Continuing our "theme" of made-for-television swords-and-sorcery movies, we turn our attention to the concluding chapter of the Beastmaster trilogy.I covered the beloved original back in 2011 here, and then the sequel - Through The Portal of Time - the following year, here.
Now, almost a decade later, I finally get round to reviewing Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus.
The beastmaster Dar (V's Marc Singer) is reunited with his young half- brother Tal (Starship Trooper's Casper Van Dien, sporting a most unconvincing wig) now ruler of the small barbarian kingdom of Aruk, and the warrior Seth (horror legend Tony Todd), both characters from the original movie, but now recast.
After Dar leaves Tal's encampment, it is set upon by Agon's Crimson Warriors (so-called because of their red-coloured sword blades) who kidnap the king and take him back to their master.
|You can't go wrong with David Warner|
Canny Tal had given half of the medallion to his wandering, nomadic brother for safe-keeping.
Driven to rescue his brother, Dar teams up Seth, who had been acting as Tal's advisor, and roguish-swordswoman Shada (Sandra Hess, who played Andrea Von Strucker in The Hoff's Marvel movie, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, and who has surprisingly coiffured hair for someone in her line of work).
Shada's loyalties tend to flip-flop, as she - rather successfully - plays both sides, and eventually picks the winning one.
As a love-interest for Dar, Shada was never going to measure up to Kiri (the late, lamented Tanya Roberts of Charlie's Angels fame) from the original Beastmaster, but she grew on me as her character developed.
Near-naked and constantly oiled-up Dar is never without his small coterie of telepathically-linked animal companions, a pair of ferrets (representing his cunning), a hawk (as his eyes), and a lion (for strength).
Oddly the lion has the same name - Ruh - as Dar's panther from the first film, but I suspect this is a similar naming convention to The Witcher's Geralt of Rivia always calling his horse Roach.
By the way, these aren't CGI creatures, but flesh-and-blood animals on the set, which does make a scene of the lion's capture slightly uncomfortable viewing, but I like to think the noble beast's handlers took good care of it.
After a run-in with some savage hill people, Seth, Dar, and Shada get to Agon's city, and decide to join a circus camped outside the walls, as a cover to smuggle themselves in.
Only the circus (which seems to have just two performers and a stable boy on staff) turns out to be run by an ex-lover of Seth's, Morgana (soap opera stalwart Lesley-Anne Down), who possesses a magical gem in her headband that can turn living things into animals.
|Morgana, Dar, and Shada|
I have to admit that I really enjoyed Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus, like the previous films in the franchise it neither takes itself too seriously nor sends-up its subject matter.
The low, made-for-TV, budget, and the steady hand of established television director Gabrielle Beaumont (who lists multiple episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Hill Street Blues, and L.A. Law, to name-check just a few, on her CV) lends an air of Xena: Warrior Princess and Legendary Journeys of Hercules to proceedings that prepares us mentally for the "man-in-a-rubber-suit" final Big Bad.
While David Wise's script has its plot wobbles on occasion and isn't going to win an Oscar, there's great evidence of world-building here. More places and people get actual names in Beastmaster III than most B-movie sword-and-sorcery flicks.
The cast may be small - and this makes for some comically empty backdrops to some scenes - but most of the named characters we meet are interesting and quirky.
So much of the story also has a very Conan feel to it, but it's just the budgetary limitations once again that prevent it from going full wide-screen barbarian, instead recasting Dar's band of brothers as a mismatched party of Dungeons & Dragons adventurers instead.
It's all a question of managing your expectations, if you go in expecting another chapter of Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings, you're going to be disappointed, but if you're looking for something more akin to Hercules or Xena then you can have a great time with this hour-and-a-half movie.
Yes, of course, it could have been so much better, but there's actually so much to enjoy that did make it onto the screen that I must confess I was pleasantly entertained by The Eye of Braxus.