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Conan the Babarian (1982) - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Popcorn epics don’t get much better than with director John Milius’ action-packed Conan the Barbarian.  This is sword and sorcery at its most rugged and (sometimes) goofiest.  Yet, never does it lose its sense of fun and adventure.  Written by Oliver Stone, who originally envisioned the story as a 12-part movie averaging one a year, Conan the Barbarian is armed with moments of great action, heavy mysticism, sexual mojo, and enough grisly head-chopping violence to make even the purists of sadists and nudists happy.

Based of the series of books created by novelist Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian is set during the prehistoric Hyborian Age – a fictional and magical time of spellbinding adventure – and sometime after the fall of Atlantis.  After watching his parents murdered by a group of Scythian warriors led by Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and being sold into slavery forced to push the Wheel of Pain for 15 years and then sold as a Pit Fighter, Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) struggles to find his freedom and his meaning in a threatening landscape of magical witches and thieves.  He has shaped and sculpted his body into a battle-ready work of art and lives by the sword, but he is clueless as to the meaning in his memories and is forever haunted by the crest of a two-headed snake…the insignia of Doom.

Aided by an archer named Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and a thief named Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), Conan traverses the land in search of the diabolical Doom and the children (now adults) he stole from Conan’s home village all those years ago.  Arrested then hired by King Osric of Ophir (Max von Sydow) to find his missing daughter (Valérie Quennessen) who has disappeared to join Doom and his cult as his bride, Conan and the company he keeps – which now includes the wizard Akiro (Mako) who narrates the story – discover just how dangerous Doom and cult of followers have become.

Enjoying Conan the Barbarian requires the ability to turn the old noggin off for large chunks and just enjoy the epic-sized feature.  Part of its charm and innate bizarreness comes from the fact that so many in-experienced actors and actresses were hired to carry the film.  Of course, Schwarzenegger carries the bulk of the film and if you can get past his goofy expressions and trouble with the dialogue, well, you are halfway there.  This is a $20 million production and the money wasn’t used in getting the actors, it was used on the sets.  It shows.  Brilliant constructions and set designs keep the film bursting with genuine flavor and feel.

The snake-shifting practical effects, bar one great scene of animated devils taunting Conan’s healing process after being beaten by Doom, are engaging and, in this day and age, very refreshing for the amount of detail they bring to Milius’ film.  For all its philosophical weight and witticisms, the story is pretty aptly plotted and moves along quickly toward its end game between Conan and Doom.  Of course, nothing would make this Conan without the insanely awesome sword-sleighing score from Basil Poledouris who adds much swagger to the film with his sweeping strings and bombastic brass.

Problematic only for those who hate sword and sorcery pictures, this 1982 classic does more for the blood-soaked genre than anyone gives it credit for anymore.

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{2jtab: Film Info}

Conan the BarbarianMPAA Rating: R for strong violence, sex, nudity, and gore.
Director
: John Milius
Writer
: John Milius and Oliver Stone
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger; James Earl Jones; Max von Sydow; Cassandra Gava; Mako
Genre: Action | Fantasy | Adventure
Tagline: He conquered an empire with his sword. She conquered HIM with her bare hands.
Official Site:
Memorable Movie Quote:
"The dead... the gods are pleased with you, they will watch the battle."
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Release Date:
May 14, 1982
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 2, 2011

Synopsis: The film begins with a young Cimmerian boy, Conan, witnessing the destruction of his village and the death of his parents at the hand of warlord Thulsa Doom. The battle standard carried by the invaders, two snakes facing each other over a black sun, is burned into the memory of young Conan. Sold into slavery, Conan eventually grows strong enough to fight as a gladiator. His owner sees such potential that he takes Conan to the far East to be trained by warriors. After many successful fights, his owner spontaneously sets him free. Conan dedicates his life to exacting revenge on Thulsa Doom.

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{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Conan

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - August 2, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English; French
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); BD-Live; D-Box; Mobile features
Playback: Region A

More crisp and lifelike than ever seen before, the 1080p transfer from Universal is a bold and exciting upgrade.  The negative has been cleaned and debris and scratches are free from the print.  Of course, it isn’t a perfect presentation of the film.  Much restoration could have been done to improve the black levels which sometimes bleed through the other colors, but this is a pretty cool upgrade.  The rich sound is kicking with a fully realized 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Provided by Schwarzenegger and Milius, the commentary is a fairly loose and informative affair.  The two remain breezy throughout their exchanges and talk about the production history and what the shoot was like.

Special Features:

Minus the original production notes, most of the special features have been ported over from the Collector’s DVD Edition from a few years back.  There are two new featurettes, but they don’t really add much to the mythos surrounding the film. What you do get are cast interviews, a fairly interesting making of vehicle, and a couple of deleted scenes.  I suppose what everyone wants is the extended cut with the missing scenes, but that has yet to happen.  Maybe next year?  Maybe.

  • Conan Unchained: The Making of ‘Conan’ (53 min)
  • Art of Steel: Sword Makers and Masters (15 min)
  • Conan: From the Vault (10 min)
  • Special Effects (2 min)
  • The Conan Archives (12 min)
  • Deleted Scenes (6 min)
  • Theatrical Trailers (4 min)

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