The second part of Schlockmania’s exclusive interview with Sylvio Tabet (first part here) continues with its exploration of Mr. Tabet’s thoughts on his cult classic production, The Beastmaster. It’s a must-read for fans of the series, as he gets deep into the inspirations and philosophy behind the Beastmaster mythos…
A noteworthy aspect of The Beastmaster is that the cinematographer was John Alcott, who is renowned amongst film fans for his work with Stanley Kubrick. Who had the idea to hire him and how do you feel about his work on the film?
I do not remember but I am a fan of natural lighting . His lighting ‘catches the feeling.’ His passing is a great loss to us all.
The Beastmaster has had a really impressive life in ancillary markets, earning a lot of its cult following through extensive exposure on cable outlets. Some have joked that TBS should be called “The Beastmaster Station” because they’ve shown it so often and Dennis Miller once said HBO stands for “Hey, Beastmaster’s On.” What are your thoughts on the film’s legendary status as a cable-t.v. staple?
The legend, the hero, I think the public related to this hero who communicates with the animals. He is strong but non violent, pure but still powerful. So many people called to adopt Kodo and Podo. The man-beast connection played a role in making this character a legend.
Everybody remembers Tanya Roberts. Marc Singer was not just a body, he had great presence and charisma. The cast and acting were great and Don (Coscarelli) did a great job. The Beastmaster is a legend on a higher scale and he is here to stay… a second movie, a television pilot, 66 episodes and now a just-published novel prove it.
On your next project, The Cotton Club, you started as an investor and ended up becoming a producer. Could you please tell us about the process that caused this shift in roles? What was it like working with Francis Ford Coppola?
When I got involved on The Cotton Club, it was already a mess and shooting had started. I was going home, I advised the investors to do the same. One stuck with the movie: Bob Evans was fully committed. He asked me to stay as a co-producer. I have a lot of respect for this man. He stood behind his crew in the most difficult moments.
I was excited to work with Coppola and decided to stay. I was practically the only person who could communicate with everybody. I ended up being the “Henry Kissinger” of the movie.
Coppola is a great director and a professional. One day he told me “Sylvio, do your work. I do mine. If you want somebody to manage, hire another cheaper director. I am like the oil fire extinguisher expert, you do not tell him how to do his work.”
When the time came for a Beastmaster sequel, you wrote and directed it in addition to your customary production duties. What was the most satisfying part of the process for you out of these many jobs and how do you feel about the finished product?
I am a filmmaker, a film director. I came to production by accident. The first film I wanted to direct had a director attached, a good one, so I decided to produce it. This film was one of the biggest in France. Success is dangerous… The rest was history.
Directing , working with the animals and actors was the best part of Beastmaster II.
There was a misconception in the sequel’s concept. I should have kept the Beastmaster in his world of fantasy. Bringing him to our world made him to similar to us. He has to stay a LEGEND.
Whatever the final product was, it triggered a pilot from Universal. This pilot was very bad. They even used a old aging lion instead of our strong beautiful tiger. Still, it triggered 66 episodes.
I made mistakes. I did too many things with a a very small budget. I was even directing on two sets at the same time, working 18 hours a day. The good news is I made it and The Beastmaster survived.
The Beastmaster has also enjoyed a long life on television, via a second made-for-t.v. sequel and a popular television series. You’ve continued to be involved, even co-writing a continuation of the Beastmaster mythos in novel form. What it is about this concept that inspires your continued exploration of it?
I relate very much to tigers. I related very much to The Beastmaster, a man in search of his soul. He is the only hero who is half-human, half-animal. He is a link between the human and the animal and we have a lot to learn from our animal side. I co wrote a novel Tara, Queen Of The Touargang. She is a spinoff from the Beastmaster novel. She is half-panther, half-human. She is learning from her animal side to be more human. She is the female Beastmaster.
The legend continues. We are all male and female in ONE with the Universe. Beastmaster is our representative… the exploration continues.
I’ll close by asking if there is anything you’d like to tell the fans of the films discussed in this interview. Any thoughts and feelings about the following for your work?
Beastmaster: The Myth continues this exploration. Its inspiration is my encounters with the yogis of India.
The future is always painted as doomed… the end of the world. More and more people live in fear and explore the possibilities to extend their greed by killing Mother Nature.
The world of Beastmaster (the past) is a Shangri-La. The Future, the technology attacks the past to find the fountain of ETERNITY.
Beastmaster, half human and half animal, is the defender of the fountain. He is also in search of who he is, the “I AM” like all of us – all our life ’til we realize that we are also Eternity.
The animals are the savior of Nature.
We have to contribute.
I welcome any ideas of our fans to this mission. The Beastmaster is our leader. Our generals Ruh, Sharak, Kodo and Podo are waiting to please you with new, exciting adventures… with a message.
Interviewer’s End Notes: Your Humble Reviewer would like to thank Mr. Tabet for being generous with his time and memories. Schlockmania also owes a debt of gratitude to Neil Butler, who made this interview possible.
If you want any further information on Mr. Tabet and his career, just check out his personal website at http://www.smtabet.com/.