1980s Fantasy Film Festival #3: “The Beastmaster” (1982)

But, regardless, everything about this sequence is indescribably strange and delightfully messed up. I was pretty awestruck by its audacity. I can’t imagine that this scenario would ever fly today, particularly for a film at least partially targeted to young boys. 80s family fantasy films were often able to tread past the line between fantasy and horror in ways that most studios would shy from today, and this is the first scene of the festival that really stood out to me on that level.

But that’s not the only one in this film, which features other well and truly wackadoo moments such as the reveal of how Maax’s mindless killing-machine warriors are created, which is basically that they are horribly tortured and then afterwards a strange green gloop that looks suspiciously like semen, though is apparently made out of glow-in-the-dark leeches, is poured into their ears which turns their brains to mush…

I believe this is what the porn industry refers to as a money shot...

I believe this is what the porn industry refers to as a money shot…

Presto, chango: undead gimp-soldier-with-green-glowing-eyes things!

Dungeon party at the S&M Club.

Dungeon party at the S&M Club.

And then there are the “bird-men”. Well, apparently, they’re bird-men. They don’t really resemble birds much at all other than sort of wingish flaps of veiny flesh underneath their arms. They actually look more like penis-headed reptile-men…


Fly me to the moon…

…which is why I had trouble understanding why they leave Dar alone after realizing that he’s friends with an eagle. Thank the gods for Wiki. The film never actually explains these creatures. They just appear, nearly attack Dar, realize he’s a friend to the birds and so leave him in peace, and then later provide back-up for him against the bad guys in the final fight. But what really stands out about them is the way that they subdue their enemies, which is basically to envelop them within their wings and then sort of digest them alive, turning them into lifeless masses of blood and torn flesh within seconds. As I said this film is weird and often gross. But in a good way. I think.

Other similarly cringeworthy moments include a later shot of Dar’s father’s empty eye sockets, having been plucked out earlier by Maax and/or his hags, and a similar one surrounding a ring that Dar gives a young boy, Tal, who he doesn’t realize is his brother. He also doesn’t know that the ring is actually how Maax’s minions spy on Dar and Co. The ring opens up at odd moments to reveal an eyeball…

What big eye (ring) you have!

What big eye (ring) you have!

…which watches them and apparently links to the actual eye of one of the witches, because when Tal’s bodyguard, Seth (played by John Amos, perhaps best known today as The West Wing‘s Admiral Fitzwallace, and believe me, this movie reveals more of Fitzwallace than I ever thought I’d see…

Well, okay, then.

Well, okay, then.

…), stabs the ring’s eye out, the witch peering through it from her vision pool loses her eye, as well.

But the film isn’t only about sometimes grim visuals. It also includes a scene where a child is thrown into a fiery pit as a sacrifice to Maax’s god. Yup, that happens. And it also nearly happens to a young girl who’s rescued at the last moment by Sharak the eagle, thanks to Dar putting in a good word for her.

And there’s also a totally weird subplot in which Dar falls in love with a slave girl who he doesn’t realize is his cousin, and neither of whom seem to mind much when they learn the truth. Unless it’s just that neither is bright enough to realize that if Dar is Tal’s brother, and she’s Tal’s cousin that that means she’s his cousin, as well. Although what might be weirder is that the first time they meet, Dar kind of forces himself on her? Not in a full-on rape way, but certainly in a would-be-considered-sexual-harassment-if-it-happened-in-the-workplace today way.

Firstly, he catches sight of her when she’s nude bathing, her naked breasts on full display, because 80s fantasy film. And then he actually uses his tiger to try to score with her (Note: this is not a euphemism), getting Ruh to appear to threaten her, so that he could then “intimidate” the fierce beast away and then plant an unwanted kiss on her lips as compensation for saving her life…before basically straddling her. What a player.

Isn't it romantic?

Isn’t it romantic?

Author: Robert Berg

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