[CONAN] Conan The Destroyer

I just finished re-watching Conan The Destroyer. I haven't seen it in years--not since I saw it at the flicks back in the 80's. I remember back then thinking, "Man, what a crappy flick. Why can't they put out a good quality Swords & Sorcery movie?" Of course, this was pre-Lord of the Rings (not that LotR is S&S).

In re-watching it, all these years later, I'm surprised that I actually liked it more than I remembered. Sure, it's still a crappy movie, but my recollection was that the entire film was crappy. Upon my newer inspection, I find that's really not the case. Most of the movie ain't bad. Most of the sets and locations are pretty well presented. In fact, I don't remember the film being that good.

The problem with this film is that, when it bombs, it really bombs. And when I say that most of the sets and locations look good, I mean it, but the trouble is that the scenes that look like crap are key to the plot.

The entire Thoth-Amon sequence looks like it was taken out of a movie with a $12 budget and grafted onto this otherwise decent Conan yarn. That whole section is worse than bad. It's ultra low budget looking crap.

And, then the big climax scene with Conan fighting the Dagoth monster. Man, what crap! It shouldn't have been in the film.

Take those parts out (how can you? They're key to the story), or change them to look better, and all of a sudden, Conan The Destroyer is a better movie. Not a great movie. Not a movie as good as its predecessor. But, a decent movie. A better movie than what it is.

There are basically 7 parts to this movie:

I. Intro - where we find Conan praying for Valeria (Conan? Praying?), and he is attacked by Queen Taramis and her guard. The fighting and overall presentation actually ain't bad, given that it was shot in the 80's. And, it seems to be a good continuation of the adventures started in the first film.

I'd like to know what happened to Subotai, though. I don't think he would have left Conan's side. I wonder if they producers couldn't get Gerry Lopez to reprise his role and went with the Malak character instead.

In the original script that was discarded between revolving producers and directors (the script that became the Conan The Barbarian Horn of Azoth graphic novel), Subotai is caught as a thief and hanged, not unlike a certain Gunderman in one of the REH fragments.

II. Shadizar - Where Conan gets his mission. The city and the Throne Room look great. The story is so-so, generic fantasy stuff. Servicable. And, although breaking canon everywhere it turns, the situations do at least feel like a Howard Conan tale.

III. Travel to the mage's Castle to get the Heart. The scenes where Grace Jones' Zula character meets Conan for the first time are, for me, the highlights of the movie. Grace Jones does a superb job, and her character's introduction is excellent. Top notch.

IV. At Thoth-Amon's Castle of Illusion. From the time Conan and his part leave the shore in the boat to the moment that they leave Thoth-Amon's castle, I felt like I was watching a completely different film. It is like you're watching a decent Conan yarn but somebody changes the DVD and makes you watch Roger Corman's cheapest fantasy film. The stuff in these scenes are gawd awful. All of it needs to be taken out of the film with...something better...re-cut into the film. Thoth-Amon not being a Stygian is the least of this sequence's problems. The sets are cheesy. The monster is cheesy (but reminescent of Thak from Rogues in the House. The entire section will have anybody roll their eyes.

V. Travel to the tomb to get the Horn/Battle with Shadizar Guard. Not bad. Some attempt at humor and subplot is made. We're still recovering from the crap we saw at Thoth's-Amom. But, there is some character development.

VI. At the Tomb. To my surprise, the Tomb actually looks decent. After seeing Thoth-Amon's crystal castle in the lake, I didn't know what to expect, but what I did expect wasn't good. The scene where the two mages pit their magics against each other could have been better, but it was acceptible.

VII. Shadizar and the climax. And, the climax is OK, except for one thing. The monster-Dagon is truly, utterly, laughable. And because the Throne Room and the rest of the sequence looks pretty good, it is jolting to cut to this awful man-in-a-rubber-suit.

Yeah, if you can somehow improve the Thoth-Amon sequence and the Dagon fight at the end, the film would gain a full star or two in many people's reveiw.
It's interesting that Robert Jordan tried to right-some-canon-wrongs with the screenplay in his (actually pretty good) novelization of the film. The Thoth-Amon of the film becomes Amon-Rama, and Amon is a Stygian. The altar scene and Conan praying is more palatable, too, the way Jordan writes it.
I think John Milius movie is a masterwork. It is certainly not REH's Conan... but it is still a movie which makes you dream about an "age undreamed of..".

I think "Conan the Destroyer" was not at that level.
I remember watching that movie when I was a child and I always felt it to be not a complete crap, but just a "Dungeons & Dragons" or "Heroquest" style" movie, certainly not a Conan movie.
There's some fun in watching it, but there's a lot a stupidities (e.g. Arnold being ALWAYS bare chested and in furry shorts)...even if I have always been amazed by Wombatta's odd weapon, that wonderful great mace/pick!

Regarding the monster beng "enjoyable" I think we must look at it with the eyes of early 1980's.
In those times it was a great monster (or maybe it was me, as a child, to have liked it).
If you watch the "Rancor" in the "Return of the Jedi" I'm sure you will notice that it's a silly slow, rubbery monster.
But it was terrifying in the 1980s.

Regarding Conan in Jordan's books...maybe somebody will hate me, but if we speak of pastiches & Conantics I've always felt the classics by De Camp & Carter to be more enjoyable than Jordan's stories.
I'm going to have to politely disagree with Supplement 4 on this one.

Conan the Destroyer is not as offensively bad as some other S&S films of the era, but the problem is that it is such a drop in quality compared to the epic first film.

Actually, it may be unfair to criticise the quality of the film. As you say many parts are quite well done even when others are not. I feel the problem is with the tone of the film.

Conan the Barbarian is a film that, if you were to explain it scene-for-scene to someone who has never seen it, would sound utterly ridiculous.* But the tone of the film is so overwhelmingly serious, without even a hint of irony (and the Poledouris score so perfect) that it transcends its campier aspects and becomes, well, epic.

In contrast, Conan the Destroyer is quite campy and tongue-in-cheek from the start. The concept of full-time comic relief sidekick is introduced in Malak instead of the serious and somewhat philosophical Subotai. There's lots of one-liners and other siliness in Destroyer that simply wasn't there in Barbarian. This is a complete turnaround from the previous movie.

I think it likely has something to do with aiming for a lower rating to increase box office (iirc Destroyer is rated PG while Barbarian is rated R). It certainly feels a lot more like a kids' movie than Barbarian does. I guess I felt that if the movie doesn't even take itself seriously, there's no reason I should take it seriously.

Ultimately the movie is what it is and as you say it's not as completely awful as it's sometimes made out to be. But the simple fact that it could have been a worthy successor to Barbarian makes it harder to stomach than comparable "so bad they're good" S&S movies like Beastmaster or Deathstalker.

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* "So wait, the guy is walking in circles pushing a wheel for like 10 years? Then they train him to be a samurai? Then he meets some guy chained to a cliff and they become best friends? Then they break into some evil temple, meet a chick also breaking in and they also become best friends? Then they get hired to rescue a princess? Then he gets caught and they kill him? Then he gets resurrected?" Etc...