Classic Review – The Beastmaster (1982)

Kodo and Podo the ferrets

Kodo and Podo the ferrets

The Beastmaster

Directed by Don Coscarelli

Written by Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman

Starring Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn, John Amos

Review by Jordan

“I have my eyes… I have my cunning… and I have my strength”

What do an eagle, a tiger and a pair of thieving ferrets have in common? They’re all friends of the Beastmaster of course! Fate’s mighty, slightly pervy hero whose scantily-clad ways are bested only by his pilgrim acquaintance Seth and who vows to avenge the death of his father and clan; a quest that will reveal to him his true calling and if successful lead him to the fulfilment of prophesy.

Dar (Singer), a boy born of a beast who then brandishes the power of communicating with them, is the type of mythical, Herculean hero to fill the imagination of adolescent sword-and-sorcery fans, as he goes from tragically farewelling his life-saving dog to comically being saved from immanent death-via-quicksand by lovable ferrets with the seamlessness of a smash cut. His seriousness extends to setting young servant boys free from cages hanging above a human broth, right into the hands of the nightmarish sorcerers who put him there, but, in a manner we can all relate, when he spies the beautiful slave Kiri (Roberts) in a watering hole in his downtime, he is chilled enough to steal her clothes and con her into thinking she’s in mortal danger if they don’t get together. He’s just an all-round good bloke.

Released in the same year as The Sword and the Sorcerer and Conan the Barbarian, Don Coscarelli’s take on the epic fantasy genre popular at the time was an underperformer at the box office, that would instead find its following on cable in the coming years, even spawning multiple poorly made sequels. Shifting dramatically in mood one scene to the next and not concerned with who is killed or what their age, The Beastmaster wears its inglorious design as a badge of honour, and is fast paced enough to retain its guilty pleasure charms.

Much attention is also focused on Tanya Roberts as its most appealing drawcard; an opinion I won’t readily disagree with.

Surprising in retrospect, coming from the director of Phantasm (1979), Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) and John Dies at the End (2012) which are predominantly exercises in offbeat horror, this fantastical thriller that moonlights as the epitome of fan-service of a bygone era should be held aloft and highlighted as an example of the genre delivering on it’s promise: sweeping adventure, youthful romance, dastardly villains and mischievous ferrets.

3.5 courageous dogs out of 5


18 responses to “Classic Review – The Beastmaster (1982)

      • This was the movie where he had a pair of ferrets right? I also confuse this with Krull. Funnily enough the old Conan the Barbarian is about the only sword and sorcery movie I remember clearly from this era, probably because I’ve watched that a lot as an adult also. ❤ Robert E Howard

      • There most definitely are ferrets!
        That is a movie that deserves to be re-watched frequently. Personally, I have a soft spot for The Sword and the Sorcerer.

  1. Ah Beastmaster, that was one of the first videos my father bought and played over and over. That plus Conan. Thank you, you just brought up all these childhood memories. Must go find a copy of it now. 👍

  2. I think I’m due to revisit this one. It’s been a long time. I know Coscarelli had some issues with the studio and was unsatisfied with the finished product, but I remember really liking this as a kid. I’ve never had the most discriminating tastes though.

  3. Fond memories of thinking this was really cool and also super creepy – the aforementioned wing creatures, the weird cow birth at the beginning, the masked berserkers. Great imagery for what I imagine now is a slightly corny film. On the rewatch list after reading this.

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