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

Last time: Dar, Kiri and Tal snuck into the pyramid to rescue Zed, while Seth gathered rebel forces. Zed then proceeded to prep the good guys to walk into an ambush after banishing the good guy’s MVP.

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Morning finds Dar and his animal friends slowly waking to meet the oncoming day. Our barbarian looks a bit befuddled as he gets up and we see that he actually uses his scabbarded sword as a pillow. I guess maybe he does that to prevent someone from stealing it? He gears up and seems to hear something; I like to think that maybe he’s getting some input from the ears of his furry friends. Sure enough, he spots a rider leading a second horse and they’re coming at our hero at a gallop. It turns out it’s Sokko, who explains that—surprise, surprise—the attack failed and Rip lives, and Kiri, Seth, Tal, and Zed were all captured. All of them are to be sacrificed at sunset.

But seriously… that’s not what happens. Dar doesn’t hesitate; he hops onto the back of the second horse and rides to the rescue.

Welp, there goes my two-meme allocation per article. Meanwhile back in town, Seth, Tal, and Kiri have been outfitted with gold and white robes that make them look like members of a Baptist choir, and they’re sitting in the back of a caged cart being taken to the pyramid where Rip and his fire pit of doom await. The more I think about it, the more Rip can be admired. Does he make his minions throw kids into the flames? No. Despite his advancing years, he’s still as hands-on now as he was back in the days when he was sacrificing goats. The assassin/priests open up the back of the cart and drag a bound Kiri out and tear off her robes, because they hired Tanya Roberts for one reason and it wasn’t for her acting.

Outside, Dar’s reached the road of crucified skeletons. Inside, Rip starts a monologue, points to Zed who sits on a throne at the top of the pyramid, and tells the citizenry that their king has denied Ar and he will die, as will his kin. Dar rides through the gates and you’d think Rip would’ve posted guards, seeing as how the Beastmaster hadn’t been part of the attack. I mean, this is the guy who’s destined to kill him, right? I’d be all sorts of paranoid, especially after how close Rhu came to eating him a couple of nights ago. Our hero rides through town and right to the pyramid where the crowd gets the hell out of his way. Dar tosses his bag full of ferrets (“Bag Full of Ferrets” sounds like an awesome folk band) into the cage cart, and Podo and Kodo steal out and proceed to chew the leather thongs binding Seth and Tal’s wrists. Dar heads up the steps and begins going to town on Rip’s minions.

Damn, even with the high ground, they’re no match for Dar; they didn’t cut off a single one of his limbs. As Kiri is dragged up the steps to the sacrificial fire pit, Tal and Seth are freed. Both whip off their choir robes and damn, somebody give that kid some pants. I mean, it’s a loincloth with extra bits in the front and back, but I’m not sure if I can post a pic here without the Agony Booth getting flagged. Rhu shows up and there’s a nice touch here, in that he didn’t arrive as quickly as Dar on his horse. I was curious, so I looked up the running speed of a tiger, which on average is 40km/h. I also typed in “mounted horse” and got nothing but states for Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons 5th ed., so I’m guessing Bing is staffed almost entirely by nerds.

Up on top of the pyramid, Kiri is being held down on an altar by Rip’s priests. So, kids are burned and women are stabbed? Or is burning for special occasions only? Is Kiri being knifed because she already has “fiery” red hair? I get the feeling Rip is confusing New Ar-ism with Orthodox Ar-ism. Whatever the case, Kiri bites one priest’s hand and frees her own, then proceeds to punch another in the gut and smack him in the face before the first priest knocks her out. These guys rank lower than Return of the Jedi Stormtroopers on the minion scale; I think it’s possible Podo and Kodo could take ‘em. Dar cuts a dude in the thigh and the stunt man sells it like champ, tumbling down the side of the pyramid. If this film had been rated R, we would’ve gotten an awesome spray of arterial blood and that would have made it perfect.

Rip pauses and finally begins to realize that maybe something’s going wrong on the side of the pyramid. He pauses, then proceeds to prep himself for the stab. That’s when the last witch rasps, “You are doomed! The unborn has arrived!” But Zed just smiles. Damn, he’s like that guy who gets his physical and the doctor says he should give up drinking and smoking and sugar, but all Rip says is, “Yeah, I’ll be fine,” and next thing you know you’re fifty and diabetes is suddenly a thing. That’s when Dar shows up at the top of the pyramid.

He carves through Rip’s “elite” priests and I would have probably expected more from these guys if I hadn’t already seen Kiri almost knock one out with those skinny arms of hers. Soon, Dar dispatches the last guy with the classic reverse sword stroke (and again, I’m wishing this was rated R, because the blood spray would have been epic) while Rip moves to use Zed as a hostage.

Rip murmurs to Zed that his unborn son is here to fulfill the prophecy, and Zed—who’s probably been despondent over all those people he led to their deaths—perks up. Maybe he’s thinking that he might live through this, after all? Annnd that’s when Rip shoves a knife in his belly. Dar and Rip fight, and I give credit to Marc Singer for trying to make Rip Torn look like a credible threat. But not for a second did I think the man was a challenge to a dude who looks like he hits the gym six days a week. Dar shoves Rip’s own knife in his guts and lets him drop and… damn, that was a pretty anticlimactic death.

And then the witch turns to flee. Like, you couldn’t have maybe tried helping out your boss? A two-on-one fight would have been so much more realistic. But Dar stabs her in the back. Her robes fall empty, and we see a white dove flying away. So, did the witch turn into a dove to escape? If so, you’d think she would have turned into a bat or a vulture. Or was the white dove symbolic of the witch’s soul being freed from some hellish existence forced upon her? We’ll never know. Below, Seth and Tal handle the guards, and sorry for belaboring the point, but man, these guys are just terrible at their jobs if a twelve-year-old is able to beat them in a swordfight. Up above, Dar picks up Kiri to carry her down to join the rebelling city dwellers, when suddenly Rip pulls his knife free, rises, and prepares to ambush Dar. But Dar is saved by one of the ferrets, who leaps an amazing distance to land on the back of Rip’s neck.

Rip screams in pain, and both he and the ferret fall into the flames. Ah, there we go; that’s more like it. We find out it was Kodo who nobly sacrificed himself, and Dar almost risks the flames in a near insane attempt to rescue his ferret friend. Saddened, Dar picks up Podo, and along with Kiri, they head down the pyramid and the credits ro—But wait, there’s more!

Did they forget about the Juns and Fantasy Humungous? I assure you Fantasy Humungous didn’t forget about them. The horde’s dust cloud can be seen coming and Seth turns to Tal, pointing out that the decision to fight or flee is up to him. Tal in turn looks up at Dar, who say’s they’ll fight. Honestly, it’s about the only choice they can make; on the open plain, the Juns will carve them up. At least behind city walls, the heroes have a chance.

Later, Seth is outside the gates, directing their principal plan of defense which is 1) pulling the bridge over to the city’s side, and then 2) having the citizenry cover the moat with dirt. Meanwhile, Dar sits high on the steps of the pyramid ruminating. Is he pondering what Rip said to Zed about his “unborn son”? Or is he considering the fierce odds that soon await him and his friends? He reaches into his boot and pulls out the talisman that the bat guy gave him before, and that’s when the eagle calls down to him. Dar tosses the talisman to the eagle, who catches it and flies off.

Night falls and the citizens anxiously await the arrival of the horde, who arrive and charge the city. The first wave goes crashing into the moat, and the crowd cheers as one of the men goes for a torch. But a Jun crossbowman shoots him down and Tal goes for the fallen brand. Another crossbowman kills the guy stationed at the top of the wall and he lets go of a rope and the gate begins to close… with Tal on the other side. Kiri manages to slip under the gate before it closes but her robe gets caught, and as she struggles to free herself, Tal gets shot in the shoulder.

Well, it was a short reign but an eventful one. Dar and Seth hop over the gate and rush to help Kiri, who’s about to be cut down by a horder. Fortunately, the torch is nearby and she lights him up.

Dar does a running jump kick at the man and he falls back into the moat, which explodes as if the circular pit were full of napalm. Seriously, all the credit in the world to the pyro guys on this one. Dar meets Fantasy Humungous’ eyes and swings his sword through the air in an obvious challenge. But apparently, Humungous didn’t get where he is by fighting his own battles. He sends guys over the blazing hell pit, and Dar, Seth, and Kiri have to contend with them. More and more guys make it over the flames and our heroes are eventually surrounded by a circle of horders, and it seems only a matter of time before they cut our heroes down. It’s then that Humungous himself dares the flames, and his horse screams in fear as he makes the leap. He points to Dar and singles him out, and his mace has blades that pop out along the top. Dar rolls a one and loses his sword, then Humungous rolls a crit fail as well and his blade-mace gets stuck in the wooden bridge. He pulls out his sword, but Dar leaps into the air and knocks the chief horder off his horse. Dar retrieves his blade, and it’s on.

This entire sequence looks amazing. There’s fire everywhere and you’d think with it being dark, it might be hard to see what’s going on, but the flames illuminate the scene just enough. Humungous loses his blade, as does Dar, so the villain goes for his weapon of choice. Now it’s got a chain in the handle so he can swing it around. Damn, a mace with retractable blades that can also be used like a morning star? It’s like ten-year-old me came up with this weapon. But Humungous gets it stuck again and Dar kicks him into it, impaling him. Dar then uses the handle for leverage and throws Fantasy Humungous into the flames.

Dar staggers back to his friends, and Singer really sells that fight as being a taxing one. As the heroes are surrounded once more, Seth remarks sadly that it almost worked. Dar nods weakly and they prepare for the end. It’s then that the eagle returns. It lands on Dar’s forearm and the horders kind of pause, since they don’t seem to have any clue what the eagle being here means. But Dar’s smile shows he knows exactly what it means: the eagle brought friends.

Hungry friends. The slaughter is epic as Seth stares in horror at what he’s seeing. But as lumps of bodiless armor strike the ground, Dar looks on with a measure of satisfaction. After a bit, he begins to realize that maybe the eagle’s allies might not just stop at horders, and he murmurs to his friends that they should get out of here. The heroes slowly back away towards the closed gate while the carnage continues, but before they get there, Dar senses a presence and turns. Above him floats the leader of the bat-things, who nods to Dar in parting. The gate is raised and our heroes steal back into the city to a heroes’ welcome, but they still have wounded Tal to deal with, so they secure him in the closest hut.

The next morning, Seth reports to Dar that Tal will be fine, so Dar is prepared to hit the road again. He offers Seth a gift for the boy king, but Seth grabs Dar’s left wrist to see the symbol of Ar on his palm. And we now see the symbol is a stylized version of the pyramid, which I don’t think I picked up on before when I saw this in the theater. Seth points out that Dar is the first-born and should rule, and it’s consistent with his character that he’s loyal not only to the royal line but to the rule of law, even when he doesn’t agree with it. But Dar passes on the throne and I think there’s a couple reasons here, the first being Dar would lose his freedom and he’d never be truly accepted by normal suspicious folk; it’s only a matter of time before the mob turns on the guy who talks to animals. The second is it would be monumentally unfair to Tal, who’s spent his whole life training to be king. In the end, Chaotic Good characters just don’t seem to make responsible leaders. The men share an epic bro shake before Dar hits the road.

Later, Seth sees to Tal, while Dar leaves the city and Kiri looks on longingly. Tal ascends the steps of the pyramid, and dammit, Marc Singer’s wearing more clothes than this kid. Tal reaches the top of the pyramid despite all that blood loss and having a bum arm, and he finds the eagle there. He then opens up his gift.

Well, it wasn’t like Dar used it much. I think he threw it, what, once the whole movie? He didn’t even use it against Humungous during the big boss battle. Would Tal even know how to use it, or what it even is? There’s no instruction manual he can download to figure out how it works. I’m sensing a lot of dead peasants in the kingdom’s future as Tal starts throwing it around.

Out in the wilderness, Dar stops, perhaps to ponder which direction to take, when Kiri appears behind him. You mean she was able to stalk him all the way from the city out here without him noticing? Damn, those are some epic ninja skills. Dar slowly turns, the two of them stare into each other’s eyes, they kiss…

…and then guess what pops out of Dar’s bag?

Say it with me: one, two, three… awwww. Man, I can’t wait to see the adventures these two have in Beastmaster 2.

But concerning this particular Beastmaster… Alright, it’s not a perfect movie by any stretch. With it being PG, the film can’t be very bloody, and that hurts a lot of the fights. And speaking of the fights, the choreography isn’t all that great. Singer has the look down, but for the most part, his battles come off a little, well, fake. I feel Schwarzenegger’s first Conan film had much more realistic and powerful battles. The bad guys, for the most part, just don’t come across as all that menacing, and when they gave us actual scary bad guys like the gimp beserkers, they were barely used. I think the cast is solid, but I do wonder if Demi Moore would have delivered a stronger performance as Kiri, but either way, the character doesn’t compare to Sandahl Bergman’s Valeria. And while Rip Torn hams it up, he simply doesn’t have the gravitas of an actor like James Earl Jones. Am I unfairly comparing this film to John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian? Probably, yeah. But I think Milius set a high bar with his movie, and his masterful direction got a good performance out of Arnold, who at that time was pretty much a novice as an actor.

All that being said, I had a good time with The Beastmaster. It’s a fun film, and really, the third act with the climactic night battle went a long way to salvage the film. Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert had commented the movie seemed twenty minutes too long, but it’s those last twenty minutes that manage to make the film work as a whole. Thanks for reading; I hope you come back soon for my next movie recap.

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

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