Conan the Destroyer (1984)

conanthedestroyer_2Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones, Wilt Chamberlain, Mako, Tracey Walter, Sarah Douglas, Olivia d’Abo, Pat Roach, Jeff Corey, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Bruce Fleischer, Ferdy Mayne

Directed by Richard Fleischer

Expectations: Super low.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


Sequels are tricky business, perhaps harder to get right than the first film in a franchise. Conan the Destroyer is a film that had all the odds stacked against it right from the get-go, as it had the burden of attempting to follow one of the greatest fantasy motion pictures of all time. So instead of trying to bang out a rehash of the first film, the new creative team decided to go in a completely different direction. Conan the Destroyer represents a different side of Conan, much like many of Robert E. Howard’s original stories that represent an unexplored side of the character at different places in his life. Conan the Destroyer is definitely not anywhere near as awesome or as well-made as Milius’s original film, but it is a nearly non-stop parade of B-Movie fun.

Conan the Destroyer presents us with a story that Conan gets mixed up in, not one that is integral to the character. This immediately hampers the film from being the deeply resonant tale of woe and revenge that the first film was, but that’s OK — this one has crystal castles, wizards and crazy monsters! While praying at an altar, Queen Taramis of Shadizar sends in her guards to attack Conan. He easily bests them, slicing their nets and punching their horses. Upon his victory, the Queen tells him of a quest, one that if he succeeds will allow her to resurrect Valeria from the dead. Wanting nothing more than Valeria back in his life, Conan agrees and we’re off on a thrilling fantasy adventure.

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Superman and the Mole Men (1951)

superman mole menSuperman and the Mole Men (1951)
AKA Superman and the Strange People, The Unknown People (Episode title when re-broadcast as a two-parter for Adventures of Superman)

Starring George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jeff Corey, Walter Reed, J. Farrell MacDonald, Stanley Andrews, Ray Walker, Hal K. Dawson

Directed by Lee Sholem

Expectations: Low.

twohalfstar


Alright, who’s ready for some Superman? In anticipation of Zack Snyder’s take on Supes, Man of Steel, I’ll be running through 11 films that have previously taken a crack at the last survivor of the planet Krypton. Now what exactly those 11 films are is for me to know and you to find out, but expect things that line up with the grand Silver Emulsion tradition of balancing the mainstream with the not-so mainstream. So once again, who’s ready for some Superman? I can’t hear you! Are you ready?

Oh, so you are ready for some Superman? Well… hmm… this is awkward… in that case, you’ll have to wait. Mostly. Because Superman and the Mole Men isn’t all that much of a Superman movie. He’s in it, and he a few heroic and super things, but mostly it’s about Clark Kent, some intolerant townspeople and a few balding mole men. I had incorrectly assumed that the title referred to some struggle that would occur between Superman and the mole men, and I imagined Superman punching short, squinty-eyed guys in the face, but instead he’s actually protecting the li’l guys! This makes Superman and the Mole Men something of an interesting allegory for the Communist scare in America, and even if it didn’t deliver the super thrills I wanted, it was nice to see Superman protecting the weak and misunderstood mole men. Of course, I would have also accepted him punching them in the face, but when I first envisioned that alternate path I had no way of knowing just how harmless they’d end up being.

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Surviving the Game (1994)

Starring Ice T, Rutger Hauer, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey, F. Murray Abraham, John C. McGinley, William McNamara, Jeff Corey

Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson

Expectations: High. If I don’t love this, the pillars of Earth will shake.


In high school, teachers give you a lot of dumb shit to read. Every once in a while, though, there’d be a gem. One of these gems was Richard Connell’s short story, The Most Dangerous Game. I loved it, not just because of the interesting premise, but also because it reminded me of this amazing movie I saw at my grandparent’s house one summer, The Naked Prey, where a dude runs from hunters in Africa with barely any dialogue holding the film together. So when I sat down with Surviving the Game, I expected it to give me a great early ’90s action take on the tale that I love so well. Surviving the Game does not disappoint in the slightest, delivering thrills, excitement and some of the most badass/ridiculous survival shit you’ll ever see in a movie.

Ice T is a homeless man who is at the end of his rope. Without any way out of his current situation and nothing to live for, he just wants it all over and done with. The kindhearted Charles S. Dutton sees a fire within Ice and offers him a job as a survivalist guide, but as you can probably guess, his intentions are more disingenuous than they appear at first glance. Even though we know the storyline and it takes a little while to get to the action-meat of the film, the setup is worthy and necessary. Without it we’d have no connection to Ice’s character in this film, and thankfully this introductory phase flies by thanks to fast-paced writing that is never giving us shit we don’t need. Like a man packing into the backwoods, Surviving the Game only takes exactly what it needs, and when the shit goes down you best believe it knows how to use every motherfuckin’ thing in that pack.

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