For those who've forgotten - and it has been nine years, after all - "The Beastmaster" was one of dozens of sword-and-sorcery epics that followed hot on the heels of "Conan the Barbarian's" popularity.
The twist with "The Beastmaster" was that the title character was more of a sympathetic hero, and he communed with the animals - specifically a pair of thieving ferrets, an eagle and a panther (actually, a tiger painted black). It was also set apart by its PG rating, while most of its competitors were hard R-rated fare.Now comes "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time," described in the press kit as "the long-awaited sequel."
That may be overstating it, but Marc Singer is back as Dar, the Beastmaster, and he still has his two pet ferrets (never mind that one died at the end of the first film), his eagle and a tiger . . . with the same name as the first film's panther. (Maybe they hadn't budgeted for paint.)
The sequel begins with a look and style that resemble its predecessor, as Dar is captured by a new villain named Arklon (played by Wings Hauser - which is a funnier name than Arklon). He's peeved because Dar is leading the peasants in a revolt against him, and he's about to have Dar beheaded when the animals come to the rescue. For good measure, the eagle plucks out one of Arklon's eyes.
Eventually, Arklon links up with a witch named Lyranna (Sarah Douglas, best known as the evil superwoman of "Superman II"), who speaks in '90s American slang, rather than the medieval mumbo-jumbo Arklon is used to.
It seems she has discovered a time warp, or "portal," if you prefer, and has been studying modern-day Los Angeles. She offers to help Arklon go there so he can obtain a nuclear device that will allow him to rule his world . . . which looks pretty post-apocalyptic already.
To draw in the teen audience, the film adds the character of a hip, reckless girl (Kari Wuhrer) who is the daughter of a California senator. She drives her Porsche right through the portal and into the world of Dar and Arklon. After some "Am I in the Twilight Zone?" jokes, Arklon takes her through the portal to Los Angeles in search of the nuclear device, and Dar follows. You can probably guess the rest.
There are lots of fish-out-of-water gags, one-liners about how decadent modern Los Angeles is and, of course, anachronisms and special effects galore. What we have here is "Conan the Barbarian" meets "Robin Hood" by way of "Back to the Future" with some " `Crocodile' Dundee" thrown in. Not to mention "Tarzan's New York Adventure," or "Tarzan in Manhattan," if you prefer.
This is all pretty silly, and the five credited screenwriters (including first-time director Sylvio Tabet) play it strictly for laughs. That would be OK if the dialogue were clever enough or the situations funny enough - but they aren't.
The two women in the film, Wuhrer and Douglas, each have more than their share of wisecracks to deliver, but they're all fairly lame. And Hauser is way over the top, in a portrayal that is more campy than sinister.
Singer tries gamely to go along with all this, but he often just looks embarrassed. Of course, if you were running around Los Angeles in a loincloth . . . .
"Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time" is rated PG-13 for considerable violence, some profanity and a brief sex scene on a TV screen - not to mention Douglas' outfits, which often reveal more cleavage than Elvira.