Conan the Destroyer

After the utterly disappointing reboot of Conan the Barbarian, I went back to my old pal Netflix. Instant Netflix currently has the original Conan the Barbarian available for viewing but I have already expressed my appreciation for that flawed movie. The sequel, Conan the Destroyer is also currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Conan the Destroyer (1984) – Rated PG

While on a quest to retrieve a magical gem, muscleman Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) vanquishes mortal and supernatural adversaries with help from his ham-fisted sidekick (Tracey Walter), a wacky wizard (Mako), a fierce woman warrior (Grace Jones) and a gigantic bodyguard (Wilt Chamberlain). But unbeknownst to Conan, there’s a traitor among the ranks. Sarah Douglas, Olivia dAbo and Jeff Corey also star in this rousing, fast-paced sequel.

John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger made Conan the Barbarian ooze with testosterone. For the sequel, Richard Fleischer was handed the directors chair. Fleischer took the Conan concept and attempted to turn it into family friendly fare.

The violence, while plentiful, is completely toned down here to, believe it or not, earn the film a PG rating. Also the rise in popularity of Dungeons & Dragons leads the film to be populated by wizards (Mako and others), thieves (Tracey Walter), and warriors (Wilt Chamberlain, Grace Jones) as well as a few varieties of monsters.

The physique of Conan is still awesome but Grace Jones comes across as more of a warrior than Arnold does. Of course this may be because she injured a fair number of the stuntmen on the film.

This is an example of how NOT to do an ensemble cast. Every member of the cast seems to be shouting “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” in every scene. Grace Jones overplays her aggressiveness, Olivia dAbo overplays her cuteness, Mako and Tracey Walter fight for top sidekick status, and Sarah Douglas, Wilt Chamberlain (yes that Wilt – his only screen role), Pat Roach, and Jeff Corey slug it out for the villain slots.

I give this a watch recommendation because in spite of everything I have said, this is a fun, constantly moving Arnold romp. Also it is train-wreck fascinating to watch these “actors” (a bodybuilder, a model, a basketball player, two singers and even two professional wrestlers) step all over each other.

People Watch: Look for an unrecognizable Andre the Giant as the transformed Dagoth.


The Princess Bride

For the final day of swashbuckler week, I’ve chosen one of my all-time favorite movies (and my wife’s #1 favorite) – The Princess Bride. The Princess Bride is currently available on Netflix instant play.

The Princess Bride

WATCH: The Princess Bride (1987) – Rated PG for adult language and violence

“In this enchantingly cracked fairy tale, the beautiful Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn) and the dashing Westley (Cary Elwes) must overcome staggering odds to find happiness amid six-fingered swordsmen (Christopher Guest), murderous princes (Chris Sarandon), Sicilians (Wallace Shawn) and rodents of unusual size. But even death can’t stop these true lovebirds from triumphing. Fred Savage and Peter Falk co-star.”

Like Robin and Marian earlier this week, this film is all about love. William Goldman’s script is magical and Rob Reiner’s direction perfect. While I suppose this film would have to be categorized as a comedy, it works as an adventure story, a revenge fantasy and a romance as well. The dialogue is quoted more often at our house than that of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Rob Reiner underplays any effects – the rodents are cheerfully B-esque, the tree with a door is clearly a prop, and there is clearly a landing mat under the gymnastics bar used in one of the sword fights.

The performances – all from B-listers and character actors are uniformly wonderful – in fact for each of the actors involved I’d say that it is their best performance. Peter Falk is warm and loving as the uncle telling the story to his sick nephew (a cute Fred Savage). Cary Elwes plays the dashing hero with elan (sort of a snarky Errol Flynn) and Robin Wright infuses Princess Buttercup with a charming cluelessness. As played by Chris Sarandon, Prince Humperdinck is deliciously slimy and he is aided by a matter-of-fact Christopher Guest as his second. Wallace Shawn is all over the top ego as Vizzini. Everyone attempts to steal every scene that they are in and mostly succeed especially Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant.

People Watch: Several cameos in this film – an over the top Peter Cook as a clergyman, Mel Smith as a hilarious albino, and Carol Kane and Billy Crystal under almost unrecognizable makeup as an old bickering couple.