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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Conan the Barbarian (Limited Edition) (4K UHD Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


A young boy who watches his family slaughtered grows up to become a fierce warrior and avenge his family in this sword and sorcery classic from the 1980s starring "Ahnuld."

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

In the early 1980s sword and sorcery burst onto the bigtime with Conan the Barbarian, with former bodybuilding star Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. Still massive from his competition days, “Ahnuld” as Conan sees his fmily slaughtered by a snake worshiping cult. Raised a slave, he hones his skills as a gladiator in the fighting pits, he finds himself unexpectedly freed. With his companions – two fighters, Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), and a Wizard (Mako) – King Osric (Max von Sydow) enlists him to free his daughter from the clutches of the very same evil cult that killed his family. Adventure ensues. Schwarzenegger’s wooden acting and limited dialogue works in the context of this hammy film from director John Milius in the same way Schwarzenegger’s robotic acting and thick accent worked in The Terminator or the pulpy story was effective in the Canadian animated Heavy Metal. James Earl Jones as the villain is criminally underused, and on the whole the film, while visually striking and successful, does not hit the same fun strides as its sequel Conan the Destroyer.

Purchase Conan the Barbarian (Limited Edition) at Amazon.com

  • James Earl Jones in Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • Conan the Barbarian (Arrow)
  • Conan the Barbarian (Arrow)
  • Conan the Barbarian (Arrow)

The Video

Conan the Barbarian is a new brand new 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films. It comes to 4K Ultra HD in a 2.35:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement. The opening credit sequence of the film is cause for concern as it looks a bit soft and shows some source damage, but this quickly clears up and the image turns crisp, bright, and pristine. The grain structure tightens up, the colors are natural and vibrant, and overall the picture is free from major source damage. The Dolby Vision grading imparts nuanced shadows, glistening swords, and most spectacularly, lots of ‘pop’ in the many flames that look vibrantly orange or yellow.

The Audio

The audio has been remixed to lossless Dolby Atmos and the original mono is also included in restored DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. The Atmos mix does not do much with the sound other than lift the score a bit too high in the soundfield so that instrumentation sounds like it is coming from overhead at times. The surround channels carry mild atmospherics. That said, the dialogue is clear and low end is bumped up a bit. The original monaural mix is presented well enough that it is not much of a downgrade from the Atmos and is my preference for this release.

The Supplements

I did not have access to the bonus Blu-ray disc special features and limited edition extras listed below, but I did see the three cuts and sample the two audio commentaries. The audio commentaries are both fun and all three cuts look good as I commented on above.

  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Six double-sided collectors’ postcards
  • Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Walter Chaw and John Walsh, and an archive set report by Paul M. Sammon

Film Versions:

  • Theatrical Cut (127 mins)
  • International Cut (129 mins)
  • Extended Cut (130 mins)

Bonus Features (Recorded for Extended Cut of the film):

  • Commentary by John Milius & Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Commentary by Paul M. Sammon, author of Conan: The Phenomenon (NEW)
  • Isolated Score Track

Disc Two – Extras (Blu-ray)

  • Conan Unchained: The Making of Conan, an archive documentary from 2000 featuring interviews with Schwarzenegger, Milius, Stone, Jones, Lopez, Bergman, Poledouris and several others
  • Designing Conan, a newly filmed interview with production artist William Stout
  • Costuming Conan, a newly filmed interview with costume designer John Bloomfield
  • Barbaric Effects, a newly filmed interview with special effects crew members Colin Arthur and Ron Hone
  • Young Conan, a newly filmed interview with actor Jorge Sanz
  • Conan & The Priest, a newly filmed interview with actor Jack Taylor
  • Cutting the Barbarian, a newly filmed interview with assistant editor Peck Prior
  • Crafting Conan’s Magic, a newly filmed interview with visual effects crew members Peter Kuran and Katherine Kean
  • Barbarians and Northmen, a newly filmed interview with filmmaker Robert Eggers on the film’s influence on The Northman
  • Behind the Barbarian, a newly filmed interview with John Walsh, author of Conan the Barbarian: The Official History of the Film
  • A Line in the Sand, a newly filmed interview with Alfio Leotta, author of The Cinema of John Milius
  • Conan: The Rise of a Fantasy Legend, an archive featurette on the film’s literary and comic book roots
  • Art of Steel: Sword Makers & Masters, an archive interview with sword master Kiyoshi Yamasaki
  • Conan: From the Vault, an archive compilation of on-set cast and crew interviews
  • A Tribute to Basil Poledouris, a series of videos produced by the Úbeda Film Music Festival, including video of Poledouris conducting a concert of music from the film in 2006 (remixed in 5.1 surround) and interviews with collaborators
  • Rarely-seen electronic press kit from 1982, featuring over half an hour of on-set footage and cast and crew interviews (from a watermarked tape source)
  • Outtakes, including a deleted cameo by Milius
  • Split-screen “Valeria Battles Spirits” visual effects comparison
  • Conan: The Archives, a gallery of photos and production images from 2000
  • Conan the Barbarian: The Musical, an affectionate comic tribute to the film by Jon & Al Kaplan
  • US and International teaser and theatrical trailers
  • Image gallery

The Final Assessment

A classic adventure that gave the sword and sorcery genre a shot in its muscular arms in the early 1980s, this new restoration is another reference entry on 4K from Arrow and a fun B-movie that is better than one expects it to be.

Conan the Barbarian (Limited Edition) is out on 4K Ultra HD January 30, 2024 from Arrow Video.

Purchase Conan the Barbarian (Limited Edition) on Amazon.com

  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: Dino De Laurentiis Company | Pressman Film | Universal Pictures | Arrow Video
  • Director: John Milius
  • Written By: Robert E. Howard | John Milius | Oliver Stone
  • Run Time: 129 Mins.
  • Street Date: 30 January 2024
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • Maximum Luminance: 1000 nits
  • Minimum Luminance: 0.0001 nits
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible)
  • Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH

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A young boy who watches his family slaughtered grows up to become a fierce warrior and avenge his family in this sword and sorcery classic from the 1980s starring "Ahnuld."Conan the Barbarian (Limited Edition) (4K UHD Review)