The World According to Arnie – Conan The Destroyer (1984)
CROM! If you’re there, it’s me, Droid. I’m sure you’re already aware of this but in 1984 a bunch of money grubbing filmmakers got together to make a crap film in which they toned down the violence and covered up every boob in sight. Oh, and they repeatedly besmirched your good name, if that helps fire up the wrath. I know it’s been a while, but could you do me a solid and smite those involved? Cheers, Crom. You da man.
In the first flick Conan (Arnie) successfully avenged his parents by lopping the noggin off James Earl Jones, along the way meeting the wizard Akiro (Mako), sucker punching a camel and hooking up with sexy thief Valeria, who was then killed by a snake arrow to the ribcage. As you do. Now Conan is minding his own business, praying to a bench, when he is requested by Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas) to escort her niece Princess Jehnna (Olivia D’Abo) on a quest to retrieve a special gem and a magic horn. Queen Taramis promises that when Conan returns, she will resurrect his one true love, Valeria. But there’s intrigue and foul play afoot, because the Queen plans to sacrifice Jehnna, who is a virgin (unlikely) to some sort of evil god beastie. The Queen tells the Captain of the Guard Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain) to off Conan when the job is complete. Easier said than done.
While I wasn’t a massive fan of ‘Conan The Barbarian’, there was a lot to like and it was a well made sword and sorcery flick with loads of violence and mucho boobage. The makers of ‘Conan The Destroyer’ have gone the predicable route, believing that if they toned things down and gave it a more family friendly slant, they’d reap the big bucks at the box office. Wrong! Boobs and decapitations are what we be payin’ our hard earned to see. And the proof is in the pudding, as they say, because ‘Destroyer’ didn’t fare any better at the box office and was mauled by the critics.
The first reason why this sequel failed is because nutjob director John Milius was off making ‘Red Dawn’ and they had to replace him with Richard Fleischer. It’s not a badly directed film by any means, but it fails to match the originals epic scope. And there is too much focus on comedy sidekicks. In the first film, Conan was joined by the impressively moustachioed Subotai (Gerry Lopez), who was able to inject some much needed humour to the film. But here he has been replaced by Tracey Walter as Malak, who quite simply annoys us at every opportunity. With more focus on the humour this time round, it makes the Conan films, which are ridiculous to begin with, seem like camp. This isn’t helped by the casting. While the cast is filled with interesting, colourful personalities, like Chamberlain and Grace Jones, they are terrible actors. Jones, as the warrior Zula, is particularly annoying because every movement she makes is accompanied by a shrill, ear splitting screech. And while certainly jiblet-tingling to look at, Olivia D’Abo is as compelling as a saliva filled petri dish.
The writing is utterly inept. During the first forty minutes I can’t remember anything other than exposition. And even the exposition is stilted and forced. The princess says “We need to go to Shadizar.” Conan replies “What is Shadizar?” The princess responds “Shadizar is…” And that is repeated ad nauseum during the entire film. There’s a reappearance of the king hit camel from the original, but when it appears, Malak says “Does he look familiar?” How does Malak know what the camel looked like? It seems that scene was written with the thought that Lopez would return, and when he didn’t someone forgot to point out that it made no sense. Which brings me to the alleged comedy. There is one joke, towards the end, where Malak says something about his “cousins sisters brother” which is a terrible joke to begin with, but then, three minutes later, they bring up the joke again and argue over what he said!
Malak: “My cousins sisters brother never said anything about bars!”
Akiro: “The bars were put up after your sisters brothers cousin escaped!”
Malak: “I said it was my cousins sisters brother!”
Akiro: “You said it was your sisters brothers cousin!”
Zula: “Who cares if it was your brothers sisters cousin? What difference does it make?”
*droid pulls the trigger and ends his misery*
Princess: “What kingdom?”
Conan: “The promise I was kingdomed.”
At this stage of his career, Arnie didn’t have the natural charisma or acting ability to sell terrible dialogue, and here he struggles. He’s an imposing screen presence, but the character is written as a stupid, drunken buffoon. It makes it difficult for the audience to get involved in a heroes journey when that hero is a moron.
While not an out and out failure, as there is some brainless fun to be had, Conan The Destroyer is a misfire and a backwards step in the career of Arnie. Luckily for him he met a nobody who’s only previous credit was getting chucked off a crappy horror sequel.
Next up, Arnie will be back.