The Film: Conan the Destroyer (1984)
The Principals: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones Wilt Chamberlin, Olivia d’Abo, Mako.
The Premise: After ridding Cimmeria of Thulsa Doom in the previous adventure, Conan is now tasked by a Queen to escort a young princess, as she attempts to recover a powerful jewel only she can touch. Part two of the mission is to have the princess also get the horn from an ancient god, but unknown to Conan and his crew the Queen intends to have them all killed upon their successful return, and then sacrifice the princess to the god Dagoth!
Is it Good: In no way whatsoever can this film be considered the slightest bit entertaining; it’s a complete pile of fantasy trash. Even if you were to try and file it under “guilty pleasure”, you’d still have to fulfill the ‘pleasure’ aspect.
All of the goodwill and acclaim Conan the Barbarian received upon its release was single handedly wiped away when this rotten item debuted. Because the first film had been so successful, both Universal Studios and producer Dino De Laurentiis believed it would have made even more had it been PG-13 instead of the R rating it got. So, for the sequel they insisted the violence and sex be toned down to the point of not even being present, and a more comical and kid-friendly script was commissioned.
To say it was a total disaster is true, except at the box office – where it grossed $31 million domestically against its $18 million budget.
But enough about money, the film is in every other way space poop. The acting is abominable, as Sarah Douglas camps it up so much as the villain you almost expect her to burst into song. Arnold is bored out of his brain, and clearly misses the energy and direction John Milius would have given him. Grace Jones is Grace Jones, and was only using this film as a tune up for her next affront in A View to a Kill the year later. Olivia d’Abo was about -4 years old when she made this, so she gets a pass. She’s awful, but when you’re a young actress and every one around you is horrid, that kind of thing has to have a negative effect on you.
Even Basil Poledouris’ score is uninspired. Whereas it was a massive highlight in Barbarian (and one of my all-time favorite soundtracks), here it sounds like he was cashing in the checks while composing. It’s overly bombastic and too jaunty at times, and it should have been one of the only reasons to see the film, but like so much from this movie it crumbles under the weight of its predecessor.
Is it worth a look: No. Not even if you’re drunk and/or dying. Go watch The Ghoulies instead.
Random Anecdotes: If only Milius had done this film, we might be talking about one of the best two action movies of the 1980’s. The original script by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas was said to be more aligned with Barbarian, but with more sorcery. They were trying to steer the movie more towards the writing of Robert E. Howard, with less emphasis on Viking motifs. However, their script was stripped down and butchered and all that was left were the sorcery elements, which the production used to campy and terrible results. The writers finally had their work published in 1990 as Conan: The Horn of Azgoth, so if you’re ever wondering how The Destroyer might have looked check it out.