And this story shall also be told
(taken from Conan the destroyer)
A DVD review of Conan the Destroyer One disc wide-screen DVD
My memories of Conan were long and extremely fond, as can be found from my last review. However, I knew that there was at least one other film out there. So I set off in search of a sequel.
Mysteriously I came up with only a single sequel. Dismayed I rummaged further but still only one DVD was found, bearing the name of Conan the Destroyer. Fair enough I thought, so I headed off to the local retailer and happily bought Conan the Destroyer. I managed to find it at about your average dvd price (the fourteen-fifteen pound mark). Most of the original cast and crew are gone completely. A new director and several new comedy side kicks change the Conan formula somewhat...
Well, after having watched it through, there's not much else I can say for added details like I usually do, so lets just plough through.
DVD Box and Disc
The DVD is box is pretty good, a bit different from the norm. It comes in your standard DVD box, however the booklet itself folds out into a large reproduction of the theatrical poster. Although this isn't a large affair, it's a fair size and the reverse has various film stills and some general information about Robert E Howard (the creator of Conan), and the film itself. I was fairly impressed at all this finery, and it showed that much more thought had gone into it then the previous DVD. It was, however, quite tricky to get working for some reason. The scene selection and general loading was a bit slow on my downstairs TV/DVD combo. You have been warned...
Overall I'd give it an eight out of ten. Some nice work but there wasn't anything innovative about it to get the extra two points.
Having idolised the films for years and, after being suitably impressed by the DVD box, I eagerly put the DVD on. God was I young and naive.
The film begins much like the last one. There's a group of horsemen riding across a desert plain to the tune from the fantastic soundtrack. I'm happy to report that Basil Poledouris reprises his role as the composer, and he does a great job again1. However, that's where my praise ends for now.
In the next sequence we see Conan praying at a shrine while his new sidekick is examining loot. This is unusual for several reasons. First, Conan doesn't pray 2 and secondly the sidekick is no longer the wonderful Subedai played by Gerry Lopez in the first film. Instead, Tracey Walter plays Malak, the not so gentlemanly thief. He is the start of my general grumbles with the film. He's far too annoying and why Conan doesn't just slice his head off and do us all a favour only Crom knows.
Anyway, the pair are then surrounded by the marauder horsemen from before and a battle quickly ensues. Conan kills most of them and they retreat slightly. It is then that we are introduced to their leader and ruler Queen Tamaris, played by the lovely Sarah Douglas. She offers to return Conans love, Valeria, from the dead on one condition. All he has to do is escort her neice Princess Jehna (played by Olivia D'Abo) to collect a key. Her bodyguard is the hulking Bombaata, played by Wilt Chamberlain, is also coming with them3.
The foursome then set off, but first Conan has to get another person for his little warband. The Wizard from the first film, now called Akiro, makes a welcome return and happily with the same actor (Mako). He agrees readily to join Conans party, especially after they save him from a group of Cannibals.
The group fight off another group of Marauders, which seems odd to me when I think about it, but no matter.
The group then travel through a small settlement where they come across a young prisoner defending herself. Conan, taking pity, cuts her bonds, and the party continues off. The young girl then fights her way out and steals a horse, heading after Conan. The young woman is non other then Grace Jones, who many will remember as Mayday from 'A View To A Kill'. She introduces herself as the wonderfully politically incorrect Zula4.
So the group, now numbering six, trundle off. Jehna's instinct then leads them to a castle floating on the water. What basically follows becomes a farce. Jehna is kidnapped and taken to the castle which is made of ice by the way, by the castles owner – a mighty wizard. He then puts her in a deep sleep. Why he does this is beyond me5. The group, led by Conan, quickly enter the castle. Conan then stumbles into a room of mirrors and is quickly sealed in. And heres where it gets laughable. The next few minutes turn into a wrestling match between Conan and the wizard, who has transformed himself into... some big beast thingy with a red cape. Conan promptly kills it by smashing the mirrored walls and quickly rescues the girl. The party escapes and the palace collapses. This isn't the end of this sorry tale.
The group stop awhile and get drunk, so that Jehna can admit that she loves Conan. Anyway after that moment of madness the group travel to a temple, where Jehna finds a wonderfully studded horn. Akiro reads on the walls about the horn being placed into a head of a sleeping god and that if it happens, the world will end. One of the most memorable lines from Conan comes about this point:
Akiro: Death to the world
Conan: Life to Valeria
Then it slowly goes downhill. A group of soldiers turns up and the group leg it back into the temple. Bombaata takes Jehna and the horn and quickly legs it, ensuring that Conan and friends can't follow by smashing the roof in on the tunnel. The remaining members are then attacked, with Akiro saving the day by blocking the entrance to the tunnel, and the group quickly try and escape only to find rubble blocking their way. The group clamber out only to find that Bombaata and Jehna have gone.
They decide to set off to save the world. Well when I say they, what I mean is Conan decides, and the rest haven't got anything else to do.
They sneak into the palace of Queen Tamaris, and there's a fight between Bombaata and Conan. Conan wins and the group carry on into the main chamber to find a ritual taking place. There's a large ornate statue with a hole in its forehead. This is a statue of their God, called Dagoth. Queen Tamaris reminds her high priest that the girl must be killed as soon as Jehna places the horn on its head. Zula promptly stops this as the high priest goes to kill Jehna by throwing a spear across the huge hall. Dagoth turns from a wonderfully ornate statue to a hulking monstrosity.
The final stages of the film I leave to you.
The difference in the two films is horribly clear. Directed by Richard Fleischer, I apportion the ruining of the Conan film franchise to him, and universal. On some brief research on Conan, I heard that Universal had asked the great John Milus, who directed the first film, to reprise his role. He turned them down, mainly because they wanted the film to appeal to a larger audience and so wanted to cut out all the blood, gore, drink, and women6. Richard then took over as director and he's made a right mess of it.
The first film was wonderfully powerful, with each key scene having absolutely no dialogue and relying on both the score and the action itself. A great man once said a picture is worth a thousand words. There are 24 frames a second and when combined with music, it speaks volumes. The second film lives up to its name a destroys all this hard work. Conan has reams and reams of dialogue which, to give him credit, Schwarzenegger speaks quite well. But in doing so he loses some of the clumsy charm that was the first Conan. The movie degenerates into nothing more then a series of laughs and comic capers and loses everything that Robert E Howard created in the novels and stories.
The worst part has to be the Dagoth. The man to blame is Carlo Rambaldi. Why in Crom's name he decided to make this creature so different from the statue is totally beyond me. The statue looks pratically human and if it was walking around, would be quite believable. But as a large, green, fish-like thing with a big horn, its hard to watch.
I can see why I loved the films as a child. I was young, naïve, and foolish. If there was some action in then I was happy. Now I'm not so young, and I can look at it with more critical eyes.
It gains one point for the locations which were, for the most part, lavish and well detailed. It gains another for the score, another beautiful work by Basil Poledouris. And it gains a final mark for all the brief moments when the first Conan shines through for the briefest of seconds.
Overall: 3 out of ten
Ahh now that's all done with I can get on with the serious business of reviewing the extras for this so far disappointing DVD. Imagine my shock then when I found nothing. The only thing on the DVD other then a troublesome scene selector and the movie itself was a theatrical trailer. The first film was fantastic value for money, and contained enough features to keep me entertained for a good while. But, with Destroyer there's nothing. Okay, fair enough, it contains a fancy poster, but I'd rather have a documentary or even a commentary at least.
I think the reason for a lack of the common DVD features is the film itself. They knew it was rubbish; I now know that its rubbish, lets not speak of it again.
Overall: nothing out of ten – theres nothing to rate!
My general feelings are that the film has destroyed itself. With so many bit part comedy extras trailing around after Conan they become irritating, with the exception of Akiro who stays in the same character as he was in the first film. My only thoughts are that if Arnold Schwarzenegger had kept his mouth shut more, and if John Milius had been given the freedom to make destroy as Robert E Howard had envisioned, then we'd have a better film overall and one that would be worthy of things like documentaries and commentaries.
Overall: I'd give the entire thing about 3 out of ten, mainly because the film lets itself down in so many areas.
Well that's it. Conans Saga has ended. Or has it? I've heard a rumour or two that John Milius has obtained the rights to Conan three7 and that Governor Schwarzenegger has agreed to reprise his role as the musclebound hero. I have also heard that there is a second version of Destroyer that is relatively uncut. But from now on I think I'll stick with the original Conan.
Well next time I plan to do a DVD that has more extras so that I can do a meaty review that isn't swamped by story, or moaning about the story anyway.
Till our next encounter.