One of the more popular efforts of the sword and sorcery genre, 1982's "Beastmaster" is a mildly entertaining effort from director Don Cosarelli("Phantasm") - it's certainly not what one might consider art, but it's a fun film that has enough action and 80's-style special effects to make for some decent thrills on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
The film revolves around Dar (Marc Singer), a young warrior who happens to have the power to communicate with animals telepathically, since an evil witch sucked him out and put him into the stomach of a cow, which he was apparently born out of (long story). Anyways, when his village is destoryed, he must journey with his animal friends (including two very well-trained ferrets, a hawk and a panther) to fight against an evil sorcerer (Rip Torn, of all people). Also, serving as eye candy (oh yeah, and assistance) is Tanya Roberts, whose character wears next-to-nothing throughout.
Certainly, "The Beastmaster" doesn't deliver in terms of acting, as the ferrets easily provide the best performance of the movie. The film does go considerably overlong, but thankfully, the film's occasionally jokey tone doesn't seem to take the events of the story quite seriously.
The film was originally an MGM title, but has now been released on DVD by Anchor Bay in a special edition. Not fairing too well in its theatrical release, where it faced competition from films like "E.T." and "Officer and a Gentleman", the film later became a home video and cable success, where it gained what seems to be a fairly major cult following.
VIDEO: Anchor Bay presents "Beastmaster" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although not quite as impressive as the audio quality, the image quality is suprisingly good for a film that's nearly 20 years of age. Sharpness and detail are enjoyable and consistent - although some of the low-light interiors appeared a little soft, the film certainly never looked hazy or murky.
Print flaws were minor at best, as some specks, a few marks and some mild grain were the extent of the blemishes that I noticed throughout the picture. A few instances of light pixelation were also seen, but certainly didn't provide a distraction. Colors generally looked natural and fairly vibrant, but not faded or smeared. Although not without some flaws, this is probably the best that "Beastmaster" has ever looked. THX-Approved
SOUND: It's amazing what technology can do these days. Anchor Bay has remastered what was likely originally a mono soundtrack into both Dolby Digital 5.1-EX and DTS 6.1-ES. While neither compare to modern soundtracks, I was still fairly impressed with the level of activity and general audio quality, considering the age of the film. Surrounds are put into play very nicely, either for a couple of very creepy surround effects, reinforcement of the music or general ambient sounds such as wind gusts. The soundtrack does tend to sound a little thin across the board, but it certainly remained clear and comfortable to listen to. The DTS track is a clear winner, sounding considerably fuller than the more subdued Dolby Digital presentation.
MENUS:: The menus are nicely done, with some low-tech animation and the score playing in the background.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Don Coscarelli and writer Paul Pepperman. It's a fairly low-key discussion of the movie, as the two occasionally discuss how certain scenes were filmed and working with the actors, both human and animal. The two also reveal some production secrets and discuss how sets were built and other obstacles they had to face. A nice track, but there's some pauses of silence as it goes along and I never really was too engaged.
Easter Egg: Click around on the extras menu and you'll find a hidden feature - click on it and you'll find more footage of Roberts nude.
Also: Trailer; 27 minutes of very interesting and very low-tech behind-the-scenes footage; gallery of production photos, publicity material and stills and talent bios.
Final Thoughts: Fans of "Beastmaster" or the sword-and-sorcery genre should certainly check out Anchor Bay's new DVD edition of the picture, which provides better audio and video quality than the film has probably ever been shown. Plus, there's a few decent extras and the price is right ($19.99).