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.

 

Red Sonja

Netflix doesn’t have Conan the Destroyer available on instant play so if you need a second dose of sword-swinging Arnold after yesterday’s Conan the Barbarian, try Red Sonja.

Red Sonja

PASS: Red Sonja (1985) – Rated PG-13

“After her family is brutally murdered, a young woman named Sonja (Brigitte Nielsen) sees “red” and becomes a master of the sword — all to seek revenge on the evil queen responsible for the tragedy that snuffed out her kin. Directed by Richard Fleischer, the film co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (in one of his earliest roles) and features Sandahl Bergman as the evil queen.”

This is Arnold’s 3rd outing as Conan in all-but-name. Sadly not only is this not very good but Arnold himself considers it one of his worst films. Production values came down quite a bit from Conan the Barbarian and unfortunately it shows. This also continues the family friendly PG-13 trend started in Conan the Destroyer which seems odd for a Robert E. Howard/Frank Frazetta inspired series. They added Black Belt/child actor Ernie Reyes Jr. to the mix which I found somewhat grating.

Regrettably Sandahl Bergman turned down the title role – opting instead to play the villain Queen Gedren. If you thought Sandahl was a bit wooden in Conan, you haven’t seen anything until you see Brigitte Nielsen as Sonja. They also make Gedren a lesbian. Gasp! An evil lesbian! who wants to destroy the world! How do we know she is evil? Her face is scarred! Examples number 63, 104 and 106 in our series on lazy lazy lazy screenwriting.

All in all there are just too many flaws – most of them significant – for me to recommend this film. If you can check your brain at the door and enjoy a healthy dose of Arnold then by all means go ahead and watch this piece of cheese – otherwise give this a pass.

People Watch: As with my post on Flesh + Blood, look for perennial villain Ronald Lacey as, surprise, a villain.