Archive for November, 2012

When I first considered putting these reviews on my blog, most comments were to the effect of “What a stupid idea. You should consider running a porn site instead.” Besides those, the most frequent comment was, “When are you gonna do Beastmaster?” Well, wonder no more. That day has come.

Oh my god! They’re hot, Hot, HOT!

Beastmaster or, more accurately, The Beastmaster (it was made back in the days when movie titles used definite articles, unlike later days when we got titles like Fight Club and 300), is another epic from the 1980s (like so many other sword and sorcery flicks), when as we all know Ronald Reagan was president, cocaine was the drug of choice, Duran Duran and Motley Crue played on the radio, and Madonna was just another annoying pop-star who dressed like a cheap whore.

The Beastmaster was ostensibly based on the work of the same name by celebrated SF author Andre Norton, but the flick differed from its source material so radically that the good Ms. Norton had her name removed from the credits. It stars a young and handsome hunk named Mark Singer, lithesome lovely ex-Charlie’s Angel named Tanya Roberts, the buff and deadly John Amos (aka Kunta Kinte and the father on Good Times) and a menacing, putty-nosed Rip Torn as the chief villain. It was by written and directed by Don Coscarelli, the genius behind the low-budget horror sensation Phantasm, and featured all kinds of cuddly, ferocious and feathered animals as our hero’s friends and allies. With a pedigree like that, what could possibly go wrong?

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question, as Beastmaster (okay, okay, I’m dropping the definite article, too… sue me) was lambasted by critics and tanked at the box office. Then a strange thing happened — it went to cable, where it became a staple for premium channels (prompting, according to the little fun facts booklet that came with the DVD, comedian and conservative asshat Dennis Miller to suggest that HBO actually stood for “Hey! Beastmaster’s on!”), spawning two sequels and keeping Mark Singer and his co-stars in the public eye for years (nay, decades) to come.

Not bad for a flick that was released at the same time as An Officer and a Gentleman, Friday the 13th 3-D, ET the Extraterrestrial and The Road Warrior. Even less bad for our favorite, the low-budget, evil wizard, bulging-pectoral, naked breasted, hacking and chopping extravaganza that is sword and sorcery cinema.

Leo the MGM lion show his displeasure about not being cast as Dar’s companion.

(And also before beginning I’d like to note that I am enormously grateful for the aforementioned little fun facts booklet that came with the DVD for some excellent trivia and behind-the-scenes info. The booklet, it seems was written by the storied Andy Mangels, whom I’ve met and socialized with several times, and who is a bit of a legend in the world of comic book writing… Nice booklet, Andy.)

Join us then for the adventures of Dar, barbarian warrior par excellence, his animals, his sword and his bulging pectoral muscles.

The MGM lion introduces the action, setting the tone for the beast-fest that follows, and leading into a title card that says Leisure Investment Company presents. Now this fills me with confidence. If there’s anything that says sword-and-sorcery adventure, it’s Leisure Investment Company. Well, it’s okay, we can let it slide… Let’s get to the swords and nudity, shall we?

We open on a carved stone face that rotates before our eyes, opening a wooden gate to allow a bunch of robed figures, clearly up to no good, to march through, toward a towering stone pyramid. Inside, a trio of witches writhes around that great staple of sword and sorcery cinema — the magical pool of water in which their enemies can be observed.

The witches are an odd lot — the bodies of hot nubile custom car models and the faces of George Romero zombies. I can’t say that it’s a terribly erotic combination, unless you happen to swing that way, which I don’t. I generally like women to be alive, or at least have all their flesh intact before I’ll even consider going out for coffee.

In strides our villain, the villainous Maax (pronounced “May-Axe” fyi), played with villainous intensity and villainous facial prostheses by the villainous Rip Torn. The role was originally intended for the villainous and bugfuck-crazy actor Klaus Kinsky, but the deal fell through over a $5,000 difference over salary, leaving our boy Rip to take up the slack. Given what we now know about what a maniac Klaus was, the resulting film might have been completely different. One of the great “what ifs” of swords-and-sorcery history…

King Zed, back when he still had eyes.

“Maax, high priest of the city of Arak, the god Arrgh has spoken.to us.” Yes, it does indeed sound like the god’s name is “Arrgh.” “The truth is known to ussssssssssssss. The truth is hungry. The truth is horrible. The prophecy dooms you!”

Maax is unfazed by this and insists that they tell him the prophecy and damn the torpedoes.

“You will die at the hands of Zed’s unborn son.”

“Then,” Maax replies predictably, “Zed’s unborn son will die.”

Well, isn’t this a sad kettle of fish? You know how prophecies go in works of fiction such as fantasy novels, Greek tragedy, movies and the Bible… The baddie is told that a certain child will grow up to kill him, so he has all the children killed, or the parents killed, or the parents of the parents’ friends killed, expecting to frustrate the prophecy, but lo and behold the very act of trying to kill the child sets in motion the forces that allow said child to kill said baddie… We’ve seen it before, but Maax apparently hasn’t, and continues to insist that Zed’s kid is toast, and the prophecy will be frustrated.

Just then another complication arises — it’s King Zed, marching in with his personal guard, led by the imposing warrior Seth, played by the versatile John Amos. Yup, not only is Maax planning to kill Zed’s kid, it turns out that Zed is king of the whole damned city-state. And he has the lack of good taste to show up just as Maax is planning the dirty deed.

Zed suggests that Maax has been planning a child sacrifice. Maax replies that Arrgh demands the life of an unborn. Zed nixes the plan and exiles Maax, telling him to go practice his creepy religion in the outlands with the barbarian Juns.

Maax by firelight. Not a pretty sight.

Maax responds to this by simply digging himself in deeper, telling the king that the unborn child he plans to sacrifice is Zed’s and that it must be cut from its mother’s womb, branded with the sign of Arrgh and sacrificed.

Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t really set well with Zed, who says that he has the power to put Maax to death. Maax doesn’t reply, but only nods at one of his red-robed acolytes, who obediently swings a funky chain-weapon, impales its blade in the ceiling beam and hangs himself right there in front of god, the king and everybody.

Okay, Maax is obviously trying to make a point, though I cannot for the life of me see what it is. He’s confessed to high treason, murder, evil magic and various other crimes, told the king that he intends to gruesomely kill his unborn child, and opened himself up to a decree of death by slow torture. So what does he do? He orders one of his bodyguards to kill himself, evidently just to spare Seth the trouble. Many and mysterious are the ways of evil high priests of Arrgh.

The king doesn’t seem to take the hint and follows through with his plan, not to have Maax torn apart by rabid stoats (which is what I would have done in his place, to be sure), but to exile him instead, so the next scene is of Mister M and his cronies riding out to exile through the city gates, while in the background a red-robed figure leads a what appears to be a brahman bull along the street. Remember that cow — it’s important later.

Well, King Zed is going to be terribly sorry for showing mercy to Maax, for in the next scene the mysterious robed figure, who turns out to be one of those hot chicks with the zombie faces, sneaks into the king’s bedchamber where he and his wife are sleeping, immobilizes them with a magic potion and uses Arrgh’s evil magic to literally suck the unborn child out of its mother and into the womb of the cow, which stands placidly outside.

Now I don’t care that they’re evil witches, and their faces could stop a clock, but at least they’ve got nice asses…

Now that, I have to admit, was quite a feat. If it were possible in the modern era, with our overall lack of magic and sorcery, it would revolutionize the science of obstetrics, and probably end the whole abortion controversy once and for all. Unwanted pregnancy? No problem — find one of those fanatical pro-lifers who protest outside abortion clinics and transfer the unwanted fetus into her. Presto! No problem. All you need is a pro-lifer who’s willing to give birth to, raise and care for your unwanted child and…

Oh. Sorry. Never mind. Back to the movie review.

Later that night, the evil priestess offs the cow and crouches beside it in the moonlight, apparently delivering the baby by Caesarian section, though I suspect they didn’t call it that. She brands it with the aforementioned sign of Arrgh and gets ready to do the bloody deed and finish off the poor screaming kid.

Fortunately for the infant, a bald guy with a donkey happens upon the scene and pretty much instantly digs what’s going on. I mean, consider this — a weird blue fire, a robed hottie with a face like a dead tuna, a slaughtered cow, branding iron, a sacrificial dagger and a screaming infant… The conclusion is unavoidable. The creepy-looking chick is up to something, and it’s time to whip out the spinning bronze ginzu of death.

Yes, the humble donkey-guy carries a deadly throwing weapon that he uses to impale the would-be murderess. He creeps up on her, only to find her robes empty and the evil priestess herself standing, hissing behind him. At first it looks as if the guy is doomed, since she is able to levitate his sword away and knock him backwards just by gesturing (yet another common s&s cliché).

Our savior is made of sterner stuff however — he grabs the levitated sword that she conveniently stuck in the ground right in front of him, and impales the hag, then flips her into the fire where she immolates instantly. Scratch one witch. Don’t worry, though… Maax has two spares.

(This, by the way, is why burning of witches was so popular. They ignite quickly and burn brightly, providing both warmth and a cheery blaze.)

Young Dar learned from his wise and enlightened father how to really annoy his neighbors. Then later on he got all blonde and sexy.

Well, luck is with our infant, for the kindly man turns out to be none other than Young Dar’s Father (that’s what it says in the credits folks). Lacking any other name, we shall cal him Lothar of the Stilt People, a race of kindly farmers who live in the village of Imor, in houses built, for no apparent reason, on tall stilts. Lothar brings the young child home to the accolades of the other Stilt-folk, and in a twinkling our infant is about 12 years old and his foster-father is training him with sword and brass throwy-thing, which we later find out is called a kaypa (or at least that’s how it’s pronounced).

Lothar and young Dar have a great time risking their friend Tees’ life by knocking his hat off his head with the kaypa, but as they’re laughing raucously at their own hijinks, Dar’s spider-sense starts tingling, and the victim of their jackanapes is grabbed by a really big bear.

Now that would normally put a kink in anyone’s day, but instead of fleeing, Dar confronts the bear, walking fearlessly up to it and apparently persuading it to take a hike. It’s a day late and a dollar short for Tees who is dead as a doorknob. Lother, who saw how Dar sent the bear packing, tells his son to keep his secret powers just that — a secret.

With that, Dar runs off to organize a funeral party and we jump ahead another decade or so to see that skinny Dar has grown up into a hunky, muscley blonde California surfer-dude.

His father looks a bit older, but is still in good shape, the diet and outdoor life in Imor must agree with him. He bids the hunky Dar good day, and our hero heads off with his faithful dog Kodo and all the other men of the village to toil all day in the soybean fields.

Dar doesn’t seem to be the most devoted of workers, as he spends time throwing a stick for Kodo.

Rather than returning the stick, the heroic Kodo returns, telling Dar “Bark, bark, bark! Woof!” This translates to “Hey, you moron! I see dust rising in the distance! The Juns are coming! The motherfucking Juns!!!” Fortunately for Kodo, Dar understands at least the rudiments of what he’s trying to say and rallies the other farmers to hustle back to the village, for a plume of dust is indeed visible in the distance, heralding the coming of the fearsome Jun tribesmen.

Dar wins the sixteenth annual Imor farm implement relay race.

Back in Imor, Dar’s father observes the approach of the Jun horde, led by the fearsome Jun chieftain, who looks kind of like Lord Humungus from The Road Warrior, only with bat wings on his head. Lothar and the other villagers make a stand, but they don’t do much to slow down the attacking Juns, who ride into the town, killing as they go.

Meanwhile, Dar and the other men of the village race across the fields, desperate to stop the enemy before they can get to the village’s supply of candied yams.

The Imorites are no slouches in the defense department, for they make a pretty good account of themselves, pulling Juns off their horses and tripping them up with ropes, and when Dar’s forces arrive it looks as if the tide might just turn.

Dar knows his stuff, too — a Jun cavalryman shoots a crossbow bolt through his shield, but Dar simply turns the shield around so the bolt points outward and kills the Jun with it. Take that you Jun bullies!

Regrettably, Dar’s part in the battle is short for, as he flings himself at the Jun chieftain, another rider bashes him from behind with a mace, sending him tumbling insensible to the ground. The heroic Kodo, who knows what life would be like under the Juns, races to Dar’s side and pulls his unconscious body to safety, even though he gets a crossbow bolt in the side for his troubles.

As the victorious Juns exult and carry of prisoners, their real leader shows up with his escort of red-robed priests. Guess who? Yup, it’s our pal Maax, the hardest-working villain in show biz! He grins happily at the carnage, and we cut away to the unwounded Dar, regaining his senses nearby, his faithful pooch dead beside him.

Kodo the dog. RIP.

Dar has a brief glmpse of the destroyed village through the eyes of a nearby eagle who just happens to be passing, and rushes back to Imor, finding just about everyone dead. Well, actually everyone’s dead — butchered, stuck full of arrows, impaled or otherwise rendered irrelevant to the plot. Angry and sad, Dar stacks the bodies, including his father and beloved dog, then sets the whole mess on fire and takes up his sword, striding away with his foster father’s voiceover echoing in his ears.

Dar, the gods have put their mark on you, and someday you will find out why. Til then this mark will be your guide. My sword and my kaypa will be your trusted companions. Protect Imor your home, and if anything should happen to me, look for our enemies, the Juns, and you may search for your destiny in the Valley of Arak.

On his way out of the ruined village, Dar once more encounters the black eagle, which appears to adopt him and allows him to see through its eyes. KEWWELLL! Finally, a sword and sorcery hero with cool powers instead of a muscle-brained steroid case…

Okay, I think we’re all aboard the plot train now. Dar, son of the king of Arak, must seek his destiny and avenge his people’s destruction at the hands of the savage Juns and the evil Maax with the help of his amazing animal companions. What else does he need?

Well, a couple of boon companions and a hot chick would be perfect, and we’ll have them in short order. In other flicks, he would also need a comedy relief character such as Snails the thief or Ergo the Magnificent, but the good Mister Coscarelli has spared us that particular cliché, and pretty much everyone in this movie takes his or her job seriously. Thank goodness…

Cut to Dar, sexily working out with his mighty sword on a clifftop while his eagle soars overhead, and I think we’ve made it to the end of Act One.

Had Beastmaster been filmed in 3D, this scene might have been even more interesting.

That evening, while cooling down from his manly workout, Dar encounters the film’s other stars, a pair of mischievous ferrets who make off with his sword belt. He pursues them through the forest, until he falls off a cliff into the ubiquitous adventure movie quicksand pit. Dar uses his special powers to command the two ferrets to gnaw through a branch so that it falls and rescues him, he crawls to safety and on the way rescues one of the ferrets who’s gotten himself sucked down into the muck. With our characters now fully bonded by shared peril, Dar names his new friends Kodo and Podo, and it looks like the adventuring party is nearing completion.

But we’re not done yet. Now Dar gets another animal-vision, this time of an unfortunate black tiger who has been captured and is being tormented by a trio of Juns. Well, hell — they’re torturing an animal and they’re Juns. That’s two reasons to kill them right there, and before you can say “Michael Vick,” Dar is all over the evil barbarians. He sends his ferrets to go mess with the Jun mooks while he polishes off the others — throwing the kaypa at one and sending his eagle to rip the eyes out of the other.

The kaypa misses on its first leg, but we’ve seen these movies before and know that most throwing weapons are actually boomerangs, and sure enough the kaypa swings around to land with a thunk in the middle of the Jun’s back. The ferrets keep the last two Jun mooks from getting to their crossbows, Dar hacks the first one down, then frees the tiger and lets it have its way with the last surviving Jun. A good workout and a healthy meal — just what every tiger needs to start the day.

Well, we’re about ready now. Dar notes that the eagle is now his eyes, the ferrets are his cunning and the tiger is his strength. The tiger he names Ruh. I guess the eagle doesn’t get a name, huh?

Now Dar demonstrates that his luck has changed. The whole stolen-child-human-sacrifice-burned-village thing is in the past, for as he approaches a picturesque waterfall and deep green pool beneath, what do you think he sees?

It was scenes like this that made the 1980s worthwhile.

Yup, you guessed it — a couple of beautiful young women swimming naked, one blonde and one a Charlie’s Angel. Yes, it’s the gorgeous Tanya Roberts, known as Angel Julie Rogers, Bond Girl Stacy Sutton and of course as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Oh yeah, she was also in That 70s Show. And here she is, all wet and topless. Dar knows what to do — the blonde is obviously only incidental to the movie — the real objective is the cute redhead.

Accordingly, he takes action as only the Beastmaster can. He has the ferrets steal the redhead’s stuff, causing her to (regrettably) slip into her very brief fantasy chick outfit and pursue them into the brush. After seeing this flick a million times now, I at last find myself wondering exactly what the ferrets stole, since she’s swimming in her fantasy chick outfit and can slip back into it rather than run nakedly into the forest after the ferrets… I checked the DVD and it looks as if they stole a towel or something, which wasn’t a really big part of the average hot fantasy babe’s equipment, but it worked, so who am I to fault Dar’s cunning plan?

But this is only part of Dar’s cunning plan. He then sends Ruh in to confront her and of course terrify the beautiful woman that he has the hots for. In some says, I’d say that Dar was history’s first stalker…

So while the redhead is staring at the monstrous tiger in utter wide-eyed terror, Dar slips up behind her, embraces her in his manly arms and says “Don’t move. The beast is fierce. If we show no fear, we might escape.”

He then uses his Beastmaster powers to tell Ruh to bugger off and let the Dar-monster make his moves… Ruh is reluctant but finally splits and Dar turns to take his reward, an awkward kiss, which ends — much to our relief — with the redhead knocking him to the ground and throttling him, demanding to know who he is.

“I am Dar,” he says. “I am no threat to you.”

Yeah, right…

Now that his first ploy has crashed and burned, Dar plays the sympathy card, telling her that his village *sniff* was burned… by the Juns *sniffle* and that he has sworn revenge. This causes her to waver and Dar turns the tables, flipping her over and lying astride her, chuckling like a pedophile on “To Catch a Predator” right before Chris Hansen shows up.

Kiri demonstrates that she knows how to top from the bottom.

Well, Dar’s not a complete boor, and he actually has the courtesy to ask her name before he tries to ravish her. She replies that she is Kiri, slave to the Temple of Argh. What luck!

Dar sees that Kiri’s back is scarred and comments that “They whip you like… like a beast!” and all his libidinous plans for the afternoon suddenly go right out the window.

Feeling like a complete jerk, Dar lets Kiri get back up and tries to make up for his behavior by offering to help her escape. She looks tempted but turns him down since her whole family will die if she runs away. She splits leaving Dar looking pretty damned ashamed of himself.

Okay, now Dar’s got another quest — to get Kiri the hot redheaded slave to take that outfit off again. He gathers up his animal allies and heads after her. Ironically, they’re going to the exact place where the bad guy that he has sworn vengeance upon lives, but he doesn’t know that yet.

Hey folks, it’s a fantasy. Go with it.

As the fellowship…  Sorry, I mean Dar and his companions… head into the wilderness, night falls and they spy an odd collection of glowing cocoon like pods hanging from a gigantic tree. As there is ominous music playing, we know that something bad must be about to happen. They cautiously creep toward the place, and discover a boiling pot filled with human body parts and a captive in a cage, obviously intended for the evening’s meal. Before Dar can turn around and run back toward the safety of the nearest town brothel, which is what I would have done, he is confronted by the camp’s occupants, a crowd of tall, faceless inhuman figures who advance on him in ominous silence.

Batman! Nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana… Batman!

The guy in the cage looks like a total mook, but Dar frees him anyway, apparently figuring that it’s best to have as many allies watching your back as possible, even if this guy looks like, at best, a 1st Level Commoner. Alas, it doesn’t work, since the poor shlub flees right into the arms of the faceless creatures — literally. They wrap him up in webby batlike wings and when they open them up again — presto! — only bones left. These guys are self-contained rendering plants with wings… Very impressive.

Now the horrific walking cuisinarts advance on Dar, sizing him up as the main course, but when Dar’s eagle swoops down and alights on his shoulder, they back off and instead give him a medallion inscribed with an stylized eagle — it’s apparently the creatures’ corporate logo, and they have to respect and defend anyone with the ability to telepathically communicate with large birds. Yeah, that one’ll do you or me a helluva lotta good if we ever run into them, won’t it? We’d be shish-kebabs in five seconds flat.

Now assured of the eternal friendship of the creepy faceless wing-people, Dar continues on his journey, finally reaching the city of Arak, which of course is where he was born. Errr… conceived. Errr… transferred from his mother’s womb into a cow. Oh well, it’s his hometown but he doesn’t know it. More of that fateful sword and sorcery irony.

Arak is a little less pleasant than it was when Dar left. It’s surrounded by a moat of boiling tar, and thousands of impaled bodies lining the roads. Apparently the local equivalent of the Patriot Act is in effect.

The Arak Chamber of Commerce was puzzled by the lack of tourist trade after the Jun conquest.

Dar’s welcome in his old home town makes the Fellowship’s entry into Edoras look positively festive, as streets and their cute little stucco huts are deserted and the stench of death permeates every corner of the place. Dar slips into a conveniently-discarded cloak and heads toward the center of town to find out what the locals do for entertainment.

Well it just so happens that it’s human sacrifice day in Arak, and the high priest Maax is at the top of an Aztec-style pyramid busily doing what he loves best — throwing screaming children into the flames and raving to the populace about how they’d better follow the will of Argh or they’ll all end up this way.

After throwing a pudgy kid into the fire (yes, he really kills kids in this movie, that sicko), Maax says that Argh demands more blood and has an adorable blonde girl dragged up the steps to her doom.

Well, this is all too much for Dar. He spots Kiri in the crowd, but to his credit decides that saving an innocent child is more important than getting a little sugar from the slave chick, and besides if he rescues the little girl it’ll score beaucoup points with his would-be girlfriend.

Accordingly, while Maax chews scenery like a real pro, Dar commands his eagle to swoop down and grab the child even as Maax tries to shove her down the chute with his skull-staff. The eagle triumphantly flies away with the kid, the people all fall on their faces in wonder — all except Dar, of course, who really doesn’t fully understand the concept of low profile yet. Maax looks deeply disappointed (no, I mean really disappointed), but recovers quickly, saying that the child’s rescue was a sign from Argh, accepting the sacrifice and carrying her into the heavens in one piece rather than as a stream of tiny ashes.

Maax doing what he does best… Terrifying innocent children.

Of course this satisfies no one, any more than when the Catholic church tried to tell us that the priests weren’t molesting all those choirboys. But the people are pretty thoroughly cowed by this time, and all go home, leaving Dar to wander the city streets that night, seeking out the little girl’s home and returning her to her jubilant parents.

By this time, we’re pretty sure that Dar’s a different type of barbarian hero. Sure your Conans and your Talons and your Deathstalkers do “good” kinda/sorta, but only if it’s to their benefit, and even then only if there’s some hot piece of female ass involved (or possibly male as well in the case of Deathstalker).

For you D&D nerds out there, most of these guys are chaotic neutral with occasional good tendencies. Dar on the other hand, seems to be one of the few who actually strayed permanently over into chaotic good territory and does stuff because it’s right and proper and good and not just because it might get him laid.

The happy peasants, including father Sacco, pretty much fall all over Dar with gratitude, calling him “Master” and swearing eternal loyalty and friendship. See folks? How many people talk to Deathstalker like that? Damned few, let me tell you. I’m still thinking that chaotic good is the way to go…

Sacco, ladies and gentlemen… He’s not really the heroic type.

Sacco sits Dar down and brings him up to date, providing vital plot exposition along with a peasantish meal of gruel and water. The Juns captured the city, you see, imprisoned the king in the pyramid. It further seems that Maax has been a busy little villain, for he is now the Juns’ high priest and has been left in charge of the city, assisted by his red acolytes and his “fiendish witch women.”  The king’s son (presumably not Dar, who was never actually born) has disappeared, and the Juns are using Arak as a kind of human sacrifice ATM machine, taking children and nubile women to feed the demon-god Argh.

Never mind all that crap, Dar says, what about that hot redhead? Where is she?

(Okay, so Dar may be chaotic good, but he still lets the little head do a lot of his thinking. You really can’t help it when you’re a barbarian.)

Fortunately for the forces of good, Kiri and the other slave girls have also been taken to the pyramid for sacrifice. Now Dar can rescue them both, saving the kingdom AND getting some hot naked reward-sex in the bargain. This is kind of the same thing that Talon did in The Sword and the Sorcerer, but with all due respect Dar is nowhere near the horny slimeball that Talon was. Now firm in his commitment to save the city and rescue the smokin’ hot redhead, Dar, pats the girl on the head, thanks Sacco for the meal, takes his leave and vanishes into the night.

Okay, back to the darkness of the evil pyramid. Maax is communing with his witches and his red priests.

“Argh wants this stranger,” he says. “Bring him to me, this ‘Master of the Beasts.’ This ring will lead you to him.” With this, he slips an oversized gold ring onto the finger of his lead red priest, and the hunt is on.

Dar can’t talk right now… He’s all choked up…

In the nearby wilderness, Dar is hanging with Ruh and planning his next move, unaware that the ring-wearing priest is in the tree overhead. The ring opens to reveal an eyeball, which then transmits images of Dar back to Maax, who immediately sees the mark of Argh on Dar’s palm and realizes that Dar is actually Zed’s son.

Maax responds to this the way that evil priests have done since time immemorial. He orders his minions to kill Dar.

Easier said than done, oh scenery-chewing one.

The first priest tries to strangle Dar with a hanging noose (they’re crafty, these assassin-priests of Argh) while a second rides up bearing a crossbow. Rather than immediately shooting Dar in the neck, the second priest only watches while Ruh sneaks up from behind and rips the first priest a new one. Failing his morale check, the mounted priest then rides away, despite his superior weaponry and the fact that his would-be victim is on the ground gasping for air.

Oh well, they’re mooks for a reason. Dar sends Ruh after the fleeing priest and we watch the chase in beast-o-vision for a few moments until Ruh gets overconfident and falls into a pit.

Okay, NOW the stupid priest swings up his crossbow and gets ready to use it. Before he can puncture the poor helpless Ruh however, a heavy staff swings out of nowhere and nails the priest right in the breadbasket. Nearby stands… yes, it’s Seth, the captain of the king’s guard from the beginning of the flick, and a young boy (guess who!), leaning on their staffs and laughing.

This only pisses off the priest, who attacks with his weird chain-weapon, but of course Seth just brushes it off and kicks his ass once more, sending him tumbling into the pit trap, where Ruh looks skyward, says (in tiger-language) “Thank you, god!” and proceeds to chow down.

Haw! Haw! Watching mooks get eaten by tigers is funny!

“You face the animal on his own terms,” Seth says sagely as the priest’s screams echo up from the pit, “you find you are not so very strong.”

(And now for a little ancient history — I have to recount yet another anecdote from my days of watching cheap fantasy flicks in theaters. We attended with a bunch of SCA people, many of whom make gamers and computer nerds look positively well-adjusted. One particular individual who was prone to the occasional pretentious comment watched the scene in which Seth beats the priest’s ass with his big stick and loudly commented, in the middle of the theater and with an entirely straight face, “He who fights a master of the staff is thrice a fool.” Yes, there really are people like that in the world, gods help us all…)

At this point Dar shows up and bares his mighty sword (okay, I think we’ve managed to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to sword jokes, so I’ll lay off), prompting Seth and his young ward to stand on guard, as if to say, “Okay, bring it, Blondie.” Fortunately, Dar continues to show himself to be smarter than the average barbarian, realizes that they helped to save Ruh and thanks them for their help.

The trio then shove a fallen log into the pit, allowing Ruh to escape. The kid is impressed by the tiger. “Is he yours?” he asks.

Dar replies, “We fight together sometimes,” which only adds to his cool-o-meter rating. “I hope someday to be able to repay your kindness.”

He then gets ready to leave, but Seth reminds him that life is a circle, which suggests that he probably saw The Lion King, even though it won’t be made for 5,000 years or so. This catches Dar’s interest, so he stays to exchange more exposition, telling Seth that he’s the last of the Imorites. Seth introduces himself and the boy, whose name is Tal. They are, he says “Pilgrims on our way to worship at the temple of Argh.”

Study hard, my young pupil and one day you’ll be a muscular
babe-magnet like Dar.

Yeah, right… And I’m the Queen of Hyboria…

Dar comments that Seth’s pretty good with a staff for a humble pilgrim, to which Seth replies that all pilgrims have a deep love of life, “especially their own.”

“I too am on my way to worship at the temple of Argh,” Dar says, glancing meaningfully at his sword.

(Apparently, by “worship” they mean, “kill every mother-loving Jun, gut every miserable red priest and behead every single solitary evil witch in the entire freaking kingdom, then slice Maax into tiny pieces and feed them to the ferrets.” Pilgrims, you see, speak in their own secret language.)

The three agree to travel together and it looks as if this particular movie’s fellowship is pretty much complete. Later that evening, Seth dispatches with pretense, saying that he’s busy raising an army, and taking Tal back home to confront Maax and free his father, the king.

Again, the ol’ sword-and-sorcery coincidences abound. Tal is Dar’s brother (or at least half-brother), but neither of them know that (or at least we don’t think they do, as I’m not sure whether Lothar ever told Dar about where he really came from), and they’re going to rescue the old king, who is actually Dar’s own father. Imagine what fun that will be…

Dar also tells the whole story, introducing his animals, including the ferrety brothers, whom he says steal trinkets and treasures for him… I guess that’s how he manages to pay his bills at the inn. Among the stuff that the ferrets took is, of course, Maax’s eye-ring, even though we never saw them lift it off the red priest’s body. In a moment of sheer and unutterable bad luck, Dar tells Tal that he can keep the ring if he likes it. Now, why anyone would like that tacky piece of crap, I have no idea — it looks more like it should be hanging around Flava Flave’s neck than adorning the finger of the young prince of the realm. Then again, the kid’s young. He hasn’t really developed a sense of taste yet, so he puts the ring on, and the plot continues.

You take your lousy human-sacrificin’ Argh-lovin’ paws
offa MY hot cousin! 

Also among the junk is Kiri’s belt and when they see it, Seth and Tal react badly. Dar lamely explains that it belonged to a slave girl and that he’s trying to save her before she becomes the next sacrifice to Argh. Seth is still a bit overwrought, but does nothing other than to brusquely state that they will leave at dawn.

Hmmm… Kiri is no slave girl? You mean she might be, like, a princess or something? Maybe Tal’s sister?

Oh gods, I hope not… That would make her Dar’s sister, even though he doesn’t know it, and when he finally rescues her, they’ll…

Oh, gods, no!

Well, not quite that bad… Tal reveals that she’s his cousin. That would be okay if they were in, say, Florida, but not in others (some research reveals, surprisingly, that cousin marriage is legal in California but not in West Virginia. Go figure). And if Tal’s only his half-brother, well, then if she’s on his mother’s side that takes her out of the running altogether, so I think we need not worry about Dar and Kiri producing flipper-babies if and when they do finally get together. We will keep a weather eye out for information on Tal’s mother so we can make sure Dar isn’t heading straight into the shallow end of the gene pool.

That night while our heroes are sleeping, Maax’s ring opens its beady little eye just as Dar sends his eagle off to seek out Kiri, seeing her and the other temple virgins (well, women anyway) clad in white, escorted by a number of red priests on foot. I’m not really sure where they’re supposed to be going, as we were under the impression that they were going to be sacrificed at the giant pyramid, but that doesn’t matter. Our heroes’ rescue plans unfold.

The next day, the future victims are being herded along by the squad of future red priests toward the river where a rope-drawn ferry awaits, manned by three cloaked figures. Gee, I wonder who they’ll turn out to be…

We are filled with shame for our failure. Please drown us in the river.

At the dock, Kiri shows what a plucky little thing she is by kneeing a priest in the victuals, to which the priest responds by pounding her and shoving her head underwater. This kind of moves up our heroes’ schedule, so they redouble their efforts to drag the ferry to the dock. As soon as they arrive, Seth wastes no time in clobbering the priest that’s molesting Kiri (remember, he who fights a master of the staff IS thrice a fool), then Dar whips off his cloak and the other priests are so impressed by his ripped physique and his snarling black tiger that they put up very little fight, ending up as either prisoners or acolyte cutlets.

Dar approaches Kiri and gives her the old “The beast is fierce” line, and of course it’s obvious that romance is in the air. Just as they’re busy tying up the captive priests, another squad of baddies arrives, this time on horseback and armed with crossbows (which seem only capable of striking the ferry’s dragon figurehead rather than any of the actual people on board). Our four heroes start hauling away on the rope, but they’re moving too slow, so Kiri very sensibly ties the captive priests to an anchor and pushes them overboard. Dar cuts the ferry loose and they drift down the river, away from the squad of frustrated priests.

Now this is all well and good, and Kiri is now rescued and in the strong, beefy arms of Dar, but there were several other sacrificial maidens in the caravan. What the hell happened to them? There was a brief shot of them running away, but for all intents and purposes they’ve disappeared from the film. I imagine that they didn’t get far, since those mounted priests are probably royally pissed and won’t be too sympathetic if they find the fleeing women.

Heh heh… Heh heh… Dar’s gonna, like, score. Heh heh… Heh heh.

(There’s a movie convention that I find kind of annoying, actually — the disappearing minor character. Once they have served their purpose, minor characters walk away, jump out a window, or otherwise vanish, never to be heard from again. Remember the scientist guy who rescues Domino at the end of Thunderball, for example? He jumps out of the Disco Volante right before it blows up, but when we see the liferaft, only Bond and Domino are in it. Did the guy die? Did he swim away? Damn…)

Sorry, more woolgathering. Back to the river, where our four intrepid adventurers are now drifting along as carefree as Jim and Huck. Tal asks Dar to rescue his father, and we all know that Dar’s going to say yes. However, he decides to use the situation for his own gain (there’s that chaotic alignment rearing its ugly head again), and asks Tal to send Kiri over to ask him.

“What can I do to convince you to help us?” she asks.

Yeah, yeah, we get the picture. Dar holds out for about five seconds, but moments later they’re snogging like horny sophomores, and Tal says confidently, “I think he’s going to help us.”

Nah, kid. What was your first clue?

The next day, the companions part ways as Seth ventures out to find allies, and the other three head back toward Arak to raise some hell before the cavalry arrives.

Dar sends the eagle to go fetch Sacco, who suddenly transforms into the dreaded comic relief, protesting that he’s a coward and asking the eagle whether he can get someone else instead. That’s it, Sacco… Way to pay a guy back for saving your daughter…

The Juns were able to recruit several members of the band Slipknot to their evil cause…

Fortunately Sacco’s transformation into Snails is brief. He eventually relents, and in the next scene transports Dar, Kiri, Tal and the animals through the city gates. Unfortunately, that damned ring is still on Tal’s finger, and transmits images of the three intruders straight to Maax’s command center where, like the evil guy that he is, Maax begins to make plans to give Dar and his companions a warm welcome.

Dar, Tal, Kiri and Ruh sneak into the surprisingly unguarded temple and slip down a narrow corridor. Let’s see, that’s a low-level fighter (Tal), a low-level rogue (Kiri) and a mid-level druid/barbarian and his animal companions. We’re going to have to lower the challenge rating of the upcoming encounters just a little if they’re going to survive…

Dar first encounters open cages filled with green-eyed fetish-freaks wearing spiked claws and vambraces… As this is the eighties, it’s not surprising that the villains include members of failed heavy metal bands among their hordes.

Dar avoids the spiked gauntlets by grabbing chains that hang from the ceiling for some reason, then pulls a random lever that shutters all the cages so Tal and Kiri can follow. Good gods, pulling a random lever? Do you have any idea what would have happened if the party had pulled a random lever in my campaign? I can at least say that it sure as hell wouldn’t have closed the cages.

In the next corridor, the trio finds a grill in the floor and look down to see an unfortunate prisoner being tortured in order to transform him into one of the heavy-metal guys from the cages — Tal says they’re called deathguard, and extreme torment transforms them into wild beasts. Mind you that doesn’t really sound like the best way to create an army of killers, since they’re as likely to kill Juns as the Juns’ enemies, but these barbarian hordes aren’t really known for their logic and sensible conduct.

The keys that they need to open the king’s cell are in the chamber where the deathguard is being made, so Dar sends the ferrets in to nab them. While Kodo and Podo are being lowered down, Kiri slips away, opens a convenient hidden door and vanishes. WTF???

While they go down, Tal explains more of the process of deathguard creation, as the priest encases the prisoner in “deadly armor” (the armor is deadly? Hell, that’s one nasty deathguard), drains his blood and damages his brain “with a mysterious green liquid.” (I suspect it’s Reanimator juice, but that’s only a guess.) Finally, the priests drop a glowing green leech down the victim’s ear (“Khaaaaaannnn!”) and slap on the black disco-bondage helmet, and voila. One deathguard ready to go.

Kodo and Podo then throw another monkey wrench into things by surprising the priests, who are distracted long enough for the deathguard to break free, kill them, bash down the door and escape. In the process he snaps the line holding the ferrets, but before Dar can do anything, Kirri reappears to show him the secret door. She’s changed into a cute little rogue outfit complete with dagger, which Dar notices with obvious interest. Dar urges Tal to follow along, telling him that the ferrets will “catch up.” Well, he’s the Beastmaster, I guess he knows best…

Ever the source of useful plot exposition, Tal tells Dar that the outfit indicates Kiri is actually a “trove warrior” — an ancient sect that used to control the pyramid. That’s about all we ever hear about the matter, but it at least succeeds in making Kiri more than your average screaming piece of barbarian arm-candy.

They find the king’s cell and Dar looks around for the key-bearing ferrets, but Kiri discovers that the door is unlocked. DON’T DO IT, KIRI! IT’S A TRAP! NO ONE LEAVES THE KING’S CELL UNLOCKED UNLESS THEY PLAN TO SLAM THE DOOR AND LOCK YOU IN AS SOON AS YOU’RE…

Oh, never mind. They go in even though everyone in the audience is screaming at them not to.

Tal and Kiri go to rescue the king, while Dar creeps back down the hall looking for Ruh. The tiger seems MIA until he jumps out, killing a guard who was about to ventilate Dar.

Dar returns to the cell, and discovers that the king is there, but unfortunately he’s missing his eyes. The damned Juns apparently used them as salad garnishes.

“Uncle,” Kiri says. “It’s me.” Unfortunately the king just isn’t very observant right now for some reason…

Oh, what a feeling/Stabbing on the ceiling…

While the heroes try to get the king on his feet, Maax and the witchy-chicks sneak up and slam the cell door behind them. Wow… Never saw that coming, did we?

Maax chuckles in his evil, Rip Torny way, and says they’ll be sacrificed at dawn. They haven’t reckoned with Ruh, however, who is still outside and once more saves the day by charging down the corridor, forcing the two villains to retreat into the cell with their captives. Maax grabs Tal and holds a knife to his throat while Dar and the witch-woman square off, and Ruh sits at he door, looking at Maax as if he’s a half-pound piece of Porterhouse.

The witch blinds Dar with pixie dust, then crawls up onto the ceiling (yes, witches can do that, apparently), preparing to drop down on him from an unexpected angle like Lestat in that awful Queen of the Damned movie. Dar has luckily not seen Queen of the Damned, but he’s the Beastmaster, dammit, and through Ruh’s eyes he is able to see where the witch is, and in short order turns her into an oversized cocktail weenie.

Kiri manages to get the knife away from Maax just as Ruh bashes the door down (I didn’t know tigers could do that… I guess you learn something new every day), but Maax is nimble for an evil high priest, and escapes leaving the heroes behind. They get the king on his feet and prepare to flee while elsewhere in the dungeon, the key-bearing ferrets lead the berserk deathguard on a merry chase.

Now it’s Tal’s turn to find the secret passage, and he leads the escapees into an adjoining room where he turns a crank to raise a big stone skull that’s blocking the exit. Dar sends Ruh along to protect the others, then turns back to go find those mischievous ferrets. Kiri urges him to follow but the big loveable lug refuses, returning to the dank recesses of the dungeon.

Look out for that deathguard!
What deathguard? Ohhhh, THAT deathguard…

Dar’s search for the ferrets is short indeed, for he runs into a crowd of red priests, who send him fleeing back into the skull room, where he cuts the chain holding the skull and seals himself back in. Outside, the priests are too busy bashing down the door to notice the arrival of the ferrets, quickly followed by the deathguard, who proceeds to engage in some spiked vambrace-fu while Kodo and Podo slip beneath the door for their touching reunion with the Beastmaster. Of course he’s already sealed off the exit, but what the hell… They’re too cute to be angry with for long.

As it turns out, Kiri also stayed behind (it’s love, I tell ya!), and leads him down the alternate escape path, down the air shafts.

Oh my gods… Another hero escaping down airshafts… When are villains going to learn to make their airshafts too small to crawl through!

The deathguard breaks through, but the lovers are away, and emerge from the airshaft high on the castle walls. Kiri is definitely a higher-level rogue than we’d originally thought, and brought the requisite 50 feet of rope, allowing them to scale the cliff even as the Deathguard scuttles along the airshaft after them. As they’re halfway down, he shows up, and begins hacking away at the rope, but the Beastmaster still has a few tricks left. The eagle swoops down on the deathguard, he overbalances and tumbles down the cliff to a merciful death.

All seems well, but wait! The rope was damaged and now it’s fraying! Oh no — Dar and Kiri are going to pancake…

The pair plummet to certain death, but fortuitously land on a shipment of soft, comfy pillows that happen to be passing by.

After this incident, the city gate of Arak was known as “The Deathguard Tenderizer.”

No, actually they land in the back of Sacco’s wagon, proving again that Dar’s Luck stat is one of the highest ever recorded. Finding the gate blocked, Dar has the eagle carry the ferrets up to the top of the gatehouse and sets them to work gnawing through the rope.

While they’re waiting for the ferrets to finish, Kiri proves her worth by nailing an approaching guard with an eagle-shaped shuriken, but then gapes in horror as four deathguards approach, followed by a whip-wielding priest. They make for the gate, but the ferrets aren’t done yet. All seems lost.

Up in the gatehouse, the lone guard sees Kodo (or maybe it’s Podo… hell, I can’t tell) chewing on the rope, and makes ready to cleave the poor creature, but Podo (or Kodo) deftly slips up his tunic and demonstrates the British pastime known as “ferret-legging.” Bitten in a very uncomfortable place, the guard accidentally chops the rope, then plummets and goes splat as the ferrets scramble to safety. As the wagon lurches through the gate, Dar chops the counterweight rope and the heavy gate slams down, squashing the deathguards in an imminently satisfying fashion. The two ferrets complete the escape by dropping into the wagon as it leaves.

*Whew!*

Strong men, too can cry, Mister Lebowski. Strong… men… too.. can… cry…

Our triumph is short-lived, for in the next scene King Zed shows what a dick he is, lurching about, pontificating, rejecting everyone’s pity and insisting that he only needs 35 warriors to kick Maax out on his Jun-lovin’ ass.

Dar, Kiri and Seth look dubious at this, and Dar stands up to give Zed the straight scoop — sure, they can kill Maax, but once he’s gone the Juns will be all over the city like a duck on a junebug. He needs a while army, not 35 peasants with sticks.

Despite this sage advice, and the support of Kiri, Seth and Tal, Zed continues to insist that the conquest of Arak will take only a few hours, that the citizens will greet them with kisses and flowers, that there won’t be any insurgency, they’ll find the WMDs and the entire invasion can be paid for by oil revenue from the moat full of tar that surrounds the city. Dar, he says, is just “a freak who speaks to animals,” and “I NEED NO COWARDS BY MY SIDE!!!”

This is all too much for Dar, who turns and leaves, tears running down his face. Once more, Dar shows himself to be a cut or two above the average movie barbarian, showing that he actually has emotions other than bloodlust and horniness. Kiri shows up to offer Dar some sympathy (no, unfortunately not that kind), but even she can’t help him.

Damn. I KNEW we should have voted for Obama.

“Go crawl down a hole with your animals,” Zed sneers, and returns to planning Operation Araki Freedom. And what a humdinger of a plan it is — his own son will lead the charge, and their subsequent Shock and Awe tactics will send Maax down to defeat. Unfortunately, Tal’s still wearing the eyeball ring, and Maax’s surviving witches hear the whole plan. Seth finally notices the staring eye of doom and stabs it out with a stick, then warns Zed that Maax knows all their plans.

Zed, predictable, refuses. Years ago, you see, Maax killed his queen and enslaved him, so he’s just gotta have revenge. His neocon advisors have assured him that they know EXACTLY where Maax is hiding his WMDs and no namby-pamby, terrorist-loving liberal is going to stand in the way of the final liberation of Arak. The plan stands, even though Maax knows the whole thing.

“We’re doomed,” Seth says mournfully.

Zed replies that you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want, then heads off to his ranch to go clear brush.

Oh, wait… At least now we know that Tal and Dar don’t have the same mother. Maybe Kiri isn’t really his cousin…

Oops… Back in the dungeon, Kiri called the king “uncle.” Aw, crap. I guess Dar and Kiri will have to have genetic counseling before they do the deed…

While you’re planning my horrible death, I think I’ll take a little nap…

The next morning Dar awakens to see Sacco riding hell for leather from the city. He confirms that, as all the liberal doomsayers predicted, the whole plan went to hell — Zed underestimated the number of troops needed to hold the city, they never found any WMDs, the insurgency proved stronger and more resilient than they’d anticipated, Zed’s advisors had no real plans for governance of Arak after the invasion, and they never developed a viable Arak exit strategy. For this reason, Zed and all of Dar’s friends are going to be sacrificed at sunset. Go figure.

Cut to the menacing pyramid and a crowd of thoroughly dispirited Arakis. A cart arrives carrying Tal, Seth and Kiri. Maax looks down on the sacrificial fire and is well pleased.

But never fear. The Beastmaster is riding to the rescue, even as Kiri has her oddly Catholic-looking robe ripped off (she still has her trove warrior outfit on underneath, unfortunately) and is dragged up the pyramid, where the despondent-looking Zed sits.

Now it’s Maax’s time to shine.

“Your king Zed has denied the god Argh,” he bellows. “Now he will die as will his kin!

(Okay, he’s no Jeremy Irons, but damn this man can devour scenery…)

Dar arrives, galloping through the unguarded gates and unleashing his multipronged counterattack. Maax could, of course, have foiled Dar’s plans completely just by barring the gates and putting men on the walls, but once more the evil overlord misses the most obvious defenses.

Okay, kids, is THIS sword and sorcery enough for you?

Dar rides into the city square and tosses the ferrets into the cart where Tal and Seth are bound, then starts hacking guards. The ferrets quickly gnaw through Tal and Seth’s bonds, the two escape, throw off their robes (Seth still has his leather bondage armor), grab swords and we’re off to the races.

For a kid Tal proves pretty badass, slicing guard after guard. The crowd goes berserk and turns on the priests, Seth swings his cleaver left and right and even Ruh gets into the act, chowing down on some unfortunate guards who probably weren’t even supposed to work this shift.

Dar battles his way to the top of the pyramid, where Maax is having a hard time getting Kiri to hold still for sacrifice. Once Dar makes it all the way, one of the witch women casually informs Maax that he’s now doomed, since the unborn has arrived.

Well, it looks as if maybe Dar’s “surge” has saved Zed’s Arak strategy, but Maax can’t resist one last dig before he gets his just deserts. He gives up on trying to sacrifice Kiri and instead strides over to Zed, where he tells him that his unborn son has arrived. Just as Zed realizes that Dar’s his son and that he’s been acting like a complete Jerk, Maax stabs him, then attacks Dar.

Here’s why history records Maax last words as “YEEEEEOWCH!!”

For a moment it looks like the weenie priest might have the upper hand over the beefy Beastmaster, but it doesn’t last long. Dar stabs Maax with his own dagger, and the priest falls. Dar turns on the witch woman, but she is able to turn herself into a pigeon and escape… Why Dar doesn’t send his eagle out for a quick snack is anyone’s guess.

Back to some action packed fighting on the pyramid as Seth and Tal finish off the last guards and the victorious Arakis swarm up the steps.

All seems well until we see that Maax isn’t quite dead yet. He rips the dagger free and advances on Dar who is busy carrying Kiri down the steps. The ferrets see what the bastard is up to, and Kodo launches himself at Maax, Maax screams and they both go tumbling into the sacrificial flames, exploding like cheap fireworks. Both Podo and the Beastmaster are terribly despondent, but at least the city is free and we can now celebrate…

Oops, not yet. From the top of the pyramid, we see the dust of the approaching Jun horde. Apparently news travels fast in the world of the Beastmaster. Despite the demands of many to flee, Tal concurs with Dar’s advice that they stay and fight. The people cheer (didn’t they just want to flee a second ago?), and soon they’re pulling down the bridge and covering over the petroleum moat under Seth’s guidance.

Dar likes his Juns served hot.

Back at the pyramid, Dar isn’t sitting idly around mourning Kodo. He remembers the bat-people’s medallion and hands it over to his eagle, who flies off with it.

That night, the people are arrayed to defend their city, and the Juns arrive in all their Road Warrior-type glory. The people retreat through the gates and the Juns charge… right into the disguised tar moat (I guess they forgot it was there after the last time they conquered the city). Despite some well-placed crossbow bolts, the Arakis shut the gates, leaving Tal, Seth, Kiri and Dar on the other side to set the tar on fire. Tal gets bolted as he tries, but Kiri sets a Jun on fire, then Dar kicks him into the moat and we’re treated to a pyrotechnic fantasy as the whole thing goes up in flames, taking half the Jun army with it.

Wow… I’m still of the opinion that any movie in which a guy catches on fire is automatically cool, and this flick is no exception.

The Juns are still dangerous, and some of the survivors get across the burning moat, but Dar and company hack them individually as they do so, in a flaming, blood-soaked conga line of death. Soon numbers begin to tell, however, and our heroes are quickly surrounded by angry, oily, smoking Juns. Finally the Jun chieftain leaps his horse across the flames and challenges Dar to single combat.

Dar has his cool Beastmaster sword, but the Jun chief has a big flanged mace with extendable spikes, and as we all know if a weapon is exotic it must automatically be superior to all others, so it’s a pretty even fight. After a ferocious struggle, the chieftain ends up impaled on his own mace spikes, Dar kung-fu kicks him, and flings him into the flames. Victory! Hurrah!

Hey Juns! SURPRISE!

Of course Dar is now surrounded by vengeful Juns who just saw him off their chieftain, so his work has only just begun. Dar and Seth stand back-to-back and prepare to meet the gods personally, when the black eagle flaps down out of the night and alights on Dar’s arm.

No, the eagle hasn’t come to witness his master’s last few painful moments of life. He’s brought friends. Yup, the bird people from earlier in the movie… They apparently still feel some kinship with Dar, and busily envelop and devour the surviving Juns as Dar and friends retreat back toward the gates. The people cheer, the Juns die, and we get Tal into one of the stucco huts to see to his crossbow-wound.

Yeah, Tal lives and will become king. As he’s getting ready to leave however, Seth sees the mark on Dar’s hand and realizes that he’s the true king. Nah, that’s not for me, Dar replies. Tal will make a great ruler.

“Besides,” he says, “he already has the strongest right hand that any leader of men could want.”

Seth for his part can’t really argue with this, and the two buff barbarians say their farewells. Dar leaves his kaypa in Tal’s capable hands and departs from the city, Ruh at his side. *sniffle.*

Awwwwwwwwwww…!

No wait, we’re not done yet. While Tal and Seth say goodbye to the black eagle, Kiri comes running after Dar in all her red-haired, blue-eyed hotness, Dar sweeps her up in his manly arms and says…

“Nope, sorry. You’re my cousin. I just can’t. It’s just too creepy. I don’t want flipper-babies.”

Dar… I… I know you’re my cousin, and I know that our children may be born with two heads but… but I LOVE you!!.

No, of course he doesn’t… After all, Wagner’s hero Siegfried was the son of a brother and sister, and fell in love with his aunt Brunhilda… That’s a classic fantasy and it’s way more creepy than Beastmaster.

Actually, their eyes meet and we end the film with Dar and Kiri embracing on a picturesque mountaintop while Ruh patrols nearby, the eagle flies overhead, and Podo appears with two cute baby ferrets, just enough to carry on the dynasty.

So that’s it. As was previously mentioned, Beastmaster kind of tanked when it was first released, but has attained cult status in the intervening years, spawning two sequels and a TV series. In many ways it’s the iconic sword and sorcery movie, and manages to do just about everything that a low-budget fantasy epic is supposed to. Of all the flicks we’ve reviewed this is a real fave and not just because I love animals and think that Tanya Roberts is hot.

In the decades since the release of Beastmaster, its principals have done relatively well. Tanya Roberts got those gigs as a Bond girl, Sheena and the sexy-but-dumb neighbor on That 70s Show, Marc Singer has worked steadily, doing voice work, TV series and starring in the series V, even landing a role in the Beastmaster TV show in 2002. John Amos was and continues to be a household word in the world of television drama, with recurring roles in The District, Men in Trees, The West Wing, 30 Rock and more.

As for Rip Torn… well, he’s been in just about everything from Robocop III to Will and Grace, Dodgeball and — like John Amos – 30 Rock. Oh yeah, he also played Tom Green’s father in what many considered to be the worst movie ever made, Freddy Got Fingered, and also starred in a police video that portrayed his drunken rant at police officers after being arrested for DWI in 2004. He was busted for DWI again in 2006 and yet again in 2009. On January 29, 2010, Torn was arrested after breaking into a Litchfield Bancorp branch office in Lakeville Connecticut, and in December, 2010 he plead guilty to reckless endangerment, criminal trespass, criminal mischief and the illegal carrying of a firearm. Rip received a two-and-a-half-year suspended jail sentence and three years probation, and has so far managed to keep his drunken ass out of the slammer, but stay tuned — he’s only 82 years young and there’s still plenty of time. His mugshot remains one of the most popular on the Internet, along with such luminaries as Nick Nolte and Yasmine Bleeth.

Rip Torn then…
…and now. Which do YOU prefer?

And so we draw yet another episode to a close. Join us again next time as we descend once more into the blood-soaked Pit of Swords and Sorcery. Fight on!

Sword and Sorcery Rating:

4 Broadswords

You really can’t do much better than this one, including as it does a toned and brawny swordsman, cute animals, sword battles, evil priests, a sacrificial pyramid, wicked witches, a lost prince and a hot redhead who is at least partially naked. The Beastmaster rules.

Comedy Rating:

1-1/2 Broadswords

There’s actually not a lot of intentional humor in this film, and what there is consists of cute animal shots. That’s really okay, since there also isn’t a lot of unintentional humor here either. For once, the script actually strikes the right balance, and isn’t too over-the-top or so ridiculous that you have to laugh.

Violence Rating:

3 Broadswords

Battles, sword fights, murders, stabbings, animal attacks… What more can I say?

Titillation Rating:

2-1/2 Broadswords

A fair amount of skin is on display here (and I’m not discounting the gorgeous Mark Singer running around in a loincloth either), but there’s only one really good nude scene. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it — it’s Tanya Roberts, who is good for two swords right there — and the rest of the movie is actually pretty chaste. Now the whole thing about Dar and Kiri being cousins, THAT’S a little weird…

Awesomeness Rating:

4 Broadswords

This one goes all the way, folks. It’s the gold standard for beefy sword-and-sorcery adventure. All hail Dar!.

Is this the best movie we’ve reviewed so far? Actually, in my admittedly prejudiced opinion, it is. Go down to the video store and rent it today, and you’ll hear your delighted friends declare, “Hey! Beastmaster’s on!”

Post-Thanksgiving

Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I been busy. A dude’s gotta keep busy.

Mostly I’ve spent the past few months working on a heavy revision to the urban fantasy novel I’ve been trying to sell. I mentioned it before, but here’s the recap — last spring I got a nibble from a very desirable agent, but she rejected the final novel with various useful (and I realize now, very true) comments. I asked if she’d reconsider after a rewrite and she said of course, so here I am. I completed the rewrite a couple of weeks ago, and it’s currently in her hands.

Obviously I don’t think I’m too bad of a writer, but I do have some quirks and problems that sometimes plague me, such as long sections of dialog in which nothing happens (that’s pretty much the kiss of death for action novels), characters who don’t go anywhere and the occasional lack of motivation. I tried to address the issues in my rewrite and I’d like to think I succeeded. I’ll have a better idea in a few weeks when she gets back to me, aye or nay, but either way she helped make it a better novel. I never really liked the heroine very much anyway.

At home I’m finished dealing with the aftermath of last August’s flood, and am finally the proud owner of a spanking new sewer hook-up. I know it’s a bit hard to believe in this modern age, but I’ve been on a septic tank all these years, constantly fearful that it might malfunction and leave me with a huge bill to replace it. So instead I paid a huge bill to get connected to the sewer main and Bob’s your uncle. Boring new I know, but it’s my life.

Thanksgiving week has gone very well, with me getting story finished, miniatures painted and various nagging bits of business taken care of, and culminating in a fine Thanksgiving dinner with my girlfriend and our mutual friends/families, including my mom, my daughter and her bass-player boyfriend, whom we all decided (being old codgers) was the cat’s pajamas. Non-extreme turkey and cheesecake consumption (by me anyway) resulted in no major blood sugar crises and a very sound sleep, and I dragged myself out of bed today with the firm intention of doing a blog entry and starting work on another Pit of Swords and Sorcery entry. Oh, yeah I also watched The Expendables, and marveled at how in Hollywood, heroes can spray entire rooms with masses of automatic weapon fire, killing only terrorists and leaving hostages unharmed. If only…

Okay, it’s short but hell Idon’t think a hell of a lot has been happening lately other than rewriting The Shepherd, so I’ll see if I can come up with more innovative and amusing material next time. Hang in there folks, and I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving.