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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Conan the Barbarian [Blu-ray]


(John Milius, 1982)






Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Universal Pictures / Dino De Laurentiis Company

Video: Universal



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:09:08.615

Disc Size: 46,276,532,275 bytes

Feature Size: 36,743,645,184 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.97 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 2nd, 2011



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3832 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3832 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB



English (SDH), French, none



• Commentary with John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Deleted Scenes (5:35 in 480i)

Conan Unchained: The Making of Conan the Barbarian (53:15 - 480i)

• Art of Steel: Sword Makers and Masters (14:37 - 1080P)

• Conan: From the Vault (10:17 in 1080P)

• Special Effects (1:37 in 480i)

The Conan Archives (11:46 in 480i)

• Theatrical Trailers (3:48 in 480i)

Ticker / BD-LIVE





Description: Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in the original action-packed epic adventure Conan the Barbarian. Following his parents’ savage murder young Conan (Schwarzenegger) is captured by the cold-blooded Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and spends the next fifteen years in agony first chained to the Wheel of Pain and then enslaved as a Pit Fighter. Rather than allowing this brutal fate to conquer him Conan builds an incomparable body and an indomitable spirit—both of which he needs when he suddenly finds himself a free man. Aided by his companions Subotai the Mongol (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria Queen of Thieves (Sandahl Bergman) Conan sets out to solve the “riddle of steel ” seize ultimate power and finally take revenge on the warlord who killed his family.



The Film:

Unlike squeaky clean characters of Superman, Flash Gordon or even Buck Rogers, Conan the Barbarian actually didn't belong to G-rated world of simple morality virtues of late 1930s and early 1940s. His character was indeed invented in 1930s, but the dark imagination of tragically deceased author Robert E. Howard (1906- 1936) kept Conan outside pulp fiction mainstream. It was only in 1960s when, thanks to L. Sprague de Camp and other authors, Conan was rediscovered and later served as some kind of adult alternative to Tolkien-inspired stereotypes in fantasy genre. However, Conan reached the peak of its popularity in the media of comic books, using the new standards of depictions of sex and violence in order to make his character popular among male teeenagers.

De Laurentiis knew that the campy and ironic approach towards Conan's character wouldn't work. So, he needed some real 1970s author to deal with 1970s phenomenon. The choice fell on John Millius, one of the biggest names in so-called "New Hollywood" of 1970s. Millius was perfect, because the vision of Conan as lonely but free character in amoral world was in line with Millius' own individualistic and libertarian views.

Excerpt from Dragan Antulov at IMDb located HERE

Schwarzenegger does a great job. There really is only one person in the world who could play Conan, as sympathetic and brutal as he is, and Arnie definitely pulls it off, in this, his first major starring role. Of course, there is not much acting going on - he says only five words to Valeria in the whole movie - but it's all about physical presence, rather than thespianism. Most of the dialogue is unspoken. Conan was brought up to be a killing machine, but he does learn humanity through feeling his own mortality.

Producer Dino De Laurentiis, a veteran movie-maker, brought a whole load of money to give Conan a massive scale. John Milius stages some h-u-g-e scenes, with excellent production values, and his cinematographer Duke Callaghan uses widescreen framing brilliantly.

Excerpt from Gator MacReady at Eye For Film located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Conan the Barbarian looks significantly better on Blu-ray from Universal than I was anticipating. It is extremely clean and sharp showing both smoothness and excellent textured and even grain. There is no gloss exported by the 1080P dual-layered transfer with a high bitrate. Earthy barbarian browns and grays look accurate and tight without manipulation. Skin tones seem true and contrast exhibits decent black levels. There may have been some minor noise in the stygian darkness - but it was wholly insignificant. This Blu-ray has some depth and while we often see weakness in early 80's films - usually because of the stock - this is impressive on many levels.  Sword and Sorcery fans will rejoice in the Blu-ray visuals.



















Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 3832 kbps is also up to the task. The separations can be sneaky and the aggressive effects produce some healthy, and surprising, bass response. Basil Poledouris composed for the screen for almost 30 years (sadly he left us 5 years ago - thanks Jonathan!) and his original work for Conan stands out as extremely supportive of the atmosphere of the film. The lossless audio only adds to the overall film experience. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

Extras include all from the "Collector’s Edition" DVD but also add two featurettes. There is the previous, comfortable, audio commentary with writer/director John Milius and Arnold. Even the crude humor seems applicable in the atmosphere of two guys joking and talking like fans having a beer or two. From that standpoint it may not be as informative with details pushed to the back-burner. The significant 54-minute Conan Unchained: The Making of Conan fills in many gaps that the commentary left behind. It has interviews with producer Ed Pressman, Oliver Stone, Dino De Laurentis, James Earl Jones, Max Von Sydow, plus Arnie and Milius. Included from the SD are the six deleted lasting just over 5-minutes, and "The Conan Archives" slide-show. I don't think I have ever seen Art of Steel: Sword Makers and Masters running 15-minutes and Conan: From the Vault - just over 10-minutes - both in 1080P. Overall this is s stacked package.



Robert E. Howard's legendary pulp adventurer Conan was part of the literary 'stuff' of my childhood. Howard seemed to carve out his own language in describing the barbaric one's exploits fighting human and supernatural foes as well as bedding survivalist females of the era. I truly believe it was one of the best fantasy of its kind ever written. Films rarely reach the lofty levels of our imagination that is spurred by the written word - but the rendition by John Milius with the characterization of Arnold Schwarzenegger does a pretty good job. This isn't a bad film at all in its own right. There is a lot to extol about the Blu-ray. It looks and sounds strong and exports the Conan myth in a far grander scale than SD could relate. Fans of this iconic hero should be extremely pleased with the result. For that grouping and more we definitely recommend! 

Gary Tooze

July 25th, 2011





About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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