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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I love this movie!
Here’s some movie concept art by Nikita Knatz…
And here are some posters…
Okay, a final look at those winged devourers…
And here’s a publicity shot of Singer and Roberts…