The Beastmaster (1982), a recap (part 5 of 6)

Last time: Dar met “pilgrims” that turned out to be Seth and Tal, the former king Zed’s captain of the guard and the latter Zed’s son. Together they helped free the slave girl Kiri, who turned out to be Tal’s cousin. They also freed some other slave girls that turned out to be a collective mass illusion or ghosts and faded from the plot. Now Seth has headed to the hills in search of rebels, while the rest are bound for the pyramid with a scheme in mind to free Zed, unaware Rip knows they’re coming.

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Sokko pulls the cart up to the pyramid, and the utter lack of guards seems pretty, you know, suspicious. I have a good idea that Zed’s just paving the way for them, but you’d think the gang would remark on the fact that anybody could just roll up to the front door without being challenged. Then again, that’s exactly what Rip did in the first five minutes of the film, isn’t it? Sokko says he’ll stay with the cart and the rest steal inside. Rhu runs ahead to push through a door at the end of a corridor while the others more cautiously follow. Dar takes the lead like a proper meat shield, and notices the iron grillwork along the floor and is suspicious of it, as well he should be, because there’s green glowing eyes down there, and then suddenly metal spiked gauntlets come flashing out at his ankles. Dar leaps up and grabs some conveniently hanging chains, and it would’ve been hilarious if this trap were designed for a person to do just that and the weight of a human body on them would cause the grills to open, releasing the horrors within. But apparently the writers don’t have my sick sense of humor, and Dar uses the chains to crawl along the ceiling, almost falling along the way.

But Dar’s able to hang on and complete the trip. On the other side, he finds a lever and pulls it, not knowing it opens up a pit beneath him, and he falls fifty feet to land on wicked, unforgiving iron spikes. Okay, not really. Can you tell I would be a complete bastard as a Dungeon Master these days? The lever actually causes iron shutters to close on the grills, allowing Kiri and Tal to join Dar. No wonder Rhu dashed across that corridor so quickly; You’d think he would have warned Dar about the dudes in the pits along the way, though. I think Rhu has a sick sense of humor, too. The trio make their way until they reach some steps, and at the bottom is another grill, this time in the floor. They pause and have a look.

I realize that Tal might have seen some gruesome stuff at his young age, but I don’t think he’s old enough for the gimp show here. Ah, but Tal knows what’s going on: the priests of Ar torture men until they lose their minds, and become transformed into “beasts”. Tal notes the keys down there, and says they need them. It’s a good thing Dar’s got a pair of partners just right for the job. While Dar prepares to lower down the ferrets, Kiri steals over to a wall and twists the sconce and a secret door opens. She sneaks through, seemingly abandoning the guys. As Kodo and Podo are lowered down, Tal exposits to Dar how the poor bastard down there will get his body encased in spikey armor, and then the priest drops a green slug into his ear.

This movie came out in 1982, the same year Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Was dropping weird stuff into people’s ears some oddball fetish I missed back then? As the gimp mask is put in place, Tal says the dude is now a totally fearless beast that will kill anything it meets… except others just like it, I guess, because those pits before we full of these guys. One of the priests gets distracted when he turns and sees ferrets in his face, which allows Supergimp to break free. He kills one priest outright and his swing cuts the leather thong Dar used to lower the ferrets. One of the two thieves has the keys and the pair make a break for it, slipping through a crack at the base of the door. Supergimp bursts through said door with his freakish inhuman strength and is soon in pursuit.

Meanwhile, Kiri’s back, this time wearing something slightly more modest, and she’s armed herself with a knife.

I love how we never find out where she went. I also like Dar’s double take when he sees Kiri has changed clothes and armed herself and he has no clue how that happened. Smiling at his confusion, she beckons the pair to follow her. Along the way, Tal exposits that she’s a “Trill warrior”, and it’s an “ancient sect”, and the pyramid used to be their home. Okay, the way she took down Dar earlier in the film now seems less like luck and more like somebody who’s used to taking care of themselves. Add to that the crotch shot to the priest earlier, and the clues are there that she’s no simple slave girl.

The trio reaches Zed’s cell and he sits in near darkness. Dar notes they need those keys because it turns out the cell door is open. Yeah, this is all way too easy. As Kiri and Tal steal into the cell, Dar thinks he heard a sound. He murmurs, “Rhu,” and I’m thinking, why don’t you just do the seeing-through-the-animal’s-eyes thing? Around the corner waits a priest with a short sword and he’s prepared to pounce… only to have Rhu pounce upon him instead. Dar heads back to the cell and finds Kiri and Tal, who seem to be paralyzed, as if they had seen something horrific. He cautiously approaches the man and gently lifts up his head.

If throwing kids into fires and trying to murder unborn babies wasn’t enough proof of Rip’s evil, let’s add burning a man’s eyes out of his sockets to the list. I have to say he might have Thulsa Doom beat for sheer villainy. Meanwhile, Kodo and Podo are still on the run from Supergimp, and I guess this scene was added in to add a touch of levity to a pretty horrific scene. Dar wraps a bandage around Zed’s head to cover his eyes while Kiri tries to get a reaction from the man. It’s then that Rip shuts the cell door on them. One of the witches is with him, and confirms that yup, Dar’s the one of which the prophecy speaks. Rip’s all cocky and says they’ll be sacrificed in the morning, and that’s when Rhu comes bounding down the corridor at them. Rip and the witch dive into the cell and shut the door behind them, just in time to avoid becoming Meow Mix. Now locked in a room with the very guy destined to kill him, Rip siccs the witch on Dar. She blinds Dar with flash powder and he’s momentarily helpless, while Rip grabs Tal and puts a knife to his neck before Kiri can intervene. The witch crawls up the wall as Dar flails about, but Rhu outside peers in through the cell door’s bars and Dar sees through his eyes, and Dar stabs upward.

Meanwhile, Kiri shows she’s got some fighting chops as her bracelet turns out to be like a mini-whip she uses to snatch Rip’s knife hand and yank it away from Tal’s throat. Clutching his wrist, Rip staggers back and to the left, and just in time too, because Rhu knocks down the door right into the spot where he had just been standing. Rip leaps down to the cell floor, and seeing his witch is toast (literally; all that’s left of her are smoldering robes), he dashes off down a hallway. So… there’s another exit from the cell? Locking the cell door earlier wouldn’t have mattered at all? This feels like the writers got to this point and realized there was no way in hell Rip wasn’t going to get eaten. Having written themselves into a corner, they inserted a backdoor. Literally. The gang heads out with Dar and Rhu in the lead. Cu to Podo and Kodo…

…and I have to say, the glowing green eyes are a nice touch. While the whole scene is played for laughs, the director does a great job showing just how powerful this bad-ass is by having him burst through obstacles like a Bronze Age Kool-Aid man. Back with the rest of the party, they reach a chamber where they have to descend a flight of stairs to get to a level where there’s this bitchin’ stone skull.

It turns out the skull acts as a stopping for a spiral staircase, but Tal knows how to lift it, because the thing is attached to a chain. He turns a large four-pronged knob and the skull lifts. Dar tells Rhu to protect the others because he’s staying behind; he can’t leave Podo and Kodo and dammit, next time I’m playing Dungeons & Dragons, I’m running a Ranger/Barbarian multi-class and he’s going to be named Tar, son of Dar, because I love this guy. The others slip down the stairway while Dar scopes out the corridor through a crack in the door. He sees priest-assassins coming his way, checking doors. One spots him and Dar secures the door, then dashes down the stairs and twists the big knob, making it spin like he broke it. But nothing happens. That’s when he notices the protruding skull thing near the floor under the handle.

Because he has no other ideas, Dar slashes at its neck and it breaks off, causing water to shoot out of the pipe behind it. The good news is the giant stone skull promptly comes crashing down, plugging the stairs. Bad news? Dar’s trapped in a room with no apparent exit. Maybe there’s a convenient side corridor like the one Rip fled through earlier? No? But wait! Who should appear but the ferrets and Supergimp, who if you recall will kill anything, including priest-assassins. As Podo and Kodo slip under the door, they leave their special friend behind with new playmates. Dar picks up the ferrets and as one drops the keys, he notes that they’re a little late. Man, he’s going to owe them big time in treats and belly rubs. Just when it looks like it’s only a matter of time before Supergimp takes down that door and we’re going to get the best fight in the film (because let’s face it, Dar’s only mopped the floor with minions up until this point), Kiri improbably shows up. She grabs a fifty-foot length of rope that was conveniently hanging on the wall and tells Dar they can escape through some air shafts. So… the air shafts are large enough to admit human beings? I see that Rip has not properly read the rules for super villainy.

Kiri and Dar reach the end of the shaft and it ends in the side of a cliff. She throws the rope over the side and we don’t see what said rope is anchored too, but as the pair begin their descent Supergimp shows up and attacks the rope. And attacks it some more. And some more. For a guy who could burst through just about anything, he’s having a hell of a time with a length of hemp. The black eagle shows up and Dar siccs him on the gimp.

The gimp falls, but not before the rope finally [!] breaks. The pair fall to their deaths. But no, wait! They instead fall into the straw-filled rear of Sokka’s cart. I was able to accept that the pair wound up on the edge of a cliff, because in the pyramid they only ever went down, and I could see them finding themselves outside the city. But now, somehow, they’re behind the pyramid, and Sokka’s at the bottom of it… but the pyramid’s not nearly that tall and… ah, forget it. Sokka rides like thunder away from the pyramid and through the town, but the gates out of the city are closed. Dar asks if there’s a counterweight, and where does a farm boy/barbarian learn about things like counterweights? He learns there is one for the gate, and he has the eagle carry ferrets to a place where they can crawl over to it and eat through the rope. Only, they’re spotted by a guard who’s probably thinking he’ll have meat for his stew as he pulls out his sword. A spear carrier shows up and Kiri whips a throwing star into his face, but hot on his heels are more Supergimps.

Dar has Kiri join him in Sokka’s cart, and tells Sokka to make for the gate fast. The guard at the gate grabs one of the ferrets and means to cut it in half, but the other rushes in and clamps down on his balls. The guard screams and accidentally cuts the rope, releasing the counterweight and opening the gate. The Supergimps are hot on their heels, but Dar cuts another rope on the way out, and again, how does this guy know anything about engineering and physics? Wouldn’t it actually make more sense for Kiri to know these things? Dar should be almost amazed at the advanced gadgets that this city is equipped with. Anyway, the rope is cut and the gate falls on the gimps. The ferrets drop into the back of the cart and the gang rides away to freedom. Damn, I hope Sokka got his wife and kid out of the town first, because it’ll only be a matter of time before someone figures out he helped the heroes.

Later, the gang meets Seth’s rebels in the hills.

Damn, I hope there are a lot hiding in the shadows, because that sure does not look like much. Zed addresses the group, saying he doesn’t want pity, and they’re going to take back the city. Dar stands up and points out you need an army, because once the city falls, the Jun horde are going to come and wipe them all out. Zed asks who’s talking, and Seth says it’s his friend, the Beastmaster. Dar approaches and Zed touches the Beastmaster’s chest, and you almost expect a moment of recognition, blood knowing blood. But then Zed rejects Dar, calling him a freak and coward. Dejected, Dar and Rhu leave. Out of sight, you can see Dar crying. Dar’s obviously no Cimmerian. Dar sits with his scabbarded sword and draws a circle with a line through it, and damn if I can remember what that’s from. Then Kiri is with him, comforting him. He asks if she’ll go with him and she says she can’t, and then he offers to stay, but that’s not possible either because Zed’s banished him. Kiri rejoins the group where Zed is talking crazy. Then Tal’s new ring opens up, revealing the eye. Only, this time someone notices: Seth. Rip and his last witch are back at the scrying pool listening to Zed’s plans, and I love the grin on Rip Torn’s face. The dude really does seem to be enjoying this role. Then Seth shows up on the screen and he drives a burning brand through the eye.

The last witch screams and clutches at her own eye, or maybe the socket where her eye had been because it’s her eye that’s in the ring. I actually dig that. Seth tosses the ring into the fire where it explodes with a purple flash, and you hear a hint of a witch’s cackle. He tells Zed that Rip knows their plans and they have to abort. But Zed is too consumed with his lust for revenge to listen to wise counsel. Staring at the fire, Seth murmurs, “We are doomed…”

Next time: The thrilling conclusion! Are the heroes truly doomed? You’ll just have to check back and see.

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

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