Monday, January 30, 2017
Conan the Barbarian
Had I not seen John Milius's Conan the Barbarian in 1982 I probably would not have this blog.
This movie was the gateway to the Lancer/Ace Conan paperbacks available when I was a teenager in the early 1980s. John Milius sold me on Conan with his iconic film, and Frank Frazetta sold me on Robert E. Howard with his killer artwork gracing the covers of those Conan paperbacks. It wasn't long before I was reading every book with barbarians, demons, and wizards that I could find.
Shot in Spain between January - April 1981 on a 20,000,000 budget(estimated), the film features gorgeous locations and lush cinematography that were exactly as I used to picture the settings in the Savage Sword of Conan magazines I had read before seeing the movie.
Conan's village is attacked by the sorcerer, Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and his henchmen. Conan's parents are slain and his tribe wiped out in the raid. Conan, along with the other children are sold into slavery to the Vanir. Conan spends his days bound to a wheel that the children push to grind meal. As the years pass we see the other children vanish from the wheel;they have fallen dead and continue to do so until we see an adult Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) pushing the enormous wheel by himself. Conan is bought by a another Vanir who profits from Conan as a pit-fighter.Fueled by the hatred in his heart for Thulsa Doom, Conan quickly goes from an innocent who knows nothing about fighting to a highly skilled killing-machine. His master takes him to be trained by the Hyrkanian masters in the sword arts. Later, he is set free, and along with a Hyrkanian bowman (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria, Queen of the Thieves (Sandahl Bergman) he sets off to free King Osric's ( Max Von Sydow) daughter from the sorcerer, Thulsa Doom and his snake cult.
This is hands down the best sword-and-sorcery film ever made and has been my favorite movie of all time ever since 1982. I believe that John Milius was one of the very few directors who could relate to the aesthetic present in Robert E. Howard's writing and treat the subject matter seriously and with respect. He also had the talent and the budget to pull off this masterpiece, If you pick it up be sure to get the collector's edition; it has some footage the director restored to make the story more complete than the original theatrical release.