Jesse Bullington and I have (perhaps foolishly) decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. This week we’re breaking out the Bandits and summoning forth hyper-intelligent overdubbed ferrets for your reading pleasure!
The Film: The Beastmaster (1982)
WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Direction by Don Coscarelli who, between the Phantasm series and Bubba Ho-tep, knows his way around a B movie. Donny boy co-wrote with Paul Pepperman (who never wrote anything again), based on a novel by Andre Norton (who hated the film and disavowed it). Soundtrack by Lee Holrdige, perhaps best known for his television soundtracks such as the made-for-TV Mists of Avalon movie and that one episode of “One Life to Live” (Episode #1.9837). Acting (it is to LOL) by Marc Singer (Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time, Beastmaster: The Eye of Braxus, the Beastmaster TV series), Tanya Roberts (Charlie’s Angels, That 70’s Show, Sheena), John Amos (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Hunter, The West Wing), Rip Torn (How To Make an American Quilt, Men in Black, that recent youtube video of him drunk and bellowing in a police station), a couple of ferrets, a bird, and a dyed-black tiger.
Quote: “I am Dar, of the Emerites.”
“There are no more Emerites.”
“Thanks to the Juns, I’m the last.”
Alternate quote: “AAAHHHH” (as any number of cast members are hugged by the tiger, or as Molly is forced to watch The Beastmaster)
First viewing by Jesse: Youuuuuuuuuuung. Probably when I was nursing.
First viewing by Molly: Young. Very young. There were ferrets, and it made me want one. I think I might have watched this with my friend Leslie. . . but I have no idea.
Most recent viewing by both: Maybe a month ago?
Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Pretty goddamn high, truth be told. I mean, come on—dude has a vaguely eastern sword, some kind of throwing weapon, and a cool scar on his hand. Oh, and a motherfucking tiger. And an eagle. And two ferrets. And Tanya Roberts. Oh hells yes.
Impact on Molly’s childhood development: I hesitate on this because I simply don’t remember watching it. I feel like it probably spawned/reflected (the old pornography debate, right here on Films of High Adventure) what would be my lifelong interest in falconry, swords, and camp. Who knows, though?
Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:
Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Frankly, I knew it was going to hurt. You can’t have a movie like The Beastmaster be an intrinsic part of your childhood and not be disappointed by revisiting it as an adult. Yet I bought the director’s cut on DVD when I stumbled across it at a flea market (natch) and have gone back to that well more than once in the last decade, but the water’s never been as sweet as I remembered. Still, I was buoyed by the knowledge that I would be watching it with Molly, whose reactions to this sort of nonsense promised to be at least as entertaining as the film itself.
Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: I refused to watch this at first until Jesse took the time to disabuse me of the urban legend regarding this film that I genuinely believed long into adulthood: that the tigers died from being spraypainted (Jesse says: It was vegetable dye—you can see it running off the tiger’s muzzle when it drinks). Thus enlightened, I agreed to watch it, but after viewing the opening scenes I turned it off, unwilling to go further until I was chided roundly for lacking appropriate courage. No words can express my unhappiness in being unable to protect myself from this movie by calling VeganFail.
Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Certain varieties of cheese age extremely well, others, not so much—stinkiness is not always an accurate barometer of the enjoyment one will garner from ingesting the product. The Beastmaster, for all my youthful adoration, falls a little flat upon re-watching. And by falls a little flat, I mean bellyflops into a drained swimming pool. Not pretty.
It’s long, for one thing, really, really goddamn long for a movie about a guy who’s born from a cow. Said birth was one of the high points, admittedly, (Molly wrinkles her nose and says: really?) but there’s a lot of downtime wherein the cast wanders around Utah and the Beastmaster himself cries because nobody likes him. Molly got the fidgets something fierce. Still, it’s not all bad. Check out this perfectly plausible Scene of High Adventure, for example:
So yeah, that totally happens in the movie, as does the scene where Dar convinces his tiger to play wingman and scare Tanya Roberts into his arms, which is about as classy as this movie gets.
I feel that something should be said about Dar’s animal buddies. As someone who owns ferrets I can attest that the wee beasties are just as intelligent and obedient as this movie makes them out to be—often when I need to retrieve my keys after they’ve fallen into a pit with a roid-raging mutant I just lower one of my carpet sharks down on a piece of rope and they hop to action. Oh shit, I lied, I can’t even keep my weasels from squirming under the bookshelf or stealing each other’s treats—if only I had the many, manly gifts of Dar.
Is the movie as bad as Molly will doubtless make it out to be? Certainly not. (Molly says: I find your efforts to become the Good Cop of Films of High Adventure amusing, but I am not going to “just go get a cup of coffee” while you review this film.) There’s plenty of swordplay and witchery and unintentional silliness, and as with the first Phantasm movie, which I will love forever. Coscarelli does a lot with a little here, and comes out with a barbarian wannabe-epic that is certainly no worse than the majority of its contemporaries. That the majority of its contemporaries are unwatchable shit-piles helps it win this faint praise, but if I were The Beastmaster I would take what I could get.
Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Sucky and boring. I know that previous Films of High Adventure columns have been long screeds about gender and race and innocence lost and shit like that, but I can’t be fucked to muster up the rage. I didn’t hate Beastmaster enough to rant about it a la what will forever be dubbed “The Ladyhawke Incident” . . . I just hated it because it was dull. I forgot anything important about it instantly upon finishing the film. Jesse’s pulled quote above reminded me that there was the sidekick in leather-daddy gear but I had totally forgotten him; similarly, I do not recall much (anything) about the Love Interest or the Villain except for vague impressions of Rip Torn being all crazyful and tweaking out. Is that even right? Yeah, I guess so. I got pretty intoxicated watching this, frankly. Self-preservation. I do recall, though, almost murdering Jesse when he put on the commentary and re-watched several scenes.
Just. . . why? Why was this movie made? Why was the script written down and then dittoed onto innocent pieces of paper that never hurt anybody? Why did no one ever say “hey, guys, let’s re-think this. . . because it is awful”? Why did someone overdub the ferrets with non-ferret noises? Why. . . never mind. The sooner I stop writing about this movie, the sooner I can stop writing about this movie.
High Points: Finding out the tigers didn’t die. The thought experiment where you imagine the deal to get Klaus Kinski to play the villain didn’t fall through, leaving all involved with Rip Torn in gross veneers. The fact that this isn’t Beastmaster II, which even as a ten year old kid I knew sucked, or Beastmaster 3, which even as a stoned, David Warner-obsessed teenager I knew was also Suckville City, Population: That Movie. The part with the nasty bat-dudes, which has found a very specific audience on youtube—this particular clip was described as “Vore scene from Beastmaster. See a man getting eaten by a cloak monster. Too bad the hot and sexy beast master doesn’t get eaten too.” Truer words were never spoken:
Final Verdict: A big batch of stink-biscuits baked in Hell, served piping hot but profoundly stale, says Molly. That’s a little harsh, says Jesse, what about the part where the ferrets rescue him from the deadly oatmeal pit? Molly says whatever, moving on.
Next Time: Something not Beastmaster.
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