The Beastmaster (1982)

These winged beings digest their victims alive!
These winged devourers digest their victims whilst they’re still alive!

The villainous high priest Maax (Rip Torn) attempts to thwart a prophecy by sending one of his witches to kidnap and murder the unborn son of King Zed. The witch uses magic to transfer the baby from the queen’s womb to the belly of a cow! Before the witch can kill the child, however, a villager intervenes, killing the hag-faced woman and raising the boy as his own son.

UK quad poster
UK quad poster

The boy, named Dar, is taught how to fight and it’s revealed that he has the ability to telepathically communicate with all kinds of animals (presumably because he was born from an animal).

Dar and his eagle
Dar and his eagle
Dar and his panther
Dar and his panther
Dar and his ferrets
Dar and his ferrets
Dar and his (dead) dog
Dar and his (dead) dog

Dar (Marc Singer), now a man, witnesses his village being wiped out by a horde of masked barbarians called Juns, who are allied with Maax. Dar, the only survivor of the massacre, sets out to avenge his people. Along the way Dar is joined by an eagle, a pair of ferrets he calls Kodo and Podo, and a great panther.

Ruh the panther
Ruh the panther
A road lined with withered corpses
A road lined with withered corpses

As the adventure continues Dar teams up with King Zed’s younger son Tal, bodyguard Seth (John Amos) and slave girl Kiri (Tanya Roberts), who turns out to actually be a warrior woman. After the death of King Zed, there’s a showdown with Maax atop a sacrificial pyramid, and then there’s a final battle with a mass of Jun warriors.

Can Dar and his allies survive all this? Yes they can… with a little help from some weird, winged devourer beings.

Kiri
Kiri
Dar
Dar
Tal and Seth
Seth and Tal
Pyramid fight
Fight on the pyramid
Fiery finale
Fiery finale
Don't mess with Dar!
Don’t mess with Dar!

Director Don Coscarelli’s sword and sorcery movie is a fun romp, with Marc Singer proving to be a likeable hero and Tanya Roberts sticking in the memory as the attractive, feisty love interest Kiri. Then we have Rip Torn, who does a bit of scenery-chewing as the hawk-nosed bad guy Maax: he’s a high priest who is rather too fond of child sacrifice.

Maax is mad!
Maax is mad!

The screenplay, written by Paul Pepperman and Don Coscarelli, was based on a 1959 novel called THE BEAST MASTER, though the book is pretty different to the film: the novel’s hero is a Navajo warrior in a futuristic setting.

An amusing moment where Dar pretends his panther Ruh is a threat to them
An amusing moment where Dar pretends his panther Ruh is a threat to Kiri

THE BEASTMASTER is a colourful adventure yarn that features a fine score by Lee Holdridge, witches with the bodies of young women and the faces of hags, spike-gloved berserker madmen, a ring with an eyeball that can spy on the heroes, and the aforementioned bird-humanoid creatures that wrap their victims in leathery wings to digest them alive!

A winged devourer
A winged devourer
Witches!
Witches!
Glowing-eyed berserker!
Glowing-eyed berserker!
Another berserker pic
Another berserker pic
The eyeball ring!
The eyeball ring!

The fiery, climactic battle with the Jun horde is a well-mounted, exciting finale, where Dar has a one-on-one fight with the Jun leader and, basically, this modestly budgeted fantasy flick is a very, very enjoyable watch.

There's an impressive explosion when the oil-filled moat is ignited
There’s an impressive explosion when the oil-filled moat is ignited
The Jun leader!
The Jun leader!

I love this movie!

Dar and Ruh
Dar and Ruh

Here’s some movie concept art by Nikita Knatz…

concept art
concept art
concept art
concept art
City of Aruk concept art by Nikita Knatz

And here are some posters…

German poster
German poster
Swedish poster
Swedish poster
Turkish poster
Turkish poster
Japanese poster
Japanese poster
German VHS cover art
German VHS cover art
Thai poster
Thai poster
German 1-sheet poster
German 1-sheet poster
US poster
US poster
Believe it or not: this is actually a poster for the 1983 movie Yellowbeard, starring Graham Chapman!
Believe it or not: this is actually a poster for the 1983 movie Yellowbeard, starring Graham Chapman!

Okay, a final look at those winged devourers…

These critters worship eagles, you know
These critters worship eagles, you know
Behind the scenes shot of the winged devourer costume
Behind the scenes shots of a winged devourer costume

And here’s a publicity shot of Singer and Roberts…

publicity shot

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