HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. Two weeks after revisiting the original Conan The Barbarian, Dr Lenera looks at the sequel and discovers it’s nowhere near as bad as it’s reputation.
HCF REWIND NO.18.CONAN THE DESTROYER 
AVAILABLE ON DVD:Now
RUNNING TIME:97 mins
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Conan and his companion, a thief called Malek, are attacked by some soldiers. After a fight, they are brought before Queen Taramis, who promises the revival of Conan’s dead love Valeria, if Conan will undertake a mission for her. Conan is to steal a diamond from a wizard called Thoth-Amon, then use it to obtain a magic horn which has the power to bring a god called Dagoth to life. Accompanied by Malak, Jehnna the Queen’s niece and Bombaatta a soldier, they set off. First of all they rescue Akiro an old comrade of Conan’s, then free Zula a warrior woman who also joins them. However, Thoth-Amon knows of their approach…………..
I’m going to admit something. When I was much younger, I much preferred Conan The Destroyer to Conan The Barbarian. Destroyer was the first of the two movies I saw, and after loving it I was disappointed by Barbarian’s slower pace and heavier feel. Of course I eventually saw the light and realised that Barbarian is easily the better movie, but Destroyer remains a much underrated sequel that is certainly no travesty, it’s just rather different to Barbarian, being much more of a straight forward fantasy adventure with lots of action. On that level the movie succeeds fairly well. Although Barbarian had been a big commercial success, Oliver Stone had no interest in writing a sequel and John Milius was unable to direct, so their serious, epic approach went somewhat out the window with them. Stanley Mann wrote a script based on a treatment by two comic book writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, who borrowed a few bits and pieces from Robert E.Howard’s stories, and old veteran Richard Fleischer came on to direct. Arnold Schwarzenegger put on an extra ten pounds for this sequel, which was partially filmed on the same Mexican locations as Dune. After it was completed though it underwent much re-editing, with producer Raffaela De Laurentiis decided that the film would make even more money than the first one if it was more suitable for children. The violence was drastically toned down and several scenes including one showing Conan having sex with Taramis were removed, but the gambit didn’t pay off, for the movie only did good [rather than very good] business in the US. Its’ strong performance overseas though ensured that a third movie was planned, to be called Conan The Conqueror, but nothing came of it except the fact that it’s script wound up as the basis for Kull The Conqueror.
After an opening battle, Destroyer wastes little time in setting up its quest and sending Conan and company off on it. Immediately this is a far faster paced movie, with no more than five minutes seeming to pass before the next bit of action, but if anything it’s too fast paced. All the places that Conan and his companions reach are reached so quickly that they give the impression of just being around the corner, and there’s no sense of travel. Still, there’s almost constant fighting with Conan battling various comers, though this is not nearly so well staged as Barbarian’s action despite lots of shots of Conan twirling his sword. The battle with Thoth-Amon, [played by Pat Roach, best known for slugging it out with Harrison Ford in the first two Indiana Jones movies] who turns into an ape-like demon, is nicely staged in a hall of mirrors though, with composer Basil Poledouris expertly scoring each stage of the brawl, from mystery to peril to victory. The build up to the climax is well managed too. When he comes to life, even though he looks nothing like his statue, Dagoth is a memorable monstrosity from the mind of Carlo Rambaldi and helps make for an exciting end set piece which almost turns the film into a horror movie, though Conan’s companions seem to just stand around and let Conan do most of the work! I will say that there is still a fair bit of brutality, from staffs smashing in faces to head being lopped off, but it’s certainly not on Barbarian’s level and it’s obvious that some of the fight scenes are missing bits and pieces. In one battle somebody suddenly appears to have had his ear bitten off, but we don’t see it!
The script is reasonable in terms of its story but softens the character of Conan into a muscular do-gooder and makes several mistakes, such as building up Bombaata as a great opponent for Conan but having their climactic fight being one of the shortest fights in the film. There are also some stupid bits, for instance when Malak spots the camel Conan punched down in the previous film, despite the fact he wasn’t even there. The screenplay feels really rushed in places and not all the supposed humour works, such as a really badly written bit when Jehnna asks about sex. Malak gets a little annoying with his cowardly comments, but what irritates me most in this movie is that the ‘Wizard’ played by Mako now suddenly has a name, Akiro, and he’s found ridiculously easily. His brief duel with another wizard, as they open and shut a giant stone mouth, provides a laugh or too though, and there’s a nice scene with a drunken Conan, or rather a scene that would have been nice if Arnie had been able to pull it off. Special effects are fine for 1984 and there are some impressive sets, especially for the ice palace, which looks both sinister and rather beautiful. The film was photographed lushly by the great Jack Cardiff though it’s obvious though that director Richard Fleischer, the maker of classics like The Vikings and 20 000 Leagues Under The Sea, just saw the film as a job and his direction has little of the style and conviction of Milius’s. He does keep the pace moving though. Destroyer may be full of flaws, but it is never boring, and that’s certainly worth something! It’s also a little closer to Howard in tone and style.
Arnie was probably at the peak of his physicality in this movie though his acting is actually weaker here than in Barbarian [even though he’s required to do less]. Sarah Douglas as Taramis and the frankly terrifying Grace Jones as Zula make strong impressions though do not really do enough. Basil Poledouris provides another strong score, with a rip-roaring main theme, though he’s a little too fond of using slightly re-orchestrated cues from the proceeding film and the music suffers from being poorly played and by a much smaller orchestra. I’ve been quite hard on Conan The Destroyer in this review, and I must emphasise that is a highly enjoyable sword and sorcery movie that, if you’re just after switch-your-brain-off entertainment with a few beers, is possibly more fun than the original movie. In terms of quality, though, Barbarian totally nails Destroyer, and it is images and scenes from the former that you’ll remember long after you’ve forgotten most of the latter.
[pt-filmtitle]Conan the Destroyer[/pt-filmtitle]