High Adventure: Conan the Destroyer (1984) – review

When I was a kid there were a group of movie sequels I had on regular rotation or rewind. Among them were Temple of Doom, Back to the Future Part II, Jaws: The Revenge, and Conan the Destroyer. The films were more than just entertainment, they were moods; and when I was tired of pondering over the riddle of steel, the Conan follow-up was always a fun 103-minute adventure.

Available now on Blu-ray from Via Vision Entertainment, fans are treated to a Limited Edition with a lenticular hard case that’s more 3D than life itself. Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his role as the muscular Cimmerian, who is tasked with escorting a young princess on a journey to find a much sought-after item for her aunt, a deceptive queen with an ulterior motive.

Conan the Destroyer bears enough resemblance to its predecessor, but it’s a different film in both tone and style due to a PG classification producers secured for a younger audience. However, the fantasy epic remains a rough movie in terms of overall content, compounded by the semi-sexualisation of a 14-year-old Olivia d’Abo, as Princess Jehnna, with discussions of protecting her virginity and human sacrifice.

Writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway made considerable efforts to lift many ideas and elements from their comic book series, but they don’t adhere together particularly well as the film plays out like a series of irrelevant short vignettes. However, watching it through the eyes of an adult, it wasn’t long before my childhood sensibility was awakened, and I was able to enjoy the film as the mindless, popcorn fare it was tended to be. This was especially the case once our characters reached Toth-Amon’s castle, which I think is the film’s best chapter.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, at his peak pre-Terminator stardom, has a different energy this time around as Conan, and despite some bad hair, he embodies the character both literally and figuratively. Our lead’s sidekick characters such as the fierce Zula (Grace Jones) and the comic relief Malak (Tracey Walter) only contribute to the story on a superficial level. However, each one of our cast members “looks” the part, especially the 7ft basketball champion Wilt Chamberlain who appears as the semi-antagonistic Bombatta.


  • Archival Audio Commentary by director Richard Fleischer
  • Archival Audio Commentary by actors Olivia d’Abo and Tracey Walter
  • “Conan: The Making of a Comic Book Legend” – archival interview with writers Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway
  • “Basil Poledouris: Composing the Conan Saga” – archival interview with composer Basil Poledouris
  • Theatrical Trailer

Special features come ported from Conan the Destroyer’s first-generation DVD release, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a welcome addition to this set! Both featurettes run around 15 minutes, with the first, Conan: The Making of a Comic Book Legend offering an interesting overview of elements that were adapted from the page to screen. The archival audio commentary from Olivia d’Abo and Tracey Walter, who are both interviewed separately, is recommended for both fans and detractors of the film alike. Walter, who offers insight into the inner workings of character acting, certainly redeems his often-maligned role of Malak.


Via Vision has used the film’s debut 1080p presentation from 2011, released under 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which appears a little dated compared to modern standards, and the 2.35:1 image fails to pop. There are some exceptions to the poor quality, such as sequences in the crypt where our heroes steal Dagoth’s jewelled horn exhibits vivid colour. Sound fares better with the DTS HD 5.1 Surround track not losing impact in these Dolby Atmos times. However, the LPCM 2.0 Stereo option provides louder dialogue. Optional English HOH subtitles are included.

Conan the Destroyer certainly qualifies as a seminal 80s sword and sorcery classic, although its diminished quality is unfortunately very noticeable when compared to John Milius’ thunderous original. Via Vision’s HD treatment is perhaps a little superficial given the age of the digital source material, but I’ll be displaying my copy proudly in the name of Crom.

(1984, director: Richard Fleischer)



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direct blu-ray screen captures



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