The Beastmaster (1982) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I think most of you have seen this movie, which spurred two sequels and a TV series. Although it bombed at the box office, it was subsequently run about 12 kajillion times on cable TV, and has now been seen by everyone in the known universe, including Ewoks and every member of the Taliban. Hey, the Taliban ban most movies, but not Beastmaster. 

One wag joked that HBO stands for "Hey, Beastmaster's On", and we all know that TBS stands for The Beastmaster Station. For the uninitiated, it's a sword-and-sorcery epic ala Conan the Barbarian, except that the gimmick here is that the hero has a special psychic connection with animals. He uses the animals to help him defeat the evil dudes who destroyed his stepfather's village.

Man, it took him long enough to figure out he was using the wrong animals. At first he was battling evil with rabbits and ferrets and lemmings and parakeets and shit, until he figured out that evil was going to kick his ass unless he used big, strong, scary animals. 

Using the unscary animals, the original battle tactics of committing mass suicide and/or hippity-hopping cutely down the bunny trail proved unsuccessful, except against the Italian army which retreated after the soldiers got spooked by the damage those rabbits did to their salads. 


see the main commentary
Of course, the movie won't be confused with Henry V, but I like it. It's a fun junk movie. It's actually an enjoyable cheesefest, filled with comical sidekicks, naked love interests, evil wizards, and the usual staples of the genre. I think this one stands above most of its type because:

1. They created an interesting world. The project took nearly six months to film.

2. Each of the characters has a distinct personality, and they interact nicely. 

3. It has humor

4. They did a great job of integrating the animal behaviors into the story. Even the animals have distinct personalities, ala Disney.

5. Tanya Roberts was a flat-out fox who looked very good with her top off. Her friend Linda Smith looked pretty good as well. The DVD includes a couple more minutes of Tanya nudity.

6. The cinematographer is the guy who did Barry Lyndon, fer cryin' out loud! It looks good.


Although I'm a well-known Beastmaster aficionado, I should warn you that

  • Some serious cineastes hate the film because it's junk.
  • Some genre purists even hate the film because it doesn't take itself seriously enough. 
  • The author, Andre Norton, hated the film, because she had originally written the story about a Navajo warrior who was battling in the post-apocalyptic future, and the film just changed everything around. Well, I guess that means it isn't the same as the book, but it's still kinda fun, if you keep your expectations reasonable.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Good DVD

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, good transfer!

  • Full-length director and writer commentary

  • behind the scenes footage, original production art, poster and still gallery

  • souvenir booklet

  • bonus nudity in an Easter Egg

Some Beastmaster trivia: 

  • Demi Moore, then only 18, did multiple readings for the Tanya Roberts role.
  • The director wanted Klaus Kinski for the high priest baddie. Kinski was not cast, because of a salary dispute involving only $5,000, but Rip Torn was deliciously evil in the role, and looked completely silly with his false nose, braided hair, and flyaway eyebrows. (The normally dignified John Amos looked equally silly running around in his underpants and wearing a pigtail behind his shaved head.)
  • The white-bearded black Bengal tiger in the film was actually a regular old orange striped tiger. They spray-painted him black and white for the film! I give Marc Singer a lot of credit. He worked very close to that 600 pound beast. I would have been scared shitless.

TUNA's Thoughts

The Beastmaster (1982) is a pretty typical sword and sorcery film, with slave girls, a muscle bound hero, and bad guys to overcome. In this case, the hero is a pre-historic Dr. Doolittle, who talks to the animals. Two weasels, a hawk, and a panther are his traveling companions. The princess who keeps getting captured is played by Tanya Roberts, who is seen topless at the beginning of the film bathing in a pond. In the background, Linda Smith can also be seen topless. Everyone else keeps their clothes on.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 2/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.1 
  • With their dollars ... It was a domestic box office failure. It was seen in only 24 cities, and appeared on 230 screens, grossing only $3 million, far short of its $9 million production cost. 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Pleasant, often amusing genre fare, but not as dark and grave as the genre norm. Tuna says: I can give it no more than a C, and that includes extra credit for putting nudity in a PG film.

Return to the Movie House home page