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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, Hebrew, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Turkish, Icelandic, Croatian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Commentary - English
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 3 Featurette
  • Production notes

Conan The Barbarian - Special Edition

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

  Feature
Contract

Conan the Barbarian is your quintessential 'sword and sorcery' movie, derived from classic 1930s pulp magazine stories by Robert E. Howard and brought to the screen in thrillingly trashy style.

Robert E. Howard's character Conan is said by many to have been the progenitor of the 'sword and sorcery' genre of science-fantasy, though I'd give that honour to Edgar Rice Burroughs, for his fabulous adventures set on Mars and Venus.

But Conan did help define the genre, and provided the prototype for later developments by more able writers such as Sprague de Camp and Leigh Brackett.

This is true science-fantasy adventure in which Conan, left orphaned and sold into slavery, grows up into a muscular champion fighter, seeks to revenge himself on the invader of his birth-land who slaughtered his people and lopped off his mother's head.

We trace the development of Conan from boy to muscle-bound simple swordsman (who else but Arnold Schwarzenegger), and watch as he engages in enemies who are in league with weird and wonderful spirits -- or who can, as is the case with his major foe, Thulsa Doom, transform himself into a giant snake. Or is he a snake who can take the shape of a man? Either way, he is a truly awesome foe.

Thulsa is played by one of my favourite actors, American James Earl Jones; he of the wonderful rolling, deep voice which cannot help but make majestic the tritest dialogue. I think Jones was the original voice of Darth Varder -- he is a huge asset in this picture.

As Conan proceeds on his quest for revenge, he acquires a couple of sidekicks -- rogue Mongol Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and the queen of thieves Valeria (Sandahl Bergman). Subotai looks like a refugee from a Kurosawa movie, and does a thoroughly good job here. Sandahl has the toughest job. She has to try to look attracted to Arnie, when it's obvious she'd be far more attracted to a diesel-truck.

Arnold has the easiest job. He doesn't have to act or emote or really do anything except swing a sword or punch out a camel. The only parts of him which actually emote are his pecs and biceps -- and there are a lot of scenes here carefully framed just to show those over-pumped muscles.

This is in lots of ways a very bad movie. Arnold just can't act here (though later in his career he did come up trumps, especially in Terminator Two and Twins, and speech does present him with severe problems too. The story isas silly as most science-fantasy is, with its mixture of blood, gore and magic in the pre-historic, pre-Atlantean Hyborean age.

It's totally ridiculous, and it's great fun. I loved it. But then, I love pulp fiction of the early 20th Century, and most of it is, one one level, as bad as this, while being profoundly wonderful on another. Only a fan would, I'm afraid, understand. This is grand 'B' grade entertainment for grown-up kids.

  Video
Contract

This appears to be the same transfer as used the previous release. It's very good for its time, with the transfer giving pleasing tonal and colour values and displaying few artefacts.

  Audio
Contract

The only difference between this and the previous release seems to be the addition of an optional DTS track. The Dolby track seems slightly warmer; the DTS seems slightly cleaner and more precise. Your system will dicate which is preferable -- on this occasion I preferred the Dolby sound.

  Extras
Contract

This provides much the same extra features as on the original Region Four issue, leading off with a substantial 53-minute Making Of documentary, Conan Unchained.

This augments (and often duplicates) the audio commentary by Arnie and director John Milius. While the duplication is annoying, the commentary does provide a few laughs, as we get a special insight into the wit and wisdom of the Governator of California. One example. One screen, Arnie king-hits a passing camel. As the camel tumbles to the ground, Arnie laughs. 'Ha Ha. That was funny', he says. This is a real doozie of a commentary.

There's a worthwile (18-minutes) doco on the origins of Conan, in The Rise of a Fantasy Legend, which will be of value to anyone with an interest in this genre. There's a very short (just two minutes) Special Effects Split Screen, showing before-and-after shots of a scene where demons are trying to capture the freshly crucified, barely-alive body of Conan. And there's a Video Gallery running for 12 minutes, showing production drawings, photographs and publicity.

There are 15 text-pages of Production Notes, three deleted scenes and two theatrical trailers to round out the set. All special features, except for the audio commentary, are found on the second disc.

  Overall  
Contract

It's a must if your taste runs this way. Forget that Arnie looks more Neanderthal than Hyborean, and forget that in this strange pre-Atlantean age, men had to run around in thick furs while women strangely found no need for any cover at all. That's just one of the pleasing inconstistencies that make this a gem.


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      And I quote...
    "Grand 'B'-grade entertainment for grown-up kids as Conan the Barbarian gets a new 'special edition' release."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DVD 655A
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Denon AVR-3801
    • Speakers:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Centre Speaker:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Surrounds:
          Celestian (50W)
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
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