The Film: Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Also known asKing of Destroyer: Conan Part 2 (Japan)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Conan created by Robert E. Howard, who deserves better. Story by Roy Thomas (Some episodes of the cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian) and Gerry Conway (some episodes of Law and OrderG.I. Joe, and My Little Pony N’ Friends. Huh.), and execrable screenplay by Stanley Mann (Damien: Omen II). Direction by Richard Fleischer (Red Sonja. Enough said.) and soundtrack supposedly by Basil Poledouris, though it sounds more like producer Dino De Laurentiis let a stoned nephew go crazy remixing the excellent score from Conan the Barbarian into a warmed over symphony of half-hearted crap. Acting by Grace Jones, hackting by Arnie and Sarah Douglas, mugging by Tracy Walter and Mako, passable wooden golem impressions by Olivia d’Abo and Wilt (sigh) “the Stilt” Chamberlin, and André the Giant as the grumpy awakened Dreaming God who, alone of all the cast, was uncredited and thus allowed some shred of dignity.

Quote: “The horn is his life! Tear out the horn!”

Alternate quote: (If one desires the companionship of a gentleman) “Grab him! And take him!”

First viewing by Jesse: Not sure, but I was young enough to think it was watchable.

First viewing by Molly: Maybe a month ago?

Most recent viewing by both: Maybe a month ago? Frankly, we’ve been putting off reviewing it.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Low. I was more familiar with the first Conan movie and Red Sonja as a young’un, but I do have vague memories of the Dreaming God Dagoth and the Evil Queen (Sarah Douglas) being awesome in the way that rubbersuit monsters and vamped-out villainesses are intrinsically awesome to kids of a certain genetic code.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: Nil. Thank goodness.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:


Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Goddamn it sums it up pretty well. I knew as soon as Molly got the big-eyed “oh hells yes” look on her face during Conan the Barbarian that we would end up watching Destroyer, and that Destroyer would be a piece of shit. It’s kind of like being a kid and being so excited when you’re parents take you to the mall to meet Santa Claus and it’s so frickin cool that you have to go again next year, but when December rolls around again this year’s Santa has a drinking problem and a thin beard and grease stains on his sleeve and as soon as you get off his lap the rent-a-cops handcuff him to await the real police because to finance his gambling debts to a local mob boss he’s been illegally dumping toxic waste in your favorite public park. And kicking puppies. That’s what going from Barbarian to Destroyer is like, and I knew it, and I agreed to re-watch is anyway, Crom forgive me.

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: I was excited, because I really, really enjoyed Conan the Barbarian, and I knew Arnold and Mako would be returning, and Mr. Poledouris did the score. My exact thought was how bad could it be? I was warned by Jesse, warned by my uncle Glenn, warned by the friggin’ video store dude, but I remained optimistic. I called bullshit on Jesse’s theory that the fact that it was PG made all the difference, since it was made the year the PG-13 rating was just being adopted and, and, and. . . I was wrong.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Total bullshit. We actually got a formal protest not to review this movie given just how wretched it is but intentionally hurting ourselves comes with the territory. Conan the Destroyer is so stupid it makes The Beastmaster look like a nuanced and clever film (Molly Aside: I’m not so sure about that sentiment; they are awful in different ways. At least the protagonist of Destroyer looks like a goddamn barbarian instead of some surfer-dude in a leather skirt with some weasels. OK, back to Jesse.). I’m going to try to tone down my hating on director Fleischer this time around since Molly pointed out that he’s dead and I can’t think of a single ghost I’d like to be haunted by less, but for the love of all that is holy he made one stinky, stinky fucking movie. Well, two, counting Red Sonja, and three counting Amittyville 3-D, and—you know what? Never mind. This movie sucks for a host of reasons, only some of them we’ll have time to explore, and lest repeating Fleischer’s name affects some sort of Candyman resurrection the less we say about him the better. Maybe that last bit was a little harsh. . . but he made Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja, so the Candyman warning stands.

While the first film certainly deviated from Howard’s source material all over the place it at least captured certain elements of the original stories and had a lot to love in of itself. Destroyer, by contrast, feels like a monotonous journey on Dungeons and Dragons Railways, with only the occasional stop to let off painful jokes and pick up plot contrivances, plodding ever closer toward the forgone conclusion we all predicted the moment dungeon master Fleischer let out a Mountain Dew belch and informed us we would be escorting the princess on a perilous journey. Worse still, instead of simply having an obvious plot we also have a chronically stupid plot, with such idiotic sequences as the adventuring party of Conan N’ Friends spending the night camping just outside the island-bound ice palace of the evil wizard they’re intending to jack in the morning without keeping watch, whereupon the evil wizard, not being completely fucking worthless, sees them and kidnaps the princess. When Conan and company find the princess missing they promptly board the boat that is inexplicably waiting for them and row across to—forget it, forget it, just repeating the stupidity that is this movie’s plot is making me want to break priceless vases with my face.

One of the most painful elements of Destroyer is the forced humor, courtesy mostly of Tracy Walter who I liked quite a bit in Repoman but is just awful in this—he basically does here what the annoying kid does in Red Sonja, which is make a bad thing worse through inane one liners. Hell, most of Conan’s new sidekicks are painful to watch—Wilt and the princess just can’t act to save their lives, but Mako, as with Arnie, is obviously trying to act, and in both cases the result is a decrease in quality from their performances in the first movie. Oh, and as for added skin-crawling horror on a Friday afternoon the Wikipedia page for the movies describe then-15-year-old Olivia d’Abo as “playing the petulant teenage princess with sexy innocence” when she is, in fact, a perfectly terrible actress and, as the same person noted a few words earlier in the sentence, a fifteen year old one. The only thing this has going for it that Barbarian doesn’t is Grace Jones, and the absence of Subotai (Gerry Lopez) is sorely felt every time one of Destoryer’s side characters fails at life—Subotai knew how to sidekick, for reals.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Fuck this movie. It sucks. It sucks in the same way Red Sonja sucks, which is to say, relentlessly. Literally the only thing I enjoyed about it was watching Grace Jones. She was having such a good time I couldn’t hate her—the way she mugs for the camera, the way she is totally OK with wearing a barbarian outfit with a tail on it, the way she’s just happy to be there and in a movie and holding a spear and being all fierce and stuff. Everything else is completely worthless. I mean—fuck. Poledouris didn’t even write a new score for this pile of turds. Why bother? He just sped up the tempo of the Conan the Barbarian movie soundtrack and cashed his fucking paycheck, which I hope was padded by royalties from the original Conan movie. Jesus. Jesse was all like “you will hate his sidekick so much” and I was like, really? But I knew the minute Tracey Walter (AKA Truly the Worst Sidekick of All time in Conan the Destroyer, AKA one of the hideously annoying Ferengi in the season oneST:TNG episode where that race first appear, AKA the dude who has appeared in some of the worst entertainment war crimes of the 20th and 21st centuries including, no joke, ALFCity SlickersMelrose Place, the Beloved movie,Mighty Joe Young, and Masked and Anonymous,) spoke his first line I was in for deep hurting.

Here’s the thing: a while ago Jesse and I were working on a project together and I called him out on something that made no sense. Jesse responded, “it makes fantasy sense.” He was right, and I have a hearty respect for “fantasy sense” (you know, like how in Conan the Barbarian, when Conan is a pit fighter? And making his owner a ton of money? And then his owner lets him go—without a sword—because “he was like an animal that had been caged too long” or whatever. . . that makes fantasy sense). But nothing in Conan the Destroyer makes any sort of sense at all, not even fantasy sense. To wit: why do Conan’s pants keep disappearing and then reappearing at random? Why do they make camp outside the evil wizard’s palace in plain sight, unprotected, for an entire night? Why does the wizard touch a gem only the princess can touch that he’s had foreverz and clearly knows how to use? You get my point. This movie is a quintessential Idiot Plot film and I hate it.

I’d also like to say this about swords in movies: if you’re going to use big fucking broadswords, please have people use them properly. No one in his or her right mind will swing a broadsword around so it makes those oh-so-nifty “shwoop shwoop” sounds (a la any comedy movie featuring a scene wherein a Western Dude defeats an Asian Dude by shooting him in the face after the Asian Dude swings his swords around in a vaguely martial-artsy manner while saying “ahhhhhhhhhh so!” or whatever). It would probably sprain your wrist. Also it is stupid. It is far more effective to hack at a person with a big fucking sword if you are trying to hurt them. But you know, if you’re making a kid-friendly fantasy movie, I guess it’s a decent stand-in for actually hurting someone? Ugh.

I really, really wanted to like this movie. But I didn’t. I hated it. I didn’t hate it nearly as much as next week’s movie—I’m deliberately holding back the title for the Ultimate Reveal—but I hated it quite a bit. I think I hated it mostly for its utter blandness. They excised pretty much everything that made the first Conan movie awesome: big fucking swords used brutally by big fucking dudes, a sense of epic gravity to the proceedings, an interesting female character, a sidekick who is awesome and cries for Conan because Conan will not cry, battles that are actually cool, a plot that makes some sort of sense, a good soundtrack, a hero who’s man enough to wax philosophical about picking berries with his dad, a dead girlfriend coming back valkyrie instead of a weird blue ghost or something, and of course, a wizard who actually has chops (I’d like to see the wizard in Destroyer turn a snake into a goddamn arrow. . . the worst evil wrought by that doofus was, what? Turning into a cartoon bird and stealing a girl in plain sight? Having an ape-monster who can be killed by shattering a mirror? Come the fuck on). Instead we get. . . a stupid movie with nothing interesting and a final scene that is just a bargain-basement redux of the sort-of crappy ending of A New Hope, but instead of Chewie making everyone force a chuckle with a final “NNNNGGGGAAHHHHHHH” we just have Conan just walking away from some babe, without, I think, even bagging her doughnuts. . . wtf.

High Points: Grace Jones. The credits.

Low Points: That embedding was disabled for this stellar clip of Conan and the caped Goliath. That the rambling but still-engaging narrative of the first movie was traded for the most bone-headed “you all meet in a tavern, where a local king hires you to retrieve the three crimson orbs of the rumpshakers” style of plot imaginable. The attempts at humor, which are as frequent and forced as they are idiotic and often out of character. The myriad attempts to borrow elements from the first film in hopes of bettering this one, such as the camel punch, almost as if the filmmakers knew they were crafting an inferior picture and naïvely hoped that by lifting from Barbarian they could recapture the charm that is utterly absent from this goddamn pile of human waste. The tail they put on Grace Jones’s costume—the definition of an ORLY? decision on the designers’ part. The jingle bell sound effect they added to Grace Jones shaking said tail—Jesus fucking Christ. The fact that they somehow found a way to make Conan of Cimmeria swinging a sword, getting his mack on, butchering redshirts and monsters—doing his thing, basically—so utterly, irredeemably boring.

Final Verdict: A big ol’ fuck you, Conan the Destroyer.

Bonus: I found this image while searching for Conan the Destroyer images:

turning snakes into arrows? YES WE CAN