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Film / The Beastmaster

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"The courage of an eagle, the strength of a panther and the power of a God. The epic adventure is back like never before!"

A 1982 fantasy movie from Don Coscarelli, starring Marc Singer in the title role alongside Tanya Roberts and John Amos, that became best known for its repeated late-night airings on cable, in particular TBS and HBO throughout the 80s and 90s. note 

Maax (Rip Torn) is a twisted cult leader out to steal the throne of King Zed (Rod Loomis). Banished by Zed for his treachery, Maax sends one of his three witches to steal Zed's unborn son, ripping him right out of his mother's womb with magic and placing him in a cow's womb, and cutting him out of the cow. Before she can finish the job, a brave hunter kills the witch and rescues the young boy, naming him Dar. Dar and his adoptive father find out at a young age that Dar possesses the power to communicate with animals. When Maax sends his horde of thugs to wipe out Dar's peaceful village, Dar sets out to defeat Maax using his powers and avenge his people and foster father.


Very loosely based on Andre Norton's scifi novel The Beast Master; about the only thing it has in common is that it's about a adventuring hero on another world who can communicate with animals and has an eagle, a big cat and two meerkats/ferrets as companions, and is seeking revenge for the death of his father. The character in the novel is a Native American ex-soldier retired from Earth's military living on a Space Western colony planet. In fact, Norton was so disappointed by the liberties taken with the source material that she asked for her name to be removed from the credits.

Marc Singer returned as Dar in two sequels, Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991) and the Direct to Video Beastmaster 3: The Eye of Braxus (1997). In addition, there is also a re-cast television series remake called Beastmaster that qualified as a somewhat vindicated-by-reruns show.


The Beastmaster has examples of:

  • Action Girl: Kiri does not hesitate to join Dar and the others in combat, and is decent with a sword. The women in Dar's village also don't stand idle, with some pulling Jun off of their horses to fight or throwing ropes to each other and yank them up in the Jun's path to knock them off their horses.
  • Aliens Speaking English: In the second film, it turns out that the people of Dar's world (including him) all speak English (rather than it being Translation Convention). No one comments, and it's never explained.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Dar is able to see through his animal companions' eyes. Useful for scouting/spying in general and in the middle of a fight when his own eyes are damaged at one point.
  • Animal Motifs: Ar appears associated with falcons.
  • Arch-Enemy: Dar has Maax, the Evil Sorcerer who mistakenly gave him animal powers while trying to kill him in infancy.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The fight with the Jun leader is definitely the toughest challenge Dar has in the film.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Jun leader's staff, which can come apart and be swung around like a kind of goofy flail. It looks impressive, but proves pretty useless in practice.
  • Badass Bystander: Dar's future adoptive father. With a dash of Badass Normal. He's nothing more than a simple farmer, but when he comes upon one of Maax's witches about to sacrifice the innocent baby Dar, he promptly opens up a can of whoopass on her to save the infant, culminating in shoving her into her own campfire.
  • Barbarian Hero: Dar, who's a muscular man never clad in anything except a loincloth, with long flowing hair and a huge sword. He also never has to shave.
  • Bathing Beauty: Kiri's first scene is taking a bath at the waterfall.
  • Battle Butler: Seth, formerly the captain of King Zed's guards, turned protector of his (as far as he knows) only son Tal. Although disguised as a mere pilgrim, he's quite handy with a quarterstaff and isn't to be underestimated.
  • The Beastmaster: Dar. He can telepathically communicate with animals, first seen when he mind-controls a bear to leave him and his foster-father alone and can see through the eyes of his falcon scout. And don't forget the loveable ferret scouts/thieves and the black tiger..
  • Big Bad: Maax, the Evil Sorcerer terrorizing the land.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • The bat people, when they show up at the end in time to save the city.
    • Sacco does an unconventional, non-action, version by merely appearing under Dar and Kiri with a cartful of hay at exactly the right moment to break their fall.
  • Body Motifs: Eyes. Maax's witches are all disfigured, and each appears to be either missing one eye or having had flesh grow over one. When Dar uses animal sight, the camera has a filter in the shape of an eye. The Death Guards and Ruh have glowing eyes. Maax spies on Dar using a ring with a hidden eye. Zed is also blinded, his eyes visibly black.
  • Bond One-Liner: In Beastmaster 2 Lyranna sarcastically quips a man "got the point" after being shot in the head by an arrow.
  • Butterface: The witches in the original movie have extremely sexy bodies and horrible melted faces.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The second movie shows just how silly it is to avert this trope. As Dar is in a car driving down the street, they pass a movie theater that is debuting Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. Dar is as confused as the audience.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The medallion the winged creatures give to Dar. He uses it to ask for their help against the Juns at the very end.
  • Covers Always Lie: Noriyoshi Ohrai got a bit carried away. This movie is not as awesome as it looks.
  • Cult: Maax leads what appears to be a perversion of the local religion. He seemed to be in good standing with King Zed until he started wanting to sacrifice children, so he allied himself with the Jun Horde and took over.
  • Damsel in Distress: Kiri, despite supposedly being part of a warrior sect.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The bat people (who get a Big Damn Heroes moment when they show up at the city just in time to make a difference)
  • Decapitated Army: Inverted. The Juns, evil barbarians Maax allied with, come to attack the city after he dies. It's then inverted again after Dar kills the Jun leader in single combat, and they still refuse to retreat.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: You'd think Maax dying would signal the end of the movie right? Wrong. There's still the Jun Horde and their ferocious leader to contend with.
  • Disney Villain Death: The Death Guard who follows Dar and Kiri up the air shaft ends up taking a pretty impressive tumble. Maax himself later takes a (far shorter) header into his own sacrificial fire pit.
  • Doomed Hometown: Dar's adopted village, which is destroyed by the barbarian Juns at the beginning. Dar is the sole survivor, and swears vengeance.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: The Jun Leader. Maax is the Big Bad and king in all but name after usurping Zed but only because he allied himself with the Juns after being exiled and harnessing their strength. Without them, he'd just be another fanatic.
  • Due to the Dead: Dar makes a funeral pyre for his dead fellow villagers.
  • Dull Surprise: Dar's reaction to seeing the man he just tried to rescue getting dissolved into a skeleton by one of the winged creatures.
  • Elite Mooks: Death Guards, insane warriors with spiked gauntlets and leather masks who protect Maax's pyramid. Fortunately for the good guys, despite their ferocity, they're not terribly intelligent, and can't seem to distinguish friend from foe. The only people they kill are Maax's other Mooks (despite one's repeated attempts to kill Kodo and Podo).
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: In the sequel, the cops who enter Dar's world run away from their patrol car crying "It's gonna blow!" like the thing's full of live explosive when a fire starts nearby. The gas tank does indeed go up like it was a bomb right after this.
  • Evil Is Hammy: The evil god Braxus in the third film, as well as Maax himself, who really relishes his job as an evil cult leader.
  • Eye Scream: A twofer. Maax's witches use a ring with a real human eyeball to spy on the heroes. To prevent further eavesdropping, Seth drives a flaming brand into the ring's eye, in a particularly nasty scene. At the same time, the left eye of the witch who was using the ring starts bleeding.
  • Fish out of Water: The key premise of Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time; Valley Girl meets Barbarian Hero in a fantasy world, and Barbarian Hero teaming up with Valley Girl in Real Life.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Dar cares a lot about his animal friends.
  • Frisky Ferret: Dar was accompanied by two tamed ferrets which could obey his commands and perform feats like gnawing ropes and fetching cell keys.
  • Genre Savvy: Dar's adoptive father. Not only does he tell Dar to hide his ability to speak to animals to avoid being ostracized, but he quickly realizes it means that his son has some greater calling or purpose, perhaps related to his birth, which he must one day rise to meet.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen:
    • Dar has his ferrets take Kiri's clothes when she's bathing as part of a scheme to try seducing her.
    • The ferrets' introductory scene has them pull the same stunt on Dar.
  • Groin Attack: A few times, but in particular there's a scene where Kodo is about to get killed by one of Maax's guards, so Podo bites the guy in the nards, complete with an audible crunching noise.
  • Hero of Another Story: Several! Zed's introduced fighting a murderous cult. Seth, Zed's guardsman, later spends a decade building a resistance and protecting Zed's heir. Dar's adoptive father saves him from a witch, trains him in weaponry and honor, and fearlessly stands against the Jun hordes.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Dar definitely has the hots for the redheaded Kiri.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Dar's pet dog is hit with an arrow during the attack on his village and uses the last of his strength to drag him to safety. Kodo also attacks Maax and causes him to fall into the sacrificial fire pit. Unfortunately, Maax takes Kodo with him.
  • High Priest: Maax was high priest of Aruk, but began leading their religion into human sacrifices. The king was outraged, and banished him for it, but he later returned with allies to seize power.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Kodo and Podo release a man who several of Maxx's priests had just transformed into a monster, and they're his first victims.
  • The Horde: The Jun Horde, the barbarians who Maax allies himself with, and who destroyed Dar's adopted village.
  • Human Sacrifice: Maax moves Aruk's religion into this practice, and not just any humans, but children.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics: Somehow a moat of tar goes up like a bomb.
  • Jerkass: King Zed towards Dar, until he realized he's the son he lost. But then Maax kills him, spoiling any potential reunion.
  • Karmic Death: Maax, who falls into the fire pit he threw children into earlier.
  • Kick T He Dog: Maax turning random victims into horrific monsters in constant pain just so he can have guards.
  • Kidnapping Bird of Prey: At one point, an eagle is carrying a young child away in its claws. Actually a subversion as the eagle is one of Dar's companions whom he sent to rescue her from being sacrificed.
  • Kissing Cousins: Dar and Kiri are in love with one another. One problem: Kiri is Zed's niece, which makes her Dar's cousin. This doesn't prevent them from smooching up a storm at the end (although it's possible she's his niece by marriage to his second wife).
  • Knight of Cerebus: The film's darkest moments happen whenever Maax is present.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Arklon is able take people's memories for his own use in the sequel.
  • Loincloth: Dar's standard dress. Marc Singer actually referred to it as "a leather hula skirt".
  • Long-Lost Relative: Arklon, the villain in Beastmaster 2 is revealed as Dar's half-brother.
  • Mage in Manhattan: Arklon in the second movie, an Evil Overlord in Dar's world going to ours where he causes havoc.
  • Magic Knight: Arklon, while he has multiple magic powers, is also good with his sword or bare-handed (he's also large and strong, unlike many mages).
  • The Man Behind the Man: The second movie reveals that Arklon was this to Maax, and after the latter gets eliminated, Arklon steps in and conquers the world (or at least a good chunk of it) himself.
  • Missing Mom: In Beastmaster 2, Jackie tells Dar that her mom died a few years ago. She still misses her.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Dar, with his shirtless scenes and a lot of his facial expressions.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Kiri, being played by Tanya Roberts and all. She shows off her looks through some lengthy nudity.
    • Lyranna in the second film starts out as this, as a quite beautiful woman in very revealing clothing, but changes into a more modest outfit when she and Arklon travel to Earth.
  • Neutron Bomb: The "neutron detonator" which Arklon plans to seize from Earth in Beastmaster 2.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: Maax orders the witches to magically transport unborn Dar from his mother's womb into a cow's, then brand and murder him once he's born. Rather than subverting the prophecy that Maax would die confronting Zed's son, this may actually explain why Dar can communicate with animals - he was born from one - and thus, why he had his beasts' help even unto Kodo's Heroic Sacrifice in defeating Maax.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Sadly averted. Sultan, the tiger who played Ruh in the first movie, died two years later due to being poisoned by the dye they used to make him appear black. As a result, the sequel featured a tiger without dye.
  • Noisy Nature: Kodo and Podo are ferrets. Ferrets don't make anything approaching the sounds that the animals in the film make. Ruh the panther and Sharak the eagle also can't seem to shut up.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The subtitle of the sequel is Through the Portal of Time despite the fact that Kyranna explicitly states that it's a dimensional portal and no time travel is involved.
  • Ordered to Die: The baddie in the opening scene wordlessly orders two of his monks to kill themselves, which they do.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: Dar spies on Kari after spotting her bathing half-naked in a pond.
  • Pet Gets the Keys: The Beastmaster's ferrets steal a key and slip under a door to get it to him when he is trapped in a cell.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Dar commands his ferrets to steal the clothing (if it can be called that) of a nubile bathing beauty, luring her into the woods so he can pretend to scare off his own panther in a not-so-elaborate plan to seduce her.
  • Quicksand Sucks: The hero has to deal with a pit of quicksand.
  • Rasputinian Death: The Jun leader, who must be related to General Kael from Willow. Stabbed repeatedly, impaled on his own bladed staff/flail weapon, and he still refuses to die. He finally bites it when Dar flings him into the flaming moat.
  • Religion Is Magic: Maax, the main magic user in the film, is the high priest of Aruk too.
  • Religion of Evil: As its high priest, Maax twists Aruk's religion into one, starting human sacrifices.
  • Red Right Hand:
    • The villain in the sequel, Arklon, wears a half-mask over the right side of his face (it's explicitly compared to The Phantom of the Opera) covering unsightly facial scars.
    • Maax has a bird-like nose, possibly taken in-universe as a sign of his favor from the falcon-god Ar.
    • Maax's witches have hideous faces.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The ferrets Kodo and Podo, hands down.
  • Rightful King Returns: Subverted a bit, Dar hands the job to his younger half brother Tal rather than take the throne.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Zed is shown to be a pretty proactive king. After learning his high priest intends to start sacrificing children, he personally busts into Maax's chambers to give him a dressing down and banish him.
  • Scary Black Man: Seth in a leather thong. Fortunately he's a good guy.
  • Secret Legacy: Dar is secretly the long lost son of King Zed.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Kodo and Podo's kids.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: Maax, an evil sorcerer, seized power in the kingdom of Aruk.
  • Staircase Tumble: Quite a few bad guys tumble quite spectacularly down the pyramid steps as Dar fights his way through them to reach Maax at the top.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Dar has his hawk companion rescue a young child from the evil priest's sacrificial fires and flies her away to safety. The priest, after a second of thought, cries out that this is indeed an omen that the deity wants child sacrifices.
  • Surprise Incest: The Love Interest is the cousin of the the hero's younger brother. Whether the couple are actually blood relatives, and to what degree, is not made explicit; the implications are not explored in the film.
  • Take That!: Beastmaster 2 mildly mocks Cold War politics as Arklon calls the whole "balance of terror" deliciously barbaric and wants in on the whole sweet nuclear weapon action (he's also the villain, if you didn't already guess).
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The heroes find out Maax knows of their surprise attack. Seth tries to talk King Zed out of leading the attack, but he's too obsessed with revenge for the loss of his son to listen to reason. The resulting Curb-Stomp Battle happens between scenes.
    • Then there's the guy Dar frees from the cage at the winged creatures' lair. Instead of remaining by his rescuer's side, the man freaks out and runs away... right into the waiting embrace of one of the creatures. Oops.
    • In Beastmaster 2 the priests don't flee even after Dar escapes, sitting right there at the table even as he's then rampaging around. Naturally, he kills the leader, who doesn't try to get away.
  • True Final Boss: The Jun Leader who leaps across the flaming river of oil to challenge Dar to one on one combat in the film's climax.
  • Uncertain Doom: Not all of Dar's fellow villagers have been killed yet as he's knocked unconscious and dragged to safety, and it almost looks as if the Jun are merely dragging some away, but Dar's dialogue afterwards indicates that no one else made it out alive.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: King Zed doesn't give Dar his thanks, instead he calls him a freak for his ability to talk to animals. He doesn't want his help, nor does he want his niece to be with him.
  • Villainous Rescue: The bat people as mentioned under Dark Is Not Evil. Although they will eat random people, they rescue Dar in a Big Damn Heroes moment because he is a Beastmaster and therefore commands the hawk whom they worship.
  • Villains Blend in Better: Played straight in the second movie, but justified; Arklon can Mind Rape locals on present-day Earth to gain knowledge of how society works. Dar is every bit the confused hero, prompting both the police and animal control to come after him.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Kiri is supposed to be one.
  • Weasel Mascot: The ferrets Kodo and Podo. It certainly helps that they're adorable.
  • Wicked Witches: Their faces aren't much to look at but they certainly have nice bodies.
  • Winged Humanoid: The people who Dar runs into greatly resemble bats.
  • With Great Power: Dar's adoptive father gives him a speech along these lines, insisting that the gods have chosen him for something special and that he must use his powers for the greater good.
  • Worldbuilding: Several details suggest a more expansive setting:
    • Ar is not specifically called out as a bird god, but Maax calls attention to a falcon rescuing a child as proof of Ar's involvement; the bat-people worship a falcon icon; and Ar's mark on Dar could be a stylized falcon symbol. The leader of the Jun has a helmet with falcon wings. Rip Torn also wears a beak-like nose prosthetic for playing Maax.
    • Ar is the only god mentioned, but we see at least three sects of his worship: Maax's murderous cult, the bat-people, and the general populace all seem to worship Ar, but in radically different ways. This suggests the setting is monotheistic.
    • While crossbows show up a few times, and steel weapons abound, we never see bows or much in the way of protective armor. What we do see of it is on some of the people wielding the crossbows — the Jun — implying the Jun have a technological superiority, and the crossbows are strong enough to render most armor obsolete. We do see a crossbow bolt pierce a shield without losing its tip, furthering the idea that mere armor could not stop it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The unborn Dar's abduction, the witch using a hot metal rod to brand the newborn with the sign of Ar, and child sacrifices. 'Nuff said.