Conan the Destroyer - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Arrow Limited Edition)Overview -
With Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mako reprising their roles, Richard Fleischer's Conan the Destroyer is the fun, escapist sword-and-sorcery sequel with Sarah Douglas, Grace Jones, Wilt Chamberlain, Tracey Walter, and Olivia d'Abo joining the quest to defeat a religious cult from awakening a demon god bent on controlling the world. Courtesy of Arrow Video, the sequel arrives on Ultra HD with a beautiful 4K HDR video, an excellent Dolby Atmos track, and a mix of archival features joining a few new surprises. Overall, this UHD package is another Recommended addition to everyone's fantasy-adventure library.
THE MOST POWERFUL LEGEND OF ALL IS BACK IN A NEW ADVENTURE.
After conquering the box office with his first outing as the sword-wielding Cimmerian, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in Conan the Destroyer, an exciting and action-packed sequel from veteran director Richard Fleischer (The Vikings) that amps up the fantasy-adventure and hews closer to the character's pulp and comic book origins.
Still mourning the death of his beloved Valeria, Conan is given an offer he can't refuse by Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas): he will escort her niece, Princess Jehnna (Olivia d'Abo), on a quest to find a mystical horn that will awaken a slumbering god, in return for Valeria being brought back from the dead. With a new group of companions by his side - including a fierce warrior woman named Zula (Grace Jones) - Conan must battle an onslaught of evil beasts, wizards and cannibals, little suspecting that the wicked Taramis intends to betray him with the aid of her head guard, Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain).
Photographed by the great Academy Award-winning cinematographer Jack Cardiff, with another rousing score by Basil Poledouris, Conan the Destroyer has finally been restored in 4K with hours of brand new bonus features taking you deeper into the legend of the thief who would be king.
- Brand new 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films
- 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (2160p) presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
- Newly restored original mono audio and remixed Dolby Atmos surround audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Archive feature commentary by director Richard Fleischer
- Archive feature commentary by actors Olivia d'Abo and Tracey Walter
- Archive feature commentary by actor Sarah Douglas with genre historians Kim Newman & Stephen Jones
- Brand new feature commentary by genre historian Paul M. Sammon, author of Conan: The Phenomenon
- Newly assembled isolated score track in lossless stereo
- Casting the Destroyer, a newly filmed interview with casting director Johanna Ray
- Cut from a Different Cloth, a newly filmed interview with costume designer John Bloomfield
- Dune and the Destroyer, a newly filmed interview with art director Kevin Phipps
- Swords, Sorcery & Stunts, a newly filmed interview with stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong
- Behind the Destroyer, a newly filmed interview with John Walsh, author of Conan the Barbarian: The Official History of the Film
- Conan: The Making of a Comic Book Legend, an archive interview with writers Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway
- Basil Poledouris: Composing the Conan Saga, an archive interview with the composer
- Theatrical trailers
- Image gallery
- Double-sided fold-out poster
- Six double-sided collectors' postcards
- Illustrated collectors' booklet featuring new writing by Walter Chaw and John Walsh, and an archive set report by Paul M. Sammon
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the Cimmerian warrior thief in this follow-up to the wildly popular Conan movie and is joined by Mako as his wizard companion Akiro. Missing, however, is John Milius, a few of the original producers, and another screenplay from the talented Oliver Stone. Their absence is felt throughout this action-focused sequel. Also missing is any connection to the mythological source created by Robert E. Howard. Conan the Destroyer can't even claim to be based on any of Howard's stories aside from character names. In a strange, mystical way, though, the plot could very easily describe itself as being loosely inspired by the first movie and its success.
For this fantasy adventure, Conan travels far and wide once again to battle another dark, twisted religious sect bent on ruling the world. This time around, the cult is not led by the deep bass voice of James Earl Jones. Instead, we have the more soprano-like stylings of Sarah Douglas as Queen Tamaris. Although best remembered as Ursa in the first two Superman movies, Douglas's performance matches quite nicely opposite Schwarzenegger. The script doesn't seem to give her much to work with, but she practically steals every scene she's in. Dressed in deliciously form-fitting and exposing outfits, the sorceress employs Conan's protection to retrieve a jeweled horn that will awaken the god, Dagoth.
Accompanying him on this perilous quest is fellow thief Malak, played by the funny character-actor Tracey Walter. The role offers plenty of amusement and comedy, but his slapstick shenanigans can be rather distracting at times and grow old by the time the film enters the third act. Mako's Akiro is more subtle in his humor and works far better, but even his magic tricks tend to fall flat throughout the course of the narrative. Olivia d'Abo is the Queen's niece Jehnna, responsible for handling the horn as well as developing an unnecessary if not unhealthy, love interest for Schwarzenegger. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain joins the Conan ranks as the princess' bodyguard Bombaata, who rarely talks or does much else aside from seeming dishonest. Every time his name is mentioned, I think of Afrika Bambaataa.
The most memorable of this motley troupe is arguably the very unique and highly original Grace Jones as the wild, screaming marauder Zula. Much like Schwarzenegger's rise to fame, the Jamaican-born actress already possessed a strong following in the music industry and was admired for her modeling career. This role was to be her breakthrough performance — which it was — and catapulted her face as a prominent celebrity of the 1980s fashion world. As the fierce, courageous warrior (except against rodents) devoted to serving Conan, Jones brings that balance of seriousness and comedy that Walter and Mako fail to deliver. She followed this with portrayals of a superhuman Bond villain in A View to a Kill, a seductive queen vampire in Vamp, and a lustful fashion diva in Boomerang. All funny, memorable stuff.
Despite these relatively entertaining performances from Schwarzenegger, Douglas, and Jones, Conan the Destroyer does come with some troubled spots, mainly in the story and undeveloped or wrongly-used characterizations. But what does work rather well is the directing of Richard Fleischer, son of the renowned animator Max Fleischer and helmer of such classics as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Soylent Green, and Tora! Tora! Tora! With another winning score by Basil Poledouris to help build the excitement, the film moves at a brisk, satisfying pace and accomplishes its goal without a hitch. Destroyer puts a great deal more emphasis on the "sword" and "sorcery" than its predecessor, but it remains an easy, enjoyable watch for those who can forgive the little connection it has with Howard's original stories or the Conan mythos.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Courtesy of Arrow Video, Richard Fleischer's Conan the Destroyer rides into home theaters with a single-disc 4K Ultra HD limited edition. For this review we were issued check discs and not a full retail edition, so if there are any differences in the packaging, we'll update the review ASAP. Housed in their standard black keepcase with a side-sliding slipcover, the Region-free, UHD100 disc sits comfortably. The package includes a booklet, six double-sided postcards, and a double-sided poster. At startup, the disc goes straight to a menu screen with full-motion clips, music playing in the background and the usual options at the bottom left corner of the screen.
The Cimmerian warrior heads into Ultra HD with another beautiful HEVC H.265 encode, which was also struck from the original 35mm camera negatives.
Although it comes with its expected share of soft, blurry moments, the native 4K transfer is surprisingly sharp with well-defined lines and objects, exposing every crevice, crack and pockmark in the rock formations and the architecture of Shadizar. Individual hairs are often striking while the texture and fabric of the costumes are distinct. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation also displays bolder, more vibrant colors throughout with the reds and oranges looking particularly more dynamic and accurate while secondary hues are fuller and more varied. Highly revealing facial complexions appear healthier with a natural rosy-peachiness in the entire cast. Contrast enjoys a welcomed uptick, displaying brighter, cleaner whites while crisp, resplendent specular highlights supply a vivid, more intense sparkle to the swords and during the climatic battle against Dagoth. Awash in a fine layer of natural grain, black levels are richer and inkier with excellent shadow details during the many poorly-lit sequences, providing the 2.35:1 image with some dimensionality and a lovely cinematic quality. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 84/100)
As with the first movie, the sequel arrives with another pair of strong audio options: an uncompressed PCM 1.0 monaural track and a new Dolby Atmos remix, the latter of which will be the focus of this review.
Like its predecessor, the object-based mix remains a front-heavy presentation, exhibiting a clean and surprisingly dynamic mid-range. Thanks once again to the bombastic music of Basil Poledouris, imaging feels broad and spacious. It spreads evenly across the three fronts and top heights to create a highly engaging half-dome soundstage, filling the room with warmth and outstanding differentiation in the orchestra as it very lightly bleeds into the side speakers. Occasionally, listeners can enjoy a few atmospheric effects moving into the top heights, and a healthy low-end also provides more weight and presence to the music and a few action scenes, primarily the fight against Dagoth. All the while, dialogue remains crystal-clear and intelligible in the center of the screen, making this a highly satisfying 3D audio mix to a fantasy-adventure favorite. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 84/100)
The bonus features offered up for this release of Conan the Destroyer are quite the adventure all their own. On top of the three archival audio commentaries, we get a pretty interesting new track from Conan historian and author Paul M. Sammon. Sadly we're not treated with another Schwarzenegger commentary presence; an Arnold Tracey Walter reunion would have been something! Also included is an excellent stereo Isolated Score track. Rounding out the package of extras is a slew of interviews from various hands in the making of the film as well as a pair of archival featurettes.
- NEW Audio Commentary featuring Paul M. Sammon
- Audio Commentary featuring Richard Fleischer
- Audio Commentary featuring Olivia d'Abo & Tracey Walter
- Audio Commentary featuring Sarah Douglas, Kim Newman, & Stephen Jones
- Isolated Score Track
- NEW Interviews
- Casting the Destroyer with Johanna Ray (HD 5:12)
- Cut from a Different Cloth with John Bloomfield (HD 9:10)
- Dune and the Destroyer with Kevin Phipps (HD 15:23)
- Swords, Sorcery, & Stunts with Vic Armstrong (HD 13:17)
- Behind the Destroyer with John Walsh (HD 10:00)
- Archival Featurettes
- Conan: The Making of a Comic Book Legend (HD 14:06)
- Basil Poledouris: Composing the Conan Saga (HD 17:17)
- Image Gallery (HD)
Conan the Destroyer is fun escapism but falls somewhat short of offering the same engaging level of adventure as its predecessor with Schwarzenegger carrying a lot of weight (more than normal anyway) for the franchise. Courtesy of Arrow Video, the sequel arrives on 4K Ultra HD with a beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentation and an excellent Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Featuring a mix of archival featurettes joining a few new interviews and commentaries. It may be a weaker sequel. but this UHD package is another Recommended addition to everyone's fantasy-adventure library.
All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about the gear used for this review.
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