BluRay/DVD Reviews

CONAN THE BARBARIAN

By • May 30th, 2000 •

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RATING: PASSABLE

I was excited to get Schwarzeneggar on a commentary track. We’ve all heard about his business acumen, his canny and career-establishing decision to play the heavy in Terminator after being offered the role of the protagonist. Sadly, this profoundly vacuous commentary session throws all that into doubt. His responses to the imagery before him illustrate the great potential flaw of any V.O. track – never restate the obvious! “There’s the fire…” he says when a fire effect appears, etc. And Milius, who I’ve seen regale an audience in person, adds little romance to the proceedings. I stuck with it all the way, including some new added footage, just to see if it ever became interesting, if their commentary enhanced the experience like so many do. It never did. The major disappointment of the year 2000 thusfar.

As weak as the commentary track is – and it’s as weak as The Thief‘s was a few years back – the documentary makes up for it. Schwarzeneggar relates a story about a pack of wolves, and the out-takes verify his tale. Von Sydow tells of his botched death scene, and again, the out-takes are provided. And finally, Ed Summer, who originated the project, and whose Associate Producer credit has been buried in the end credit roll, finally gets his proper recognition.

Incidently, the newly restored footage in the 3rd act, which is genuinely good material and not just a gimmick, adds shading to Conan’s character and to the narrative. It was originally removed at the studio’s insistence. And Milius acknowledges some of his inspirations for the look of the film and for specific scenes, such as Kobayashi’s classic ghost film, Kwaidan. (Criterion has yet to release that one on DVD, though it can still be had on laserdisc.)

Universal’s DVD release of End of Days, another Schwarzeneggar opus, is widely thought to have one of the best Dolby Digital tracks of the year.

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