Conan the Destroyer (1984), a recap (part 4 of 6)

Last time: Conan fought a dude wearing an ugly rubber mask and smashed a bunch of mirrors to defeat him. He turned back into Thoth Amon and he chose wizardcide rather than be captured. The princess retrieved the hot rock and they’re on their way to get the horn!

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Our party finds itself in the woods once more… with Jehnna in the lead. What, really? Bombaata’s okay with her being way out front? C’mon, man, it’s fighter first, fighter last, all the squishier classes in the middle. It’s classic party order, so in case there’s a problem you’ve got a meat shield to soak up the attack and to avoid, well…

…crap like this happening. Oh, it’s Bombaata’s boys, doing their job. While Jehnna’s abductor rides off with her, another one squares off against Conan. Considering how many guys the Cimmerian carved up the first time they met, I wonder how the guy wound up with this shit job. Jehnna calls out to Bombaata, but he hangs back and scopes out the rest of the party. And when Zula kicks her horse into gear he “accidentally” rides into her, spilling them both. It’s kind of sad how the scene is ruined by the stunt people causing Grace Jones’ horse to fall way before Wilt’s even touches it, but considering how dangerous it is to get the animals to do that in the first place (both for them and the riders), I’ll gladly let it slide. Conan disables his opponent and rides after Jehnna, while Malak actually looks competent as he dives off a rock onto the rear of another dude’s saddle, punctures his love handles, and slits the dude’s throat for good measure.

Because in this business it’s measure once, cut lots. As for Zula, she uses her staff to pole vault into another rider’s chest, and once he’s down she acquaints him with the pointy end.

Now you see, this is what I wanted in the magic castle scene: all the characters being competent and useful. Now if only Mako the wizard had been able to do something against one of these guys. A dart to the eye, blinding power, something. I just hate for him to be left out of the action, is all.

Conan runs down Jehnna’s abductor and cuts him off. He lets the princess slide to the ground and she wisely heads for higher ground… and then unwisely sticks around. You’d think she’d run off to find Bombaata or something. Then again, she gets to watch Conan in action. She literally slept through the last action scene, so I guess she’s eager to watch the show. Conan and the abductor ride past one another with swords clashing, and then ride each other down and cross swords again. The third time they lock up, and all of this would be so much more killer if I didn’t have to hear Basil Poledouris’s weak sauce score.

Maybe Conan is still reeling from his fight with Thoth Amon, or maybe Bombaata’s guy is just a better fighter in the saddle, because he’s actually getting the better of our hero. But Conan knows that when you’re losing the game, you can just knock over the table; he grabs the guy and yanks him off his horse and they spill onto the ground. The two roll to their feet and it’s time for a pose-off. Conan easily wins as the other guy, with his feet now on the ground and having lost any possible advantage, looks legit ready to wet his pants. He and Conan go at it and Conan’s so cocky he does this awesome sword twirling thing. The dude actually knocks Conan to the ground, but his victory’s short-lived as our favorite barbarian introduces the man’s intestines to daylight and then hacks into him for good measure.

It’s then that Bombaata tries to ride Conan down, taking a swing at his skull with the wicked cool spiked mace. Conan’s able to parry but he’s at a decided disadvantage. But before Bombaata can come around, Jehnna races down and interposes herself between him and Conan, ordering her bodyguard to stop. Bombaata explains that he thought Conan was going to hurt the girl. Conan IDs his opponent as one of Queen Taramis’s guard, and Bombaata assures him that no way would she send her boys out to abduct Jehnna. Conan…

…well, you could say he looks a little skeptical.

That night, the gang camps. I’m assuming Malak looted the bodies. In fact, it actually would have been a cool scene to show Malak and Zula doing what they do best, much to Jehnna’s distaste. Maybe they didn’t want to show the heroes in a bad light, but trust me; the target audience would have loved it. Jehnna pulls out the magic gem to admire it, while Bombaata uses a whetstone to sharpen his blade. Nearby, Conan’s getting his drink on. Man, you’d think the guy would want to stay both 1) sober, and 2) wide awake, seeing as how the queen’s boys had ambushed them and Bombaata tried to plant his mace into Conan’s skull.

Mako—glad to see he’s still in the film—has been whipping up some sort of white goo. He gives some to Malak, who heads over to Zula, whose inner thigh has been cut up some. That’s why you wear pants in the saddle, Zula, to avoid rashes. Malak tells her to wait, and that he’s got some of “Akiro’s magic mixture”, and all of a sudden I don’t want to know what this stuff is. He begins to apply the “magic mixture” liberally to Zula’s thigh, inching up more and more…

…and all of a sudden we’re about to get an R rating before Zula mildly asks what he’s doing. Oh, she knows what he’s doing; she’s probably just wondering what bullshit excuse he’s going to come up with. Malak explains how he “doesn’t want the infection to spread”. What a playa. But Zula’s not impressed, and she’s willing to spread open his skull with her staff. Malak slinks away, dejected, with only a handful of Akiro’s white goo to show for his efforts. Jehnna heads over for some of Akiro’s… wait, let me check Olivia d’Abo’s age at the time she shot this movie… Fifteen? Okay, she gets a handful of Akiro’s incredible healing salve and approaches Conan. She tells the barbarian to tell her when it hurts and begins applying it to the cuts on his arm. He just lays there with a goofy grin on his face. Chances are he’s drunk enough that he could get punched in the nuts and not feel it. Jehnna smiles and notes that nothing hurts him.

“Only pain,” Conan replies. Which is probably a bit of wisdom gleaned from the Philosophy of Sung. Jehnna asks what Conan will do when they get back to Shadizar, and he explains that he’ll find his kingdom and a queen to sit by his side. Jehnna seems a little put off by this, but then asks what kingdom he speaks of. Conan explains, “The one I was promised,” and… I’m a little lost. I don’t recall any of that from the first movie. Jehnna asks what queen he speaks of, and Conan replies, “Malaria.” Yeah, okay, I know he said “Valeria”, but that’s how it sounded. Jehnna’s obviously jelly and asks who this “Valeria” is like. Conan points to Zula and says Valeria is like her. She doesn’t look like her, but she’s got the same spirit, and the same… and then Jehnna finishes and says “Strengths”. Conan is suitably impressed with Jehnna’s verbal acumen.

Jehnna asks if there could be another queen, but Conan fumble-tongues “not on your life!”, clearly clueless to the fact the teenager is crushing on him. He then seems to pass out after inadvertently breaking the girl’s heart. Don’t worry, Jehnna; there’s always Malak.

Jehnna goes over to talk to Zula and asks how she feels. Zula replies, “Welcome.” I… damn, that actually sounded kind of sincere. Oh sure, Malak was kind of creepy, but it’s the Hyborean Age and they haven’t invented political correctness yet, so a dude trying to grope your most intimate of intimates is just considered flirting. The ladies discuss what men want, and Jehnna wonders if she could be a warrior woman. Rather than mocking the girl, Zula suggests she could teach her how to fight with a staff. But before the lesson can really start, Conan wakes up and begins to mansplain how Jehnna needs to fight with a “real weapon”, holding up his sword. Zula steps away because she knows getting into an argument with a drunken idiot just makes her look more stupid. Conan gives it to Jehnna, who can’t hold it to save her life. So Conan helps her swing it over her head and almost cuts off Malak’s ear in the process. Okay, okay. I know I’ve been bitching and moaning about the comic relief in this film, but damn if that didn’t make me laugh. I guess it’s because I was brought up watching Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Conan figures he’s taught Jehnna enough for one night and he staggers off, into Bombaata’s chest, which causes our barbarian to pass out. And then Bombaata kills our unconscious hero and slaughters the rest. Well, you’d think that’d be the smart play, right? The most powerful warrior has passed out, and as long as he kills Malak before he can set up for a back-stab, he’s just got Zula to contend with. And don’t get me wrong; Zula’s tough, but Bombaata has already proven he can take her in a fight. So why the hell doesn’t he just do it? Because the plot demands he not do it, that’s why.

The next day, the gang hits the road and Conan’s in the lead, with Bombaata right behind him. Damn, if I were Conan, I’d want that guy where I could see him. But then again, Conan got shitfaced the night before and he’s got Malak as a sidekick, so it’s not like he’s making a lot of smart decisions lately. Jehnna rides beside Zula and asks how a woman gets a man. Oh yeah, this’ll end well. Zula says to get a man you just “Grab him!” Coming out of Grace Jones’ mouth, that sounds 100% authentic. Jehnna decides she needs some more advice.

Oh yeah, this’ll end well. Malak thinks grabbing a guy sounds like a good idea, but Jehnna asks what a woman should do with a man once she has him. Malak is about to go into salacious detail when he suddenly realizes who he’s talking to, and finds his vocabulary lacking. Trying to explain sex to a teenage virgin could have descended into a distasteful scene, but Tracey Walker actually makes his discomfort both funny and endearing. Dammit, movie, stop trying to make me like the comic relief! Malak finishes with, “How do you think flowers grow?” and the expression of confusion/dismay on d’Abo’s face is priceless.

The gang reaches a narrow pass where they have to leave the horses behind. Soon they come to ruins carved into the very rock of the valley wall.

I’m not sure if this is a matte painting or a model or an actual set, but it looks pretty fake. The gang approaches the massive, thick door, and this time Conan is able to move it all on his own because this one’s on some sort of hinge. Inside, the structure is made of stone and covered in (of course) cobwebs. Jehnna points in one direction and says, “That way.” Man, this adventuring party sure does look unprepared. I’m not seeing the obligatory 50 feet of rope, and no iron rations or lanterns. Hell, they don’t even have the obligatory 10 foot pole to trigger traps!

It’s a good thing Conan finds a torch mounted to the wall, because none of this party has night vision. Conan points the torch at Mako, who wizards up some flames. I like how nobody’s the least bit surprised, like dudes summoning flames ain’t nothing special. Hmm, I just noticed Mako hasn’t said anything for almost fifteen minutes. I wonder if he was paid by the word or something. Then again, the less the wizard says, the weightier his words. Thus armed with flickering light, our party descends into the dungeon. What awaits them in the bowels of the Earth? Tune in next time to find out!

Multi-Part Article: Conan the Destroyer (1984), a recap

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