Conan the Barbarian

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Earl Jones
20th Century Fox
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available now

Orphaned and enslaved as a boy when a snake cult destroys his village, the Cimmerian Conan grows up to become a fearsome warrior and a formidable thief. Then one day, he is given the opportunity to take his revenge on Thulsa Doom, the leader of the cult, although the price will be high...

Are you tired of seeing Conan the Barbarian being barbarically butchered whenever it is shown on terrestrial TV? Well, now you can own it, uncut and beautifully restored, on DVD. In its unexpurgated glory, complete with sex (Conan beds three different women before the first hour has elapsed) and violence (beheadings and spurting blood a-plenty), the movie is certainly spectacular, boasting excellent combat scenes and gorgeous Spanish location work.

The plot, however, is distinctly episodic. Until the second half of the film, in which Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) takes on the snake cult, incidents just seem to happen one after the other. The young Conan grows up as a slave, then gains his freedom for no adequately explained reason. Thereafter he meets a witch (Cassandra Gaviola), then picks up a sidekick (Gerry Lopez), and then meets the woman of his dreams (played with a formidable physical presence by Sandhal Bergman).

Schwarzenegger is not famed for his acting abilities. In this, one of his earliest film roles, his skills are even less well developed than they would ultimately become, while his accent is at its most impenetrable. Fortunately, Conan is a hero of few words! And as far as physical characteristics go, his casting is perfect.

James Earl Jones is appropriately menacing and powerful as Conan's nemesis, Thulsa Doom. This is a villain worthy of Conan, and also a role worthy of the man who voiced one of the meanest bad guys in the whole of movie history: Darth Vader. As Doom (such a cool name), Jones even gets to virtually reprise his famous "I am your father" line!

The DVD's extra features include an enlightening 50-minute documentary, a commentary by Schwarzenegger and director John Milius, a few deleted scenes (these are impressive finds considering the film's age), two trailers, production and cast notes, design drawings and production photographs.

Although far from flawless, there is nevertheless an epic feel to Conan the Barbarian, which has been vividly brought to life once more by this impressive release.

Chris Clarkson

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