Release Date(s)1982 (June 15, 2018)
Studio(s)MGM/UA (Umbrella Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C-
[Editors Note: This is a REGION FREE release.]
“Hey, Beastmaster’s On!”
The legacy of The Beastmaster as a cable TV staple throughout the 1980s and 1990s has been firmly established but somewhat lost in the shuffle when it comes to modern home video releases. In the film, Marc Singer stars as Dar, a warrior with the ability to communicate with animals and bend them to his will. After his village is attacked and his father is murdered by the invading forces of Juns, he sets out on a journey of revenge against the high priest Maax (Rip Torn), meeting a beautiful slave (Tanya Roberts) and a fellow warrior (John Amos) along his way.
Don Coscarelli helmed this swords and sandals sci-fi adventure, but it was subsequently relinquished from his hands during post production when he was basically locked out of the editing room for reasons unknown, having no control over the final product. The Beastmaster ultimately didn’t do well upon its initial theatrical release, but thanks to cable, it had a major second life. But the film and its sequels not being in circulation more frequently is a real shame, meaning that a generation or two has passed since their popularity on TV was at an all-time high. However, no one should ever accuse the film of not being entertaining. It’s mostly lighthearted fun with occasional bits of drama, but also a reminder of a simpler time when movies like it were being made on a regular basis for markets all over the world.
Umbrella Entertainment re-issues their previous Region B Blu-ray release of the 118-minute theatrical version now as a Region Free release (despite the packaging saying Region B on the back). It’s obviously an older, print-sourced transfer, but it’s not bad at all. Grain is present if a bit variable with wavering bits of fine detail. Saturation is certainly better than any previous DVD release stateside, particularly when it comes to foliage and skin tones. Everything appears bright and well-defined, but blacks sometimes suffer from a bit of crush and occasional compression artifacts. It’s also a fairly clean and stable presentation with only some leftover scratches and dirt. The audio is presented in two options: English 5.1 DTS-HD and English 2.0 Dolby Digital. Unfortunately, there are no subtitle options. Purists might opt for the stereo track, but the 5.1 does open up the film’s soundtrack more than I would have expected. There’s definite surround and ambient activity while the dialogue remains mostly up front. Everything comes through well without any hiss or distortion issues.
As for the extras, there’s the vintage audio commentary from Anchor Bay’s DVD releases with director Don Coscarelli and writer/producer Paul Pepperman, in which they highlight plenty of information about how the film was made on a tight budget. Also included is Perry Martin’s excellent hour-long documentary The Saga of The Beastmaster, which features interviews with Coscarelli, Pepperman, actors Marc Singer, Tonya Roberts, Josh Milrad, and production designer Conrad E. Angone. It covers a lot of ground as well. Other extras that were not carried over but can be found on previous DVD releases include a behind-the-scenes reel, some deleted and alternate scenes, the film’s trailer, production art, some still galleries, and the film’s screenplay in .PDF format via DVD-ROM.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, The Beastmaster has yet to make its appearance on Blu-ray in the U.S. But if you’ve managed to not see the film or haven’t seen it in a number of years and you’re looking for the best release of it available, this is likely it for the time being.
- Tim Salmons