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Conan the Barbarian: Special Edition

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 125 mins . MA15+ . PAL


It’s a little known fact that Arnold Schwarzenneger actually recorded two audio commentaries for Conan the Barbarian. The one that made it to the DVD was the second, after the first was recorded by Schwarzenneger while watching the DVD on his in-car entertainment system in his Hummvee, on his way to open another Planet Hollywood. On the way he picks up Bruce Willis and they start a drunken argument over who makes the most money after Willis says that Arnold looks “fat” in the film. We’ve managed to convince director John Milius to allow us to publish a transcript of some sections of the commentary for your entertainment.

00min 13sec
“Ulloh, dis is Anult Schwarzenneger, andt we are wahtching my firsd big moofie, Cohnan da Burberryan. I agreed to play Cohnan, becorze Cohnan is such a manly name andt I would ged do walk around showing off my eggzellent body. In dis moofie, I looked so hooge, andt my arms are really massif. Dis is goodt because dey neededt a massif person do play Cohnan, and nodt some puny little person like like like... dat big girly Brooz Villis…har har har!, he is going do be soo ahngry when he hears dis commentary, but he is sooo puny what can he do? I couldt snap hiz arms like matchstigcks! So, John Milius is da director of dis film, andt he haz dis big beardt, he shouldt make a moofie aboudt it and I couldt play his beardt, har har har, so dey askedt me if I whant to play Cohnan becorze dey say that I wouldt be perhvect vor it, I say to dem “You are rhight, I am perhvect, I will be Cohnan” so we den wehdt andt made da moofie and smokedt some cigars and had lotz of sex wit bootiful women...”

11min 45sec
“...da moofie is aboudt dis boy, andt his mudder and fudder are killt by dese bad people ledt by James Earl Jones who playz someone called Thulsa Doom, who belongs to an evil znake cult... look at de boy’s emotion when dey cudt off his mummys headt, see, he is upsedt andt da headt jusdt bounces on da groundt…I tink we used a real headt for dis scene...

15min 30sec
“...and dey take da boy andt he grows up big andt strong because he is angry and has no friendts or family andt he just walks aroundt andt aroundt pushink dis big ‘wheel of pain’ fingk for years…look at how hooge hiz legz are! I don’t know whadt da wheel of pain iz for in da film, budt we usedt da wheel do crack our walnuts on da set when we were hungry. ...Dis is a really goodt bit because you zee da boy andt he has his headt down den he lookz up and it iz me! Zee, before he was a childt andt now he is a grown man! Moofies are ahmazink. I dond’t even remember John filming me as a childt so I dond’t know how he didt it…John Milius I fink is an ginious to make dis happen…ahmazink...”

21min 18sec
“...ulloh Brooz, zorry I’m zo late, I hadt to gedt milk for Maria before I levt home…”
“Hey Arnie, no problems, Demi had me wash the dishes anyway... whattaya watchin'?”
“Oh, I’m juzt doingk a commentary vor my Cohnan DVD... so you shudup andt ledt me finish or I vill bregk your negk like a jickgen..."

24min 26sec
“...now, Cohnan has learndt how to fighdt and he iz a jampion and den one day hiz masdter letz him go free... whidch waz nize of him…I hadt fun learningk to uze swordts…dey were heavy but I have hooge arms…loog at dem!...”

53min 38sec
“...and den a King azk’s me to resgue his dawter who was takgen by Thulsa Doom, zo now widt my bandt or worriorz - juzt like Robin Hoodt - I go andt finally geht revenge on dat snakey bahstardt who killdt my mudder and fudder while resguing da kings dawter. Budt Robin Hoodt was not a real man like me, he was a little pansy-girl like Brooz, andt I had lots of zex with bootiful women, andt Robin Hoodt only hadt zex with trees...”

1hr 13min 40sec
“...ah dis bit where I am tied to a tree trunk is eggzellendt…I really wantedt to gedt inzide da headt of Cohnan zo I wendt ouwt into da dezert for three months and tiedt myself to a tree to experience waht Cohnan wouldt experience. In da mooofie zome birdtz try to eat me zo I bite dem on da neck andt killdt them, - andt this really happendt to me – andt the birdts tastedt like jicken... so we pudt it in da moofie, and den in da nexdt scene where my friendts try to bringk me bahck to life by writing dese funny zymbols all over my hooge body and tieing me down to stop the zpirits takingk me away – dat really happened to me too so we put dat in da moofie as well...”

1hr 31min 52sec
“...here is a anuder goodt fight, I look funtazzic covered in warpaint... and da part where James Earl Jones turns into da snake is funtazzic too, because it’s real I tink, not a zpecial effecgt, he does it all da time adt parties and the only trick I can do is pretendt dat my thumb gomes off but Maria tells me nodt to do it because it scarez our jildren. I hafta tell dem "Shuddup! Shudup you babies ztop cryingk ligke little girlz if you want to grow up to be hooge ligke me!!" Before dis fight I remember saying to John Milius “Whadt is my modtivation in diz scene?” andt he zayz to me “You are Cohnan you idiodt! Juzt do da zcene ligke it’z written in da script” har har har and John is a brilliandt director you know zo I knew he waz tryingk to tell me to gedt inside Cohnan’s headt and feel his angker, feel his rage, feel his torment aboudt losing his mudder and fudder zo I didt andt when we finishedt shooting da scene dey toldt me dat I killedt twelve stuntmen ...so John’s advice workedt ovcourse... he is amazingk...”

2hr 01min 02sec
“...so dat is the Cohnan moofie, I hope you enjoyed it... I thought it was funtazzic, and it waz eggzellendt fun to make, andt sometimes I still dress like Cohnan and pretendt that I have to rescue Maria from the evil servants and once we made dis into a moofie too on my little camera, but dat is nodt out on DVD yet…maybe you can find it on da Internet... but Cohnan was fun to make and den we made Conan da Dastroyar, and maybe one day we’ll make da final Cohnan moofie because everybody loves to zee me on da big screen beating da shit out of people and cutting dem in half and havingk sex wit bootiful women and fighting snakes andt sayingk funny tingks like “Stick aroundt” and “It’s nodt a tumor!”, but anyway thangk yoo for liztening to me and don’t forget to vizit Planet Hollywood, because we haf wundeful Cohnan burgers andt Derminador milgkshakes andt lots of wunderful moofie thingks on da wall andt I really needt the money to buy anudder airplane okay, har har har..."


A grand sweeping fantasy epic about barbarians, wizards and long hair set in a desolate sun scorched landscape and dark forbidding interiors can only be shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which captures the spectacle as it should look. The DVD release gives us this correct theatrical ratio with anamorphic enhancement, and the resultant look is very satisfying no matter what your screen size. Although minor grain is visible in scenes, most of the film is very clear with good detail that is obviously shy of the sort of clarity of many modern films, yet still manages to look good for a 21 year old film. Edge enhancement has been applied to a small degree, which is tolerable and is probably most visible in chapter 13 during a fight where many objects are framed against a clear blue sky, showing up a slight halo around figures and rocks. Naturally, colours are also more subdued than you’d expect from a recent film, and the darker scenes can reveal reasonable levels of detail when the filming allowed it. Conan doesn't have a stunning transfer, but the picture still gets an easy passing grade despite the flaws.


Then you'll notice that Conan the Barbarian has a 5.1 audio track, and you'll start to imagine a sweeping mix with battles full of multi-channel activity. Well you’d be wrong, wouldn’t you? Except for the Basil Polidouris score being expanded into the front stereo pair and wrapped around into the surrounds, the centre channel does about 95% of the work here. I even got up and put my ear to the speakers a few times just to make sure, and all I heard was silence a lot of time. No directional effects, no panning, nada, just the score. Trying to be positive, whatever dialogue is spoken sounds clear even with some of the accents and screaming, and the foley work is clear as well although it is very flat sounding at times. Support from the subwoofer is also basically non-existent, and I can only recall it being called in a few times to add oomph to some low notes in the score.


The features list has some good and some average content. One of the good ones is the commentary by director John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This starts with Milius introducing himself as Arnold (complete with accent) and Arnold introducing himself as ‘John Milius the Great’. Then Arnold says “And if you believe you also believe there are Richard Simmons Jnr’s running around! Har har har, I love it!” It’s good to hear the big lug in a commentary, and teamed up with Milius here we get the inside word on many things, such as that the opening narration was meant to be done by Arnie, but the studio was worried about his accent. Generally, Milius has the better and more interesting recall of what happened, and Arnold sometimes says useful things like “He is putting the swordt in da snow” when someone onscreen puts a sword in the snow, and he says “Exactly” a lot. The Conan Unchained – The Making of Conan feature is a well made 53 minute look at how the whole Conan moofie came together. It features plenty of interviews and imparts lots of information. I found it interesting to watch and a very good tribute to the movie for the DVD release.

The rest of the extras consist of deleted scenes which run about five and half minutes. One is a chopped cameo by director Milius and another which is the best of the lot is of Arnold getting pulled off a rock by a wolf which wasn’t meant to happen, obvious by the way he says “OWWOWW GODDAMMIT!” Special effects is a short split-screen display of a scene as it looked while filming and after effects were applied. The Conan Archives is a self running ten minute feature which contains production art, production photographs, publicity artwork and images. Then there are theatrical trailers which has two trailers that can’t be played seperately. Wrapping up for a bit of light reading there are text screens for production notes and cast & filmmmakers.


Conan the Barbarian is where Arnie got his big break and started down the road to superstardom. The film gathered lots of fans for the escapist fantasy it presented, and the fact that Arnie surely made for the perfect and definitive Conan certainly didn't hurt any. Followed up with Conan the Destroyer, and with talks for a long planned third film doing the rounds, it’s good to see that this still stands the test of time as a piece of entertainment.

The DVD is packaged with a fair selection of extras, most notable being the commentary including Arnie, and a well made feature. Overall, the picture is going to please, and the sound, although clear, is a bit of a let down being an uneasy compromise between the original mono mix and a 5.1 transfer. I personally would have liked to have seen it go either totally a mono mix, or a full blown 5.1 channel effort, but that isn’t going to change what we’ve got now. That aside, the film, the picture and the sound still manage to immerse and entertain you without disappointment and that’s the important thing.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1400
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      And I quote...
    "Dis moofie is aboudt Cohnan gedding revenge on da perzon who killedt hiz mudder and fudder and gomes as an funtuzzic Spedtial Edition DVD"
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-525
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB1070
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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