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The Beastmaster 1983 ***

‘Hey, Beastmaster’s On!’ was suggested to be the true meaning of HBO when it started up in the 1980’s; Don Coscarelli’s slice of Thud and Blunder, or sword-and-sorcery buffoonery if you prefer, was something of a staple of the home cable channel back in the day.

But my epic journey with the Beastmaster begins in 1983, when I won two tickets to see Raiders of the Lost Ark at my local city-centre multiplex and accidentally took my sister into the wrong film. I have a keen memory of sitting in the darkness, looking at images being conjured up in a mystical cauldron and thinking, ‘wait, what? -this isn’t what I thought Indiana Jones would be like?!’ We watched a good twenty minutes before swapping cinemas as Raiders started.

The Beastmaster is something rather different from your average hero. What is highly impressive about Dar (Mark Singer, looking like Kevin Bacon cos-playing as He-Man) is that he’s not just some well-muscled strong-man with a gilded sword, but he’s an actual master of all beasts. Well, just four beasts, but he’s more of a pal than a master. Beastmaster Dar’s pals include Sharak the eagle, who seems to have the power to summon a crowd of deadly faceless bird-man aliens. There’s also Ruh, the black tiger, and most prominently Kodo and Podo, two ferrets with which the humble warrior shares a remarkable affinity.

Yes, you heard right, this film has ferrets, up to here. Action cinema is so often coy about the portrayal of ferrets on the big screen, but The Beastmaster breaks taboos, never panning coyly away when ferrets are introduced, instead focusing in granular detail on Kodo and Podo and their lovable antics. The problems Dar encounters are usually solved by the ferrets, who do the heavy lifting for their (beast) master. Master of the Ferrets would be a more accurate title for this film, or Ferret Warrior, or Kingdom of the Ferrets, or Dar the Ferret-King. There is no way to underrate the importance of ferrets to this story.; Singer clearly developed a rapport with his furry co-stars, and they exhibit genuine chemistry together.

The cheeky mites also play a role in introducing Beastmaster Dar to his true love, Kiri (Tanya Roberts), who suffers the indignity of being introduced immediately in a state of undress into the narrative; the ferrets steal her clothes while she’s swimming in a lagoon. Kiri, Dar and Podo and Kodo set off to stop evil Maxx (Rip Torn) from taking the kingdom over from King Zed (Rod Loomis), accompanied by some great and some awful practical effects.

‘I can’t be without my little ones,’ whines The Beastmaster when Podo and Kodo are taken from him, but rest assured, when the final credits roll, Podo is revealed to have two baby ferrets of her own. Beastmaster II; Through The Portals of Time just sounds like the perfect sequel if it’s going to deliver time-travelling ferret action, and I’m here for that film at the earliest possible opportunity.

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    • I have seen Yor, and yes, it’s a classic of awful cinema. The Humanoid is a favourite of mine too. Not seen Treasure but remember clips from the Electric Boogalo doc.

  1. Poor Tanya Roberts. Beastmaster (Breastmaster) might be her best film! At least Marc Singer had V.

    • I guess it catapulted her to Bond, so she shouldn’t have any regrets. V is something that stands out in my mind as a real trauma (as a kid anyway). Wonder how it would stand-up today…babies with lizard tongues!

  2. Conjures up similar memories….the bird people reminded me of Moth Man and reminds me of an intention to buy a ferrett…alas, none were available so my daughter got a dumb gerbil… a second BMaster, hmmmm…

    • The bird people were cool with me, very strange mysterious creatures! I go to annual ferret races and have a vested interest in positive ferret representations on-screen. Not sure a gerbil could create the magic of Popo and Kobo. I’ll need some fresh air and oxygen before I attempt Beastmaster 2…

  3. Oh my god! Beastmaster! I had allowed this movie to slip comfortably from my memory but as soon as I saw the title of this post it all came flooding back. Great review. I love the Kevin Bacon cosplaying He-Man line.

    • You can only say what you see! Glad to know there are other Beastmaster fans out there!

  4. The other running gag back in the day was that TBS stood for “The Beastmaster Station” because in the early days of that cable channel it seemed as if every time you turned it on, “The Beastmaster” was showing.

    • It seems like the 1980’s were the decade of Beastmaster saturation, and from the loins of Beastmaster sprung…pretty much all streaming!

  5. I’m watching it now! It’s very bad! I totally forgot they teleported a baby into a cow!!!!

    • In any other movie, teleporting a baby into a cow would be a notable scene, but it’s just part of the rich tapestry of Beastmaster.

      • And then you look back and The Thing was made the year before and Beastmaster starts to look pretty weird!

        • I can’t get the Beastmaster out of my head, even my viewing of Ator The Fighting Eagle last night has failed to flush it out of my system!

  6. I saw Breastmaster in the cinema when it came out. 1983 had some REALLY bad movies. Jaws 3D. Superman 3. Krull. BMX bandits. Octopussy. The Keep!!!!

    • Breast master is also a great title for this film. And yes, 1983 was a great year for duff films!

  7. I’m sure I saw this but for some reason I have it mixed up with an S&S movie where the hero turned into different animals. So long ago now . . .

    • That rings a bell, and yes, I kind of thought Beastmaster was going to transform himself into animals, rather than just be a walking pet-shop. But I wasn’t disappointed by the Dances with Ferrets angle they went for.

  8. I thought I had watched this on Prime at some point, but nothing you write here sounds familiar so I must be confusing it with some other poorly made sword&sorcery schlock movie. One of the perils of not being a movie reviewer I guess 😀

    • Test one: did your film contain ferrets?
      If the answer is yes, then you saw The Beastmaster! No professional knowledge required to review a film like this, if anything, it would be a disadvantage.

        • Perhaps Ator the Fighting Eagle was what you saw? Or a Deathstalker film? It’s the heavy emphasis on ferrets that marks this film out from the pack…

          • Deathstalker, that was it!
            I watched it under the mistaken impression it was based on the SF books by Simon Green. I was quickly disillusioned.

            • For sure! Deathstalker would easily lose in a fight to Beastmaster, his trained ferrets would rip him apart! These 80’s movies are a terrible advert for fantasy generally, but certainly have a niche value now.

              • Do you know, is the nudity in Beastmaster the same, better, or worse than Deathstalker? I prefer to not view that kind of thing on purpose…

                • There’s quite a bit; this Prime cut is longer and has a few scenes which were not in the UK cinema cut; notably the exploitative bathing scene which the film really doesn’t need. Much as this film amused me, feel free to skip it.

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