This review is for "Beastmaster: Complete Collection" 18 Disc DVD Set
September 29, 2008: "ADV Replies To Inquiry About The Scarcity Of 'Beastmaster: Complete Collection'."
I received an email from ADV concerning the scarcity of this DVD set, which I have placed, along with my email to them, in the comments [9/30/08--I have also copied a notice posted on tvshowsondvd.com concerning the cancellation of this set]. I was deeply saddened to read that the available copies are essentially "mistakes;" and those of us that have them are more than a little lucky. I can only iterate what the customer service rep states: "Hopefully ADV will be able to release this in the future." For all of you who have not been able to find it, I suggest writing to ADV encouraging them to release the set--squeaky wheals usually get greased!
Andre Norton's (noms de plume for author Alice Mary Norton) "Beast Master," first published in 1959, established themes that were common to many of her books: 1) the plot takes place in the open countryside, with only short episodes in a city environment. Protagonists usually move about singly or in small groups, and in conflict situations they are more often scouts, spies or guerillas rather than regular soldiers in large military formations; 2) locations are usually earth like places, where humans can live without special protection, and have extensive flora and fauna which are described in considerable detail and often have substantial bearing on the plot; 3) the presence of sympathetically presented feudal and tribal cultures (particularly Navajo culture); and, 4) the important role of animals--both ordinary ones, such as cats, and exotic fictional ones, like unicorns, whose characteristics are meticulously worked out. The animals are often highly intelligent without being anthropomorphic, acting as virtually full partners to the human protagonists and frequently they form telepathic links with each other. AND THESE THEMES ARE THE BEST DESCRIPTION OF "BEASTMASTER" POSSIBLE.
While the character in the book, Hosteen Storm, travels between planets within the context of these themes, the story line establishes the basis for the first movie, "Beastmaster" (1982). In the movie, the main character, Dar, plays out the themes within the context of a fantasy story set in an imaginary world of sorcery and magic: Dar, with the help of a "companions" Seth and Kiri, seeks "vengeance" against warlord/sorcerer Maax. "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time" (1991) renews the interplanetary nature of the book as Dar travels to earth, and its inherent "evil," technology, and lack "earthliness." Then in "Beastmaster: The Eye of Braxus" (1996) Dar, while wandering with his animal companions, chances to meet and "rescue" a family who seek the help of King Tal, Dar's brother and "King," against Lord Agon, a sorcerer who has conquered their land.
"Beastmaster: Complete Collection" (1999-2002), then, with some minor changes, picks up the story of Dar after the lands have been ransacked and Dar's family and tribe have been essentially wiped out. Employing Andre Norton's four basic themes, the television series' arcs parallel the plots of the three movies (which may be why both the second movie and the second season are often seen as the weakest by some). The arc of the first season tells the story of Dar (played by Daniel Goddard): (1) Dar finding out about who he is and what his hopes and dreams are; (2) Dar forming his "new family"--Ru, a tiger friend; Koto and Poto, two expelled ferret friends; Sharak, who was once a man (played by Daniel Fitzgerald), but was turned into an eagle because of his deep love for the Sorceress (played by Monika Schnarre); Curupira (played by Emilie de Ravin), a demon who is the guardian of all the animals and has granted Dar his ability to speak with the animals; and Tao (i.e., Seth), played by Jackson Raine, who is sort of trickster character with knowledge of plants and "Science;" (3) Dar's search for his soul mate, Kyra (i.e., Kiri), played by Natalie Jackson Mendoza--who is first captured by King Zad, played by Steven Grives, and then hidden by The Ancient One, played by Grahame Bond; and (4) Dar recognizing and attempting to understand the idea (also the over riding series arc) that the world is changing, civilization is advancing, technology is gaining ground slowly, the old orders of magic and sorcery are fading, and the world is threatened by the supernatural being Balcifer, the Dark One, played by Jeremy Callaghan.
The arc of the second season, as with the second movie, finds Dar and his companions coming dangerously close to loosing to the spread of "civilizations" or material culture, the damage of technologically "advanced" tribes, and the losses of Kyra (killed in the last episode of season one), Curupira, and the Sorceress--although he gains a new friend in a former enemy, Arina, played by Marjean Holden. Tao's ways of logic and science increasingly challenge and intercede into Dar's world; indeed, Xinca (visually looking like an Inca city) becomes the focus of many of the episodes, rather than the "outdoors/forests." "Tribal" customs are caving in face of rampant "civilized" materialism and greed. Dar's ability to be the Beastmaster is constantly challenged and eroded by events and actions precipitated by others.
The third season arc, like the third movie, brings the story full circle, as Dar finds out from Dartanus (played by Marc Singer, who "poetically" played Dar in the three movies), a Spirit Warrior, who informs Dar that he is really the son of King Eldar, who was killed by Balcifer the last time he attempted to take over the world (the first "Beastmaster" movie?). As such, Dar is the only person who can stop Balcifer, the Dark One, from taking over the world by "rescuing" his family, who were turned into animals by his father to protect them from Balcifer's previous attempt to take over the world. Again, this all occurs within the context of Andre Norton's four themes.
"Beastmaster: Complete Collection" is fantasy cinema at its best. The stories are often fantastical, humorous, educational, and entertaining--like any great "tribal" or "trickster" story. Episodes frequently include stock footage of various wildlife that adds to the vastness of the story. Season 2 and 3 have some interesting question and answer bonus features with Danial Goddard. The only real blemish is with the DVD editing, as the breaks for commercials are frequently poorly done. If you are looking for good, fun, entertainment, "Beastmaster: Complete Collection" is top notch. I have contacted ADV Films to inquire as to why this set is out of print already, as it just came out on August 5, 2008! So, hopefully, I can update this with their "justification" for not making this set more available.
If this review was not helpful to you, I would appreciate learning the reason(s) so I can improve my reviews. My goal is to provide help to potential buyers, not get into any arguments. So, if you only disagree with my opinion, could you please say so in the comments and not indicate that the review was not helpful. Thanks.