Plot: What’s it about?
Long before Arnold Schwarzeneggar played the low-key, lowlife in End of Days, he was playing comic-book heroes in the likes of Conan the Barbarian and it’s sequal, Conan the Destroyer. At that time, Arnold was basically known for his body, basically he still is…it’s almost become a cliche! Still, while in recent years, he hasn’t done a role with his shirt off, he was doing them in full force back in the days that this film was made. With movies to follow like Commando, Predator, The Terminator and The Running Man he became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. In this, Conan the Barbarian, a movie adapted from the popular comic book (a trend that we’re seeing much more of lately), Arnold plays the title character of Conan…
When you talk about rough childhoods, you have to mention poor Conan. It seems like hardships await this guy around every corner, but he manages to keep trucking on through. When he was just a wee little guy, he watched in horror as his entire village was burned to the ground and then suffered an even greater tradegy, the death of his parents. An evil sorceror Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) was responsible for the death and devastation, even the death of Conan’s parents, which the youngster witnessed with his own two eyes. As if that’s not bad enough, before he can even begin to cope with all that grief, he is hauled off to a slave camp. Many years of hard labor followed, which proved to be both a curse and a blessing. The curse was of course, the years of back breaking work he was forced to ensure, but the blessing was found in what he did to Conan, both mentally and physically. You see, all those years of work forged Conan into a massive, muscle laden man, who trained under his master as a warrior. After he had won his master a small fortune from fighting, Conan was given his freedom, and he could only think of one thing, to gain revenge on Thulsa Doom and avenge the death of his parents. The forces aligned against him are massive and strong, but with his determination and will, along with some unlikely partners, perhaps Conan can conquer them all.
All in all, Conan the Barbarian: Collector’s Edition is a vast improvement over Unjversal’s previous effort on the title. With a new anamorphic transfer being the icing on the cake. While I’m not personally a fan of the movie, the disc did impress. Conan the Barbarian does have a mass following and this DVD is treatment to that genre, or at least I think so. To see how Arnold looked so many years ago makes you realize how much he has aged. Still, to see Schwarzenegger in his early days, even before The Terminator, is a treat.
Video: How does it look?
Sporting a brand new anamorphic transfer, the 2.35:1 image looks far better than it’s widescreen transfer that came out a few years ago. The colors are rich and vibrant, and they appear to be oversaturated, but it’s intentional. While it’s not the best transfer of an old movie, it’s very good. Images are clean and have a detail that looks fantastic in this new light, while edge enhancement and black levels are dead on. Now can we convince Universal to do a rehash of Carlito’s Way?
Audio: How does it sound?
Unlike a lot of the older movies that get the deluxe treatment these days, Conan the Barbarian is presented in it’s original 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono mix. Understandably, the sound is a bit limited in range, but sounds more pure than it would (probably) than if it were to get a 5.1 soundtrack. So, the purists will have their way this time, and I’m becominng more and more like them, I like to see unaltered soundtracks or at least have them like Chinatown, where you can pick between a new 5.1 mix or choose the original. Either way you slice it, Conan the Barbarian sounds great.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Along with the benefit of a new anamorphic transfer, there is a screen specific commentary with the director and Conan himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger that is very interesting. This is also the extended version with some bouns footage added back into the movie, which is always a nice touch. A featurette entitled “Conan Unchained” is also included as are the standard Production notes, cast bios and trailers. While some of Universal’s Collector’s Editions have some more material, some have less. This is about the middle of the road, but for fans of the movie (and you’e out there), you’ll be more than happy with this new edition of Conan the Barbarian.