Conan the Barbarian

Tagline : Thief. Warrior. Gladiator. King.

Runtime : 129 mins

Genre : Adventure Fantasy Action

Vote Rating : 6.8/10

Budget : 20 million $ USD

Revenue : 79.1 million $ USD

Plot : A film adaptation of the classic sword and sorcery hero, Conan the Barbarian. A horde of rampaging warriors massacre the parents of young Conan and enslave the young child for years on The Wheel of Pain. As the sole survivor of the childhood massacre, Conan is released from slavery and taught the ancient arts of fighting. Transforming himself into a killing machine, Conan travels into the wilderness to seek vengeance on Thulsa Doom, the man responsible for killing his family. In the wilderness, Conan takes up with the thieves Valeria and Subotai. The group comes upon King Osric, who wants the trio of warriors to help rescue his daughter who has joined Doom in the hills.

Cast Members


Though definitely a guilty pleasure from the cheesy 80's of which I grew up, this is such outstandingly fun. It's so unique a cinematic experience, knowing what we know of Schwarzenegger's life and career the 34 years since, seeing him at this juncture, as he's just starting out. (No, I haven't seen 'Stay Hungry' yet.) Part of me always wishes he had simply stuck to these films (as well as the 'Terminator' series), and was still making them. In his prime, I dare you to find anyone better at this kind of material. Director Milius has a fine feel for the swords-and-sandals/fantasy worldscape this material requires. An excellent and underrated supporting cast is here at well to help Arnie out, too.

***"Sit here... SIT HERE"*** I was hugely disappointed by "Conan the Barbarian" (1982) when I first viewed it because it deviated too far from the blueprint established by creator Robert E. Howard. Yeah, they got many things right, but the things they got wrong ruined the film for me. Yet I’ve warmed up to it over time because one can’t deny the film’s merits. If you’re a fan of the books and the faithful comics, it’s important to realize going in that this is an ALTERNATIVE Conan, similar to Howard's, but far from a strict interpretation. The flaws mostly have to do with John Milius and Oliver Stone's deviation from Howard. Consider the opening sequence of Conan as a little boy on his father’s knee getting advice about the trustworthiness of the sword: Sorry, but the lad looks like an average soft suburbanite boy, not a tough kid that grew up in the wilds of Cimmeria, land of darkness and deep night. Secondly, the "wheel of pain" sequence is just dumb. I have a bit more respect for this part now that I realize it's a metaphor for the cyclical drudgery of grade school but, c'mon, the REAL Conan wouldn't spend that many years in captivity! He would have escaped long before, not to mention slay his captors. I suppose it helps when consider that Stone & Milius were taking bits from Howard’s other creations, like Kull, who was a slave for a few years. Thirdly, when they first meet Valeria while robbing the temple of Set the flick cops a decidedly campy tone. Although Sandahl Bergman is great throughout the rest of the picture that initial meeting is pretty cringe-inducing. It was at this point that I really tuned out when I first viewed the film. Fourthly, one of the worst parts is when Conan grovels at Thulsa Doom's feet crying, "You killed my father; you killed my mother!" This in no way resembles Howard's Conan. But, in its defense, it does make Conan more human and therefore more relate-able to the viewer. Thankfully, the film has several strengths, starting with the magnificent and awe-inspiring score by Basil Poledouris. The movie's worth viewing just to hear this score. Secondly, despite acceptable discrepancies (e.g. Conan has black hair not brown), the casting is quite good; although Schwarzenegger doesn’t really reflect the air of REH’s character (Jason Momoa is far better). Thirdly, Milius & Stone show their brilliance by incorporating Genghis Khan's historical quote in Conan's response to "What is best in life?" Conan answers: "To crush enemies, see dem driven before you and to hear da lamentation of der women." Fourthly, the locations, sets and costuming are superb. They certainly got the LOOK of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age right. Fifthly, As long as one is prepared to accept the deviation from Howard's Conan, the story keeps your interest throughout (which is my way of determining the worthiness of ANY flick). Sixthly, Sandahl Bergman is super sharp and sexy; she possesses a certain barbaric beauty essential to the role and it's hard not to gaze at her shapely form in awe when she's on screen. Lastly, the overall tone of the film is quite serious and brooding. Despite Valeria's initial campy sequence mentioned earlier and a couple of amusing scenes with Mako, the film eludes the rut of camp (unfortunately the 1984 sequel cannot boast of this quality). SPECIAL MOMENTS AND INTERESTING ITEMS: •The love scene between Conan & Valeria and, later, the death/funeral pyre scenes are reverent, beautiful and moving. The accompanying piece by Poledouris is emotionally potent. •Conan's spiritual evolution in regards to sexuality and love is interesting: His first exposure is as a slave when beautiful women are occasionally thrown to him for the amusement of those watching. After he acquires his freedom his first (and presumably only) experience with casual sex goes horribly wrong. Later in Zamora he dismisses the solicitations of prostitutes with a wave and a derogatory word. Finally he meets Valeria and discovers true love and commitment, conveyed well in the love/death/funeral scenes noted above. •Both the battles inside the mountain fortress and, later, the showdown at the mounds are thrilling with the accompanying score getting your blood pumping. •Right before the battle at the mounds Conan and Subotai brace themselves as the 'riders of doom' trot forth. You can see the bold determination on their faces: They have no other recourse; they will stand and fight as men, come what may. (All men will eventually have to stand and fight in this manner one way or another, and we wuss out at our own peril). •After their unlikely victory Conan raises his arms (and weapons) in salute to the altar where Valeria was cremated. It gives you goosebumps. Both "The Complete Quest" and "Collector's Edition" contain an excellent 55-minute "Making Of" documentary wherein all of the principle actors and creators are interviewed, as well as an excellent commentary by Milius and Schwarzenegger. FINAL ANALYSIS: Like I said, I've finally come to see the magnificence of "Conan the Barbarian," but I had to get over my hang ups concerning the deviations from Howard's Conan to see it. As an ALTERNATIVE Conan it's a nigh masterpiece of cinematic art. One last thing: Um, don't use that first line of dialogue ("Sit here... SIT HERE") on your wife or girlfriend; I tried it and she didn't take too kindly to it! The film runs 2 hours, 9 minutes, and was shot in Spain. GRADE: A-

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