“Don’t Move, this beast is fierce.”
The sword and sandal genre is a long line of marginally decent too horribly bad films. When done halfway decent a semi-epic adventure story set in the bronze or silver age is a helluva lot of fun. Watching muscle bound men in loincloths swing ornate long swords while sorcerers raise stop motion skeletons and giant monstrosities is a large part of any adolescent boys film education. For those of us who first discovered film in the 1980s we have a unique perspective on sword and sandal films. Conan the Barbarian set a bar to which all movies that came behind it tried desperately to see, let alone rise above. Some films were successful in holding their own, others failed miserably. The Beastmaster is great example of the former. Released in 1982 the movie by all accounts was a box office flop. If IMDB is to be believed, the movie cost approximately $8 million to make. the U.S. gross three weeks after release at just under $11 million. For a lot of movies this return on investment would bury the film under the mountain of Hollywood failures never to see the light of day again. We aren’t just talking about any old film though, we’re talking about a sword and sandal film.
The Beastmaster isn’t a perfect movie. It isn’t even a particularly good movie in many aspects. The dialogue is passable at best. The names of the animals are downright silly. Ruh? Koto and poto (I’m not even sure I spelled those correctly)? Marc Singer’s acting is rather bad throughout the film. I could go on but fortunately there are some many other things to love about the movie it’s easy to give it’s failures a pass.
First, the premise is cool. A king whose son is stolen away in the belly of a cow, via magic. The boy later grows up with the ability to control animals. Twin ferrets that play the role of the thieves (super cleaver). An army of black leather, deathmetal band looking, killer that do little more than look badass. Rip Torn looking like a hollowed out crack addict with cool skull adorned braids. What’s not to like!
Second, The Beastmaster has a decent story. By today’s standards any remake would need to be at least three hours long. The movie suffers from a noticeable lack of large battle scenes. Other than the village raid in the first act there isn’t another major battle in the film. Dar storms the temple and saves the day, leading to the return of the Jun horde, but neither battle involves anyone other than the four primary protagonists. Dar, Kiri (the sexy Tanya Roberts), Seth (awesome John Amos), and Tal (Joshua Milrad) do all the fighting through the last half of the film, and although they are faced with what appear to be insurmountable odds they prevail each time.
Finally, and this goes to my last point about the battle sequence, the movie has the best use of deus ex machina ever used in a movie. The Winged Devourers are awesome. Possibly one of the most original creations in sword and sandal, they inject a huge amount of mystery and dread into the Beastmaster’s world. Take it or leave it, they make the film. So is The Beastmaster worth the time of day? Most of you have seen it before, of that I’ve no doubt, but if you’re actually reading this and haven’t see this film I highly recommend you do. I’ll add this caveat – 1982 was an era of practical effects. An era of multiple takes, over and over and over, until they got one right. An era of movies with grand ideas and small budgets. Take this into account, free your mind, drink several beers and you should be good to go.
IT Happened At Lakewood Manor a.k.a Ants!
If the 1980s was the golden age of the slasher horror film, the 1970s hold the honor for insect horror. The 1977 made for TV movie Ants may not be the best of it’s era but it’s still a fun little micro-horror that boasts some genuine skin […]
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9 ft tall phallus with teeth terrorizes Irish Country side…
Before you begin rolling your eyes I want you too know it wasn’t me that called Rex a phallus. I have to much respect for my childhood to go around bashing every monster that made me love horror movies. Rex is certainly one of those monsters.
Rawhead Rex is a fun little movie based on a short story by Clive Barker. Released in 1986, it’s about a pagan deity that is inadvertently released from its place of rest by an Irish farmer. You’re probably scratching your head at that but remember this is the British Isles were taking about. King Arthur, Stonehenge, Monty Python, Dr. Who… a lot of weird shit going on over there.
Anyway, Rex is pissed (as in angry, not taking a piss) and proceeds to kill everyone he comes across. Pretty simple concept but the movie is fun and gory, not taking itself too seriously but also not playing for laughs. The phallus remark was made by Clive Barker in an interview back in 2004, at which time he was supposedly working on a remake that never seemed to happen.
So what’s the verdict?
Rawhead Rex is a fun 80s horror movie. Phallus or not Rex is a formidable evil that lays waste to a small Irish village. It’s bloody, gory, and dark (in a campy 80s sort of way). I’d recommend to watch it on DVD but it’s out of print and costs a small fortune to buy. If you don’t believe me click to top picture and see what their asking for on Amazon.
Fortunately someone uploaded the full movie to YouTube. Enjoy!
Heavy Metal Horror Done Italian Style
The 1980s horror craze wasn’t strictly an American phenomenon. Across the pond and to the south a handful of filmmakers were crafting their own vision of gore and mayhem. Their craft, vision and technique set them apart in many ways. Some good, some not so good.
One of the stand-outs is Demons. Released in 1985 it’s possibly the most popular and/or successful (in the U.S.) of Lamberto Bava’s work. Co-wrote and produced by Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red), Demons is a hard rockin horror in which moviegoers at a midnight premire get trapped with an evil force inside the theatre. It’s a zombie survival style movie done with possessed living humans rather than undead corpses.
The American version’s voice over (if in fact it is voiced over) is pretty bad, adding a large dose of campy/silly to an otherwise fun over the top gore fest. Trust me when I say gore fest. It was the 80s and practical effects were cutting edge and horror movies were always trying to push the boundaries. Much like Evil Dead 2, this film has a ton of yellow, green, blue, and red fluids oozing out of every opening, socket, pore and membrane. Some of it’s is silly and some of it is done really well.
Adding to the awesomeness is the soundtrack. Bava those in songs by Motley Crue, Billy Idol, Rick Springfield, and Go West. Then he slathers on even more awesome sauce by having Claudio Simonetti write additional score for the film. Who is he you ask? He’s none other than the keyboard player for Goblin, the band who scored Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Argento’s Suspiria, and more!
This film is universally reviled as poor, but equally loved as a mainstay of 80s horror. When you consider the hero not only hacks away demons with a katana while cruising a dirt bike up and down the aisles how couldn’t this film be a keeper!