What happened to The Beastmaster?


B ack in the 1980s, sword and sorcery films seemed to be a go-to genre. Roger Corman made a few of them. All you needed were some open spaces, a slender hero in leather loincloths, and some beautiful women who were in trouble, most likely from an evil wizard. One person who saw a great opportunity to make a fantasy epic was probably not the first one to come to mind.

A fter making a couple of family-friendly films, Don Coscarelli burst onto the scene with his horror film Phantasm. The Tall Man, the film’s protagonist, began to haunt the dreams of audiences around the world. The film’s success was also being monitored by film executives. Coscarelli could now plan his next film. He wanted to make a fantasy about a hero that could speak to animals. The Beastmaster is about to be born. We love this movie here at JoBlo. We did an Awfully Good episode on it as well as a Fantasizing About Fantasy Films where Marc Singer joined us. Coscarelli soon found out that the horror of his life was bringing the film to life. So let’s find out what exactly happened to The Beastmaster here on WTF Happened To This Movie.

R iding the success of Phantasm Don Coscarelli was ready to do his next film and had been thinking of a book he had read when he was younger called The Beast Master. He liked the idea of the book, where the hero could telepathically communicate with animals. The rest of the book didn’t interest him because it was set in the future. He decided to set the story in the past, with magic, swords and a deposed Prince. Steve Reeves starred in some of the Hercules movies he loved as a child. He combined elements of the book with elements from these films to create what would become The Beastmaster. Coscarelli said that he combined his favorite elements from Disney animal films and Japanese Samurai movies. A witch steals the unborn child of the king from his pregnant wife as part of a plan. She intends to sacrifice the child to prevent the prophecy that the King’s Son will kill the consort from coming true. He takes the baby home with him to raise as his own son. He takes the child home to raise it as his son. His village is ravaged by a horde known as the Jun (pronounced Jaun). He is the sole survivor, and he sets out to avenge his family’s death. He befriends many animals along the way. A Black Panther, two curious ferrets and an eagle.

H He soon meets Kiri, with whom he falls in love. Seth and Tal are then encountered as he tries to follow her. He decides to travel with them to a temple in the hopes of finding Kiri. When they arrive, he discovers Maax who sacrifices children to the village’s benefit. We know as viewers that this is the evil consort who orchestrated the kidnapping years ago of the Beastmaster. Now he has to help his new friends overthrow Maax, and rescue his father who is still alive but imprisoned in the castle. All of this takes place in a medieval age where magic is real and everyone knows how to use a sword. Coscarelli,

D, began to shop the script around but no studios were interested. One of the foreign distributors for Phantasm heard that he was writing a new script, and said that they would be interested in investing in this new film. Don agreed, but was not prepared for the contributions they would make to the film. The budget for the film was almost $5 million dollars, which was the largest budget that Coscarelli ever had. The problems began almost immediately. Coscarelli had never experienced this before, as his previous films were all independently produced. He had the final word on all of his previous films. He began to rewrite the film in their style. They began to overrule some of the actors Don wanted to hire for the part. Don had met with Demi Moore, who was 18 years old, to discuss the role of Kiri. She was eager to play the part and Don thought that she would be a great actress. He was immediately overruled by the producers, who said they didn’t believe Demi Moore was an excellent actress. Coscarelli then met with the eccentric actor Klaus Kinski, who was to play Maax. Kinski agreed to play the part but demanded $5,0000 more than the budget for the role. Coscarelli said that he knew what he was capable of bringing to the role, and he would find money elsewhere in the budget for the casting to happen. Kinski was again pushed aside. When he arrived on set to meet the director, he already had his own ideas about what should be included in the character. Torn wanted Maax’s appearance to be like that of a turkey-vulture. He suggested a prosthetic to enhance that look. Coscarelli acknowledged that it gave Maax a unique scowl, but said that the problems on set with the nose piece probably weren’t worth it.

Whilst shooting in California during the day, the nose piece would melt if it was outside. The sun would still affect the special effects, even though they were filming in the winter. This would delay some scenes, as the effects would have to be pieced together. They had arranged a meeting with a trainer to discuss the film. They needed black panthers for Ruh, ferrets and eagles for Kodo, Podo and Sharak. The trainer said that he had one black panther who would be perfect for that role, and that the other animals should be no trouble. Don was excited and ready to work, but soon found out that producers had made a deal behind his back with a smaller company that specialized in animal training. Instead, they were going to use four different Tigers. When Don said that Ruh would be a black cat because he didn’t like the stripes, the trainers suggested that they could dye the tigers to black. They kept hair dye on the set for touch-ups, which were frequent. Don was told during preproduction that no child actors were allowed on the set while the tiger remained there. A sharpshooter was required to have a rifle pointed at the tiger all the time during filming. This ruined several scenes that were planned for the film. This last-minute requirement was fixed with some quick rewrites, and the use short doubles.

On the first day Marc Singer worked on set, the crew was filming the scene in which Dar, a young boy, discovers his abilities when a bear appears out of the woods and threatens to kill his father. The bear was a Russian one and the only bear working in Hollywood at that time. The bear attacked his handler as soon as he emerged from the forest. The cast and crew fled the set and locked themselves into nearby vehicles until they had captured the bear. Marc was told to film his scenes by the crew after the handler had gone to the hospital. In an interview for the Vinegar Syndrome film release, Singer stated that he had tried to let animals know that he understood they were in control on the set. He said that the tiger Kipling, the main character in the film, was the first actor he greeted when he arrived in the morning. It was also the last actor he said goodbye when he left. Singer claims that this led to a great working partnership on the film, which is evident in the movie. Dar, his character, is always patting the large feline on the side or back.

P The eagle they were using for filming was probably the biggest diva. Singer claimed that the bird didn’t like her at all. The bird refused to fly when asked most of the time. The eagle had to be placed in a closed basket, and then attached to a helium-filled balloon. The eagle would fly high enough and then they would unlatch it using radio control. The bird would then fly back down to earth and be filmed. This caused many delays. Singer claims that the bird was supposed fly by during the scene where he first pulls out his blade, but instead chose to attack him. It used its talons on him to cut from his right shoulder blade down to his left kidney. The ferrets were the easiest animals to train. They were not able to be trained in many tricks or skills but they were very food motivated. They would often run to the spot where they were placed by placing food there. One of the most difficult things for the animals to do on set was the last shot of Dar, Kiri and Ruh at the top of a mountain while a helicopter flew around. The tiger had to be chained so that he could not move. An animal trainer was hidden behind a nearby rock. They were afraid the helicopter would scare the tiger, causing him to lash. There were no problems. He hoped to get a shot with one of the ferrets peeking out of Dar’s pouch, interacting with the Tiger. They told him the tiger was likely to try and eat his ferret. He asked them if they would like to try, and they reluctantly agreed. The tiger was heavily fed to ensure he would not have an appetite during the filming. Every trainer was then on hand, in case they had to separate the tiger and everyone else immediately. They rolled the camera and pushed up the ferret. The tiger looked at him as his head poked through. The two animals smelled eachother quickly, so it appears that they are touching noses. Don said cut, and they quickly separated the ferret and the tiger. They had nailed the shot, and as it ends the film, it works fantastically.

T he animals weren’t the only issues the crew had on set. In his book True Indie Don Coscarelli suggests that the relationship between himself and Marc Singer did not start off well. He said that during one scene Dar was supposed be charging at camera and he ran past. Then they would cut to the next scene. Singer ran at the camera and ran past it, but when they filmed the scene, he deliberately collided with Don, who was seated in his director’s seat. He would flip backwards in his chair, and fall to the ground. Singer began to make fun of him with the rest the crew. He felt like he had been hazed for the film, but didn’t know why. Coscarelli does not look back fondly on the filming, as there was some back-and-forth. Singer would describe his outfit as being a leather hula-skirt. He said that while filming the scene in which Dar falls into quicksand, the crew behind the cameras were all wearing gloves and parkas while he was only wearing a loincloth. Tanya Roberts swam in a pond half-naked. The waterfall in the background of this picture was created by man. The waterfall was created by sending water into the pond, but the waterfall was natural. The crew would rush over to her as soon as they shouted cut and wrap her in blankets. Paul Pepperman, Don’s cowriter on the movie, says that if you pay close attention to that scene you can see the discomfort she feels in the cold water. Coscarelli was able assemble his director’s cut of film, but was quickly thrown out of any further edits on the film. When the producers took over the film, someone said that it seemed like the film should be longer. The editor was instructed to lengthen each shot in the film. This slows down the pace of the film, which alters the tone Coscarelli wanted. He was upset that he couldn’t be there to witness the creation of the visual effects. Don says some of them, like the dust cloud in the distance created by the horde that is coming to ransack Dar’s village, look terrible. Vinegar Syndrome released their 4K version and offered Don the chance to redo some optical effects. The set includes both the original theatrical version as well as this new version that has improved opticals. It was a modest success, but was overshadowed a few months later by the release of

Conan The Barbarian. Which is also a point of contention with Coscarelli, when he hears people say that


is just a


rip-off. He reminds the public that both films were in production at about the same time, and that his film has nothing to do with Conan

. It’s a coincidence they were both thought of at the exact same time. They didn’t know that cable channels would create an entire cult around the film. Fans began to discover this film when they began to show it on a regular basis. Eventually jokes began to make the rounds that HBO stood for Hey,


On. Or that TBS stood for The Beastmaster

station. Whatever the case, the film attracted a group of die-hard fans.

E Eventually, there were discussions about a sequel. In what had to be more than a coincidence, the film

Masters Of The Universe

was released five years after the original


. In the film, characters from Eternia arrive on Earth. This was a cost-saving method that kept the budget from spiraling out of control. In order to accomplish the same thing, the sequel to

Beastmaster was given a similar plot. Dar is forced to travel through a portal into Earth to stop his evil brother (not Tal), from stealing and using an atomic weapon in their world. The majority of the action takes place in modern-day Los Angeles. The film Beastmaster II: Through the Portal Of Time wouldn’t have a single person returning for the movie. Don Coscarelli has sold his rights to any TV series or sequels, so that the projects could be made without his involvement. The film was also not paid for by Coscarelli. The film received a less positive reception than the previous one, but it would still spawn a sequel in Beastmaster II: The Eye Of Braxus. Dar would meet up with his younger sister Tal (played Casper Van Dien), who was now King, in this TV movie. Tony Todd replaced Seth in this film. The film was made on a small budget, so it looks different from the other films. It looks like it may have taken a cue from the Hercules and

Xena TV series that were popular at the time. A few more years, the property was turned into a television series with the same title. Daniel Goddard was cast in the lead role. He would travel to different lands, and use his powers to help people. Marc Singer would join the cast as Dartanus. Don Coscarelli, despite the negative reactions to the film, still loves it and is happy he was able to make it. He told Adam Green and Joe Lynch that he had a lot of trouble with the film but that he knew people loved it, so he just had to accept it and enjoy the love that people have for it. Joe Lynch, who was also going through a similar experience with Knights of Badassdom, took Coscarelli’s words to heart. The film canisters were left behind by the original owner when he moved out of the house where it was stored. He has asked fans for help in finding the film’s location. Coscarelli hopes to find a negative for the original film to upgrade it. With a new transfer, Coscarelli hopes to reboot the franchise. He wants to see what new stories can be told with Dar and his animal friends. With today’s technology, they might be able to get closer to his original intentions for the film and see where that takes it.

F or those of us that grew up in the 80s, Beastmaster became the live-action He-Man movie we always wanted. No matter how much trouble the movie went through during its production, a whole new generation of children grew up wanting the be Dar and talk to their animals. The film allows us to relive our childhood, and watch the amazing story whenever we want. What the f*ck were those moth-man creature ????? ?Additional Sources:Crispin, A. C. “Andre Norton: Notes from the Witch World, Part Two”. Starlog. No. Siskel, Gene (August 28, 1982). “Okay, ‘Beastmaster’ loses in overtime”. Section 3, p. 3. Section 3, p. 3.

T rue Indie by Don Coscerelli

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