Conan the Destroyer (1984)

March 8, 2009

There is probably someone somewhere in the world who considers this to be the best movie ever made.  Whoever he is (and let’s face it, it’s going to be a he) is a twat.  But you can see why it would appeal to people because it chimes with a nostalgic view of the 80s- they were shit, I was there trust me- and because it has loads of sword and sorcery elements that a certain type of person really, really gets off on.

comic-book-guyIn truth this is a bag of wank.  And what’s worse is that the people involved don’t seem to realise that they are making a bag of wank and are actually taking it seriously.  Arnie, for example, really attempts to act in this one- except during the fight scenes where he struggles so badly with the choreography, blocking attacks before they’re even made, that he loses all control of his face and looks like a boxer at the exact moment that his face-shape is distorted by a left-hook.

The film opens with an deep, husky voice-over played against blood-red footage of some mounted ancient or alien warriors going across a desert or a moon.  The voice-over probably explained who they were and where they were headed or leaving but I can’t remember.  They then try and capture Arnie and a helium-voiced scrotum that he’s stood near but the big Austrian batters them with a sword which seems most reluctant to draw blood.  It turns out that they’re with Ursa from Superman who dresses like the Wicked Queen from Snow White and promises to bring some girl or other back to life for Arnie if he completes some task or other.  Ursa then tells a big black lad (whose height varies throughout the film) to go with them and then kill Arnie.  Why she didn’t just send him in the first place I don’t know.

Anyway, we have Conan and the big lad and Conan’s gimmer of a sidekick and some Princess or other going to steal some diamond that acts like a key.  It was a curious thing in the 1980s to have characters paired-up with a ridiculous companion as if they would add light relief somehow and broaden the appeal.  In fact these characters just fucked everyone off.  I’m going to call this the Scrappy Doo phenomenon and it turns out that Conan’s Scrappy Doo is a man whose real-life name is Tracey.  There’s an unfortunate fucker that you wouldn’t want swap places with!

Right so where was I?  Oh yes, the hard-right power-crazed sex-pest who allegedly needs to inflate his cock to have sex after years of steroid abuse and some other idiots are on some sort of quest.  Along the way they pick up a mystical Oriental magician whose powers can’t be up to much as he’s about to be roasted alive on a spit when they find him and Grace Jones in a g-string.  This is another time when I just can’t be bothered to type any more.  I just want to type “some stuff happens then some more stuff happens” because, frankly, who cares?

Then some other stuff happens with some crap special effects and that irritating Scrappy Doo feller doesn’t die at any point and the one thing that stands out is Jack Cardiff’s epic cinematography which is the one thing that keeps Conan The Destroyer from equalling Richard Fleischer’s other disastrous big-budget movie Ashanti and gives it a 1/10.



Soylent Green (1973)

January 4, 2009

I don’t like Charlton Heston.  I don’t like him as an actor and I didn’t like him as a man- though the man he was in the 60s was admirable, by the 80s he was an utter wanker.  I don’t like how he bullied his way onto Orson Welles’ fantastic ‘Touch of Evil’.  I don’t like how his acting technique consists of drawing his lips back over his teeth to express his entire range of emotions.  I don’t like how he punctuates sentences by.  Putting an unnecessary full-stop in the middle.

But I often like the films he stars in despite him starring in them.  This was one of them.  Coming after Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man, this was a third sci-fi drama set in a dystopian future he made in five years.  And he plays more or less the same character again.

What makes this film, however, is the magnificent supporting performance from Edward G. Robinson.  He is compelling.  It’s also curious to see how this one-time screen tough guy is about half the size of Heston.

Robinson’s performance needed to be good, though as he had a hell of a lot of film to carry.  This is your standard seventies sci-fi in which everyone wears flared lapels and trousers and Richard Fleischer (who I’ve already put the boot into in the past week or so) spells out everything for the viewer in triplicate.  Soylent Green was dumbed down before dumbing down was invented.  The ‘twist’ therefore can be predicted inside the first ten minutes.  Stick with the film past that, though, until Edward G’s death scene which is pretty moving actually.

Finally, in a film where one screen legend puts in a bravura performance another (Joseph Cotten) simply turns up to collect his paycheck.  The producers of ‘Ashanti’ should have noticed how Fleischer failed to get a performance out of a man who is capable of so much more, they could have saved themselves a bomb.

This is the usual ‘future of man is in peril through our own greed/stupidity’ bollocks which is single-handedly made watchable by Edward G. Robinson.  4/10.

Ashanti (1979)

December 26, 2008

Michael Caine will star in any film that pays irrespective of its merit, I think we’d all accept that.  But do we have to watch?  Ashanti is a by-numbers chase movie set in Africa and with a number of big name cameo parts.   The director (Richard Fleischer) had long since proved that he can handle ‘big’ movies with big names- especially with ‘The Vikings’- but he must’ve been too busy applying sun-tan lotion to notice that the highly-paid stars he’d flown in at great expense (Omar Sharif, William Holden, Rex Harrison, Peter Ustinov) were barely doing more than reciting the banal script.  The lowest-point came with the once-great Holden mentioning casually to Caine (after being shot whilst in control of a helicopter because Caine didn’t fire first) that he should jump before they crash and Caine responding by looking out of the window with a bare modicum of interest.

He jumped eventually and survived.  What a shame.  The film could have been over in half an hour.  Nothing redeems this film.  Nothing.  0/10.