with Audio Commentary : Feature commentary by Director Don Coscarelli and producer Paul Pepperman
This is a most entertaining and relaxed discussion of the film by the two men responsible for its existence. Much of the ground covered in the featurette extra is repeated here, but there is more depth and detail in this feature length commentary. Both men appear to be totally honest and open about the experience, and have a contagious affection for their project, which the discuss with enthusiasm and humour.
More Classic Fantasy Titles (Trailers) :
This is a collection of three trailers, one being of quite a "respectable" movie, The Sword and the Sorcerer, while the other to look like remarkably bad trash, but probably good fun, all Beyond Home Entertainment releases.
The Sword and the Sorcereer (03:02) : Ratio 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, currently available.
Barbarian Queen (01:48) : Ratio 1.33:1, 4xs transfer, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, to be released October 15th.
The Perils of Gwendoline in the Lost Land of the Yik Yak (01:35) : Ratio 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, to be released December 1st.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|