Color, 1982, 129m. / Directed by John Milius / Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones / Universal / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

"What is best in life, Conan?" "To crush ya enemies, have them brought before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women." Well, what else can you say about this one? John Milius' ultra-macho "guy movie" version of our primeval past was Arnold Schwarzenegger's first big Hollywood starring role and really kicked off the whole sword 'n' sandal subgenre that cursed viewers for most of the early '80's. I really can't put down any movie that has Arnold punching out a camel, so let's just say that if you love the movie, you'll probably want the DVD. The slim storyline concerns little Conan, whose parents are viciously murdered by the evil Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones). After years spent building up a muscular bod in slavery, Conan is set free and joins up with thieves Gerry Lopez and Sandhal "I don't do nudity (unless I get paid well)" Bergman to infiltrate Doom's cult headquarters. After encounters with wacky wizard Mako and Norse king Max Von Sydow, Conan lays waste to Doom's followers and engages in several brutal battles.

Universal first released this film with the same lousy transfer as the one for their laserdisc, meaning the colors were unstable and the image was overly littered with grain. Fortunately the "Collector's Edition" (available in Regions 1, 2, and 4) looks even better than the theatrical prints, with a surprisingly smooth texture. The Dolby Digital stereo is fine, with Basil Poledouris' magnificent score sounding robust and lively as usual, though a little redirection might have given the sound effects more presence. All in all, it's about as good as you would expect considering the film's history. The bonuses include the original US trailer, a Milius/Schwarzenegger commentary (which offers less than you might imagine), a "Conan Unchained" featurette containing interviews with the principals, and a wide selection of notes and image galleries. Incidentally, Conan was trimmed of several minutes of gore and brutality before its release due to an X rating from the MPAA, and it would be nice someday if MCA would put out the money to have this film restored to its intended length. However, the special edition does contain some significant added footage, including more of a resolution concerning the abducted princess.

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