Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (Sylvio Tabet, 1991)

In an ancient land ruled by a ruthless tyrant, a musclebound man wearing a buckskin diaper and an improperly tied headband must depend on his friends in the animal kingdom if he expects to survive. Getting him out of a wide array of jams and sticky pickles, Ruh, the tiger, is his strength, ferrets Kodo and Podo are his thieves, and Sharak, the eagle, is his eyes. We all have friends in the animal kingdom, but how does this fella get them to do stuff for him? Well, it helps that you were born with special powers. (Wow, it sounds like this guy is a master when it comes to communicating with beasts. Wait, now that I think about it, you could call him a "beast master.") It's funny that your thoughts would lead you to call him that, as I just watched a film called Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time, a pseudo-documentary about a fitness freak/animal lover who learns to say "asshole, " is introduced to rock 'n' roll, and saves the world from nuclear annihilation all within the span of a single day. Of course, he can't accomplish any of those things all by himself. No, he needs help. And a card-carrying member of the kowabunga generation, a tiger, two ferrets, and an eagle are the ones who go out of their way to provide him with the necessary assistance he so desperately needs. I'll get to the kowabunga pusher in a minute, as I would just like to say how amazing the CGI was in this film. The animals looked so realistic. Hold up, what's that? What do you mean the animals seen throughout this film weren't created using a computer, that's kooky-talk. They were real animals?!?

You mean when the tiger jumps on one of the henchmen that was trying to stab Dar (Marc Singer), that it wasn't a digital effect? (That's right.) Well then, it must have been stop-motion animation tiger, right? (Nope.) A puppet, perhaps? (Uh-uh.) How 'bout an optical illusion? (No, it was a real tiger.) Damn. It makes you think, why does Ang Lee get all the praise for making the tiger-centric Life of Pi, a film based on a book that was deemed unfilmable, when Sylvio Tabet did the whole tiger thing twenty years earlier?

Now, I've seen real animals used in countless movies in the past, and I've even seen countless real animals killed as well, but there was something extra special about the animal work in this movie. Was it because they were integral to the plot? I guess. But it went beyond that. The bond between Marc Singer and his animal friends seemed genuine.

The henchman I mentioned earlier, by the way, wasn't trying to stab Dar, he was about to cut his head off. Convicted by a kangaroo court set up by Arklon (Wings Hauser), the ruler of this realm, for supporting the rebels and practicing witchcraft, Dar is about to feel the blade of the executioner on the back of his neck, when his animal friends come to the rescue.

As he's freeing himself, Sharak claws up Arklon's face. Don't worry, he didn't lose an eye, but the damage caused by Sharak's razor-sharp talons has forced Arklon to wear a leather covering over the right side of his face.

Meanwhile, the rebels are marching in search of Arklon's forces. Stopping in a gorge, their leader asks his men to bring forth "the witch." Here it comes, the moment we've all been waiting for. Boom! We have Sarah Douglas. I repeat, Sarah Douglas is on the screen. Playing Lyranna, she uses her powers to help the rebels locate Arklon's forces. Of course, she doesn't tell them they're about to be ambushed by said forces. And why would she? (Um, the leader of the rebels says he will cleave, yeah, that's right, I said, cleave, her "black heart from her bosom.") Oh, really? I'd like to see him try. Besides, he's going to have a hard time cleaving anything with an arrow through his neck.

Using the Key of Magog (a glorified laser gun/magic key), Arklon blasts the rebels into oblivion with relative ease. When the smoke finally clears, Lyranna offers Arklon her services. Promising him ultimate power, Lyranna tells Arklon that she can serve up the world to him on a silver platter. Not fully convinced, Arklon agrees to hear out the shapely sorceress, but informs her that he will cleave her black heart from her bosom at the first sign of treachery.

(When is Kari Wuhrer going to show up?) Soon. But first, Dar needs to have a chat with a swamp creature. Learning that his long lost brother is the source of all evil in the universe, he is told that he must destroy him in order to save the world. The swamp creature doesn't say exactly who is his long lost brother is, but he does inform him that he can be found in the "western region."

Showing Arklon a dimensional portal, Lyranna says something called a "neutron detonator" is the key to dominating the planet. And the location of such a device is on the other side of the dimensional portal in a place called "El Ae." Of course, we know it as "L.A." or "Los Angeles," but the way Arklon and Lyranna pronounce it is so much better. In fact, if ruling the world doesn't quite work out for Arklon and Lyranna, I wouldn't mind seeing them try their hand as a comedy duo, as they have great chemistry together.

Even though we've seen the El Ae skyline through the dimensional portal, it was still jarring to see Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer) driving her red Porsche through the streets of Los Angeles. Either way, Jackie, a bubbly teen who watches Jeopardy!, like, everyday, finds herself in Arklon's realm when her red Porsche comes crashing through the dimensional portal. Managing to escape Arklon's men, Jackie drives her red Porsche until it runs out of gas. And guess who she runs into while wandering the desert? Dar and his animal friends, that's who. Thinking Dar is a crazed biker at first, Jackie soon realizes that this is a different "western region" all-together.

Through circumstances that could be construed as convoluted, Dar, Ruh, Kodo, Jackie, Lyranna, Podo, Sharak, and Arklon all wind up in El Ae. The destruction and chaos they leave in their wake is investigated by a Lt. Coberly (James Avery) and Bendowski (Robert Fieldsteel), a couple of local detectives.

Now, I don't know what I liked better, Lyranna and Arklon shopping for clothes at a trendy Hollywood boutique or Jackie giving Dar a guided tour of scenic Sunset Blvd. While on the one hand, the shopping scene has Sarah Douglas in a blue sequined number, Rex Pierson in a yellow tie, and a leggy Jeanne Pfleiger is wearing black nylons. The tour of Sunset Blvd. features authentic L.A. street culture: Adult book stores, Ness Shoes, gaudy signage, The Frolic Room, and the movie Ghost is playing at every other theatre.

How 'bout this, let's just say I liked both equally and move on. As I was in the process of moving on, it dawned on me that the plot of this film is almost exactly the same as Masters of the Universe. The only difference being, Marc Singer is slightly better than Dolph Lundgren in terms of acting ability. Anyway, a somewhat passable chunk of piece of filmed entertainment if I ever saw one, Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time is campy fun for the whole family.


  1. What a movie, my friend!!! What a movie...!!! A Bad (and sad) sequel.

    1. Beastmaster 2 was recommended to me by Adam "Riot" Thorn, director of Personal Space Invader. All blame should be hurled in their general direction. ;)