The Beastmaster with Don Coscarelli

Who doesn’t love The Beastmaster?  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched it.  Marc Singer was the coolest; talking with animals & slaughtering the Jun Horde was just awesome. How could my viewing pleasure be any better?

Crypticon Seattle topped all my previous viewings with a screening featuring live commentary with director Don Coscarelli, Crypticon board member Steve Lange, and Seattle comedians Emmett Montgomery and Elicia Sanchez.
It started out as fun facts and turned into a home show version of Mystery Science Theater.  Besides adding little known facts like a guy at an S & M shop designed the costumes and claws for the mindless Death Guards, there were also hysterical comments throughout.  For example, during the scene where Tanya Roberts falls and her butt shows.   Don comments, “I always liked that shot.”

The small venue (about 25 people) allowed audience members to ask questions about their favorite scenes.  One viewer wanted to know how Don was able to get such great footage of the hawk soaring.  Don replied the hawk only soared as it was landing.  Therefore, they put it in a bird cage and attached the cage to helium balloons.  When the cage was high enough, they triggered the door to open and filmed the bird as it soared down to its trainer.
Sometimes comments did lean toward the adult viewing pleasure.  Picture the scene:  camera angle from the end of a rope cropped tightly around Marc Singer’s hands as he pulls the rope through a ring, then Elicia Sanchez utters, “Great shot, very sexual.”  In another scene, Roberts kisses Singer and asks if he will now come with them.  Emmett Montgomery replies, “I’m gonna *** all over you” while Singer just smiles on screen. 

The comments continued intermingled with Don’s ‘cool facts.’  Did you know that the Death Guard’s mask didn’t have any eye sockets?  “That’s right,” Don chuckled, “the actor kept running into walls.”  Now go back and watch this movie at home.  Try not to crack up when you see the Death Guard running aimlessly though hallways swinging his arms so he wouldn’t run into a wall, I dare ya.  
There were also other hazards in the Jun Horde temple.  The torches used put out black smoke.  The entire crew wore breathing masks while the actors completed the scenes.  The make-up people continually used Q-tips to clean out the actors’ nostrils.  Don said he chuckles when he sees the one shot where Roberts has black around her nose.

Don also shared limitations on budget. The scene when Singer meets his father has them surrounded by local dirt farmers.  It was shot at night in a Simi Valley.  Dan hired local homeless people since the budget only allowed for $25 a day per person.  “It was freezing outside.  We gave them robes and huddled them by fires.  They looked like dirt farmers.”
One day Singer came to the set making a honking sound.  Don said he asked him he was making that noise.  Singer replied, “I have to talk to the hawk.”  Singer continued practicing his ‘hawk’ sound all day.  The next time singer saw the cat, he started going, “Grrrrr.”

As the movie was ending (spoiler alert), one of the ferrets falls into a fiery pit.  The entire saddened audience went, “Awwwwe.”  To which Don replied, “Someone had to die.” Then poof!  The sadness was gone.  Don continued, “In the original script Robert’s character died, but the producers over ruled me.”
This is my new favorite way to watch eighties movies.  Instead of a scripted director’s commentary on DVDs, I think they should include a taping of the director and two comedians watching the movie.  It’s much more interesting. 

I want to thank Don Coscarelli for sharing his memories and poking fun at his cult classic.  Wonderful idea Crypticon Seattle, this should be an annual event.  Maybe Don with Phantasm next year.


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