If you had HBO (Hey, Beastmaster’s On) or TBS (The Beastmaster Station) in the 1990’s, then you’re probably excited to read this. The Beastmaster series of three films ran pretty much non-stop on those channels, even if the first movie wasn’t a success.
Just like Phantasm, Beastmaster came from the mind of Don Coscarelli. While he was only involved with the first movie, he set up the character of Dar (Marc Singer). Well, when I say came from the mind, Coscarelli loosely based his original story off of the novel The Beast Master by Andre Norton. In her book, the hero is a Navajo named Hosteen Storm and the story takes place in the future. Unhappy with the changes from page to screen, Norton asked for her name to be removed from the film’s credits.
The Beastmaster (1982)
Welcome to Aruk, where the prophecy of a witch reveals that the evil priest Maax (Rip Torn!) reveals that the son of King Zed (Rod Loomis, who was Freud in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) will eventually kill him. Although Zed exiles the villain, one of Maax’s witches transfers the baby who will become Dar the Beastmaster from his mother’s womb into a cow’s. Yes, I just wrote that. I’m still amazed that this happens.
Dar is rescued by a villager who raises him as her own son inthe village of Emur. This being a sword and sorcery movie, that whole town is destroyed by the Juns, barbarians under Maax’s command. Of course, Dar has been taught since childhood to fight and telepathically communicate with animals. As you do, you know?
Dar eventually puts together his animal familiar army of Sharak the eagle, Kodo and Podo the ferrets and a black tiger named Ruh. He also teams up with Kiri (Tanya Roberts), a slave girl, and even spends time wander amongst a half-bird, half-human race who let him go when they realize that he can speak to an eagle.
What follows are battles with Maax, an appearance by Good Times star John Amos, ferrets bravely sacrificing themselves, baby ferrets being born, Dar learning of his royal blood and birdmen battling barbarians.
Coscarelli didn’t have a good time making this, as he fought with the producers over editing and casting, such as his choice of Demi Moore over Tanya Roberts. Even sadder, Klaus Kinski was the original choice to play Maax!
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)
This time around, Dar learns that he has a half-brother named Arkon (the amazing Wings Hauser) who is working alongside Lyranna (Sarah Douglas, who was Queen Taramis in Conan the Destroyer and Ursa in the Superman movies) to take over, well, everything. They are almost captured by our hero until they create a portal that brings them to modern day Los Angeles.
Dar, Ruh, Kodo and Sharak follow and battle them over a neutron bomb. Obviouslt, Arklon has seen Ator 2: The Blade Master. Luckily, our hero gets to work alongside rich girl Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer) and Lieutenant Coberly (James Avery from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, continuing the lineage of black friends of the Beastmaster coming from sitcoms). Robert Z’Dar also shows up, which is always nice.
Jim Wynorski (Sorceress, Chopping Mall) was originally going to direct and wrote a screenplay before Tabet decided to direct. Luckily for Wynorski, he lawyered up and got to keep his name on the movie and make some money.
This movie completely ignores that Kodo died. And Dar’s mark of the beast switches hands from the last movie. Basically, if you’re into continuity, perhaps the Beastmaster movies aren’t for you.
Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1996)
Dar is back one more time, this time trying to rescue his brother, King Tal (finally grown up but now played by Casper Van Dien from Starship Troopers). He’s joined by Tal’s bodyguard Seth (no longer John Amos, but now Tony Todd, which make me audibly shout at 3 AM and wake up my entire house), a warrior woman named Shada (Sandra Hess, Mortal Kombat Annihilation), an acrobat named Bey and Seth’s ex-girlfriend, a sorceress named Morgana (Lesley Anne-Down of all people!).
They’re battling the slumming David Warner as Lord Agon, who has been sacrificing youngsters to shave years off his life. You know, the older I get, the more this seems like a great idea, because most kids I meet today are clueless. He’s also trying to release the dark god Braxus, who looks like a human dinosaur.
This one’s directed by Gabrielle Beaumont, whose was also behind the movie The Godsend and the Jamie Lee Curtis-starring TV movie about Dorothy Stratten, Death of a Centerfold. It was written David Wise, who was one of the main writers on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, so that may account for this one being the most family-friendly of the three films.
Three years after this movie, a syndicated series called Beastmaster lasted for three seasons and 66 episodes. It changes Dar’s story a bit and features Daniel Goddard instead of Marc Singer.
Amazingly, none of the Beastmaster films are available on blu ray in the U.S., although the Australian based Umbrella did release the first film in June of 2018. The disk claims it’s region B, but I’ve heard that it works on American blu ray players.
BONUS: Listen to Becca and I discuss the second Beastmaster movie, one of her favorites ever, on our podcast: