Richard Fleischer, 1984
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wilt Chamberlain, Grace Jones, Mako Iwamatsu, Olivia d’Abo, Tracey Walter
I’ve heard a lot of people talk shit on Conan the Destroyer, the somewhat more family-friendly sequel to Conan the Barbarian, but that’s a bunch of nonsense. Did you expect the same film to be made twice? Sure, it could have been darker, more violent and Conan could have dealt with his grief over Valeria’s loss in a different way. But this follows the Temple of Doom-style sequel: fun, light-hearted, and completely action packed, so relax, enjoy the ride and you won’t be disappointed. Beer might also help.
Conan is roped into taking the Princess Jehnna on a quest to retrieve a magical jewel. Her aunt, Queen Taramis, promises Conan that the jewel will awaken their dreaming god, Dagoth, which will allow her to bring Valeria back from the dead. Taramis really plans on sacrificing the virginal Jehnna and killing Conan with the help of her bodyguard Bombaata. The small band is accompanied by a thief, Conan’s wizard friend Akiro, and the powerful woman warrior Zula. Conan must rescue Jehnna from a wizard, help her retrieve the jewel and a magical ivory horn, and brush off her sexual advances. They escape the blood-thirsty guardians of the horn, but Bombaata spirits Jehnna away and leads her to death. Can Conan save her in time and prevent the resurrection of Dagoth?
There are plenty of ridiculous moments, including a scene where Conan gets drunk and another, when he apologizes to the camel he punched in the first film, only to have it spit on him and get knocked out a second time. He also smashes the shit out of a room of mirrors and perhaps unadvisedly cracks a lot of jokes. The humor is the weakest part of the film and is laid on pretty thick, particularly from Mako Iwamatsu, who reprises his role as the sorcerer from the first film. The supporting cast is not as great as Conan the Barbarian, because of Sandahl Bergman’s absence and the lack of character development. There are also simply too many people on screen. Grace Jones is wonderful, as always. That woman is a powerhouse. Olivia d’Abo (cousin of Maryam d’Abo, my least favorite Bond girl of all time) pales in comparison and is simply annoying for the majority of the film. She can’t even get off of her horse without help.
I’m really not sure why Wilt Chamberlin was cast in this film, but he is surprisingly good and somewhat ironic as the protector of the princess’s virginity. Who thought that was a good idea? But we’re all really here to see Arnold and he does not disappoint.
The visual effects are a little subpar, particularly where the cheesy god/monster Dagoth is concerned. Andre the Giant allegedly plays the beast, hidden under lots of make up and padding. There’s no way to deny that there is less sex and violence than the first film, but it is still a lot of fun. The plot sort of goes through the motions, but it delivers what you would expect from a Conan sequel, namely lots of action sequences. Director Richard Fleischer (Red Sonja, The Vikings) does a decent, if uninspired job and there’s some nice cinematography from Jack Cardiff.
Sadly, this was never followed by the planned third film, Conan the Conqueror, which was interrupted by Schwarzenegger’s commitment to Predator. The script for it was eventually turned into the lamentable Kull the Conqueror, starring Hercules’ Kevin Sorbo. Allegedly, now that the Governator is out of political office, he’s going to attempt a return to the series.