Friday, February 7, 2014

My Favorite Era: Conan the Destroyer (1984)

The second Conan movie holds a special place in my heart as it's one of the first films I ever got hooked on.  I must have seen this at least ten times when I was a kid.  It's a hell of a lot lighter, cheesier and funny than the original.

The story in a nutshell is this: Conan is enlisted by the evil Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas) to help her niece Jehnna (Olivia D'Abo) retrieve a jewel that will awaken an ancient god called Dagoth in return for bringing his love Valeria (killed in the last film) back to life.  She sends along her personal guard, Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain) to kill Conan so her niece can be sacrificed and they pick up a few more companions along the way.  It's comic book silliness in the best way.

Most folks don't much care for it but I love every cheesy moment of it.  Let's take a closer look.
  • Once again, Arnold is back with Dino DeLaurentiis producing.  They would work together two more times after this: Red Sonja in 1985 (with Arnold in a supporting role) and Raw Deal in 1986.
  • Another great main title theme from Basil Poledouris.
  • Great cheesy 80's cast with Arnold (natch), Grace Jones in her film debut (next year she'd be menacing 007), Sarah Douglas as our main baddie (great in Superman II as well), Wilt Chamberlain does well enough as the obligatory huge henchman and Mako is fun as always as the wizard Akiro.  About the only weak link is Tracey Walter as the comic sidekick, though to be honest he's no worse than the average version of this character.
  • Arnold is considerably more muscular in this one, I guess they wanted him to look more like a comic book character.  They succeeded.
  • One of the main knocks on the film is that they toned down the violence but to be honest, it;s just as bloody as the other film.  Hell, it got a PG rating for crying out loud!  Heads are lopped off, when folks get hit with a sword they explode with gushes of blood, I like to think that the PG-13 rating would have come about even without Gremlins and the second Indiana Jones film coming out the same summer as this.
  • To be fair, it was cut from an R but still, it's pretty damn bloody.
  • It's been said before and it will be said again... But Wilt Chamberlain being assigned to guard a young woman's virginity?  That joke just writes itself!
  • Grace Jones hams it up rather nicely as Zula, the thief who tags along with Conan and company.  She makes quite an impression.
  • Not so great is Olivia D'Abo.  It was her first film, yeah, but the character is a bit on the annoying side.
  • My favorite section of the film is the gang trying to steal the jewel from a wizard played by former wrestler Pat Roach.  Roach played a few bad guys in the first two Indiana Jones films and he's pretty fun here.
  • The bit where he turns into some sort of ape-lizard thing to fight Conan is great.  One of my favorite things from the film as a kid and I still enjoy it today.  It's not the most convincing effect of all time but it still looks cool.
  • Another great bit is Conan's fight with one of Taramis' guards, played by perennial punching bag Sven-Ole Thorsen.  There's a nice bit of sword swinging from Arnold that's just there for show, but still cool.
  • To be honest, from that fight to the start of the climax it's a bit too pacy but there are still some amusing bits.  Arnold playing drunk is always fun... Actually that's about it but still!
  • After they get the horn to reawaken Dagoth (why the hell would anybody think waking up an ancient god is a good thing?), Bombaata quickly shows his true colors and makes off with Jehnna.  There's a nice fight with some bad guys and the climax is suitably entertaining.
  • Once Dagoth is awakened, he is played by another wrestler, the legendary Andre the Giant.  The suit used for the monster is pretty cool and it gets great coverage.  The fight with Conan is pretty neat too.  How can you not dig a fight that sees Arnold Schwarzenegger essentially beat the crap out of a Lovecraftian god?
 The second Conan movie is a step down from the first but it is still a fun, entertaining romp.  Good cast, decent pace and some nice, though cheesy f/x.  It's not great or anything, but it's still damn fun.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.