The Beastmaster (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (24th June 2018).
The Film

"The Beastmaster" (1982)

Dar (played by Marc Singer) from the rural village of Emur wass born with a magical ability - the ability to communicate with animals telepathically. Though he grew up in a rather peaceful environment raised by his stepfather (played by Ben Hammer), it all comes crashing down when the village is slaughtered by the soldiers of the evil sorcerer Maax (played by Rip Torn), leaving him as the only survivor of the massacre. Adept in muscular strength and the way with a sword, his journey starts alone but along the way he befriends animals as well as people who would become strong allies, though there are also people in desperate need due to the commanding and violent forces of Maax's troops.

Sorcerers, witches, mystical creatures, mystical powers, sword battles, prophecy and destiny, and vengeance. All these tick off the boxes of the sword and sorcery genre of films. From the Steve Reeves starring "Hercules" film series, the Columbia Pictures "Sinbad" film series featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen, Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Sword in the Stone" - for decades the genre has been around but never as popular as other fantasy genres in the mainstream. Following the massive success of "Phantasm" in 1978, director Don Coscarelli and producer Paul Pepperman shopped around the premise of an epic adventure movie in the vein of the Harryhausen films and the "Hercules" series. Studios and financiers were befuddled as it was very different from the science fiction horror of "Phantasm" and not in a genre that was considered money-making at the time. Thankfully some investors came to the rescue, and the $4.5 million raised would be a fairly small budget film would commence production in 1981.

The film's premise and characters are nothing particularly original. It takes inspiration from many of the fore bearers, with the main character of Dar being a cross between Hercules and Tarzan, with his incredible strength and agility coupled with his ability to communicate with animals to his advantage. His rise from orphan to hero to the realization that he is of royal blood also takes cues from many tales told over generations. The characters he meets along the way are also from many told tales. The slave girl Kiri (played by Tanya Roberts) who Dar falls in love with, the young prince Tal (played by Joshua Milrad) and his priest caretaker Seth (played by John Amos) are also staples from many books, stories, and films. But with "The Beastmaster" taking so many cues from elsewhere, what makes it stand out on its own? In the most commercial aspect, it is a ton of fun to watch with appeal to almost everyone. Children will love the play with the animals. Women will love the muscular heroes in revealing garments. Men will love the nudity (yes, the infamous topless scene with Kiri's revealing reveal) and the action. B-movie fans will love the cheap sets and unconvincing matte paintings and the questionable optical effects. And all will love the spectacle. Coscarelli made sure to pay homages to the films and stories that came before and making something highly entertaining and charming for all audiences, though finding that audience would be a harder sell.

There were production difficulties with the massive sets, hundreds of extras, and unpredictable weather, as well as financiers that invested in a genre film that had no major guarantee of recoupment or profit. With preliminary shooting completed, Coscarelli was essentially barred from the post-production process. The editing, post effects, and marketing had no involvement from the director, essentially having the completed film being the "producer's cut". Though Coscarelli has stated that the finished film is basically how the film was planned with no major changes done. The only quibs he had were the shoddy optical effects that were done without his involvement and even from an audience perspective look cheap and questionable. The film was theatrically released by United Artists/MGM in the United States in August of 1982 in just over 1000 theaters. The opening weekend gross was just under $3 million, and eventually earned a total of $14 million, being a minor success, but nowhere near the hits of similarly themed "Conan the Barbarian" which was released a few months before grossing $39 million, and "Clash of the Titans" released a year prior with $41 million. It seemed suddenly in the 1980s the sword and sorcery genre became a viable and profitable one. "Ladyhawke", "Legend", "Fire and Ice", "Willow" and many other hits and cult hits were born. Theatrical grosses for "The Beastmaster" may have been minor, but that was not the end for it.

Frequent showings on cable television made "The Beastmaster" a bonafide hit, with most fans discovering it from broadcasts over the years. Eventually the small film became a cult hit and eventually spawning two sequel films - the theatrically released "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time" in 1991 and the direct-to-video "Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus" in 1996, both starring Marc Singer reprising his role as Dar. In 1999 the television series "Beastmaster" began and was broadcast for three seasons with a total of 66 episodes made. The first DVD of "The Beastmaster" was released in the United States in 2001 with various other editions in other territories following. The film received its Blu-ray debut in 2013 from Australian's Umbrella Entertainment, and this 2018 reissue is almost entirely identical. More details on that below. "The Beastmaster" is not the most original story in the genre, but it is one of the most entertaining to watch, even more than 35 years after its original release.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.77:1 aspect ratio in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. There are some ever so thin black bars on the left and right sides of the frame. The high definition transfer is a very good one, though imperfect. Colors are very striking, from the dark tones at the start of the film to the brighter outdoor scenery. The remastered image has been cleaned for minor scratches and specs while leaving film grain intact, though there are certain shots of inherent damage to the print which were not removed. Shots with optical effects have double the grain structure and some instability, but that is to be expected. This high definition transfer is a very good one and miles ahead of the previous DVD editions of the film, even ahead of the US Anchor Bay DiviMax special edition. It should also be noted that the transfer on this 2018 Blu-ray is identical to the 2013 Blu-ray. The image comparison site caps-a-holic has comparisons of the Umbrella Blu-ray and US DVD and the differences are like night and day. More image on all sides of the frame, better colors and better depth.

The film is uncut with a runtime of 118:27.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

The audio is given a lossless 5.1 mix as well as a lossy stereo mix. The 5.1 track is very good with its balance, not being too obtrusive with the surround effects and keeping the remix sound natural. Dialogue is mostly center based being fairly easy to hear and understand. Music and effects are mostly kept to the left and right while the surrounds are used almost entirely for ambient effects. There are no added sound effects to the remix keeping authenticity to the 1982 sounds. The 2.0 stereo track is the original theatrical stereo mix and is obviously lacking the depth of the 5.1 track in every way.

There are no subtitles for the feature.

Extras

Audio Commentary with Don Coscarelli and Paul Pepperman
Recorded nearly 20 years later for the 2001 DVD edition, the director and the screenwriter reminisce about the making of the film in this screen specific commentary track. They talk about their casting choices, the shooting locations, about some of the troubles had with all the animals involved, and how the post-production process was not under their control. So there are a few jabs at the shoddy optical effects work by the duo. Also they ask the fans listening to the commentary if anyone knows whatever happened to Dar's sword, which went missing after production.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"The Saga of the Beastmaster" documentary (57:29)
While the packaging and menu mentions this as a "featurette", it is an hour long documentary featuring interviews with Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman, Conrad E. Agone, Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, and Josh Milrad. This 2005 documentary produced by Anchor Bay for their DiviMax Special Edition DVD, there are many topics covered including Coscarelli and Pepperman's films prior to "The Beastmaster", shopping the film to various studios and investors, the casting, the animal handling, the set and costume designs, the explosion that was much bigger than expected, and the reception the film received - both positive and negative. An excellent documentary all around.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

The trailer has not been included, but Umbrella Entertainment has uploaded a low definition trailer on its YouTube page, as embedded below:

Packaging

The artwork is reversible, with the only difference being the Australian rating logo removed from the front.
The packaging says "region B" only but this is a region ALL Blu-ray. Also "The Saga of The Beastmaster" is labeled as being 55 minutes, but it is actually 57 minutes.

Note that Umbrella Entertainment previously released "The Beastmaster" on Blu-ray in 2013 as a region B locked Blu-ray with the same video/audio and extras. The only difference is the new 2018 release is region ALL. The artwork on the front and back are identical. The only difference is the barcode number.

2013 barcode: 9344256008993

2018 barcode: 9344256017568

Overall

"The Beastmaster" is not the most original film ever made, but in the sword and sorcery genre revival of the 1980s, it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable. Umbrella Entertainment's reissue features very good video and audio with an excellent commentary and documentary to add. This 2018 reissue is no different from the 2013 release except for the region code being updated, so previous release owners have no need for an upgrade, but for fans looking for the film on Blu-ray, this Australian reissue is very recommended.

The Film: B Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: B+

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.