Conan the Destroyer
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|Conan the Destroyer|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Fleischer|
|Produced by||Raffaella De Laurentiis|
|Screenplay by||Stanley Mann|
|Based on||Conan the Barbarian|
by Robert E. Howard
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Edited by||Frank J. Urioste|
Dino De Laurentiis Company
|Box office||$26.4–31 million|
Conan the Destroyer is a 1984 American epic sword and sorcery film directed by Richard Fleischer from a screenplay by Stanley Mann and a story by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway. Based on the character Conan the Barbarian created by Robert E. Howard, it is the sequel to Conan the Barbarian (1982). The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mako reprising their roles as Conan and Akiro, the Wizard of the Mounds, respectively. The cast also includes Grace Jones, Wilt Chamberlain, Tracey Walter, and Olivia d'Abo.
Conan the Destroyer was theatrically released in the United States on June 29, 1984, by Universal Pictures. Upon release, the film received generally mixed reviews from critics. It grossed between $26.4 million and $31 million in the United States.
Conan and his companion, the thief Malak, are confronted by Queen Taramis of Shadizar. She tests their combat ability with several of her guards. Satisfied, she tells Conan that she has a quest for him. He refuses her, but when she promises to resurrect his lost love, Valeria, Conan agrees to the quest. He is to escort the Queen's niece, Princess Jehnna, a virgin, who is destined to restore the jeweled horn of the dreaming god Dagoth; a magic gem must first be retrieved that will locate the horn. Conan and Malak are joined by Bombaata, the captain of Taramis's guard. Bombaata has secret orders to kill Conan once the gem is obtained.
The gem is secured in the fortress of a powerful wizard, so Conan seeks the help of his friend, Akiro, the Wizard of the Mounds. Akiro has been captured by a tribe of cannibals, and must first be rescued. The adventurers encounter Zula, a powerful bandit warrior being tortured by vengeful villagers. Freeing Zula at Jehnna's request, Conan accepts the indebted warrior's offer to join their quest.
The adventurers travel to the castle of Thoth-Amon, where the gem is located. As they camp for the night, the wizard takes the form of a giant bird and kidnaps Jehnna. The others wake in time to see the bird enter the castle. Sneaking in through a water gate, they search the castle, but Conan is separated from the group, and the others are forced to watch him battle a fierce man-beast. Conan mortally wounds the creature, which is revealed as another form of Thoth-Amon. With the wizard's death, the castle begins to disintegrate, forcing the group's hasty retreat. They are ambushed by Taramis's guards, but drive them off. Bombaata feigns ignorance about the attack. The gem reveals the location of the jeweled horn. Jehnna expresses romantic interest in Conan, but he rebuffs her and declares his devotion to Valeria.
They reach an ancient temple, where the horn is secured. Jehnna obtains it while Akiro deciphers engravings. He learns that Jehnna will be ritually sacrificed to awaken Dagoth. They are attacked by the priests who guard the horn. A secret exit is revealed, but Bombaata blocks the others' escape and seizes Jehnna. Despite this treachery, Conan and his allies escape from the priests and trek to Shadizar to rescue Jehnna.
Malak shows them a secret route to the throne room. Conan confronts Bombaata and kills him in combat. Zula impales the Grand Vizier before he can sacrifice Jehnna. The rising Dagoth becomes distorted from a human statue into a monstrous entity. He kills Taramis, then attacks Conan. Zula and Malak join the fight, but are effortlessly swept aside by him. Grappling with the monster, Conan tears out Dagoth's horn, weakening Dagoth enough to kill him.
The newly crowned Queen Jehnna offers each of her companions a place in her new court: Zula will be the new captain of the guard, Akiro the queen's advisor, and Malak the court jester. Jehnna offers Conan marriage and the opportunity to rule the kingdom with her, but he declines and departs to find further adventures and his own place in the world.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Destroyer
- Grace Jones as Zula
- Wilt Chamberlain as Bombaata
- Mako as Akiro
- Tracey Walter as Malak
- Sarah Douglas as Queen Taramis
- Olivia d'Abo as Princess Jehnna
- Pat Roach as Thoth-Amon
- Jeff Corey as Grand Vizier
- Sven-Ole Thorsen as Togra
- André the Giant as the Dagoth monster (uncredited)
- Ferdy Mayne as The Leader
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Toning down the violence
When John Milius, director of Conan the Barbarian, was unavailable, Dino De Laurentiis suggested Richard Fleischer to his daughter Raffaella De Laurentiis, who was producing Conan the Destroyer. Fleischer had already made Barabbas (1961) and Mandingo (1975) for Dino De Laurentiis.
Conan the Barbarian made about $40 million at the U.S. box office when it was released in 1982 with an R-rating, and an additional $50 million in other markets. Because Universal Pictures and producer Dino De Laurentiis thought it would have been even more successful if it had been less violent, they wanted to tone down the violence in the sequel. Conan the Destroyer originally received an R-rating like its predecessor, but the film was recut to secure a PG-rating. Fleischer delivered a movie that was less violent (and somewhat more humorous) than the first, although some scenes of violence have bloody results (the PG-13 rating did not exist until August of that same year). Carlo Rambaldi created the Dagoth monster.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mako Iwamatsu, who played the Wizard of the Mound and narrator in the first film, return for the second film, while Mako's character is now named Akiro. Sven-Ole Thorsen, who played Thorgrim in the first film, also returned, but this time he had to partially cover his face with a mask, as he was playing a different (yet more bearded) character. Singer Grace Jones performed the female warrior Zula, the last of her tribe. This was the seven-foot, one-inch-tall basketball player Wilt Chamberlain's only movie role and the debut of Olivia d'Abo, who played the petulant teenaged princess. David L. Lander was originally cast to play the foolish thief Malak, but due to his deteriorating health from the onset of multiple sclerosis, he was forced to quit the project, and the part was recast with Tracey Walter. Professional wrestler Pat Roach, who memorably played the German Mechanic in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Thuggee Overseer in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was cast as crystal palace Man Ape/sorcerer Toth-Amon. André the Giant had an uncredited role as the Dagoth monster.
Conan the Destroyer was the fourth film on which British director of photography Jack Cardiff worked with Fleischer. Cardiff had already photographed The Vikings (1958), Crossed Swords (1977), and Amityville 3-D (1983) for the director. They worked together twice more on Million Dollar Mystery (1987), and Fleischer's last film, the short Call from Space (1989), which was shot in the 65-mm Showscan process. Cardiff's other notable films include John Huston's The African Queen (1951), King Vidor's War and Peace (1956), and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985). However, he is best known for his extraordinary Technicolor photography on three films directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in the 1940s — A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947, for which Cardiff won an Oscar), and The Red Shoes (1948).
Shooting took place in Mexico from November 1, 1983, to February 10, 1984.
In the film, a camel is knocked to the ground, and after struggling to get back up, its hind legs are drawn forward with wires so that it is forced to sit down before falling to the ground. This sequence is cut from the U.K. version, although a later scene in which Conan apologizes to the camel is left in. Also cut is a double horse-fall in the opening battle. To secure a PG rating, Sarah Douglas said several scenes involving her character were cut, including a sex scene with Schwarzenegger, slapping Chamberlain, a virgin sacrifice, and the seduction of a statue.
Conan the Destroyer grossed $31 million in the U.S. Schwarzenegger, Fleischer, and De Laurentiis subsequently teamed up again to make Red Sonja a year later. The film, jointly with Bolero, was nominated for two Razzie Awards, including Worst Supporting Actress and won Worst New Star for D'Abo during the 5th Golden Raspberry Awards.
Roger Ebert rated the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote that Conan the Destroyer is "sillier, funnier, and more entertaining" than the first film. In praising the film's use of character actors, Ebert singled out Jones, who he said brings rock star charisma to her role. Variety called it "the ideal sword and sorcery picture" and also praised Jones. Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that Schwarzenegger struggles with the film's more comedic tone.
Rotten Tomatoes, which collects both contemporary and modern reviews, reports that 25% of 24 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 4.42/10. At Metacritic the film received a score of 53 out of 100, based on 12 reviews, indicating "Mixed or average" reviews .
Comic books and graphic novel
Marvel Comics published a comic-book adaptation of the film by writer Michael Fleisher and artist John Buscema in Marvel Super Special #35 (Dec. 1984). The adaptation was also available as a two-issue limited series.
Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway wrote the original story treatment but were dissastified with the final screenplay by Stanley Mann and the finished film. They made their story into the graphic novel Conan the Barbarian: The Horn of Azoth, published in 1990, with art by Mike Docherty. The names of the characters were changed to distance the graphic novel from the movie: Dagoth became Azoth, Jehnna became Natari, Zula became Shumballa, Bombaata became Strabo, Thoth-Amon became Rammon, and the characters of Queen Taramis and The Leader were combined into sorcerer Karanthes, father of Natari.
The third film in the Conan trilogy had been planned for a 1987 release with the title Conan the Conqueror. The director was to have been either Guy Hamilton or John Guillermin. Arnold Schwarzenegger was committed to the film Predator, and De Laurentiis's contract with the star had expired after his obligation to Red Sonja (his role in which was originally intended to be Conan) and Raw Deal, and he was not keen to negotiate a new one. The third Conan film fell into development hell, the script eventually being turned into Kull the Conqueror.
In October 2012, Universal Pictures announced plans for Schwarzenegger to return to the role of Conan for the film The Legend of Conan. The planned story was a direct sequel to the original film, "bypassing" Conan the Destroyer and the 2011 film starring Jason Momoa. In the years following the announcement, Will Beall, Andrea Berloff, and producer Chris Morgan worked on the script, and Schwarzenegger expressed enthusiasm for the project, affirming plans to star in the film. However, in April 2017, Morgan stated that Universal had dropped the project, but that there remains a possibility of a television series. In October 2019, Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed that the film was still in active development, now called Conan the King.
In popular culture
Kim Wayans' spoof portrayals of Grace Jones on the show In Living Color are based on Grace's performance of Zula in Conan the Destroyer. In 1985, Australian heavy metal music group Prowler changed its name to Taramis after the character from the film.
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According to Deadline, the 65-year-old actor/politician/author will be back as Conan the Barbarian, the role that he first portrayed in the 1982 film.
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