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Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time/Fatal Conflict
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by Jack Sommersby

"Kool Kari!"
3 stars

Check 'em out.

It's quite the nice surprise that Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time manages to be considerably more enjoyable than the stodgy 1982 original, which was clunky and woefully overlong when it wasn't outright boring. It was co-writer/director Don Coscarelli's follow-up to his cult-classic horror picture Phantasm, and he just didn't have an instinctive feel for the sword-and-sorcery sub-genre, rendering the overall whole a chore to sit through even with the ace cinematographer John Alcott's occasionally arresting lighting. This time around, the blonde, muscular actor Marc Singer returns as the title character who goes by the name of Dar and has the uncanny supernatural abilities of effortlessly taming the wildest animals and seeing events through their eyes; whether it's an eagle or a tiger or whatever animal is roaming the desert ranges, he's one among them. Where before he succeeded in defeating Rip Torn's dastardly high priest, here he's up against his evil older brother Aklon (Wings Hauser) who has aspirations to rule the entire world; Aklon has a seer in the form of the witch Lyranna (Sarah Douglas) whose magical powers have discovered a portal that can take those who enter it into a parallel world - in particular, into a downtown alley in modern-day Los Angeles. She can see that at a military installation a neutron detonator is being housed that can set off a bomb that can wipe out an entire continent, and that if Aklon can acquire it and bring it back with him, this device of ultimate destruction can fulfill his dream of world domination. But before they can go through the carefree college-aged Jackie Trent (Kari Wuhrer), the spoiled daughter of a U.S. senator, accidentally winds up driving her red Porsche through it while in a high-speed chases with some traffic cops and winds up in their world, where she mystifies the locals with her vehicle and encounters Dar, and can't make out what she's experiencing. Eventually Akron and Lyranna make their way to L.A., with Dar and Jackie not far behind, and the movie becomes an amusing fishes-out-of-water tale with culture shock to the nth degree. The director, Sylvio Tablet, keeps things ingratiatingly loose - he doesn't push things and lets the loopy humor play itself out. We don't particularly care about the central conflict between the hero and villain; we're much more receptive to the run-ins they have with the weirdos of this modern society, ranging from a fey high-dollar clothes salesman, punk rockers, and every breed of the eclectic Sunset Boulevard crowd. Singer, Hauser and Douglas are all game, but it's the spirited performance by the fresh twenty-four-year-old Wuhrer who's the standout. Beautiful with surefire comic timing, she engages the audience with such undiluted aplomb she's positively captivating throughout. She takes what could've been an obnoxious cliche and infuses it with the utmost truthfulness and a great deal of variety - you can never guess what she's going to do next; she draws on a good deal of thespian resources and singlehandedly walks off with this thin but disarming, pleasant throwaway movie with the kind of confidence a lot of classically trained actresses couldn't hold a candle to. She's an absolute doodle, and so is at least sixty-five percent of this unexpectedly not-bad action-comedy. This is the very definition of a stellar small-scale star-making turn that doesn't come across an American audience's way all that often.

Nine years later there's the sci-fi-action flick Fatal Conflict, with Kari Wuhrer and Los Angeles also figuring into the proceedings. Wuhrer has the starring role this time around, portraying the tough butt-kicking Sasha Burns, a disgraced ex-pilot in the year 2029 who takes an assignment to regain her flight status by sneakily landing a small craft onto a three-and-a-half-million-ton space freighter that's been hijacked by the escaped convict Conrad Nash (Leo Rossi, acceptable for once) and his perverted incestuous younger sister Carla (a quietly mesmerizing Jennifer Rubin), who plan on abandoning and then crashing the thing into downtown L A. The movie gets off to an awfully confusing start at a planetary prison where Sasha has gone undercover as a convict to bust the emerald-smuggling Conrad who has as his work-slaves a group of beautiful woman who are branded by laser scan onto their firm buttocks. With the action already underway and the arbitrary juxtaposing of scenes, you think you've walked into the middle of the picture - it's so discombobulated you can make no earthly sense of just what in the hell is going on. (Director Lloyd A. Simandl seems to have all the concentrated attention of a tsetse fly.) But after this undeniable rough patch and once Sasha gets onboard that hijacked craft, the movie becomes a "Die Hard on a Ship," and it's agreeably fine more often that not. Sasha has indeed been conceived as a female John McClane, dispatching wisecracks in between the beatings she takes, and Wuhrer, physically pumped-up and constantly dirtied after each and every one-on-one battle with Conrad's henchmen with none of the typical star glamour you're used to seeing, makes an entirely creditable heroine. Wuhrer, who was scorchingly erotic in the superb sex comedy Vivid one year prior and more than held her own opposite Ray Liotta in the fine crime drama Phoenix, seems incapable of making so much as a single false note on the silver screen, and she captures our undivided attention throughout to such a winning degree you can't help but be kinda distressed that she's lending her talent to this purely disposable production that, for budgetary reasons, was shot in the Czech Republic of Prague. Still, you take what you can get these days, and on an undemanding level Fatal Conflict works - it gets the job done, though certainly not with a whole lot of honors; but that's reasonably okay, because the stellar Wuhrer overrides this. If Sigourney Weaver had all of a sudden become unavailable for Aliens, Wuhrer would've made a damn fine replacement. Yes, she's that good, and to the very last drop.

Neither on Blu-Ray yet.

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originally posted: 12/23/20 13:10:56
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  N/A (PG-13)



Directed by
  Sylvio Tabet
  Lloyd A. Simandl

Written by
  Jim Wynorski
  Chris Hyde

  Kari Wuhrer

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