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 II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980/2006)

2986690_640pxStarring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, Marlon Brando, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, E.G. Marshall, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Valerie Perrine, Clifton James, Marc McClure

Directed by Richard Donner

Expectations: I’m so excited.

threehalfstar


So all those problems I wrote about in my review for the theatrical version of Superman II? Gone. The Richard Donner Cut is head and shoulders a better film, reconstructing the original vision for the follow-up story to the first film perfectly. It’s a true shame that Donner wasn’t allowed to finish this at the time, as it really could have led to a much better Superman series if they let him continue making them after the first two films. Donner expresses a long-gone desire for doing this in the “Making Of” featurette on the DVD, and you can see the pain in his eyes. Even so many years later, it’s still a sore subject.

Watching the two versions of Superman II shows perfectly how editing and context can completely change scenes. Where certain scenes in Superman II feel long and out of place, within the context of the Donner cut they make sense and work naturally with the flow of the movie. The story slowly builds, where in the theatrical cut everything seemed to slowly go nowhere. So much of the first hour of that movie is painfully disjointed, a result of the producers and Richard Lester needing to rewrite key scenes and doing a poor job of it. I find it interesting that without prior knowledge of what was what, I took the most issue with the two main sections they added: the Eiffel Tower and the extended Niagara Falls bits. I guess this doesn’t bode well for the upcoming re-watch of Lester’s Superman III, does it?).

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Superman II (1980)

Superman-2-posterStarring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, E.G. Marshall, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Valerie Perrine, Susannah York, Clifton James, Marc McClure

Directed by Richard Lester

Expectations: I’m so excited.

twohalfstar


If I didn’t already know that this film had a troubled production, the end result would speak for itself. Superman II feels like a direct sequel to Richard Donner’s original film AND a completely different movie from a different team, which makes it quite an odd watch. You’d think after such a massive success as Superman there’d be no way they could botch a sequel this bad, but they indeed managed the impossible. To know the story behind the film’s production only adds to that fire, giving birth to all sorts of “What might have been?” frustration. But it’s not all bad, as when Superman II decides it actually wants to be a Superman sequel, it’s pretty damn great. I’m now even more excited to see the Richard Donner reconstructed version, which I hope rectifies a lot of what felt so wrong about this one, especially in the first hour or so.

The plot of Superman II was set up (in part) during the opening minutes of the original film, as Jor-El imprisoned the evil General Zod and his minions Ursa and Non. But this time around, the producers didn’t want to pay Marlon Brando so he is completely excised from the film. Consequently, the scene plays out different than you might remember it, but the result is the same: the Kryptonian baddies are locked inside the Phantom Zone for all eternity. Well… until Superman throws a hydrogen bomb connected to an Eiffel Tower elevator into space. The detonation breaks them free and soon they come to Earth, each sporting powers equal to that of Superman himself. Uh oh.

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Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991)

Starring Guy Rolfe, Richard Lynch, Ian Abercrombie, Kristopher Logan, Aron Eisenberg, Walter Gotell, Sarah Douglas, Matthew Faison, Michelle Bauer

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Six Shooter, Egyptian Goblin (cameo)

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: High. Really enjoyed the last two, looking forward to this period entry.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


Puppet Master III is one of the more ambitious Full Moon pictures, seeking to shed light on puppet master Andre Toulon’s backstory by setting the entire film within 1941’s Nazi-controlled Germany. While it doesn’t always reach the heights it strives for (or even the heights of the previous two films), it still manages to be quite an enjoyable Puppet Master film thanks to a couple of good, inventive death scenes and a fairly interesting story. But know this, not a single puppet gets thrown into a wall during this one, so set your sights accordingly.

The Nazis are attempting to resurrect dead soldiers to use as meat shields, but only achieving very limited results. One of the Nazis attends one of Toulon’s shows, this one depicting a new cowboy puppet with six arms (Six Shooter) taunting and shooting at a puppet of Adolf Hitler. The Nazi confronts Toulon about it and questions him on his methods to make the puppets move without strings. After seeing and photographing some undeniable shit, the Nazi returns to headquarters and the hunt for Toulon and his secrets are on, with the Nazi doctor hoping to adapt the techniques to his work on animating cadavers. He’d probably be more successful hooking up with Dr. Herbert West though.

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