The Beastmaster (1982), a recap (part 3 of 6)
Last time: Dar’s entire village was wiped out by the Jun horde led by Rip Torn, leaving him the lone survivor. Arming himself, he hit the road of vengeance and picked up a few furry and feathered allies on the way.
Dar and Rhu the black tiger (which sounds like a hair metal band) dash in slow-mo across the valley until they come to a waterfall. Here they find the true reason why early ’80s PG movies were so awesome.
It’s called “titillation” for a reason, folks. The redhead is Tanya Roberts, formerly of Charlie’s Angels, and in retrospect, it’s amazing that show lasted five seasons. I guess it was pretty easy to stay on the air when you only had three networks. Fun fact; actress Demi Moore auditioned for this part, but the producer went with Roberts. Honestly, I think he went with the right choice, as at this point Tanya had a bit more exposure. Pun intended. The blonde is Linda Smith, in case you were wondering; she didn’t do much before or after this.
Dar stealthily spies on the two ladies from an outcropping of rock in a manner that makes me feel like this is a bronze age version of Porky’s. One of the ferrets climbs onto his shoulder to look, and I love how Dar nods at it as if to say, “I know, right?” It’s a nice touch, because it implies that the relationship Dar has with the beasts is a bit more of a partnership than them being mindless slaves. Dar takes the ferret in hand and they seem to share a silent conversation, and then he sends the little beast and his/her/its partner off to steal Tanya’s dress. Tanya pulls up what little she went into the pool with and dashes into the woods after the ferrets, but she’s no Beastmaster and quickly loses track of the thieves. That’s when Rhu the black tiger comes bounding from out of the trees. Tanya looks terrified… Okay, honestly, she tries to look terrified, but her expression a little blank. But then Dar pops up from out of nowhere, grabbing her from behind.
Fair’s fair; Tanya looked legit shocked. Dar holds her close and tells her not to move, because the beast is fierce and if they show no fear they might escape. Damn, just how long ago did Dar’s life go up in flames? I’m just saying, if I lost my dad and dog and all my friends and neighbors to a horde of barbarians, maybe picking up chicks would be low on my list of priorities. Then again, it is Tanya Roberts.
Dar takes a “cautious” step forward, his expression grim. He takes another and then grins and yeah, all right, I laughed out loud at that when I saw this in the theater. Anyone who saw his earlier film If You Could See What I Hear knows Marc has great comedic timing and is a good romantic lead; I think it’s something largely forgotten because he’s remembered more for this film and the V mini-series. Rhu’s had enough of the game and lays down, and Dar frowns and nods over his shoulder like he’s saying, “Dude, you’re ruining it!” Rhu just looks bored, until Dar yells at him and he ambles off, probably to go eat the blonde. Dar sidles up to Tanya and says you just gotta show ‘em who’s boss. Then he points out she owes him her life but he’ll settle for a way inappropriate kiss. Behind Tanya, Rhu has returned, laying and watching; I’m guessing he figured the pool is too far and he’ll eat the redhead after Dar’s done with her. But Tanya’s no fragile flower; she trips Dar and demands to know who sent him. Dar is more amused than upset that a girl has just schooled him, and he smiles and introduces himself, then frowns and tells her how his village got burned to the ground by the Jun horde. So, trickery didn’t work, and now you’re playing the sympathy card, eh, Dar?
He further explains he’s sworn revenge against them and Tanya mocks him, pointing out he’s all alone. Dar flips her onto her back and things get a touch uncomfortable as he asks who she is. Tanya says her name’s Kiri and she’s a slave to the temple of Ar. She drops a necklace, and I’m not sure if that’s some symbol of ownership or something religious. Dar notices the scars on her back from past whippings, and he’s now feeling bad because he just scared the shit out of somebody who’s probably terrified almost every hour of every day. He offers to protect Kiri, but she explains if she runs, her family dies. Enslaving one member of the household and using the family as hostages to ensure compliance? Damn, that’s actually pretty effective. Dar offers to go with her, but Kiri tells him he’s better off forgetting her. She runs off into the woods, leaving Dar with his ruminations.
Rhu, Podo, and Kodo show up, and Dar decides to go after Kiri. He trots off into the woods, hot on her trail with Rhu in the lead. After a while, it seems they’ve lost Kiri, and Dar asks, “Where did she go?” Rhu gives a grunt and I’m guessing he’s saying something like, “How the hell do I know, fool? I’m a tiger; I hunt mostly by sight. Ask the goddamn ferrets where she is.” Night falls… or I’m guessing it’s supposed to be night. They’re using one of those day-for-night filters that’s never fooled anybody. It’s then that Dar and company come across a cliff, and atop it is a tree heavy with lights. It looks like Dar’s got himself a side quest! Well, I guess Kiri had been a bit of a side quest that went sideways. Dar heads up the cliff to the tree.
Hmm, there’s a cage dangling from a branch, a big steaming pot of… something, and glowing cocoons. No amount of potential experience points would get me to come within a hundred yards of this place. But Dar and his Animal Friendship Squad walk right in. There’s this black metallic standard that looks vaguely hawk-like, and Dar walks past it to check out the cage. Inside it is a dude who’s like “Hey, man, sup?”
Dar then turns his attention to the pot. It smells so bad even Rhu doesn’t want any. Dar stirs it with the big ladle and a human head pops up to the surface! Is it just a coincidence that in both this movie and Conan the Barbarian, we have people cooking people in pots? Both films came out the same year, so I have to wonder. It’s then that Dar realizes…
…they’re surrounded. I guess tiger ears are about as good as tiger noses. Dar quickly cuts the guy loose and he makes a break for it, and he’s instantly scooped up by one of the mystery dudes in their bat-like wings. We get this cool effect of the guy’s face pressed against the membrane that reminds me of the old TV series The Prisoner when “Rover” would catch a guy. The poor bastard is totally consumed, save for his bones, and I guess it was only a matter of time before director Don Coscarelli returned to his horror roots. So, if these guys eat like this, then what’s with the pot? I guess people are like carrots to these dudes; sometimes you cook ‘em in a stew, other times you eat ‘em raw. Dar is ready for a throwdown with Rhu at his side, but then the black eagle comes swooping down to land on his forearm. It screeches some then lands on the black metal standard. The mysterious beings back off and make way for Dar. Our hero cautiously makes his way through the gap, when one of them suddenly pops up in front of him! He grabs the end of the sword with his bat-like wings, but instead of tearing the blade out of Dar’s hands, he lets an amulet slide down the length.
Sweet, loot! Now, if only Dar had a wizard in his party that could cast Detect Magic to see what it could do. Dar exits the camp and then proceeds to get his ass off that cliff. Dawn comes, and we find Dar sleeping on the side of a hill. He’s awoken by the ferrets, who are probably wondering where their next meal is coming from. I’m kind of wondering that myself; Dar’s got to consume a lot of calories to keep up that physique. Dar examines the amulet in the daylight and notes it has a similar symbol to the black standard in the creatures’ camp, but he’s got to hit the road if he’s ever going to catch up to Kiri. Soon he finds an outcropping of rock that allows him to strike a pose as he stares down at a walled city.
Yeah, stepped pyramids are never a good sign, either in an RPG or fiction; most people who go up those steps don’t come down. Dar finds his way down the hill and discovers a road to the city, and lining said road are a series of crucified skeletons. I’ve been part of adventuring parties who would flat out ignore warning signs like this, but Dar’s on guard, and he tells Rhu to “keep hidden”. Dar’s smart enough to realize the wanderer who shows up with a black tiger at his side kind of, you know, stands out. Rhu trots away and Dar makes the gruesome walk towards town. He crosses a short bridge over a moat that looks like it’s full of thick mud. He approaches the gate and we see a familiar “face”.
It’s the same city that we saw at the beginning of the film, albeit twenty or so years later. Dar makes his way through town and finds horses and mules, but there don’t seem to be any people. He then hears a sound coming from the direction of the pyramid, and finding a stray cloak, slips it on. Because we all know wearing one instantly disguises you.
Making his way through the city, Dar reaches the pyramid, where he hears someone preaching from the top as the citizenry look on. Dar slips through the crowd as the guy on top works himself into a frenzy, talking about how Ar wants a sacrifice. He holds a child over his head, and whose head is it?
Rip Torn! He tosses the kid into the fire, and with a sick grin says that Ar’s not yet satisfied. So, PG films could have bare breasts, dudes getting devoured, and child immolation, but no blood or F-bombs? Rip yells at the crowd that if they hold out on Ar, they’ll all die; he then sends his creepy priests off into the crowd to collect another contestant for this most unpleasant of game shows. The priests grab what looks like a two-year-old girl from her mom and carry her toward the pyramid. Dar makes a move to intervene, but almost runs headlong into two helmeted guards, one of whom gives him a funny look. Realizing he can’t take them all on, Dar backs down. Dar then notices Kiri among a group of slaves, and she’s looking on with horror. Well, I’m assuming it’s horror; Tanya Roberts usually adopts a vacant-eyed stare that fills in for horror, fear, hunger, etc.
The girl’s dad is pinned down by some guards to make sure he can’t intervene while the priests deliver the child up to Rip, and we see the two surviving witches in the background. Rip holds up the girl and psyches himself up for another kid toss. Meanwhile, Dar’s feathered friend flies overhead. Dar removes his hood and begins to concentrate as Rip tosses the kid, but the girl hits the slope and Rip, looking disgusted with himself for such a sloppy throw, begins to push the child into the fire. I’d cut myself some slack if I were him; he’s probably been tossing kids all day and his arms are bound to get tired. But then the black eagle flies in for the save.
Let’s see… an average two-year-old girl weighs about 26 pounds, and an adult female eagle can carry three pounds—a full pound more than a male. So that eagle is, like, ten times stronger than average. Or maybe this adventure’s taking place on Mars. Judging by Dar’s outfit, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Now that I think of it, having this take place on Mars would make this movie ten times more awesome. Anyway, I’m dealing with a fantasy world with dudes with bat-like wings who can skin a human to the bone in ten seconds; I guess I’m letting this slide. Everyone bows in superstitious awe of the eagle with insane strength. Everyone save for Rip, who’s standing there with an expression on his face that implies he’s thinking, “What the f- just happened?”, and I love this, because it’s obvious this guy has been in control for a long, long time and in two seconds things just went off-script. Then he spots Dar, standing there defiantly in the open. So… Dar wisely left Rhu outside the city because the big cat sticks out. Then he cloaked up to blend in. He didn’t fight the guards, because he prudently realized he couldn’t fight them all. And now he pisses that all away. If I were the GM, he’d get a crossbow bolt to the eye. I’m sure Rip realizes this defiant stranger must have something to do with these shenanigans, but he’s got damage control to do, so Dar takes a back seat… for now.
Rip points up at the eagle and child and calls out, “See? Ar has spoken; he wants your children!” And all right, this I guess is a decent save; Rip opts to draw attention to the “miracle” rather than the stranger, because even a hint of successful defiance might cause a riot. And it looks like he and his men might be outnumbered ten to one; heck, the slave girls could probably grab and toss him into the fire pit. I’m guessing that next time Rip will have archers on hand just in case.
Night falls and one assumes the “festivities” were cut short. Dar stealths his way through the streets with a sack over his shoulder. He has one of the ferrets get a good sniff of the contents and lets it run from one doorway to another. He follows the ferret until it reaches a particular door. It’s the home of the father and mother of the two-year-old. There’s a knock on the door and the father cautiously opens it. Dar steals in and sets the sack down, and he opens it…
…and itt’s the girl. The parents are happy beyond words and Dar prepares to leave, but the father insists he stay and offers him anything. Dar is hesitant to accept the offer, since these people are obviously dirt poor, but then he realizes they might have information. He notes there was a woman on the pyramid, and she’s a friend. And I’d say “friend” is pushing the definition to the breaking point there, Dar.
The father introduces himself as Sako, and has Dar come back inside. It’s time for a little exposition over dinner. The Jun horde swooped in to their village and killed most of the young men, then the king got imprisoned in the pyramid. The king’s son was missing, so the invaders put their high priest “Maax” in charge. So, the priest finally [!] has a name. Sorry, too late: still calling him Rip. The slave girls will be brought back to the temple to be prepped for execution, which implies they’re being taken out of town. Dar gets up to go and promises to return. Sako offers him some advice: there’s only way into town, and that’s over the bridge that crosses over the “tar-like sludge”. He also tells Dar the Juns are bound to return. Dar smiles and says, “Then so will I.”
Elsewhere, Rip is in consultation with his posse of evil. He tells his freaky priests that Ar wants this “master of the beasts”. One of the witches offers up a large golden ring and Rip hands it off to one of his guys, telling him that the trinket will lead them to their target.
Next time: Dar meets new friends, and the revolution against the priests of Ar begins!