The Beastmaster (Beyond Home Ent) (1982)

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Released 13-Aug-2008

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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)
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.
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 113:35
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (88:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Don Coscarelli
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Marc Singer
Tanya Roberts
Rip Torn
John Amos
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 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 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).

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Transfer Quality

Video

         
    The video transfer is very pleasing, especially if previous viewings have only been on 1.33:1 TV or tape.
    There has been a more recent release in the US by Anchor Bay, but I suspect that it is the same video transfer as the one used here.

    The feature is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
    Generally the transfer is clear and sharp, except for some inserted shots of animals used in the film. These are only very brief.
    There is also one sequence early in the film (around 11:30) which is not as good quality as the remainder of the film, grainier and with video problems.
    Detail is very good, and the extensive use of close-ups enhance the overall impact of the image. Shadow detail is not good in many scenes, possibly due to John Alcot's experimental approach to lighting. Having worked on Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, Alcot was challenged by the use of natural light, evident here in the dim scenes lit only by flickering torches. Happily, there is no low level noise. If a scene is dark, with a black background with no detail at all, the blacks are beautifully solid and throw the actors' bodies into sharply dramatic relief.
    The colour is attractive and constant throughout the film. The many outdoor scenes look most attractive, and some of the dark interiors are beautifully lit with excellent colour design limited to shades of brown, the "golden" look sought by the director, assisted by Alcot's natural lighting.
    MPEG artefacts were rare. There was no aliasing but an occasional instance of noise reduction. The worst example occurs early in the film at around 11:30 in the previously mentioned sequence that shows a considerable drop in general image quality.
    Film Artefacts were generally confined to negative and positive flecking. In some scenes this was regular, while in others there is not a trace. Obviously this transfer has been made from a composite of different prints, and the quality does vary. There is also one yellow stain at the top of the frame for a few seconds (16:00) and a distinct scratch at (11:49).
    
     

    There are English subtitles which were sampled and found to be accurate.
    The disc is dual-layered, with the non-disruptive change occurring at 68:27.

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

Audio

    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.

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

Extras

   

 


Main Menu:
Presented 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced, with live action and animation, with main theme audio.
Options presented are :
        Play Movie
        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.

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 release misses out on :
    * DTS - ES 6.1 audio
    * Dolby digital Surround EX
    * Dolby Surrond 2.0
    *Cast and Crew bios (Coscarelli, Pepperman, Singer, Roberts and Torn)
    * Original Theatrical Trailer
    * Screenplay - PDF
    * Insert book fold-out / poster
    * Easter Egg : More of the charms of Tanya Roberts, only accessible from the biographies screen.
    

The Region 1 release misses out on the additional trailers for upcoming Region 4 releases, so ... nothing. The losses with the local release are relatively minor, so I will go with the Region 4 release. If the 6.1 audio is important to you, and the additional glimpse at the charms of the leading lady contained in the Easter Egg, then maybe you should go for the Region 1 Anchor Bay issue.

Summary

    A smashingly trashy sex and muscles comic book epic fantasy, the only fault being a few drawn out sequences. Appreciate the genre that gave birth to The Beastmaster, and it is one of the best ever made. Though not a gleaming restoration, the image is almost totally attractive, the audio is spectacular and there is an excellent batch of extras. This is great for a wet afternoon with the kids - or a late night adult indulgence with a glass of wine.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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