Conan The Barbarian

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

Read Gator MacReady's film review of Conan The Barbarian
Conan The Barbarian

Filmed in Todd-AO 35, the 2.35:1 can now finally be appreciated in all its glory. After two decades of pan-and-scan hell on video, the new anamorphic widescreen is very much welcome. But the picture is not without occasional trouble and heavy grain. For most of the movie the sky is a wonderful shade of deep blue and looks good enough to swim in, but at other times it can be a bit dirty looking. Fleshtones are as natural and life-like as Conan's bulging muscles. Even the Kitchen/Orgy scene, lit in red light, looks awesome. Considering this movie is now 20 years old, it's in great shape.

Released theatrically in Mono, the DVD has been fully remastered in Dolby 5.1. The result is crowd-pleasing, indeed. Many were disappointed when the R1 Special Edition was released in big fat mono. So us R2 purchasers can feel privileged in the knowledge that our version is the superior. The best element of the new soundtrack is Basil Poledouris' score, which sounds just spectacular and well integrated. Effects such as sword clashes, as dated as they are, sound great and there is no hiss or chewn-up segments as is common with Mono source material.

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Big Arnie demanded a salary for his commentary on Conan and Total Recall. He is one of very few actors with the arrogance, or should I say balls, to demand payment for producing extra material for DVDs. Hell, the Total Recall packaging even describes it as a RARE audio commentary with Arnie. Who cares? He is Arnie, after all, and we love him.

John Milius provides the bulk of the interest in this commentary, though, while Arnie is happy pointing out what is happening onscreen: "Ya, thees eez me swingeeng a so-ward and rideeng a hoe-as." How dare we question his clout and whether or not he gets paid for it?

The documentary, Conan Unchained, is very good and has a decent length at an hour. There are new interviews with John Milius, Arnie, James Earl Jones, Sandahl Bergman, Gerry Lopez, as well as many other production crew members. Everything from art direction - the massive scale and detail of the sets - to music - how Poledouris's daughter helped him compose the wonderful music during the orgy scene - is discussed and explained. There is even some interesting background info on the creator of Conan, Robert E. Howard - don't expect to see him in the documentary, he committed suicide back in the Thirties - and his madness. It's not boring like most other self-congratulatory crap. Retrospective documentaries tend to have some kind of substance, just like this one.

Deleted scenes has John Milius star as what appears to be "a frog-on-a-stick salesman" and a silent clip of King Osric getting killed - I'm glad they took that out - and a clip of Conan falling off a boulder, being mauled by dogs and saying "Dammit!"

Special effects split screen has the scene where Conan is being tormented by those red "wind demons", one with effects, one without. Barely interesting.

Photo gallery and production notes are boring, as usual, and are included with a couple of trailers.

This DVD retains some minor cuts to previous editions. This is only to exclude apparent cruelty to animals, so there is no juicy human violence missing.

Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2002
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Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a muscle-bound brute in the days of sword and sorcery.
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Product Code: 01806DVD

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Commentary by Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Milius; Conan Unchained: The Making of Conan; Deleted scenes; Photo Gallery; Special effects split screen video; Biographies; Production notes; Trailer

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