How do you spot a failed pilot for a TV series? There are a number of clues, and this film has plenty of them. Firstly, you have at least two or three supporting characters given way more backstory than usual, often with a skill the lead character doesn’t have, and most importantly of all they don’t die. The villain of the piece will almost always “survive” in one form or another, and it’ll usually throw some irrelevant world-building detail in there too.
So, even though there actually was a Beastmaster TV series, three years after this, it shared no characters (apart from Marc Singer, but he was only in a few episodes and played someone slightly different), and I say this was a pilot that crashed. Much like part 2, it’s full of B-movie royalty – Tony Todd as Singer’s sidekick Seth; Casper Van Dien is King Tal, the grown up version of the kid from part 1; Sandra Hess, a rare “That Girl” actor; Leslie Anne Down, having a whale of a time as a witch with a heart of gold; and David Warner, able to give gravitas to the stupidest projects, plays Lord Agon, who needs the Amulet of MacGuffin to open a door and get ultimate power, or whatever.
Also, this film pretends part 2 never existed, which is a shame. But like part 2, it’s clearly aimed at the kid’s market, so barely anyone actually dies, there’s no nudity, and absolutely no animals die either (I like the second and third things, honestly). Plus, it’s a little difficult to shake off the idea once it gets into your head that the only reason this film got made is that someone realised they still had the rights to it and didn’t want them to lapse.
I’m not sure I even need to recap this. Dar wanders about the wilderness, gets sucked in to some universe-destroying plot, meets a few friends, has his animals do some cool stuff (although he has a lion now, even if it does have the same name as the tiger from parts 1 and 2), quips, has some sexy time, then after he’s saved the day wanders off into the wilderness again. I don’t want to spoil it, I suppose?
Although the incredible cheapness shines through at every moment, with the fantastic sets of Don Coscarelli’s original a very distant memory (14 years, I suppose), it’s actually a really fun film. Singer and Todd have good chemistry, plus Down and Warner are veterans of this sort of daftness, don’t take it seriously for a second and elevate every scene they’re in.
There’s a lot of padding, though. The whole diversion with the painted-face people, a good 5-10 minutes of the movie, could have been removed and you wouldn’t have missed a thing, and “interestingly” the films have been getting shorter anyway – from 2 hours for part 1, to a shade over 100 minutes for part 2, and now 90 minutes for part 3. Strangely, this feels like the longest installment, and you can tell the lack of money in every scene set in a bit of wilderness.
I’m not the first person to notice this, but the evil demon-thing who Agon frees at the end of the film is the spitting image of the dinosaurs from the Jim Henson show “Dinosaurs”. Like, way too much for it to be a coincidence, I think. So, if you really want to have no chance at all of taking the final fight seriously, there you go.
It seems the TV series which was the next (and, so far, last) installment in the Beastmaster saga, has a lot of fans, but then all sorts of garbage can have lots of fans. I’ll stick with the films, and they’ve been a heck of a lot of fun. Not always that great, and the treatment of the animals in part 1 still leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth, but Singer is a great leading man, the casting people succeeded over and over again, and there’s plenty of adventure and a few laughs to enjoy.
Rating: thumbs up