"The only movie to combine child sacrifice with 'aren't the animals cute' scenes. It's a movie that can be enjoyed equally by the Michigan militia and the Westminister Kennel Club." -- Joe Bob Briggs, author of Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In and host of TNT's Monstervision
"What would you have if, given free reign, you produced a film that combined the mystery of 'Macbeth,' the gore of 'The Road Warrior,' the plot outline of 'Oedipus Rex,' the characters from 'Conan, the Barbarian' and 'Tarzan,' the setting of the ancient city of Ur done in Mexican village drag, and medieval clothing with a Middle Eastern flare? A mess, you say? Right, and its name would be 'Beastmaster.'" -- Review of the film published in USA Today magazine, November 1982
y many standards, The Beastmaster is no masterpiece. Okay, let's be honest: by virtually no legitimate standards is this movie a masterpiece. In fact, its director, Don Coscarelli, was never happy with the final cut, and Andre Norton, the prolific sci-fi novelist whose book it was based on, didn't want her name to appear anywhere in the credits. It was made in 1982, and although it featured a fabulous score by Lee Holdridge and sharp cinematography by Academy Award-winner John Alcott (Barry Lyndon), this movie is often seen as just another gimmicky, mindless sword and sorcery tale.
However, there appears to more to this film than meets the eye. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, when it is shown on TBS its ratings rank second only to Gone With the Wind. When EW ran an issue in September 1997 with a cover story on guilty pleasures and forgot to include The Beastmaster, Lisa Erven of Riverton, Wyoming had this to say:
"Nothing causes more shame and guilt than my passion for Marc Singer in The Beastmaster. My perfect Saturday is spending a snowy afternoon on the couch (sans kids and husband, of course!) watching my treasured video of this glorious movie."
Glorious movie? Well, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, although I go about this with at least part of my tongue in my cheek, I can't completely dismess Mrs. Erven's comments. As a matter of fact, I think Mrs. Erven speaks for many guilt-racked-but-determined "Beastmaster" fans ... which definitely includes me. I say it right now, loud and clear: "The Beastmaster" is my greatest guilty pleasure.
Although I reserve my right to be critical of movies, I will never deny the sheer enjoyment I get from watching this film. The fact that it was my favorite movie when I was nine years old has left an indelible impression in my critical faculties, and whenever the screen flickers with this film, I am simply forced to turn them off and sink into the land of Arrok. Every critic has his guilty pleasure: after all, Pulitzer Prize-winner Roger Ebert not only co-scripted Russ Meyer's campy T&A fest Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but he is an active defender of the entire Meyer oeurve. And, wasn't it the infamous Pauline Kael who so wisely wrote:
"I don't trust anyone who doesn't admit having at some time in his life enjoyed trashy American movies. I don't trust any of the tastes of people who were born with such good taste that they didn't need to find their way through trash."
So, for all you guilty Beastmaster fans out there (especially those who despised the sequels as much as I did), I have set up this special web site to feature your comments and additional information about this too-often overlooked cinematic treasure.