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Category:    Home > Reviews > Adventure > Fantasy > Swords > Sorcery > Beastmaster - Divimax Edition (1982/Anchor Bay DVD)

The Beastmaster Ė Divimax Edition

 

Picture: B†††† Sound: B+†††† Extras: B†††† Film: B-

 

 

The 80ís were something of a heyday for the sword and sorcery genre in general, and movies tackling the subject were really starting to pick up, even though they might have been a decade behind the trends set by the revival of the Conan books and other major fantasy series that had been gaining interest at the time in printed media.There was still demand enough - and perhaps even more so, due in large part to an interest for the subject matter that had been planted in an even younger audience for all sorts of fantasy that followed soon after the mania of Star Wars and other variously successful ventures which were scattered throughout different realms within the genre.Don Coscarelli decided at some point to engage himself in one of these features for a change of pace.Prior to this, he had worked only on lower-budgeted projects, most famously the first installment of the Phantasm series that would later spawn three sequels, all directed by Coscarelli.It turned out to be an interesting experiment, and a classic that needed a nudge in the form of video rentals in order to catch on with its target audience.The Beastmaster (1982) remains a favorite and Anchor Bay has given it their Divimax treatment.

 

The movie is at times a captivating one - but it is an unusual step off of the path, considering this particular directorís vibrant creativity, in terms of how few concepts it actually brings to the table that might be considered fresh ideas.Itís not exactly a chore to sit through now, but I found the whole experience more enthralling when I was a bit younger and it perhaps felt like a more lush production than what the budget actually allowed for.Still, there is a lot to be said for a movie this epic that can turn a very limited budget on its head and create new ways to get around various monetary pitfalls.On top of any problems that were encountered during the actual shooting phase, the editing of the project was soon forced into other hands, and the director was relegated to merely witnessing his film pieced together by others beyond his reach of control.Those responsible did an acceptable job, but its impossible to tell how much better a cut from Coscarelli himself would have been.All said and done, The Beastmaster is a respectable effort, and one that a younger audience can definitely still appreciate to the fullest, even if its formula might have grown tired for an older generation.

 

The video quality of this anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 release is a clear cut above what was on the older Anchor Bay DVD release, but I canít say that itís exactly mind-blowing.It seems that Anchor Bay is starting to more liberally apply the Divimax treatment to their releases, and perhaps not taking the extra time to ensure that they turn out according to their fullest potential, as they were with the first couple discs that were released utilizing the process.Regardless, that widescreen presentation still looks good and is above par as far as recent DVD prints go.The sound is exceptional, being in DTS-ES 6.1 surround, while the original film was old analog Dolby A-type noise reduction.The age of the original source is apparent, but this is a nice-enough upgrade to go with the digital HD transfer.For the record, the sequel was Dolbyís better analog SR system, so weíll see how that fares if that comes out in a new DVD.

 

Extras include a well-produced featurette on the making of and reflections upon the production, which includes some behind-the-scenes footage taken during the filming, as well as new interviews with the cast and crew as they look back on the experience.Youíll also get a very good commentary track with more production insights.On top of these, youíll find the run of the mill kinds of things suck as the obligatory trailer, bios, and art/photo galleries. Liner notes are included as well, and though not extensive or lengthy, they are nice to have - though sadly they were printed on the back of a fold-out poster along with the chapter selection... so much for something to stick on my wall.

 

Sadly enough, Coscarelli has not since been given much of a chance to delve deeper into big-budget filmmaking, and his career as a whole has been fairly sporadic, rather than a steady outpour of films every couple of years.One hopes that he is soon given a budget where heíll be able to work out all the ideas in his head effectively and by his own means.While he has gotten a lot of attention recently through Bubba Ho-Tep (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and his contribution to the Masters of Horror TV series, there have been a couple turns of events beyond his control that may dampen getting a sizable budget for any project within the near future.Even though Bubba Ho-Tep was a surprise success on the DVD market, its audience turned out to still be somewhat limited and MGM jumped the gun once its early sales figures begin to rise.

 

This ultimately caused the disc to be well over-produced in the end as those who sought it out soon found it, leaving all the other copies behind to collect dust on store shelves.That probably doesnít bode well with Sony, the new owners of MGM, who might now be less prepared to fork over backing for potential sequels or entirely new ventures.

 

Pick this disc up while you can, itís a nicely put together set for the most part, even though it might show symptoms of being a little rushed.Hopefully for completists and fans, its two sequels will find their way onto the format soon enough - I can guarantee that thereís still a selling point for the latter chapters of the series, and the cult behind this still has potential to grow beyond its current status.

 

 

-†† David Milchick


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