Joe Bob Briggs

Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, TX

I have a question about Twister.
You know those little plastic thingies with whirlybirds on 'em that they throw up inside the tornado funnel at the end--the things that look like they're prizes out of a gumball machine?

We're all supposed to feel great, right, because Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt hoist those babies up in there?

Then they lose their truck, run through a cornfield, and barely avoid gettin' sucked into a giant meat-grinder that sucks their clothes off and deposits 'em on a pig farm three counties away.

And all this computer data comes in, and the Nerd Team rejoices: "We have readings!"

OK, here's my question: What about the next tornado? Do we have to go through this whole danged movie every time there's a tornado, with brain-damaged weather weenies racing down farm-to-market roads in four-wheel-drive vehicles, so that somebody can stick a barrel full of gumball prizes in the middle of the road?

I mean, we have readings on this one tornado. Anybody who's ever lived in West Texas for five minutes knows that there have never been two tornados that were exactly alike.

So is this supposed to be some kind of sacrifice-to-the-weather-gods thing, where employees of the National Weather Service volunteer to fling themselves into each new tornado so that we can have 10 extra minutes of warning time?

(Do you realize that's what the whole movie was about? Instead of five minutes of warning time, we now have 15 minutes, thanks to Bill and Helen and the creepy aunt who sat up on her stretcher and said, "Go and get that tornado!")

I just wanna know. At the end of the movie, what the heck happened? I know that 180 jillion people have seen the movie, so why can't a single person explain this?

Speaking of legendary American movie traditions, Marc "Beefcake Meister" Singer is back for the third time, flexing those deltoids and traveling the world with his psychic pets in Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus.

Remember in the first one, when they had a cast of millions and the Beastmaster traversed the globe with Gordie, the weatherman from The Mary Tyler Moore Show?

Well, he's still traversing the globe, but the globe looks a lot like San Diego, and he never fights more than three warriors at a time.

And he's no longer traveling with Gordie. This time it's the Candyman--the guy from the Clive Barker horror flicks!

Anyhow, it's a whole lot better that Beastmaster II, the one where the Beastmaster passed through a time warp and ended up in modern El Lay--but then that's kinda like saying it's better than perfume that's manufactured in Pakistan, right?

The "eye of Braxus" is one of those cheesy costume-jewelry amulets. It gets stolen by the evil Lord Agon, played by David Warner, looking like he's 157 years old.

Basically, the Beastmaster has to invade the desert fortress, rescue his weenie beefcake brother, the king, and kill Lord Agon before he uses the amulet to turn into a fire-spitting lizard-headed beast.

Helping him out is Tony Todd as the tight-lipped black sidekick, Keith Coulouris as the goofy acrobat who runs away from the circus to join him, and Lesley-Anne Down as the oversexed witch.

The femme fatale part goes to Sandra Hess, as an Amazon in a red sports bra who kicks a little warrior butt when she's not aardvarking around with the male lead.

Somewhere in there we've got supernatural fog, bloodthirsty natives, human sacrifice, the "shroud of agony" torture, and a jaded sorcerer with a British accent.

They basically said, "Let's throw every single sword-and-sorcery gimmick into this pot and see what it tastes like."

It could use a little salt. I don't wanna say it's slow, but I got divorced twice before it was over.

Sixteen dead bodies. No breasts. Flaming arrow to the chest.
Pillage. Carnage. Human sacrifice.
Five warrior battles.

Cobra-taming. The dangling-by-a-rope-over-the-pit torture (which never works).

Spear through the chest. Eye-ripping. Gratuitous camel.
Kung fu. Animal fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for...

* Marc Singer, the one and only, for saying, "My friends call me Dar, but you can call me the Beastmaster."

* Casper Van Dien, as the wet-behind-the-ears king, who says, "The world is plagued by evil, and I'm stuck on this throne."

* David Warner, as the older-than-dirt evil king, for saying: "Prepare another sacrifice! I need a younger one this time--young and full of life!" and, "The shroud of agony will rip the answer from your brain!"

* Sandra Hess, as the Amazon who says, "There's something about you that I find very attractive."

* Olaf Pooley, as the sorcerer who says, "Shrouds of agony take forever."
* And Lesley-Anne Down, as the sexy witch who turns the Beastmaster's animals into house pets, then says, "The world would be such a dull place without men."

Two and a half stars.
Joe Bob says check it out.

©1996 Joe Bob Briggs (Distributed by NYT Special Features)

 
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