The prophecy says that the High Priest Maax (Rip Torn) will die at the hands of King Zed’s (Rod Loomis) unborn son. To try to override the prophecy Maax plans on murdering the child as a sacrifice to the god Ar. Upon learning of the scheme Maax is exiled from the kingdom of Aruk, along with any of his followers. Maax sends one of his three witches to transfer the infant from the womb of his mother (Vanna Bonta) to the womb of a cow. The witch brands the baby but is killed by a villager (Ben Hammer) before she can kill the child. The villager takes the baby and raises it as his own. He names the baby Dar (Billy Jayne).
Something happens after the transfer of the child from his mother to the cow. Dar is born up with the ability to communicate with animals. He understands them and they understand him. His father instructs the youth to keep his gift a secret. Dar grows up in the village of Emur until one day when the villagers are attacked and killed by the Juns. The Juns are a barbarian tribe that are in alliance with Maax. Now an adult, Dar (Marc Singer) is the only survivor. He swears revenge on the Juns.
Not knowing of his heritage, Dar travels to the village of Aruk. During this travels Dar befriends a couple of ferrets he names Kodo and Podo, an eagle he calls Sharak and a black tiger he names Ruh. At a waterfall he meets Kiri (Tanya Roberts). She is a slave of the priests of Ar. She says she must return, or her family will be killed. Dar follows her.
He then comes upon a race of half bird, half human creatures. They devour people by wrapping their webbed arms around them and dissolving their flesh. They spare Dar when they see he is in the company of an eagle. The eagle is sacred to them. They give Dar an amulet. Should he need help he is to send the amulet to them, and they will come to his aid.
At Aruk, Dar finds that Maax has taken over the city. Maax has been sacrificing children. Dar saves one. He then finds out that Kiri is to be sacrificed. On his way to save Kiri he is joined by Tal (Joshua Milrad) and his bodyguard Seth (John Amos). Together they plan an attack on Maax and attempt to rescue Kiri and free Aruk from his grip.
“The Beastmaster” was released in 1982 and was directed by Don Coscarelli. It is fantasy film of the Sword and Sandals sub-genre and is loosely based on the book “The Beastmaster” by Andre Norton. Although it didn’t do all that well at the box office, continuous airings on Television garnered it a cult following. Critics weren’t keen on it either, but it really is a fun movie. There’s lots of action and mystical images. The half-bird, half-man creatures are absolutely creepy and probably one of my favorite monsters of all time.
For some reason “Beastmaster” is rated PG. There are some things in the movie that would make you question whether or not that rating is appropriate. Dar’s fetus is transferred to that of a cow. Is that considered bestiality in some way? Dar and Kiri are cousins. In some places that's a no-no. In others it's not. The question is whether or not they are related by blood or by marriage. There are also two quick topless scenes. One is of a woman running from a horseman and the other is Tanya Roberts and another slave at the waterfall. Not to mention the child sacrifice, the torture and the carnage monsters that dissolve flesh.
Dar's black tiger is actually a regular striped tiger dyed black. Director Coscarelli originally wanted a black leopard but was convinced by animal experts that leopards were much harder to work with. They suggested the tiger. Coscarelli wasn’t fond of stripes, so the tiger got a dye job. They kept cases of Clairol hair dye for touch ups. You can occasionally see where some of it washed off. Four tigers played Rhu. Around 25 ferrets were used to play Kodo and Podo. The eagle didn’t like to fly on cue so when they needed footage, they dropped it from a trap door in a balloon. I’m not sure how PETA feels about that.
Many think that “Beastmaster” is a rip-off of “Conan the Barbarian” 1982, however, they were both made at the same time and released only three months apart. That’s very little time to capitalize on a film when you don’t even know if it’s going to be a hit or not.