The Beastmaster (1982), a recap (part 4 of 6)

Last time: Dar met human-eating bat people, then he went to town to find Rip Torn sacrificing children to Ar. Rescuing the last victim, he learned the slave women are being taken to a temple to be sacrificed, among them the lovely Kiri, played by Tanya Roberts. Dar’s on his way to stop that noise, unaware Zed’s priests are now hunting him.

So some sad news was conveyed to me; Tanya Roberts passed away on Monday (after premature reports of her death on Sunday) at the age of 65. Tanya was one of Charlie’s Angels and a Bond girl, and she enjoyed renewed success in the late ’90s/early ’00s as Midge Pinciotti on That ’70s Show. May she rest in peace.

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Daytime finds Dar and Rhu traveling along what looks like a game trail through some woods, where they find a small waterfall that seems to be feeding a pool formed by the roots of a gnarled tree. I don’t know if some guy came across this natural phenomenon or if this is a set, but it looks cool all the same. In a D&D campaign, this would be the tree of some ancient dryad and the protector of the pool, which would contain healing properties. There would be this deep and wonderful back story the GM had written describing the history of the tree and how the dryad is willing to help the players with their quest… or at least, that would have been the intention, as after the gang filled their water skins, they would be off. The players would never know why the GM was persistently bashing his head on the kitchen table behind his screen.

Rhu has his fill and Dar removes sword and satchel to get a drink himself, unaware that above him he’s being watched by one of the priests of Ar. The man’s new ring opens to reveal…

Damn, the prop guy did a hell of a job on that eye; for that, he should get ahead. Rip and the two witch queens are able to see what the eye sees via their scrying pool; they observe Dar scooping up some water and that’s when they spot the brand on his palm. Rip says, “See the brand? It’s Zed’s son. Kill him!” And Rip does a great job of looking and sounding just a little bit panicked, stopping just short of parody, because that’s the kind of pro he is.

At the tree pool, the priest above makes his stealth check, and I’m now thinking they’re multiclass cleric/assassins. Or maybe they’re dual class; they’re full-on assassins and only took a single level of cleric at the outset for their church to get tax-exempt status. Either way, the assassin manages to get a noose around Dar’s neck.

“Here we see the Priests of Ar about to weigh, tag and release the barbarian back into his natural habitat, the nearby gymnasium…”

I was wondering what this weapon was called. I had seen it used in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome by the nearly indestructible Ironbar, and so I decided to consult some experts at the Facebook group Old School Gamers. Among the answers I received were: man catcher, thief catcher, snare, catch pole, garrote staff, catchpole, Staff of Karnath (which I had to Bing to find out what the heck a “Karnath” was), and dog catcher stick. One of my favorite names was “beast master”. One guy called it a “Dangle-Snaffler”, which sounds like what Snozzwangers used to capture Oompa Loompas. In the future, I might just have the group watch a movie for me and leave comments; with 14,000+ members, the article might almost write itself. Seriously, I have to say thanks to the community, especially for all the jokes I stole this time out. Dar struggles against the noose while another priest rides up, crossbow in hand. Both men are so intent on Dar that they miss Rhu climbing in the tree over the noose-bearing priest.

And in case you’re wondering: yes, some tigers can climb trees. Now you have another reason to fear them. I love how this scene is framed, with that priest totally stressing as he’s trying to strangle Dar, unaware the Angel of Death is about to chew on his skull. Rhu jumps down on the bastard and makes a meal of him, and the priest’s hand magically springs up through the scrying pool as he dies, much to Rip’s disgust. The other guy decides to flee rather than shoot Rhu, probably because he’s afraid firing a crossbow bolt into the tiger will just make him mad. Rhu chases down the horseman, and Dar watches through the big cat’s eyes. Rhu almost catches him, but he runs across a tarp covered with leaves and falls into a pit. So… did the priests spend all night digging that hole? Was the plan to have Dar fall into that pit as a Plan B? Did one of them just happen to know about the pit trap from some incident before? Should I stop asking questions I’ll never get the answer to?

The priest turns his horse around and prepares to fire down into the pit and deliver a bolt right between Rhu’s eyes when he gets whacked on the back by a staff. He falls off his horse and sees…

…King Zed’s captain of the guard, and some kid, presumably playing the Robin to his Batman. The priest grabs his neck claw and chucks it at the kid and the captain blocks it with his staff. With the claw stuck in the staff, the captain yanks the priest toward him and gives him a good thwack that sends him to the pit. One more blow to the face, and the priest winds up as Rhu’s dinner. The captain and boy watch with detached interest as a man is eaten alive, and people might say the kid viewing the horror with little reaction is bad acting. Me, I figure in this bloody age of child immolation and live crucifixion, watching a guy getting gnawed on by a tiger ain’t nothin’.

Dar shows up and instinctively draws his sword, and the captain and his Robin do this neat little synchronized staff twirling thing in preparation for a fight. Dar cautiously peers down into the pit, sizes up the situation, and tells the captain he owes him one. Dar then attempts to move a fallen tree to the pit in an attempt to free Rhu. When the captain sees what Dar’s trying to do, he lends a hand, with the boy giving a little assist by using his staff as a lever. Between the three of them they manage to roll the log into the pit so Rhu can scramble free. The captain introduces himself as Seth and the boy is Tal, and it’s funny how Dar is all Loner McLonerson and is all eager to be on his way. Seth manages to pry Dar’s name out of him, and he says he’s the “of the Emorites”, which surprises Seth because there aren’t any Emorites. How does Seth know? Was he a frequent visitor to the Emorite village? If so, why doesn’t Dar recognize him? There’s no news, no telegraph. I get the feeling Dar’s been on the road of vengeance for like a week, so how is the Emorite genocide common knowledge? Better for Dar to have said, “I am Dar, last of the Emorites.”

Seth explains he and Tal are “pilgrims” and Dar susses out that’s just a cover. The three of them figure out the priests of Ar and the Juns are their common enemy, and it’s time to go “worship” at the temple together… with extreme prejudice.

Later that night at a campfire, Seth explains they’ve spent three years raising an army to fight the Juns, and Tal is old enough to take his “rightful place”. You might think the kid’s pretty young, but life’s cheap and most die early in the barbarian age. Dar explains he’s got a link with his animal friends and introduces the pair to the ferrets, then he empties his bag to show all the loot the pair have stolen. Among the swag is the priest’s eye ring. And guess which trinket catches Tal’s own eye?

Uh-oh.

Tal then comes across Kiri’s necklace and Seth freaks out, demanding to know how Dar came by it, and seeming ready to clock our second favorite barbarian with his staff. But Dar plays it cool and explains he got it from a slave girl. Seth pretty much says Dar’s lying, but the master of beasts keeps calm and says it’s true and that’s why he’s heading to the temple; to stop her from being sacrificed. Seth says they leave at dawn, and as he stalks off, Dar asks Tal who the girl is. Tal says Kiri is his cousin.

Later, while Tal and Seth are sleeping, the eye ring winks open and has a look around. Dar has a silent conversation with the eagle and it flies off to do some recon, and soon it finds the slave party. Seth and Tal wake up to find Dar in a trance, and he explains to them that “they’ve left the temple”. Wait, weren’t the priests and slaves heading to the temple? When Seth hears the women are in white and the priests are in red, he knows Dar’s right; they’re being taken to be sacrificed. At the temple. Which they just left. Whatever.

Morning comes and the slave party reaches a ferry dock, with a trio of robed men pulling on the rope to bring the boat to shore. Kiri gets shoved onto the ferry by one of the priests, so she gives him a swift kick to the gnards. He doubles up in pain, and that answers the question of whether or not they’re eunuchs. The priest grabs Kiri and dunks her head into the water. But not to worry, because it’s Seth, Tal, and Dar on the ferry. Seth gives the dunker a face full of staff while Dar whips off his own robe and does battle with two more priests on the ferry.

One is dispatched quickly and the other gets a knife to the gut and is kicked overboard. Meanwhile, Seth handles the others easily enough. Rhu shows up and Dar playfully re-enacts his first meeting with Kiri, who slowly comes to realize she’s just been rescued. The priests that Dar didn’t kill get tied up, and I’m wondering what the guys are going to do with them? There’s no jail to put them in, and no law for them to answer to. Then again, killing them in cold blood seems, well, evil. Maybe let them go? But before our heroes can decide what to do with their prisoners, more priests show up on horseback, and I’m guessing they’re here because Rip knew where to find the good guys via the ring.

As the gang desperately pulls on the rope to move the ferry, Seth says they aren’t going to make it. What do you mean? If the priests drive their horses into the water, they’ll be sitting ducks. You made it the moment you were ten feet from the dock. If you’re worried about the arrows, just use the bound priests as human shields. Seth says to lighten the load, and I can see with all those women on the ferry they’re… wait a minute. Where are the other slave women?

There’s Seth, Dar, Tal, Kiri, and the priests, but the other slave girls are gone. Were the heroes forced to leave them behind? Did they decide to strike out on their own? Did Rhu develop a taste for human flesh when he chowed down on that priest earlier and ate the slaves? Guess what? We’ll never know, because they’re never mentioned again. Kiri sees there’s only one thing they can get rid of to make the ferry lighter:

And so she kicks the post the three priests are tied to and it comes loose, dragging the trio into the water. Is laughing at this a sign of mental instability? Because back in ’82, I found it hilarious. Dar cuts the rope when they’re a safe(r) distance from shore and they float free. Later, as Seth pilots the boat down the river with a pole, Tal asks Dar if he’ll help them free his father. Dar tells him to send Kiri on over to ask. Kiri does and Dar points out that hey, he’s a busy man with things to do, and places to go. Kiri’s rebuttal—

—is quite persuasive. Once they get to land, Seth parts ways with the others with a promise to meet up with them again in two days’ time, hopefully with some rebels in tow. Meanwhile, Dar, Kiri, and Tal head back to town to rescue Zed. Hmm, we know Zed’s first wife—Dar’s mother—died on the night of the cow, but there’s no mention of Zed’s second wife, Tal’s mom. I think they missed a great opportunity here to introduce another bad guy in the form of the kid’s mother, who could have betrayed Zed to put Rip in charge. Seriously, there’s zero mention of whoever Tal’s mom is. Anyway, night falls and back in the city, we find Sokko, the father of the girl who Dar’s eagle rescued, outside his home.

He looks up and sees the eagle is back and he knows what that means. He tries to reason with the bird, asking him to tell Dar to just go back, and tell the barbarian he couldn’t find him. But in the end, he relents and heads out of town. We next see him driving a cart full of straw as he heads back towards the gates. So… the guards just let people come and go as they please? Then again, they must know Sokko has a wife and that he’s bound to come back for her. Probably. Still, they don’t bother checking the cart for strangers? It’s almost as if they’ve got orders to make it as easy to get into town as possible. Why?

It’s almost as if the bad guys have their eye on the good guys.

Next time: Our heroes storm the pyramid!

Multi-Part Article: The Beastmaster (1982), a recap

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