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 Octagon – Chuck Norris week

In honor of his appearance at Actionfest on Sunday, this week is Chuck Norris week. The Octagon is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: The Octagon (1980) – Rated R.

“A group of terrorist ninjas have been wreaking havoc on the life of a wealthy woman named Justine (Karen Carlson), so she hires former karate champion Scott James (Chuck Norris) to be her bodyguard. Aiming to take down the group of dangerous thugs, who happen to be led by his rival Seikura (Tadashi Yamashita), James must start with their training ground, known as The Octagon. Will evil prevail? Or will James have the last word?”

“If you are seeing ninjas, you are seeing ghosts.”

At last three years after Breaker! Breaker!, Chuck Norris gets a budget. Woohoo!

Chuck is much better here. His acting is still a bit wooden here. He had not yet learned the star formula of winking witticism – action scene – one liner – rinse and repeat.

This does have the absolute cheesiest voiceover ever. Explaining his thoughts is fine but they have his thoughts reverberate. Are they trying to indicate that other than the current thought, his noggin is empty? The reverb really reminds me of Friday the 13th and the cha-cha-cha-ha-ha-ha every time Jason is near.

Just a hint – when Chuck Norris tells you not to get up, it is in your best interest to stay put.

The extra money allowed them to get the gruff Lee Van Cleef to costar. He plays the enigmatic McCarn and is just wonderful. He helps make the first two acts bearable so we can get to the all important third act.

Art (The Brood, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) Hindle plays a hero wannabe who idolizes Chuck. A pre-Ghostbusters Ernie Hudson has a tiny part as Quinine. Who knew Ernie was so buff?

Chuck Norris vs. An Army of Ninjas! I wonder who will win? While there is waaaay too much talking in the first two acts, the third act features plenty of martial arts action with ninjas, terrorists, exotic weaponry, explosions and of course Chuck!

This is a cheesy yet enjoyable martial arts film. Leave your brain at the door and just enjoy all of the Chuck on ninja action.

For those of you with set top boxes, Netflix presents The Octagon in a nice looking HD transfer.

People Watch: Veteran character actor Tracey Walter (Batman, Conan the Destroyer) appears briefly and hilariously as Mr. Beedy.