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John Milius
Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow
Writing Credits:
John Milius, Oliver Stone

A barbarian warrior sets off to avenge his parents and his tribe whom were slain by an evil sorcerer and his henchmen when he was a boy.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$9,603,139 on 1395 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 129 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 8/2/2011

• Audio Commentary by Director John Milius and Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
• Deleted Scenes
Conan Unchained" Documentary
• “Art of Steel” Featurette
• “From the Vault” Featurette
• “Special Effects” Featurette
• “The Conan Archives”
• Trailers


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-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Conan the Barbarian [Blu-Ray] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 3, 2019)

With 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed toward his future career as movie star. Though he appeared in a few films prior to 1982 – most notably 1976’s Stay Hungry - he remained primarily known as a bodybuilder until Conan.

That said, I’d argue Schwarzenegger didn’t make real cinematic inroads until 1984’s Terminator, as Conan didn’t turn into much of a hit. It made close to $40 million in the US – not a bad sum circa 1982, especially for an “R”-rated movie, but I recall Conan as a box office disappointment.

Terminator actually earned less money in the US, but it created a terrific buzz and was a massive hit on home video, so I regard it as a bigger success than Conan and Schwarzenegger’s real launching pad. Still, Conan plays an important part of the actor’s early career.

The tyrant Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) leads a violent cult of warriors, and they murder the parents of young Conan (Jorge Sanz). The boy himself winds up in slavery and eventually trains as a warrior.

The adult Conan (Schwarzenegger) embarks on a quest to avenge his parents. This leads him down many violent paths as he works toward his eventual goal.

As I mentioned when I reviewed the 2011 reboot, I didn’t see the 1982 film theatrically, and I don’t know why. I loved comic books back then, and even though Conan wasn’t a fave, I would’ve thought I’d have watched the movie solely due to the Marvel connection.

Crud, I went to Swamp Thing the same year. I never cared for that character either, so I can’t figure out why Conan stayed off my viewing schedule.

I know I took in Conan on VHS, but it made little impression on me. I think I didn’t like it, but 35-year-old movie memories can be iffy, so I was curious to give the movie a look as a middle-aged adult.

Whether or not I liked/disliked Conan as a kid, we’ll never know. This I can say for certain: as an adult, I recognize Conan for the awful film it is.

Perhaps if one enjoys the campy side of Conan, one might gain some pleasure from it. Indeed, the only enjoyable moment comes from the legendary “what is best in life, Conan?” scene, as our hero’s response remains unintentionally amusing.

However, even if we regard Conan as a camp classic, it musters little charm or entertainment. It takes itself far too seriously and proves dull too much of the time.

Though Conan’s pursuit of Thulsa offers the movie’s main plot point, it takes a long time to get there, and Conan doesn’t use that real estate well. The film moves at a snail’s pace and does little to fill all that space with thrills or drama.

Indeed, Conan turns into a snore most of the time. The action scenes feel as goofy as everything else, and the characters/narrative provide so little intrigue that they drag down the film.

The Conan role plays to Schwarzenegger’s strengths, as it requires little dialogue, but even on the physical side of it, he seems clumsy and unconvincing. Although Schwarzenegger never developed into a great actor, he’d eventually display better skills than what he showed here.

That doesn’t say much, as Schwarzenegger offers such a bad performance as Conan. While he looks the part, he can’t give us a convincing action hero.

Nor does anything else about Conan satisfy. I guess the movie enjoys a cult audience, but I can’t figure out what anyone would see in this slow, silly movie.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Conan the Barbarian appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Although aspects of the image looked pretty good, the overall package proved problematic.

In particular, artificial sharpening created persistent distractions. Edge haloes abounded here, as most parts of the movie displayed them, and they damaged definition.

This meant general clarity varied from “fairly positive” to “semi-soft”. Sharpness never became poor, but the haloes really dented the image’s potential.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and the ample grain meant I didn’t suspect problematic digital noise reduction most of the time, though some low-light shots may have come with that technique. Print flaws stayed absent.

Colors went with a natural palette that felt lackluster. Occasional shots offered vivid hues, but most of the movie provided tones that felt decent at best.

Blacks were a bit too dense, while shadows seemed a little murky. Enough positives arrived here to make the image a “C-“, but the film could use a new transfer.

While better, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack also came with inconsistencies, most of which impacted quality. In particular, speech could seem edgy and metallic, without a natural feel much of the time.

The lines stayed intelligible, though. Also, the movie lacked a ton of dialogue, so this wasn’t a huge problem.

Effects came with their own ups and downs, as those elements occasionally featured distortion. They also displayed decent range, though, a factor that semi-compensated for the roughness.

Music worked best. The score showed nice clarity and range, with bright highs and deep lows.

As for the soundscape, it favored the front channels and offered good stereo presence there. Effects seemed accurately place and they moved efficiently.

The surround played a smaller role but they added pretty good involvement, especially when I considered the movie’s vintage. In the end, this was an inconsistent mix that I felt earned a “B-“ overall.

The Blu-ray comes with a mix of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director John Milius and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, story and characters, effects, sets and locations, and connected domains.

After a slow start, the commentary improves in the film’s second act – for a while, that is. Unfortunately, the track returns to its mediocre ways for the movie’s final third.

This means we get a sluggish, dull discussion most of the time. As mentioned, the commentary works reasonably well during the movie’s middle portions, but usually Milius and Schwarzenegger do little more than say “look at that” and narrate the action. It’s not the worst track I’ve heard but it’s pretty bland.

Called Conan Unchained, we get a 53-minute, 15-second documentary that includes remarks from Milius, Schwarzenegger, executive producer Edward R. Pressman, producers Raffaella De Laurentiis, Buzz Feitshans and Dino De Laurentiis, co-writer Oliver Stone, production designer Ron Cobb, stunt coordinator Terry J. Leonard, composer Basil Poledouris, and actors Sandahl Bergman, Gerry Lopez, James Earl Jones, and Max von Sydow.

“Unchained” looks at the project’s path to the screen, story/script/character areas, various design choices, cast and performances, stunts and action, sets and locations, various effects, music, and the movie’s release.

“Unchained” brings a very good documentary. It’s great that it includes so many of the main participants in the film, and it goes over a nice array of topics. Expect a thorough, enjoyable program.

Next comes a featurette entitled Art of Steel. It runs 14 minutes, 37 seconds and offers notes from various folks from Albion Armorers.

They create replica swords from Conan, and “Art” lets us see their processes. This often feels like an ad for Albion, but it gives us some decent details.

We also get a few minutes about swordplay from trainer Kiyoshi Yamazaki and swordsman “Aaron”. Though not long, this section offers a few useful tidbits.

Under Conan: From the Vault, we get a 10-minute, 17-second vintage featurette. It involves Schwarzenegger, Milius, Jones, and Bergman. They discuss some aspects of the project but don’t expect much substance.

Special Effects goes for one minute, 37 seconds and shows a splitscreen segment. The top of the screen displays raw footage and the bottom brings the finished sequence with effects added. It’s a decent comparison.

Six Deleted Scenes occupy a total of five minutes, 35 seconds. These really veer more toward outtakes than true deleted scenes.

For instance, we get three takes of the same character’s death. The first five seem forgettable, but the sixth – in which a stunt goes comically wrong – deserves a look. (Note that these clips already appear in the documentary.)

In addition to two trailers, we end with The Conan Archives. This provides an 11-minute, 46-second reel that displays a running compilation of concept art, production photos and publicity material. It’s a good collection but the format seems clumsy.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first notable film role, Conan the Barbarian merits a spot in cinema history. Too bad the movie itself offers a dopey, monotonous experience with no obvious positives on display. The Blu-ray provides flawed picture and audio along with an erratic but generally informative package of supplements. Conan becomes an actively awful movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 5
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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