The Beastmaster Review

Image for The Beastmaster

In a far off land at a far off time, heir to the throne Dar is transferred to the belly of an ox by evil priest Maax because a prophecy decided that this child will end up killing him. Rescued by a kindly family, he grows up to discover he has the power to communicate with animals and begins a quest for revenge.


A dirt cheap Conan clone stripped of gore for the young viewer, this is swords and sorcery at its most banal. Although being conceived and directed by Phantasm’s Don Coscarelli, his world never comes to life, just a bog standard pre-medieval landscape as shot in Southern California. A mild mysticism hangs over it as Rip Torn’s maniac priest ducks and dives between prophecies predicting his demise, but there is little in the way of redolent magic. It’s a budget thing (there wasn’t one) granting us no special effects to speak of, and leaving a hacked-out quest for revenge, stocked with B-rate actors in leather costumes (Singer and Roberts) and Torn caught on a career downswing.

Dar (were consonants on the pricy side?)’s natty ability to telepathically commune with animal-kind gives him a menagerie of beasts to fight his cause: a hawk (for its eyes), a pair of comedy ferrets (for their cunning) and a black panther (for its strength). Thus we get all the cuteness we could want. He also gets a bit steamed up over his cousin Tanya Roberts, just to make sure dads don’t drop off to sleep.

Coscarelli requires no more of his cast, two and four-legged, to look lean and tanned, and read (or squawk) their sparse and corny lines in lazy American accents, then leap from boulder to boulder in over-choreographed and unconvincing fight scenes. There is a mild satisfaction when hammy Torn reaps his comeuppance — why didn’t he just fire his soothsayer? — but the film scores no points on style, wit or pleasingly framed shots. Eleven year-olds deserve better.

Unimpressive swords and sorcery stuff.