James Helsby

LRE #52: Conan the Destroyer

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Little Red Envelope

In my mailbox this week:
Conan: The Destroyer

Release Year: 1984

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones, Wilt Chamberlain

The Manliest Man, The Manliest Woman, and The Manliest Basketball player, join guide a princess on her destiny, and defender her virginity.

Welcome to the week of Crom. And the triumphant return of the Little Red Envelope. And to celebrate the union, I’ve got a real treat. Conan, The Destroyer.

Harold as “Conan’s Greatest Adventure” can the film really live up to mid-80’s marketing hyper, and uber-masculinity potential? Nope.

Sad to say that, really, but the original Conan the Barbarian was a much much better film, in just about all senses of the word. But that isn’t to say that Destroyer is without or devoid of awesomeness in its own right. Destroyer is just probably better called ‘Conan, the quest for the sexing.’

The film starts out strongly enough. Conan, in his travels, is caught in a ruckus with a group of soldiers under the command of Queen Taramis, of Shadazar (Sarah Douglas), Conan and his companion / thief, Malak (Tracey Walter). Conan is almost defeated, but is instead questioned by the Queen. She lures him into revealing his most intimate desires, to be reunited with his own ‘queen’ Valeria (from Conan the Barbaria).

Taramis promises Conan to resurrect Valeria from the dead, if Conan will compete a quest for her. A quest ‘filled’ with challenges. Conan must escort / protect / not have sex with, Taramis’niece Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo). Jehnna has been set apart from birth, because of a unique birthmark that has been foretold to allow her the ability to reclaim a special jewel, which will then allow them to retrieve the horn of Shadazar’s deity Dagoth.

To accompany Jehnna, is her own protector, Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain). As they set out on their quest for the jewel, Conan, Bombaata, Malak, and Jehnna, cross path’s with a warrior, Zulu (Grace Jones) who is being tortured, and a magician Akiro (Mako Iwamatsu). Thanks to Conan saving them from their respective intended fates, they each pledge themselves to Conan’s side.

As the film winds on, Conan must defend Jehnna from all sorts of wonderfully costumed entities, including  some sort of cross between a pro-wrestler, an alligator, and little red riding hood. In the end, as some key characters reveal their true intentions, Conan must come to do battle with the risen god, Dagoth (Andre’ the Giant). And in a display of physical might, remove that which has granted Dagoth his resurrection from stone.

Let just say that the film sure beats a kick in the pants. But there isn’t really much to it. In the world of video gaming, you could consider Conan the Destroyer to be one big 2 hour fetch quest. That isn’t to say it is bad, or boring, or anything like that, but it does play out in this one continuous story line that get’s to be a little dry and laughable right about the time that Conan is fighting against the aforementioned Red-Alligator-Hood. And all considering, it is perhaps one of the worst costumes I have ever seen. The best part of the whole action sequence, is when Conan discovers that the creature / wizard Thoth-Amon’s weakness is the mirrors that surround the room. Instead of breaking the closest mirrors, Arnold runs back and forth between the two sides of the room, almost like some sort of character in a Loony Tunes sketch. I was laughing histerically at this point.

And, of course, you know right from the beginning that when Taramis mentions that Jehnna’s virginity must be intact when she is returned to Shadazar, that there will be no such thing. What, with the manliest that is Grace Jones,… err… Conan laying in a tent next to hers? Of course that old V-card is going to be notched out when she returns.

But Arnold, that bastion of muscle, perhaps seems a little weaker in comparison to two of his side kicks. Grace Jones, and Wilt Chamberlain. For you young readers, you may genuinely have no idea who these two people are. You may have heard of them, but never seen them. Or seen them, but never heard their names. Wilt Chamberlain (the most likely one you will know) was a iconic basketball player, with a career average of over 30 points per game. He actually started his career as a Harlem Globetrotter, before going on to be center for the Warriors, Lakers, and 76ers.

Grace Jones is perhaps a little more obscure. A famous singer from the 70’s and 80’s, Jones was perhaps one of the first female singers to sport androgyny as a personality. While not necessarily masculine in features, the way she cast her body shape, hair, and costumes worked to this end. Her most successful song, Slave to the Rhythm, netted her a nomination for Best Female music video in 1986. Many say that present day performer, Lady Gaga, is nothing more than a rip off of Grace Jones style and presentation.

Chamberlain is 7′ 1″. Jones 5′ 10″. While Chamberlain has height in physical stature, Jones has a lean body that is almost devoid of fat, and still exceptionally strong. Sounds a little weird to talk about that, but it really makes for an evident point considering that she spends the entire movie running around in a thong, and dripping of 30-weight motor oil. When Conan finally does battle with Dagoth (who is played by Andre the Giant, who stands 7′ 4″ tall, you realize that Arnold is really a short dude. I don’t mean in comparison, but actually a small guy. He is reported to be over 6′ tall, but when this film was released, many fans questioned the truth of that statement. Most reports actually say that he is just 5′ 10″. Which to me, seems odd considering I am 5′ 11″. But I digress.

The action of Conan the Destroyer is just as good as you would expect. Pretty evident stunt doubles for most of the characters (I really could have sworn at one point that it was a dude dressed up on a thong, pretending to be Grace Jones) but what else would you expect? I mean, when a sword in ingested just under the arm, and a blood packet is exploded in the other hand, you can’t help but just sit back an enjoy just how awesomely horrible action sequences from the 80’s really were.

But who cares? Not me. Action is action. And some films, no matter how bad they are, are still awesome. If for no other reason than their nostalgia. So, if you are looking to man-up with a film this week, perhaps set yourself down for a triple feature. Watch Conan the Barbarian, immediately followed by Conan the Destroyer. Then pack you little doggy bag, and head on over to your local uber-plex, and check out the new Conan. I haven’t seen it yet, but hell, it’s gotta be at least as manly as these two films.

How painful was it: Bad, but awesome. Some ridiculous fight scenes, and more thongs on men than I care to see.

Rating: 6/10. Not as good as the first, but still has it’s own appeal.

The Wife’s Retort: You kidding? No way would my wife watch this with me. Even though I sat through Mamma Mia for her last week….

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