Title: Conan The Destroyer
Director: Richard Fleischer
Writers: Stanley Mann, based on a story by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones, Olivia d’Abo, Mako, Sarah Douglas, Wilt Chamberlin, Tracey Walter, Pat Roach, and Andre the Giant
Release Date: June 29, 1984
MPAA: Rated PG
Our hero, and everybody’s favorite horse and camel puncher, returns in this less than stellar continuation of 1982’s great Conan the Barbarian. We find our hero confronted by an evil Queen, who promises to bring his lover back from the dead if he agrees to go on a quest.
“What’s the quest,” you ask? Conan and his comic relief/thief/sidekick must accompany a princess on the search for a mystic jewel owned by an evil wizard, that they must use to find a mystical horn of an ancient god, which the Queen worships.
“Is it as simple as that,” you now ask? Oh hell no! Of course not! Read on to find out!
Written by Aaron Nicewonger
Arnold Schwarzenegger and veteran actor Mako return for this film. Apparently Gerry Lopez was too busy doing nothing, or realized this movie wasn’t going to be so great and decided not to tell Arnold. While having appeared in a few small roles and some television before this point, this film marks the first major film role for Grace Jones, who would feature in the James Bond adventure A View to a Kill in the following year. The film also features the first film appearance for 7’1” NBA star Wilt Chamberlain.
Most of the actors give rather phoned-in performances, especially Mako, who sounds like he doesn’t want to be involved in this picture at all. When not phoning it in, actors like Grace Jones, Sarah Douglas, and Tracey Walter ham it up with their over-acting. When the actor giving the best performance in your film is Arnold Schwarzenegger (who apologizes to a camel for punching it, just before punching it again), there’s a problem.
It’s rather expected of Olivia d’Abo. She had just turned 15, and this was her first role. Yet she’s the only one who seems to take this film seriously, giving an earnest performance.
The special effects, while on par with the first film, just don’t seem right. It might have something to do with the fact that in the original film, the effects moments were fleeting and teasing, having the camera focus on them just long enough to make you want to see more. Here, the camera lingers just long enough for you to realize how fake the men in the rubber monster suits look.
In fact, the biggest problem this film suffers from is the level of cheese. Producer Dino De Laurentiis, director Richard Fleischer (son of Max Fleischer), and the studio thought it would be a good idea to make a tongue-in-cheek PG-rated sequel to an R-rated film, in the hopes that making a more family-friendly Conan picture would bring in bigger box office returns. One might assume that if the people involved in the film took it more seriously, the audience might as well. The special effects might be taken more seriously if everyone didn’t already have their tongues firmly in cheek. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t successful. It did well, both domestically and internationally, earning a total box office return of 100 million on a budget of 18 million. But making money doesn’t mean your film is good.
The movie does manage to deliver in one category. The action. This movie was apparently cut up like crazy to get the PG rating, losing a lot of the violence and a bit of nudity (including a love scene between Arnold’s Conan and Sarah Douglas’s Queen). And if the fights that were left in the film are any indication of what was removed, I’d love to see an uncut release of this film one day.
So, we have Conan on a quest for a mystic gem, which he needs to get a mystic horn, which a noticeably evil Queen will supposedly use to resurrect his lost love. However, the Queen has other plans, and intends to use the horn to resurrect an ancient god. And if she sacrifices a virgin, the god will emerge beautiful and stunning and grant her the powers she wishes. If the sacrifice goes wrong, he will emerge as a terrible monster and bring about chaos and destroy the world. Do either of them get what they want? You’ve got to watch to find out. Those that have seen this film know, and those of you who never got around to it, go ahead and give it a look.
Ancient relics, ancient gods, doomed civilizations, thieves, warriors, and assassins on an epic quest. Sounds like a proper adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s titular character, right? Well, no, not really. Any similarity stops there. For instance, one of the film’s three villains was the wizard Thoth-Amon. Conan fans, don’t get excited. What should be a Stygian man, is a one-eyed white guy, and only has about 2 minutes of screen-time. Shortly after, he transforms into what resembles a humanoid ape and wears a red cloak. So, more like Thak from the Conan Story “Rogues in the House.” Yet even then, not really. This ape-shaped creature sports scaly, bumpy grey skin, and looks more like DC Comics’ Killer Croc than either Thoth-Amon or Thak. So, if you’re looking for a faithful adaptation, you’ll be disappointed. But if you want a fun tongue-in-cheek sword-and-sorcery movie, you’ll enjoy Conan the Destroyer. Is it good? No. Is it terrible? That’s debatable, but I don’t think so.
As a stand-alone film, I’d give this sword-and-sorcery/fantasy flick 7 out of 10. As an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, I’d give it 4 out of 10. As an adaption of REH’s work as a whole, I’d give it 5 out of 10.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. And I hope you stick with us for our month-long tribute to Conan.
Next week, the NEW CONAN MOVIE COMES OUT! Conan the Barbarian, starring Jason Mamoa!!! Hope you all come back for my review! And remember to come back the week after that for our overview, where we take a look at everything else, including games, books, TV shows, and other Conan related movies.