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The Beastmaster – 1982
42% rotten tomatoes
Budget was $8M, and didn’t gross much more than that.
Rip Torn is in this movie!!!! – Full disclosure – I haven’t watched this yet, so my commentary may be somewhat lacking tonight.
Okay, so apparently Rip Torn magically takes an unborn fetus out of this lady and puts it into an ox… giving him some witchy ESP that works on animals and making him a hunted outcast. I’m sure this will all make sense as I’m watching, and that Rip Torn has completely plausible motives and this was not just an overly elaborate way to do something that could have been accomplished by much simpler means.
To start off, the cover makes it totally look like this chick is one of the beasts that The Beastmaster masters. She’s crouching down there by his feet with the panther, and has a similar look of generic ferocity.
So, not knowing anything about this movie, I have focused on this animal ESP thing. The Beastmaster is not the only cult hero that can commune with animals. An article in Screen Rant has listed fifteen superheroes can “talk to animals,” but in some cases it’s really more cooperating with or manipulating or having an affinity for animals. We shall commence!
- Catwoman (DC; Villain) – so, cannon does not give her any ability to talk to cats; she just enjoys a mutual affinity. A few of the movie and TV incarnations have played with this though, giving her magical cat herding abilities.
- Professor X (MV; Hero) – this kind of feels like a cheat since he can psychically override just about anything with a brain.
- Vixen (DC; Hero) – this seems like a fairly racist one; she can channel animal powers, but mostly African animals, since she was born there, but maybe not, since the amulet that gives her this power was stolen from one of the African gods. I’m not sure how that one shakes out.
- Circe (DC; Villain) – Okay, this one is fairly deep. She based on the Circe from Homer’s Odyssey, who was the witch that turned the sailors into pigs. Supposedly she can communicate with real animals, but mostly controls the humans that she has turned into animals.
- Moonstar (Marvel; Hero) – She seems to be able to connect telepathically with animals, rather than control them, to see through their eyes and feel what they feel.
- Beast Boy (DC; Hero) – He can shapeshift into animals (the result of an experimental medical treatment), but cannot communicate very articulately to them.
- Hawkman/Hawkgirl (DC; Heros) – These two have really complicated and conflicting storylines, and so the ability to communicate with and control birds is erratic, but stems from their alien technology.
- Koi Boy and Chipmunk Hunk (Marvel; Heroes) – Ummmm. Yeah. Pretty much what you would think.
- Chat (Marvel; Hero) – The ScreenRant article describes her as a Snow White figure – animals love her and happily do her bidding.
- Nature Girl (Marvel; Hero) – She can communicate with and command animals, and even plants and demons.
- Wonder Woman (DC; Hero) – This is an ability based on her being an Amazon – she can easily communicate with and control animals, and is depicted as actual speech instead of empathy.
- Animal Man (DC; Hero) – This fella has a complicated backstory involving reanimation and an alien force field. He’s got it all – he can shapeshift, control any animal, take on their abilities, and communicate with them.
- Ant-Man and Wasp (Marvel; Heroes) – Ant-Man uses his helmet to communicate with ants; he doesn’t control them exactly, but they seem to like him and play along. Wasp’s powers come from genetic modification.
- Squirrel Girl (Marvel; Hero) – Again, it’s all there in the name.
1. Aquaman (DC; Hero) – He can communicate with sea life, and his pet companion is a frickin’ kraken.
So clearly the comic books characters have various and varying abilities as regards animal manipulation. So what comes to mind when you think of animal communication in the real world? Perhaps the most badass talent – snake charming!
Funny story – I recently got into a debate with my husband about snake charming and whether or not it was a real thing – I was convinced it was one of those overblown racist misinterpretations of a foreign culture during the time that the British Empire was trying to take over the world. We know snakes don’t really hear, and music always factors greatly into portrayals on TV (that same damn tune, which is actually a song called “The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid”, and is also often associated with the hoochie coochie belly dance (which is often provocative in nature) – partial lyrics are as follows: “Soak your ass in the tureen/If it’s hot it burns/If it burns it’s that it’s hot!” other variations: “There’s a place in France/Where the ladies where no pants/But the men don’t care/’Cause they don’t wear underwear”)
I found a Popular Science article explaining that the music is actually just there for entertainment value; what controls the snake is the charmer waving the flute thingy in the snake’s face. The snake interprets it as a threat and what we see is the snake rising in a defensive pose. The snake sways in response to the swaying of the flute thingy. So, essentially the charmer is using his flute to pick a fight with a snake. Which is still a pretty cool display of evolutionary defensive instincts if you think about it, but it still seems kind of mean. As for my husband, I’m calling this one a draw. The snakes are not charmed so much as they’re provoked, but it is a real thing that happens, so I guess we’re tied.
Sadly, NPR reports that snake charming is a dying art. I’m ambiguous on this one because perhaps the snakes aren’t really having a great time here, but this is also a cultural art with a lot of history, and it’s always sad to see something like that go away, especially if the snakes are treated humanely, which I have no way of knowing. Animal rights activists are venomously opposed to the practice (har, har), but the charmers themselves seem to respect the snakes, the good ones, anyway. There are some terrible people out there who apparently mutilate the animals to make sure they aren’t dangerous, but some insist that their taming methods are humane and the snakes are eventually released back into the wild.
There is a wildlife group in India that is trying to re-purpose remaining snake charmers so that they would be employed removing dangerous snakes from populated areas and relocating them to wilder areas. I feel like that’s a win-win – the snakes are no longer in danger of exploitation, and these artists don’t lose their livelihoods. The article hits it on the head though, and states that the real loss is the charmer’s flute, which the snakes don’t even hear anyway.
So what else, Nikki? What have we personally been exposed to semi-recently? In a giant castle that looked like it was made of Lego blocks? That’s right! Falconry! And horsemanship!
So, when I think of falconry, I automatically think of Samwell Tarly and his ravens, or the Owlery in Harry Potter, or carrier pigeons, sending spy messages during WWII. The reality isn’t quite so sexy, but it’s still pretty cool, albeit extremely nerdy. According to the North America Falconers Association, it takes at least seven years to become a master falconer. There is an apprenticeship involved (as with all awesome trades) and the daily time commitment is intense. You also have to have access to an adequate amount of land. This is not a hobby for apartment dwellers. Falconers are also required to be humane and eco-responsible.
Speaking of carrier pigeons… they have a long history of carrying message for us earthbound humans. There are references to pigeon mail in the bible, and they’ve been used to convey messages during war all over the world throughout much of history, up until recently. And guess what! You can still have messages sent via homing pigeons. Well, sort of. There’s a company in Texas that will take your message, have a homing pigeon fly around with it, then attach it to a letter of authenticity and mail it (via conventional methods) to your recipient. Their website is pigeongram.com, if anyone out there is interested. It’s not terribly expensive, and it’s fairly adorable. Frighteningly for me, there is no statement of humane treatment on their website, but I’m trying not to jump to conclusions. I’m sure their pigeons are very well cared for.
Alright, moving on to horses, my personal soft spot. Tween-age me was 100% Tina from Bob’s burgers. I had horse posters everywhere – a horse Trapper Keeper, horse books, notebooks, I even managed to get myself a job at a stable when I was 12 so I could work for my lessons (cause we was broke as hell) and during that time all my best friends were horses (I’m not even joking). PBS did an article about horse whispering. This really boils down to people who are really good at communicating with horses through non-supernatural means. Just as some people have an uncanny ability to hit a ball speeding at their face with a stick of wood, some folks have a great talent for sending and understanding cues with certain animals. Animals have personalities just like people, and like some people are able to get along with anybody, some people seem able to get along with any horse. The article states that often this understanding is the result of a lot of work, and a compatible partnership between human and horse. People that put a lot of time and effort into learning how to decipher cues from their horses, and send cues the horses can interpret, earn the title of horse whisperer. I think this is true for any animal, and in some cases these skills may translate across different types of animals, but that’s just my opinion.
In the storied comic tradition of heroes or villains rallying animals to help them, we some real world, though less dramatic, examples of that as well. Therapy animals! Animal therapy is one of my favorite things that exists in the world. I always had animals growing up and I’ve always had a love and respect for them. I benefited a lot from horse friends – I had a lot of low self esteem as a kid; we moved around a lot and I was always the outsider. But when I was with our dogs, or with the horses at the stable, they didn’t care about any of that crap. They were affectionate to me without me worrying that it was a cruel trick or pity or a social project. My dog doesn’t care if I get fat or don’t wash my hair. It’s very liberating and a warm, furry emotional band-aid.
Therapy animals have been found to be helpful in everything from rehabilitation to PTSD to social disorders and physical disabilities and depression. http://www.equestriantherapy.com/ claims that horses are the most utilized species of therapy animal, but of course dogs and cats commonly fill this role as well.
Favorite Quote: “I’m Dar.” – Dar
What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!