Given that I’m between writing projects a the moment, what better to do than to catch up on some promised test reading and watch some films. And none better than early 80s cult swords of sorcery classics. Right?
Time for The Beastmaster.
I have to admit to only wanting to check this film out on the strength of its cover and the recommendation of a friend whose also a fan a somewhat bygone era of cinema. Back in a day when an artists impression cover entirely misrepresented our hero in all the right ways. And hung a woman off his leg.
To be fair, as apprehensive as I went into this film, but can see why it became a cult film. The plot is very stock standard fantasy; a prophecy speaks of a child that will rise to destroy the evil priest whose obviously interested in saving his own hide and killing more innocents. He seeks to destroy the unborn child, but of course fails. The child is raised by a villager who is then slaughtered, along with everyone that Dar knows, thus paving the way for revenge.
Sounds like Conan so far.
Truth is, this film might actually be a little better paced than Conan, and even has hints of the cinematography and landscapes of that film. It’s easy enough to compare it to Conan, but I ended up thinking of a whole range of films from that era; Krull especially. Even it’s score and main theme seem to remind me a whole range of influences; Star Wars at times, Battlestar Galattica especially.
The thing is, this film probably scored highly with me because of all these things. It really is a film from a different age of cinema. I love that there are just baffling, unexplained parts to the whole thing. Who the heck were the batmen things, appearing in a few scenes that could almost have been left on the cutting room floor. Who were the army that the evil Maax seemed to call on, but who didn’t live in the village he was enslaving? Would have made sense and stopped Dar from walking in and out of the place so easily.
But it’s those things, and all the staples of that sort of film that made me like this one. It did have some truly brilliant moments. The wizened crone who manages to steal the unborn Dar and inexplicably transfer him into a cows womb was somewhat disturbing. The eye ring that Maax uses to spy on the party, again creepy in all the right ways. And the gratuitous virgin-slave breast shots are a must on the checklist of staple sword and sorcery. How did she manage to keep flawless makeup through that whole adventure?
The bat-hawk-things with their leathery hides, although not explained in the least (I think they were a part of the god that Maax was following, although that begs a whole ‘nother range of questions) were also a major highlight. Well done and entirely creepy.
All in all, not a great film, but certainly not a bad one. Sometimes its nice to get back to a time when you knew the hero was faking every sword swing (the sword stayed clean and shiny despite the amount of carnage). We ignore the shoddy acting and just enjoy the journey. This is a film that has just enough of the right stuff to keep it from being a torture to watch, although is probably most fun with friends.