Marc Singer's most popular movie, "The Beastmaster," was released in 1982. And it's taken an unusually long time to get a sequel off the ground.
Nine years later, however, "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time," is set to open in theaters all over the country on Friday, Aug. 30."I was surprised after all this time," Singer said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "I had given up all hope that we would explore the character or story of `The Beastmaster' anymore, but I was excited to get a crack at it. And there's talk now of a `Beastmaster 3.' "
If you're wondering what Singer's been up to in the meantime, not to worry - he certainly hasn't been idle. It's just that his movies, in general, have not played in American theaters. Mostly low-budget, B-action pictures, they tend to go straight to cable or video, though they do have a theatrical life overseas.
"I've made 12 to 15 movies in just the last three years," Singer said. The number seemed so staggering I asked him to repeat it. "Oh, yeah, I don't want to be stuck making a movie or two a year. I want to work as often and as much as I can. A batter steps up and gets a true average by being constantly in the game, not by being selective. There are a lot of people in this business who would be envious of working that much."
And it was cable and video that made "The Beastmaster" a hit, after a lethargic domestic theatrical release.
"According to the Turner network, `The Beastmaster' is one of the top 10 most requested films from the MGM library, so you just never know when you make something what will happen to it."
For the uninitiated, "The Beastmaster" was one of a spate of sword-and-sorcery pictures that followed in the wake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Conan the Barbarian" success. But it was less bloody, earning a PG rating, and had the gimmick of the title character being able to communicate with animals. His constant companions are a tiger, an eagle and a pair of mischievous ferrets.
"I think that `The Beastmaster' was more aimed toward children," Singer says, "but when I first read the script I thought it would be a much darker and more grim movie than the way it turned out. It turned out to be charming and cheerful and uplifting."
The sequel goes a step farther, however, as the Beastmaster finds himself transported to modern-day Los Angeles - and this time the movie is played almost strictly for laughs. "They wanted it tongue in cheek and they created a script that certainly is that. But that just goes to show the broad range in `The Beastmaster' yet to be explored. And we've seen that in the `Star Trek' series; each film has a particular flavor of its own.
"The nice thing about the fantasy genre is that you can go in any direction you want. We hope the audience will wonder where they came from when they step out of the heat into the cool theater.
"We had a lot of fun making the sequel. It was a wild experience wearing a leather hula skirt, chasing a tiger in downtown L.A."
Singer finds a lot of his popularity comes from other countries, but most of it isn't from his movies. "I receive enormous batches of fan mail, mostly regarding the television series `V,' which seems to be running the circuit around Europe right now. I've gotten mail from Germany, Italy, France, England, Spain."
And he acknowledges the advent of cable and video for keeping his career alive in this country. "Actually, it's a very encouraging thing that the video market and cable market provide an outlet. Some of my work that's shown up there is the work I'm most proud of - `Body Chemistry' and `Watchers II' are two that have played lately on cable. There's a very gratifying response from the audience, and it's a good way to reach people who otherwise wouldn't get a chance to see their favorite performers at work."
Lately, Singer says he's turned his attentions more directly to television, with a pair of recent made-for-cable movies, "High Desert Kill" and "The Deadly Game." "And sometimes I hear rumors that there's going to be a revival of `V,' but I await further developments. I thought that first miniseries was some of finest television ever produced. I take my hat off to the people who did that one."
He's also enjoying a variety of roles, rather than playing the same kinds of of people over and over. "In `Body Chemistry' I played a character in an obsessive relationship with a woman, a deadly relationship in fact. In the film I'm about to start, I play the sheriff of a small town that has allowed illegal toxic waste dumping down a mine shaft. It's called `Sweet Justice.'
"It's very gratifying to me that I've been able to do these different kinds of roles, because there is a tendency to be stereotyped in this industry."