Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Reel 30

“What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?”

1982 was a banner year for movies, with many significant films in the fantasy and sci-fi genre. This month marks the 30th anniversary of John Milius’ CONAN THE BARBARIAN.
Based on the novels by Robert E. Howard, CONAN is often unfairly dismissed as a blockheaded blood-and-guts flick. Although it does have plenty of bloodshed, its inspirations stretch back to classic films like KWAIDEN (1964) and SEVEN SAMURAI (1954). Based on a screenplay by Milius and Oliver Stone (yes, that Oliver Stone), CONAN is an inspired story of a barbarian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who seeks vengeance for the death of his parents, who were killed by cult leader Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones).

The film was put into production as early as the late 1970’s, when the success of STAR WARS (1977) had studios looking to capitalize on the new interest in heroic tales and adventures. CONAN stuck with those themes and while it still kept true to the brutal slayings that the books were chock full of, it also had heavy-handed themes of spirituality and grand adventure, faith and love, and a little bit of sorcery thrown in for good measure.

Milius cast a young and virtual unknown bodybuilding with the weird name of Schwarzenegger as the lead, who was eventually tutored on-set by James Earl Jones and screen-legend Max von Sydow, who played King Osric. The film would pave the way for Schwarzenegger’s long and lucrative film career as an action star.

CONAN also employed some fantastic, sweeping cinematography. Shot on location in Spain and Canada, the film was really brought to life by Basil Poledouris’ thunderous score. Sweeping and immersive, the score was an instant classic and is highly respected by film buffs to this day. The score was used so heavily that Milius let the music do the talking; long segments of the film go by with no dialogue.


This Blogger has never had the opportunity to see CONAN on the big screen, and had only experienced first on cable. Years later, its sweeping power can still be felt. Fascinating visuals with a classical epic feel, CONAN has the ability to completely engulf you in the world the characters live in. Thirty years later it still feels relevant. Relevant enough that many loyal fans have been praying to Crom for Arnie to finally give us KING CONAN.

“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”

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