Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
U.S. Rating: PG
Canadian Rating: PG
Total Set Length:
Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.85:1
Audio:[*]English DTS-ES 6.1 Surround [*]English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $19.98
Release Date: NOW
Film Rating: /
Starring: Marc Singer (Dar), Tanya Roberts (Kiri), Rip Torn (Maax), John Amos (Seth), Josh Milrad (Tad), Rod Loomis (King Zed)
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Writing: Don Coscarelli & Paul Pepperman
The courage of an eagle, the strength of a panther and the power of a God.
He was still unborn when his family was taken by evil. His Queen mother was murdered by the power of a witch, and his body was transferred out of corpse into the hands of evil. Unfortunately for this little baby boy, he was to be murdered as well. Fortunately a man intervenes on the ritual saving the boy’s life and adopts him as his own and naming him Dar.
When entering manhood, Dar is forced to live on his own when all of the people in his village are murdered including his father. The village is burned to the ground. Not much reason for staying now, and as he travels away from the carnage, Dar learns he can communicate with animals. He can use their powers to his advantage in combat or for wit. He has the eyes of an eagle, the strength of a tiger, and the cunningness of the ferrets (cute) during his adventures to save the beautiful slave girl Kiri from the evil priests. It is these priests who, with the evil of the witches (with hot bodies but nasty faces), murdered his mother and stripped his king father from his power. Dar does not know his birth parents and doesn’t know his quest will bring him closer to the truth. He is joined by other travelers along the way and together their adventures make a classic TV Sunday matinee film.
I seemed to have better memories of The Beastmaster when I saw it on TV in the late ‘80s. What I did remember was its decent amount of hot bodies, breasts, and violence – and it was only rated PG! For a young kid it was the perfect movie to get by without getting in trouble for seeing things I shouldn’t have! Now that I think about it, it really isn’t the greatest memory to have of the movie either. When I first saw Conan the Barbarian on TV, the first thing I remembered was its score. The music of the film captured my mind at ten years old and has since become one of my favourite film soundtracks ever (I’m crying for an SA-CD release of the original soundtrack). And Conan had far more violence and nudity – but I didn’t seem to care (not that I do care). So now, years later, I’m still a huge Conan the Barbarian fan but I just can’t get into The Beastmaster. Just my luck - The Beastmaster has a DTS-ES soundtrack and the Conan release is just Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The wonderful Basil Poleduris score is only available in mono for me (while the CD release is a very wide stereo release with hard-left and hard-right audio and almost nothing in the phantom centre).
Anyways, back to The Beastmaster, I just couldn’t take the movie seriously enough today. Despite its large budget it felt fake and its writing was only average. The concept is great; it’s based on an old book the director and producer read in grade school. The title stayed the same but the story was changed from a futuristic society to what we see as the barbaric days of long ago.
The Beastmaster had a short theatrical run but has collected its fan base from its TV airings. If you haven’t seen this movie before, chances are you’ve heard about it or have seen it on the shelf at the video store. You should give the film a spin sometime because Rip Torn puts on a great performance as the evil priest. When he’s sacrificing children in the fire pit he truly has evil in his eyes and on his face. He really is the film when he’s on screen, and Tanya Roberts; well, she’s just a beauty to look at. As an aside, while piecing this film together in my head, I suddenly realized that if you follow what we know about the King’s pedigree, Kiri is related to the King and Dar is in love with Kiri. So in essence, Dar’s in love with his cousin, or at least a distant cousin…
VIDEO QUALITY /
Anchor Bay has given The Beastmaster a new DiviMax transfer. The 2.35:1 widescreen enhanced film has been transferred to high definition and down converted to 480p/30fps for this DVD. The result is still an unsatisfactory viewing experience. The video quality is just O.K. I haven’t seen the previous DVD edition of The Beastmaster that was released in October 2001 so I can’t compare it to this new DiviMax version.
This new version is soft in detail and aggressive with noise. There is a lot of film grain, especially during the first half of the film. Maybe the reels to assemble this release were taken from different releases? Regardless of this speculation, the high amount grain gives the DVD a very “digital” look due to the compression latching on to it. The compression artefacts of the DVD are very active on that film grain making the picture look digitally gritty. Yet, there are other times when the film looks great.
Colours are typical of that seen in the ‘80s, which is slightly muted and lacking a punch. But still, I never felt like I was missing anything either; it’s just the limitation of the source. Contrast is also fine but not great. Black levels are a little higher than I’d like to see them.
Since the film is soft looking, edge enhancement has been applied somewhere in the chain of taking this film to video. There are many shots of people and animals in the foreground with a bright blue sky in the background. Of course, there is no smooth transition between these two, just this big, bright white line outlining it all. This enhancement does nothing to imitate real detail; it’s just a real distraction.
While Anchor Bay may have done their best to transfer this film to video, the end result leaves more to be desired.
AUDIO QUALITY /
On the upside, The Beastmaster has both a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround soundtrack and a DTS-ES 6.1 discrete soundtrack. This is the same soundtrack repurposing effort that appeared on the previous DVD. The original Dolby Stereo soundtrack is not included on this disc (or the previous disc) but the new soundtrack is very good.
Thankfully, this new soundtrack is not aggressive in the treble. I’ve heard many repurposed soundtracks that scream high-frequencies and are very unpleasant to listen too. Most of the soundtrack is very smooth through the top end although it is limited in its fidelity. The limitations of the soundtrack due to age are very apparent giving all sounds a thinner and less dynamic appearance. The orchestral music soundtrack sounds very good but also is limited to the recording quality used at the time giving it a slightly “honky” sound. There were some frequencies in this music soundtrack that made my tweeter on my right-channel Focus Audio FC-50 speaker resonate a few times at the end of the film. That was the first time I ever heard the resonant frequency of that tweeter and it didn’t make me happy. Fault of the speaker? Yes. But I didn’t like that sound. Bass is present to give more body to the soundtrack. It is also nice to see that bass comes from my full-range surround channels as well, not just the LFE.
The dimensionality of the soundstage is excellent giving good sense of depth and soundstage width. Sounds are placed all around the soundstage during the most climatic moments. Use of the center rear speaker is also apparent in many scenes. Music dominates the surround channels to create a larger soundstage, although its effectiveness is diminished slightly because of being too loud. It sounds as if this soundtrack has the surround channel up a few dBs too high. When the music plays, there is definitely a slightly heavier presence to the audio in the rear soundstage. This is apparent when applying both Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES decoding so the problem lies before the encoding to disc. One way to get around it is to turn your surround levels down about 2dB, but that is something that no one wants to do.
There are differences between the Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES soundtracks. First, and most apparent, is the discrete nature of the sixth full-range channel (center-rear) in the DTS-ES soundtrack in comparison to the Dolby Pro-Logic matrix derived center-rear in Dolby’s EX soundtrack. The DTS-ES soundtrack has a much wider rear soundstage and doesn’t collapse and sound flat like the resulting Dolby Digital EX. Thus, the DTS-ES soundtrack provides a little more “wrap-around” sound, stretching beyond the outsides of the left-right rear channels to work with the front speakers. The Dolby Digital EX soundtrack is more limited in between rear-channels left-center-right.
Another notable difference is LFE presence. Bass is slightly greater in level in the LFE channel using DTS than it is using Dolby. But, bass is slightly higher in level in the main channels when listening to the Dolby soundtrack over the DTS. In terms of creating a sense of space in the front soundstage, both soundtracks did equally well.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
Some of the special features from the previous DVD have been carried over to this new special edition. The theatrical trailer, talent bios and the audio commentary were features on the previous DVD. Much of the information in the commentary is also included in the new feature called The Saga of the Beastmaster. This is new to DVD documentary featuring interviews with Director Don Coscarelli, Producer Paul Pepperman, actors Marc Singer and Tanya Roberts and others. This 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen feature runs for about an hour compared to the previous disc that included some behind the scenes footage. It shows a lot of 8mm behind the scenes footage as well as some outtakes, especially for those Tanya Roberts fans.
Also new to this DVD are behind the scenes photos, poster, production & advertising art, production stills as well as a DVD-ROM feature containing the original screenplay of the film before politics and studio involvement.
IN THE END…
If you own the previous DVD, this new documentary may merit an upgrade although the little added material hardly earns a “special edition” tag. The video quality falls short of many other DiviMax transfers from Anchor Bay, and because I haven’t seen the previous DVD I really can’t tell if there are many improvements. I’d really like to say there are; judging by the quality releases from Anchor Bay I’ll assume there is a little improvement. Although if you love The Beastmaster and all you own is a pan and scan copy on VHS, this new release might be a DVD to look in to.