Junkfood Cinema: ‘Conan the Destroyer’ is More Dumbarian Than Barbarian

By  · Published on August 19th, 2011

Wel-Crom to Junkfood Cinema. We condone the camel punch, but only if it’s being an ass. Only a metaphorical ass, though, don’t punch a camel that is biologically an ass because that would be rare for science; and don’t punch the ass of a biological camel because that’s just not nice (unless it’s the ownership of a camel enslaving an ass, then by all means help abolish that)…and don’t stick your ass in the punch being drunk by camels, because it could give the camel pink-eye.

Yes, we know we let suspect pictures containing very little health benefits drown us in their half-nakedness and drag us through the dirt like a barbarian here in this column, but we like it rough and prefer our movies to treat us like ragdolls from time to time because after we’ve mended the scrapes and burns we have ourselves a little snack reminding us of our experience because you should never forget when you’ve been triumphed in life.

Today we visit one of the greatest sequels ever released in June 1984 and Schwarzenegger’s best film of that year’s first 9 months. Sit back, chug some mead and let us tell you about the days of high adventure in Conan the Destroyer.

What Makes it Bad?

Some people in life are blessed with the [I would hope] common ability to make good decisions. Yet, somehow, none of those people were written into Conan the Destroyer.

The person I would probably consider the main villain (a sorceress) devises a plan to employ Conan to bodyguard her adult-aged niece to obtain an historical artifact that legend has it will bring back a God from the dead to rule the Earth. Bringing back Gods rarely works out positively. If they can’t come back themselves then you probably shouldn’t try and help.

She does have a relatively good idea to employ Conan for her niece’s protection, but there’s just one issue…her niece was born with a vagina and that vagina needs to remain un-Conan’ed upon their return so that she can be sacrificed as a virgin. What’s her plan to keep Conan out of her niece? Wilt Chamberlin. I guess if you can’t find bigger, then just get taller.

To her credit it all works out fine because Conan has elevated class stature since the last film from Barbarian to Destroyer, making him more of a gentleman. But still, why get the assistance of someone who’s had the two last names “the Barbarian” and “the Destroyer” if your niece is supposed to keep her virginity? Neither of those words have ever been good for hymens.

That was mistake number one and technically the picture hasn’t even started yet. Number two involves her method for actually getting Conan’s help. Her first attempt was to get her soldiers to capture Conan alive in a net. Conan doesn’t do alive in a net. Conan kills people who try to alive him in a net and that’s what he does to her soldiers. After that plan failed she pulled out her actual assured way of getting him on board by convincing him that she could bring back his deceased lover from the dead.

Too bad she wasn’t that smart five minutes earlier before her soldiers’ carcasses littered the dirt.

That was dumb thing number two, and we’re only ten minutes into the film. After she gets Conan back to the castle, gives him the lowdown of what he needs to do and tells Wilt Chamberlin that he needs to make sure Conan doesn’t flip up his lions-mane loincloth she thinks it’s best to say all this with her niece asleep in the same room. She also decides to spill the beans on that whole kill the girl upon their return part too….with the girl still asleep in the room. Does the niece hear it? No, of course not because then we’d have to leave the theater because the movie would be over ‐ but still, it’s just bad practice that she should probably work on if she’s going to be at the side of the ruler of the world. I don’t think he’s going to like her giving away evil plans so easily.

After this we’re introduced to a number of characters on their journey (Grace Jones is amongst them, but she disappears in certain scenes) ‐ one of which is a wizard who went to the Gandalf school of wizardry. As in, he speaks a lot of languages, he’s really good at clapping his hands to make fire, his fingers can point in the right direction, and he can make gates shut while other wizards are trying to make them open with their mind powers.

In other words, he’s just a living Swiss army knife that can help you read.

In fact, there’s even a scene where I seriously doubt his understanding of magical force. He attempts to raise a glass door (with magic), but his hand motions contradict each other. One hand raises up while the other pushes down. Surprisingly…the door doesn’t rise. He then tries pushing the air with his hands downward first, and then back up. Same outcome. Then, he looks around at everybody and shrugs his shoulders as if confused that magic couldn’t understand what the hell his hands were telling it to do. No, Wizard! Magic probably understood perfectly each time you were telling it to push the door down and up at the same time!

A good portion of the film is filled with just as much nonsense, such as the Wizard skimming through a prophecy of what they are about to do and mumbling through the part that says “mmm…end of the world…mmmm” while getting frazzled at the part that says “mmm…SACRIFICE THE GIRL!?” Y’know…because the real tragedy is that the girl will die first before the horrific end to all of humanity.

The actual real tragedy of the story, though, may be Conan himself ‐ who is probably the most clueless a hero as has ever been. I’m pretty sure if you did the math you might find that roughly 85% of what comes out of Conan’s mouth is a question. Another 10% is him drunk. The remaining 5% is him saying “Crom.” And the entire film is predicated on him believing that his dead girlfriend is going to be risen from the dead, and yet he dismisses a prophecy of “the end of the world” as just “writing on the wall.”

Why I Love It

I won’t lie; nostalgia plays a big factor here. I grew up with Conan the Destroyer much more so than Conan the Barbarian. I watched it almost endlessly for years along with some of my favorite Sho Kosugi ninja films. It had swords, magic (though not very impressive), fighting, monsters, adventure and comedy ‐ most of it intended.

It’s actually a rather fun picture. The sequence with the centuries old wizard in the ice castle I think is mostly well-staged and is a pretty good fight scene between Conan and the illusionary monster figure. And, although I gave the Wizard a lot of crap for not being very wizardry, Mako reprising his role from Conan the Barbarian is actually a film highlight and his personality takes the picture a long way.

I also think this is the picture that Arnold really started to show that he could be more than just an intimidating physical presence. His one scene where he’s drunk is pretty humorous and is about as humorous as he turned out to be in future roles. In general, he just seemed more comfortable at this point with dialogue and the Schwarzenegger we came to know started to really take shape in this film.

Some people might fault the picture for being much less of a barbarian type of film than its predecessor, but the lighter tone and more teenager-friendly content I feel helps it to be revisited more often. It’s definitely fluffier than Conan the Barbarian, but very much in that happy to see it come on TNT sort of way.

Junkfood Pairing: Pecan Sandies

Here’s the deal, there’s only one scene with alcohol in this movie and yet there’s still more booze than food. Nobody eats anything. The only thing in this flick on screen enough to generate a theme other than maybe steroids would be dirt.

A lot of the film happens out in non-grassy areas and though we don’t recommend feasting upon a nice plate of desert, we absolutely agree with shoving some sugared sand cookies into your kisser while watching Conan spend two acts trying to obtain a horn to place in a statue, and then the final act trying to remove that horn from that statue he spent two acts trying to make happen.

Read more Junkfood Cinema, by Crom!

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