Book Review: Saturday Night Fever by H.B. Gilmour


About two years ago, I came across a paperback sitting on the shelf of a Goodwill in Dallas. It was the novelization of the 1978 film, Saturday Night Fever. Naturally, as soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to buy it.

Novelizations of popular films are always an interesting read. Since they’re usually based on the early drafts of a film’s screenplay, the novelization will often include extra scenes or details that may have not been apparent in the film itself. Often, things that may have been left unclear in the completed film will be cleared up in the novelization. At the same time, as a writer, I always find it interesting to see whether or not the author of a novelization can succeed at putting their own spin on familiar material.

Take the Saturday Night Fever novelization. There are two things that everyone automatically thinks about whenever they think about Saturday Night Fever as a film. They think about the Bee Gees soundtrack and they think about the scenes of John Travolta dancing. Obviously, with the novelization, there is no soundtrack. The Bee Gees aren’t even mentioned in the book. As for Travolta’s dancing, the book doesn’t go into a great deal of detail beyond acknowledging that Tony Manero is a good dancer and that everyone wants to join him out on the dance floor. But Gilmour wisely doesn’t try to describe any of Tony’s dance moves. Instead, he focuses on how Tony feels when he’s the center of attention.

Indeed, the entire novelization focuses on Tony as a character. We spend a lot of time inside of Tony’s head and it’s not always a pleasant place to explore. At the same time, we also discover that Tony isn’t quite as clueless as he sometimes comes across as being in the movie. From the start, he knows that he’s going nowhere and he knows that his friends are losers. Without Travolta’s charismatic performance or Staying Alive playing as he struts across New York, Tony often comes across as being an even bigger jerk in the novel than he does in the movie. And yet, we still sympathize with him because the novel makes clear that Tony understands, more than his family and his friends, that he’s trapped in a life that doesn’t provide much hope. Saturday Night Fever is a dark film, even with the music. In novel form, it becomes downright existential in its portrait of Brooklyn as being a Hellish prison, both a location and state-of-mind from which there is little chance of escape.

Tony’s family is a bit more abusive in the novel, which makes the film’s famous “watch the hair” dinner scene a bit more difficult to laugh at. The novelization spends a lot of time on Tony’s brother and his decision to leave the priesthood. In the movie, Frank, Jr. just kind of vanishes. In the book, it’s explained that he went to a sort of halfway house for former priests. I assume this was all stuff that was in the screenplay but cut from the actual film. One can see why it was cut but, at the same time, it was still interesting to learn a bit more about Tony and his family.

In the end, it’s not a bad novelization. At 182 pages, it’s a quick read and it not only does a good job of showing what exactly Tony is escaping from when he gets out on the dance floor but it also provides some new insight into the story. (Of course, the majority of that insight deals with Tony being a misogynistic homophobe but, then again, that’s pretty much who he was in the film too. The book just makes it even clearer, as well as showing that Tony’s prejudices are largely due to where he’s from and how he’s been raised.) It’s a good companion piece to the film and a good collector’s item. The copy that I found still had a pull-out poster of John Travolta in the middle of it!

Lisa’s Week In Review: 4/19/21 — 4/25/21


I’ve been up at the lake this week and, as you can say, I didn’t watch much TV but I did watch a lot of movies and the Oscars! It’s been nice to get some relaxation and to get centered. Now, the Oscars are over, I feel like 2021 can finally begin! But first — a little bit of sleep! 30 posts in one day takes a lot of you.

Here’s what I watched, read, and listened to this week:

Films I Watched:

  1. Breakheart Pass (1976)
  2. Conan the Destroyer (1984)
  3. The Devil’s Rain (1975)
  4. The Father (2021)
  5. Freebird … The Movie (1996)
  6. Godzilla: Planet of Monsters (2017)
  7. Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
  8. The Humanoid (1979)
  9. King Kong (1976)
  10. Minari (2021)
  11. Nomadland (2021)
  12. The Shooting (1966)
  13. Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. Baywatch
  2. The Floor is Lava
  3. Hell’s Kitchen
  4. The Oscars
  5. Unsolved Mysteries
  6. Yes, Minister

Books I Read:

  1. Back in the Burbs (2021) by Tracy Wolff
  2. Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am (2021) by Julia Cooke
  3. Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History (2021) by Richard Thompson Ford

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Avril Lavigne
  2. Britney Spears
  3. HRDZA
  4. Irene Cara
  5. Jakalope
  6. Kedr Livanskiy
  7. Kid Rock
  8. Led Zeppelin
  9. Lynard Skynard
  10. Muse
  11. The Prodigy
  12. Public Service Broadcasting
  13. Saint Motel
  14. Slade
  15. Styx
  16. Taylor Swift
  17. Universal Honey

Live Tweets:

  1. TSL Live Tweets Oscar Sunday

Awards Season:

  1. The Oscars
  2. Independent Spirit Awards
  3. Dorian Awards

Best Picture Race In Review:

  1. 1920s
  2. 1930s
  3. 1940s
  4. 1950s
  5. 1960s
  6. 1970s
  7. 1980s
  8. 1990s
  9. 2000s
  10. 2010s

Trailers:

  1. West Side Story
  2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  3. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
  4. Occupation: Rainfall
  5. Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.
  6. The Space Between
  7. Annette

News From Last Week:

  1. Monte Hellman, Cult Director of ‘Two-Lane Blacktop,’ Dies at 91
  2. Burlesque Legend Tempest Storm, Friend of Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page, Dead at 93
  3. Charles W. Fries, Veteran Television Producer and Executive, Dies at 92
  4. Marty Bauer, Co-Founder of United Talent Agency, Dies at 74
  5. Digital Underground’s Shock G Dead At 57
  6. Joe Long, member of The Four Seasons in ’60s and ’70s, dies
  7. Elon Musk to Host ‘Saturday Night Live’ With Musical Guest Miley Cyrus
  8. Scott Rudin to Resign From the Broadway League
  9. New photos show Epstein and Maxwell were VIP guests in Clinton’s White House
  10. Inside DMX’s Funeral: Rap Icons, Mourning Fans, and a Casket in a Monster Truck
  11. Construction Workers Accidentally Discovered a Pair of Priceless Lost Renaissance Frescoes
  12. ‘Captain America 4’ in the Works With ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Showrunner Malcolm Spellman
  13. Caitlyn Jenner makes it official for California governor
  14. FURIOSA (2023) Plans for Mad Mad: Fury Road prequel emerge
  15. Woman charged with felony embezzlement for not returning ‘Sabrina The Teenage Witch’ VHS 21 years ago

Links From Last Week:

  1. RIP Director Monte Hellman…From Jack Nicholson’s First Western To James Taylor’s Only Film “Two Lane Blacktop”…An Appreciation…
  2. How Monte Hellman Beat the Devil: An Appreciation
  3. What happens when an Oscar statue is stolen or lost like Jared Leto’s
  4. Jeopardy and the Dumbest Thing I Read Online Yesterday
  5. Oscars so dead: Here’s how the Academy could revive critical awards shows
  6. Halston’ first look: See Ewan McGregor as the iconic fashion designer
  7. 2021 Oscars Predictions – Who Will Win, Who Should Win (Flixchatter)
  8. 2021 OSCAR PREDICTIONS (Jordan and Eddie)
  9. Yet Another Book Tag Post
  10. New Podcast From Will McKinley about The Philadelphia Story
  11. Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten: How I became my wife’s carer

Links From The Site:

  1. I shared my week in television! I reviewed Stephen Rebello’s book about the making of the Valley of the Dolls! I shared my final 2020 Oscar predictions! I named 6 actors, 6 actresses, and 6 directors who I hope win an Oscar in another ten years! I paid tribute to Al Pacino, Larry Peerce, Edie Sedgwick, and Monte Hellman! I reviewed Conan The Destroyer, King Kong, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla: Planet of Monsters, Judas and the Black Messiah and Three Coins in the Fountain!
  2. Doc welcomed everyone to Oscar Sunday!
  3. Leonard shared the trailers for West Side Story, Shang-Chi and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It!
  4. Erin celebrated Patriot Day with The Flying Yank and reviewed It Happened in Flatbush! She shared Audrey Hepburn, Riverboat Girl, Startling Comics, Crime Busters, Bring Me Another Corpse, Nyoka The Jungle Girl, and Startling Detective!
  5. Jeff shared music videos from Sugar Ray, Madness, Mojo Nixon, Rick Springfield, Chicago, Digital Underground, and Silverchair!
  6. Ryan reviewed Before The Pandemic There Was A Touch Football Tourney, Bridge, BLINK, and World Ceramic Fair!

More From Us:

  1. At SOLRAD, Ryan reviewed Paricutin!
  2. Ryan has a patreon, you should consider subscribing!
  3. At Pop Politics, Jeff shared: Walter Mondale Has Died, Derek Chauvin Has Been Convicted, Governor Jenner?, Senator Herschel Walker, President Christie?, Governor Jenner For Real, and This Has Been A Good Week (awwwww!)
  4. At Days Without Incident, Leonard shared On and On by Curtis Harding!
  5. At her photography site, Erin shared: Purple and Blue, Blue and White, Alone in Black and White, Old House In Black and White, Passing Through, Visitor, and Snake in Black and White!
  6. At my music site, I shared songs from Led Zeppelin (you’re welcome, Dougie), Muse, Public Service Broadcasting, Kedr Livanskiy, Hrdza, The Prodigy, and Nat and Alex Wolff!

Want to see what I did last week? Click here!

6 Shots From 6 Films: Special Al Pacino Edition


4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films is just what it says it is, 4 (or more) shots from 4 (or more) of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films lets the visuals do the talking.

With all the excitement (or not) surrounding the Oscars, it might be easy to overlook the fact that today is also the birthdays of one of the greatest and most iconic American actors of all time!  We cannot let this day end without wishing a happy birthday to the one and only Al Pacino!

In others words, it’s time for….

6 Shots From 6 Al Pacino Films

The Godfather (1972, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, DP: Gordon Willis)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975, dir by Sidney Lumet, DP: Victor J. Kemper)

Scarface (1983, dir by Brian DePalma, DP: John A. Alonzo)

Heat (1995, dir by Michael Mann, DP: Dante Spinotti)

The Devil’s Advocate (1997, dir by Taylor Hackford, DP: Andrzej Bartkowiak)

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019, dir by Quentin Tarantino, DP: Robert Richardson)

 

 

Film Review: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (dir by Kōbun Shizuno Hiroyuki Seshita)


The 2017 film, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, takes place in the distant future. It’s been over 20 years since the constant fighting between Godzilla and a host of other giant monsters forced humanity to flee the Earth. Two different alien races offered to help the humans get rid of Godzilla but it turned out that both of them had ulterior motives and ultimately, neither one of them was a match for Godzilla. So, now, humanity is stuck floating through space, looking for another home. An entire generation has never known Earth. Meanwhile, the children who were forced to flee their home planet have grown up hating Godzilla and wondering if they’ll ever be able to return home.

One of them is Captain Haruo Sakaki. He believes that he’s come up with a way to destroy Godzilla once and for all but, in order to do so, he’s going to have to convince the ruling Central Committee to allow him (and several others) to travel back to Earth. It going to take a lot of convincing, especially since Haruo is already in jail for defying orders. But what if Haruo anonymously publishes an essay? Will that be enough to sway public opinion?

Okay, so maybe you’re getting the feeling that Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is not a typical Godzilla film. You’re correct. This is the first animated Godzilla film. It’s also the first Godzilla film in which the key to getting people to team up against Godzilla is the publication of an anonymous essay. It’s kind of like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton singing pseudonyms to the Federalist Papers because they knew readers would be more likely to listen to Publius than to listen to Jim, the Virginia Lawyer. Godzilla: Planet of Monsters spends a lot of time on Haruo and his allies trying to convince the Central Committee to let them fight Godzilla. On the plus side, the animation is gorgeous so visually, the film holds your interest and, as someone who hates bureaucracy, I appreciated the menacing way the that Central Committee was rendered. On the negative side, this is a Godzilla movie and, in the end, that is who we’re watching to see.

That said, the film definitely deserves some credit for returning a sense of menace to Godzilla. As opposed to some of the later Toho films, where Godzilla was too obviously a man in a rubber suit to really be a credible threat, the animated Godzilla presented in Planet of the Monsters is a terrifying force of unstoppable chaos. There’s nothing cute or cuddly about this Godzilla. This Godzilla is all about mindless destruction. Like the atom bomb that was the original inspiration for the monster way back in the 50s, this Godzilla destroys the innocent and the wicked alike. When he first appears as a shadowy form reigning destruction down upon civilization, the audience is reminded that Godzilla was never meant to be a hero or a toy or any of the other roles that he’s played over the years. Godzilla is pure, mindless chaos and destruction.

Of course, he’s still the most compelling character in the film. Unfortunately, the humans in Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters are not very interesting. We’re supposed to care about Haruo but he’s so obsessed with destroying Godzilla that he becomes a bit of a bore after a while. Does he do nothing but talk about Godzilla all the time? No wonder they tossed him in jail. The other human characters all tend to blend together but then again, this is a Godzilla film. We’re not watching for the humans. We’re watching for Godzilla and his family and this film, whatever it’s other flaws, brings everyone’s favorite monsters to vibrant life. You just wish the film would be a bit quicker about getting to him.

Sadly, Godzilla will never win an Oscar. But his fans will always love him, even as he tramples them and disintegrates them with nuclear fire. In the end, that’s what fandom is all about, isn’t it?

The Shattered Lens Live Tweets Oscar Sunday


Patrick, I think, had the right idea. While Doc and Epoch slept and he read, Leonard, Jeff, and I watched a live tweeted this year’s Steven Soderbergh-produced Oscar ceremony. That it was an odd ceremony should not have come as a surprise, all things considered. Still, the three of us found ourselves shocked by not only the strange placement of the categories (i.e., putting Best Director in the middle of the show) but also by just the entire style of the entire ceremony. It was very Soderberghian, in that it was occasionally interesting but overall rather uneven. We were especially surprised when Best Picture was given out before the acting prizes but then we realized that they were obviously building up to the emotional moment when Chadwick Boseman would win his posthumous Oscar. Of course, for that to happen, Boseman would have to win Best Actor and …. well, here’s a few of our tweets from the very odd ceremony:

Here Are The Oscar Winners!


Best Picture — Nomadland

Best Director — Chloe Zhao for Nomadland

Best Actor — Anthony Hopkins In The Father

Best Actress — Frances McFormand in Nomadland

Best Supporting Actor — Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress — Yuh-jung Youn in Minari

Best Adapted Screenplay — Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller for The Father

Best Original Screenplay — Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman

Best Animated Feature — Soul

Best Documentary Feature — My Octopus Teacher

Best International Feature Film — Another Round

Best Live Action Shot Subject — Two Distant Strangers

Best Animated Short Subject — If Anything Happens, I Love You

Best Documentary Short — Collette

Best Original Score — Soul

Best Original Song — “Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Cinematography — Mank

Best Costume Design — Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Editing — Sound of Metal

Best Makeup and Hair Styling — Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Production Design — Mank

Best Sound — Sound of Metal

Best Visual Effects -Tenet

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Megalon (dir by Jun Fukada)


Look, I get it.

I fully understand why there are some people out who cannot stand Godzilla vs. Megalon. I mean, Godzilla vs. Megalon is a film that totally goes against everything that originally made Godzilla unique. When Godzilla first showed up and destroyed Tokyo, he was relentless and he ruthless and he was destructive. He didn’t care about humanity. One of the most haunting scenes in the original Gojira features a mother holding her children while Godzilla approaches. Godzilla was created to be a symbol of chaos and madness. For a nation that was still struggling with the trauma of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Godzilla was a nightmare come to life. That’s something that was made very clear in the original Gojira and it’s a theme that’s still present in the American cut of the film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters.

That, however, is not a theme that you’ll find in Godzilla vs. Megalon. There is a nuclear explosion at the start of the film, of course. It rips apart Monster Island and it also angers an underwater civilization. The underwater people retaliate by summoning their God, a giant beetle named Megalon. Why would an underwater civilization worship a beetle? Who knows? Once the beetle starts attacking humanity, it’s up to Godzilla to save the day.

Of course, someone has to let Godzilla know what’s going on. That mission falls to Jet Jaguar, a humanoid robot that is briefly controlled by the bad guys before the good guys override their commands. Jet Jaguar actually gets more screen time than Godzilla and, from what I’ve read, Jet Jaguar is one reason why a lot of hardcore Godzilla fans dislike this film.

Jet Jaguar

Yes, Jet is kind of silly but, when you’re fighting a giant beetle, you do what you have to do. Godzilla doesn’t seem to have a problem with him.

See? BFFs.

Perhaps realizing that it’s going to be really difficult for a beetle to defeat both a dinosaur and a robot, the underwater people contact a bunch of aliens who agree to lend them Gigan, who is a really cool monster who has a chainsaw in his chest for some reason.

Gigan and Megalon

It all leads to knock-down, drag-out fight, one that sees Godzilla going in for a flying kick. Basically, it looks more like a tag team wrestling match than anything else but again, it’s all about the saving planet and if you don’t cheer when Godzilla goes flying through the air, I don’t know what to tell you.

Now, those who complain that this film feels like it was made for children have a point. It definitely does have something of a chidlish feel to it and the fact that it was one of the more financially successful Godzilla films outside of Japan led to a lot of people assuming that all Godzilla films were like this one. Whenever anyone rolls their eyes at the thought of Godzilla being a serious metaphor for nuclear war, it’s probably because the only Godzilla film that they’ve seen is this one or the original King Kong vs. Godzilla.

So, don’t get me wrong. I full understand why some people don’t like this movie but …. well, I do like it. Or, I should say, I always enjoy it when I see it. Seriously, it’s just all so silly and rather innocent. It’s pure fun, which may go against what Godzilla is meant to represent but, at the same time, it’s impossible for me not to smile whenever I watch it.

Fortunately, though, Jet Jaguar never appeared in another film. He did an okay job in Godzilla vs. Megalon but, by the end of the movie, you could tell he was starting to let his new-found fame go to his head.

Film Review: King Kong (dir by John Guillermin)


The 1976 remake of King Kong is the version of the great ape’s story that no one ever seems to want to talk about.

Everyone, of course, continues to appreciate the original King Kong from 1933, with its charmingly dated but still somewhat effective special effects. The Japanese King Kong films have their fans, even if it still annoys me that two endings were made for the original King Kong vs. Godzilla. The Peter Jackson-directed remake from 2005 had many admirers, including me. The monsterverse Kong certainly has many fans, as is indicated by the fact that Godzilla vs Kong is the first box office hit of the post-pandemic era. King Kong is a beloved character and yet the 1976 version of his story never seem to get as much attention as all the others.

Some of that, of course, is because the 1976 version of King Kong is often described as not being very good. It tells the same basic story as the first King Kong but there’s a few key differences. The expedition to the hidden island is no longer made up of a film crew. Instead, everyone has a separate backstory that doesn’t really make much sense. Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) is an energy company executive who is looking for a new source of oil. Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) is a long-haired hippie environmentalist type who stows away on Wilson’s ship. Prescott apparently thinks that there’s some sort of ancient primate living on the island. Meanwhile, Dwan (future great actress Jessica Lange, making her film debut) is an aspiring actress who is discovered in a life raft, floating out in the middle of the ocean. It turns out that Dwan (that’s not a typo, that’s her name) has escaped from the yacht of a sleazy film producer. Nobody on the ship seems to be surprised when Dwan suddenly shows up in her life raft and Dwan doesn’t seem to have any hesitation about accompanying a bunch of strangers to previously unexplored island. That’s the type of film this is.

After a considerable amount of time, during which Dwan falls in love with Jack and Fred spends a lot of time looking generally annoyed, the island is discovered. As you can already guess, Dwan is kidnapped by the island’s natives, and she’s rescued by a giant ape who falls in love with her after she punches him in the nose and says, “Put me down, you male chauvinist pig ape!” In some shots, Kong is obviously a man in a rubber suit. In others, he’s just as obviously an animatronic model. Unfortunately, the animatronic version of Kong sometimes appears to kind of be leering whenever he looks down at Dwan in the palm of his hand, which bring a definite element of ickiness to a few of the scenes in which Kong carries Dwan across the island.

I would have started praying too.

Eventually, just as in the original film, Kong ends up a prisoner in New York. This time, when he escapes, grabs Dwan, and goes on a rampage, he ends up climbing the Two Towers. This leads to scenes of helicopters and fighter planes all firing at the Two Towers, which is a bit difficult to watch today. I remember a few years ago, one of our local stations actually broadcast this version of King Kong on September 11th and it definitely did not feel right.

The 1976 version of King Kong was a hit at the box office and was nominated for three Academy Awards. It won the the award for Best Visual Effects, sharing the Oscar with Logan’s Run. That said, King Kong wasn’t exactly popular with critics, either at the time of its release or today. To a certain extent, it’s understandable why this version of King Kong is so frequently criticized. The script takes a deliberately campy approach to material that, in order to have any real emotional impact, needs to be played straight regardless of how silly the story might seem. Charles Grodin never seems to be sure whether the film is a drama or a comedy. Jeff Bridges is likable but a bit too naturally mellow for his role. Jessica Lange made her film debut in King Kong, famously beating out Meryl Streep for the role. Despite the fact that the film was a box office hit, the reviews of Lange’s performance were so negative that she didn’t work for three years after appearing in the film. (She spent that time studying acting. She went on to win a Tony, two Oscars, and three Emmys so take that, critics.)

And yet, I kind of like this version of King Kong. When taken on its own very silly terms (and not as a remake of a legitimate classic), it’s definitely entertaining. Even the fact that Grodin, Bridges, and Lange are all miscast kind of works to the film’s advantage. You can’t help but appreciate that all three of them are trying so hard to be convincing in roles that they shouldn’t have been playing. For all the criticism of Jessica Lange’s performance, she actually does as well as anyone could with some of the dialogue that she gets stuck with. It’s not easy to pull off a scene where you explain to a giant ape that the relationship is never going to work because you’re a city girl and he’s a …. well, he’s a giant ape. But Lange manages to deliver the lines without laughing and that couldn’t have been easy. Lange’s then-inexperience is obvious whenever she’s having to react to or interact with the other actors but she does fine when she’s having to talk to a guy in a rubber suit or a big animatronic head. (Let’s see Meryl Streep pull that off.) Though it seems to take forever for Kong to actually get captured, the film picks up once he’s transported to New York. If you can look past the awkwardness of how the film uses the Twin Towers, the scenes of Kong rampaging through the city have an over-the-top grandeur that’s both ludicrous and compelling. By the time he reaches the top of the World Trade Center, you will totally be on his side. That’s the way it should be.

This remake of King Kong is deeply, deeply silly but, sometimes, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

Here’s the trailer for Spielberg’s update to West Side Story


Tonight, tonight, we’ve received a surprise tonight.

An announcement was made over social media earlier today that during tonight’s Oscar presentation, the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s remake of Robert Wise’s 1961 classic, West Side Story. With Rita Moreno as an Executive Producer, the poster states that they’re keeping just about everything as it was, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s music included.

West Side Story is the tale of two individuals whose families are rival gangs, a musical version of Romeo and Juliet. It’s the kind of film that you normally don’t need to remake or even touch. It was perfect. As bold as it is to remake the film, I’m hoping it’s great.

The film stars Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll (Ant-Man), Brian d’Arcy James (Molly’s Game) and Rita Moreno in a supporting role.

Film Review: Conan The Destroyer (dir by Richard Fleischer)


As you can probably tell just from looking at everything that’s been posted on the site today, I love the Oscars. That said, I realize that the Oscars aren’t for everyone. Some people find Oscar-nominated movies to be boring. Some people find the ceremony to be unbearably pompous. Every year, there’s the lament of “The truly entertaining films always get snubbed!”

Well, fear not! If you’re not into the Oscars, there are alternatives! For instance, you can go over to Prime right now and rent the 1984 film, Conan the Destroyer!

Conan The Destroyer is the sequel to the original Conan the Barbarian, with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning as Conan and Mako returning as the sorcerer who narrates the events of Conan’s life. This film is a continuation of the adventures of the barbarian who would become king, a trip to a world much different from our own, and a study of savagery vs civilization. Of course, to most viewers, Conan The Destroyer is just the film where a weird lizard monster picks up Arnold Schwarzenegger by his feet and spins him around in circles. Have you seen that meme where it’s made to appear as if Kate Winslet is spinning around a helpless Schwarzenegger? Along with Titanic, this is the film that you have to thank for it.

Conan The Destroyer picks up from where Conan the Barbarian ended. Conan is still wandering around the desert, working as a thief and a mercenary. He’s still praying to Crom and missing Valeria. He’s picked up a companion, a cowardly thief named Malak (Tracey Walter). When Conan and Malk are captured by Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas), Taramis offers to bring Valeria back to life if Conan will escort the Queen’s niece, Jehna (Olivia D’Abo), to a temple so that she can retrieve a gem that will be used to …. you know what? I’m just going to be honest here. I have absolutely no idea what the quest is about. It’s just one of those things where Conan and his crew have to break into a castle or a temple and steal something so that a god can either be awakened or defeated. The film, to be honest, is a bit vague about how it all works but then again, the mission is less important than the journey.

It turns out that, with the exception of her insanely tall bodyguard Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain), Jehna has never seen an actual man before and, needless to say, she is quickly fascinated by Conan. (She asks Bombaata if Conan is as handsome as he appears to be, Bombaata reluctantly agrees that he is.) However, Conan only cares for the deceased Valeria. As he leads Jehna, Malak, and Bombaata to the castle where they’ll find the gem, he picks up some other traveling companions. The wizard Akiro (Mako) joins them as does the fierce warrior Zula (Grace Jones). Of course, it turns out that Taramis has an agenda of her own and it all ends in a lot of shouting, swordplay, and muscle flexing.

If Conan the Barbarian was distinguished by the grim and girtty approach that it took to material that others would have played for camp, Conan the Destroyer takes the opposite approach. Of course, a lot of that is because director/screenwriter John Milius did not return to oversee Conan the Destroyer. Instead, Conan the Destroyer was directed by Richard Fleischer, who was one of those veteran directors who made a countless number of films in all sorts of genres but who never really developed a signature style of his own. Fleischer takes a semi-comedic approach to Conan and his quest. As opposed to the brutal warrior and conqueror who appeared in Milius’s film, the Conan in this film is a well-meaning rogue who punches out a camel and who also gets tongue-tied whenever he has too much to drink or when Jehna flirts with him. There’s little of the first film’s violence in this sequel and none of the emotional stakes.

That said, Conan the Destroyer is definitely entertaining. It’s just such a silly movie that you can’t help but enjoy it. Schwarzenegger, apparently understanding that the film is never going to make any sense, cheerfully goes through the motions and he actually does a pretty good job with some of his more comedic lines. The allies and the villains who he collects through the film are all memorably flamboyant. Sarah Douglas is especially entertaining as the over-the-top villainous. If you’re going to be evil in a film like this, you might as well go all out.

Conan The Destroyer was not nominated for an Oscars but it’s still a fun movie.