Conan the Destroyer is a 1984 film directed by action/fantasy veteran Richard Fleischer (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Vikings). It is a sequel to Conan the Barbarian, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mako returning to resume their roles as Conan and Akiro the wizard (respectively), along with a new cast, such as Grace Jones as Zula. The critical and commercial response was weaker than that for the first film as it was felt by some viewers to have excluded the bloody, brooding ambience of the original John Milius film, instead opting for a more kid-friendly adventure.
Conan and his partner, Malek, are brought before Queen Taramis, played by British actress Sarah Douglas, who asks that Conan perform two tasks for her: obtain a special gem — which may only be touched by her niece, Jehnna — and retrieve the magic horn that can awaken Dagoth, god of dreams and nightmares. In exchange, she offers to resurrect Conan's dead lover, Valeria. Conan agrees. Conan, Malak, Jehnna, and Bombaata set off on their journey. Along the way, Conan enlists the aid of his old comrade Akiro and the group later encounters Zula, a staff-wielding Kush bandit, who joins the party. They then make their way to the castle of Toth-Amon, the wizard who is in possession of the magical gem. However, Toth-Amon kidnaps Jehnna (in the form of a phoenix) before they get to the castle. The party then breaks into the castle, with Conan fighting products of Toth-Amon's magic before the wizard is mortally wounded and the heroes retrieve the gem and Jehnna.
They then set off after the magical horn, which is kept inside of a mysterious fortress. Jehnna retrieves the horn (using the gem). After some difficulty from the cult residing in the fortress, they try to make their way back to Queen Taramis — however, Bombaata betrays Conan and takes Jehnna, leaving the others to fight for their lives. Conan and his friends survive, however, and give chase after learning the true nature of Dagoth's rebirth from Akiro. At Shadizar, the magic horn is inserted back onto Dagoth as Jehnna is planned to be sacrificed to the god in order to appease him and ensure no calamity befalls the city. However, Conan and his friends break in on the ceremony, preventing Jehnna's sacrifice — causing Dagoth to transform into an uncontrollable monster that kills Taramis. A great battle ensues, during which Bombaata is killed by Conan before he battles Dagoth. The battle ends when Conan manages to weaken Dagoth by ripping out the horn that gives him life, landing the deathblow when Dagoth kneels over. The movie ends with Jehnna becoming the new Queen of Shadizar and giving her surviving companions each a place in her court. Conan refuses an offer of marriage, and leaves to search for his own kingdom.
Toning down the violence
When John Milius, director of Conan the Barbarian, proved to be unavailable to direct the sequel, 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.
The first Conan movie, Conan the Barbarian, made approximately $40 million at the U.S. box office when it was released in 1982 with an R rating, and another $50 million in foreign 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 to obtain a PG rating. Fleischer delivered a movie that was less violent and more humorous than the first.
Despite this, some scenes of violence have very bloody results.
The film's stunt casting includes over seven-foot, one-inch-tall basketball player Wilt Chamberlain, André the Giant and androgynous singer Grace Jones. Other actors featured are the 15-year-old (at time of release) Olivia D'Abo (in her first screen appearance) playing the petulant teenage princess with sexy innocence, Tracey Walter as the cowardly jewel-swallowing thief, Malak the Quick, and, Schwarzenegger, who put on 10 extra pounds at Fleischer's request, as Conan. David L. Lander was originally cast to play Malak, but, due to both his deteriorating health from the onset of Multiple Sclerosis and difficulties with the director, Lander was forced to quit the project, and the part was recast with Tracey Walter. André the Giant played the part of Dagoth, but was not credited in the film. Originally rated R for excessive violence, the film was recut in order to secure a PG rating.
Conan the Destroyer was the fourth film on which the great British director of photography Jack Cardiff worked with Fleischer. Cardiff had already photographed The Vikings (1958), Crossed Swords (1978), and Amityville 3-D (1983) for the director. They would work together twice more on Million Dollar Mystery (1987), and Fleischer’s last film, the short Call From Space (1989), which was shot in the 65mm 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 forties — A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947, for which Cardiff won an Oscar), and The Red Shoes (1948).
Conan the Destroyer was filmed in a number of locations in Mexico — including Pachuca, the extinct volcano Nevado de Toluca, and the Samalayuca Dunes (near El Paso) — as well as in the Churubusco Studios (also in Mexico). Carlo Rambaldi created the Dagoth monster.
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 UK version, as is a double horse-fall in the opening battle.
Critical and box office response
Conan the Destroyer, grossing $31 million in domestic markets, did not do quite as well as Conan The Barbarian in the U.S., but it performed better internationally, grossing another $69 million. The film was successful enough that Schwarzenegger, Fleischer, and De Laurentiis teamed up again to make Red Sonja a year later, with critical and commercial response far worse than this film.
Writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, who wrote the original story treatment for this movie, were deeply displeased by the final screenplay by Stanley Mann and the finished film, so they made their story into the graphic novel Conan: The Horn Of Azoth, published in 1990, with art by Mike Docherty. The names of the characters were changed to untie the graphic novel from the movie: Dagoth became Azoth, Jehnna became Natari, Zula became Shumballa, Bombaata became Strabo, Toth-Amon became Rammon, and the characters of Queen Taramis and The Leader were combined into sorcerer Karanthes, father of Natari.
A novelization of the film was also written by Robert Jordan in 1984.
Conan the Conqueror
The third film in the Conan trilogy was planned for 1987 to be titled Conan the Conqueror. The director was to be either Guy Hamilton or John Guillerman. However Arnold Schwarzenegger was committed to the film Predator and De Laurentiis's contract with the star had expired after his obligation to Red Sonja and Raw Deal and he wasn't keen to negotiate a new one. And so the third Conan movie sank into development hell. The script was eventually turned into Kull the Conqueror.
*Conan the Barbarian (film)
*Kull the Conqueror
ReferencesThis text has been derived from Conan the Destroyer on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0