Conan the Destroyer (1984) — In which Conan punches out a camel

“Grab him! And take him!”

Justin’s rating: Oh Wilt and Arnold, when will you two arm wrestle and make up?

Justin’s review: “My name is Ah-nold, Ah-nold Schwarzenegger. You might know me from that little movie where I oh-so-cleverly quipped ‘I’ll be back’ (ha ha! That still amuses my gut!) and the other movie where I became a mommy. But did you know that I have a dark and brutal past, where my muscles acted for me, instead of my loquacious mouth? It true! For once upon a time, I held aloft my sword of destiny (ha ha! That’s what my wife calls… er, nevermind!) and was known throughout the land as CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Mighty warrior-king-thief-poet was I, a man so manly that you men out there shrivel in your undies to think of it. Now, I must go pay homage to my constituents!”

[He mutters something about it not being “a tumor” and leaves. Justin meekly enters.]

Is he gone? So sorry about that folks! Pooly saw him sitting on the side of the road near the office and gave him a pocket full of Toonies, and the next thing you know, Mr. California Governor is crashing on our couch, getting drunk and singing of his glory days.

It’s ironic, too, because we were just in the middle of a Conan marathon here at Mutant Reviewers HQ. Many of us were too young to know Schwarzenegger in his salad days as the barbaric fighter, but we now know that we are certainly old and mature enough to take this piece of classic Western filmmaking and MST3K the heck out of it. In fact, I promise you that if you have a party or get-together and need to select a film that satisfies the requirements of being (a) cheesy, so that you and your friends can mock this and feel the surge of wit in your souls, and (b) be actually entertaining enough to keep your interest, Conan the Destroyer WILL not, CAN not let you down.

If you don’t believe me, in the first fifteen minutes a very slobbery camel spits all over Conan, and Conan conks the animal on the noggin with his fist. This was such a sober and heartwarming scene that my wife and I fought over the remote, screaming with laughter and begging to see it “just one more time”.

Robert E. Howard’s creation of Conan back in the 1940s painted a fantasy world that was everything Tolkien’s was not — savage, dirty, rated-Mature-for-adults, and barbaric. Many fans felt his works were watered down into a more kiddy-friendly Conan for the 1980s movie series, while some gave grudging respect to the attempt. Me? I thank any studio that put together all the film elements needed to showcase a number of actual adults making goofy, twisted faces and acting like that’s perfectly normal.

Conan the Destroyer begins with Conan enlisted into the service of Evil Witch Queenie, who sends him on a quest with her daughter to find a rock, then a horn, then bring them back so daughter can be sacrificed to a very ugly god. Although she offers him no real proof, Conan does this because Evil Witch Queenie says she can resurrect his long-lost love (That sounds familiar…), and that’s good enough for an hour and forty minutes of horseback riding and sly Schwarzenegger grins!

Feminists of the world, this be not the movie for ye. The princess is sadly hapless, in the style of pretty much all fantasy princesses dating back to Bambi. What? Bambi was a dude? My childhood worldview, ruined! Erm… ahem… Anyway, she’s there, she wears skimpy clothing and very little undergarment support, and that is all you need know about her life’s ambitions.

Aside from this odd couple, the questing party grows to include the princess’ grim bodyguard Bombaata (you will get used to this name, as the princess wails it out every time she’s in trouble: “Bombaaaataaaaaa!”), motorboat-humming wizard Akiro, comedy relief Malak, and shrieking Amazonian warrior Zula. They’re all fun together, never so much as the scene where Conan gets really stinkin’ drunk and tries to teach the princess swordplay. Seriously.

As for why it’s a perfect party movie, Conan suffers from extreme tonal disorder, flip-flopping between opposites from start to end. Is it a fanciful kids’ fantasy romp, or a dark tale of gods and virgin sacrifices? Is it a swift-moving tale, or padding screen time until the eventual climax? Is Conan almost naked, or does he wear pants and a shirt? Heck, in many spots the movie can’t even decide whether it’s night or day, and will flicker between the two depending on the shot. Really, all that matters is that there’s more than enough unintentional silliness that will allow any viewer to throw in his or her verbal two cents, and some actually entertaining parts (such as Conan being spun around in circles looking like a confused lamb)… and it’s goofy enough to pacify your hardcore movie buddies.

The entire state of California endorses this film, and so do I.

Didja Notice?

  • The camel spitting on him, and Conan’s reaction
  • The Dreaming God looks cozy
  • Ah, good ol’ fashioned virgin human sacrifices… those take me back
  • The spinning decapitated head
  • Tails are the “in” accessories on Amazon warriors
  • Akiro is good for a laugh every time he does magic and it sounds like he’s having a hernia
  • Conan being spun through the air
  • Conan drunk is goofy fun!
  • The sex talk! Oh, the agony of the sex talk!
  • In the middle of a fierce battle, it’s the perfect time to stop and put on a sword-twirling demonstration
  • Getting Wilt Chamberlin to guard a girl’s virginity is… a great idea. Sure.
  • André the Giant played the resurrected horned giant.
  • Telephone poles are clearly visible behind Conan and the others as they gallop across the windswept plains of Yore, in the opening scene.

One comment

  1. Robert Howard would have had some difficulty first creating Conan in the 1940s, seeing as he committed suicide in 1936. 😛

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