Friday, October 25, 2013

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Conan the BarbarianBelieve it or not, I just spent over five hours with this disk even though I already own the original DVD release. It was worth it. First off, the video is a(much)cleaner and sharper transfer, a marked improvement over the old disk. And the extras are great too. After watching the film the first time I actually sat through whole thing again again while listening to the director's commentary, something I have not done with any other DVD. The extra footage, while only a few minutes, does add something to the ending. I liked it. And Milius' comments about it made me appreciate it even more later. My only complaint might be to wish that the commentary had been extended to the outtakes and deleted scenes. I would have liked to hear more about the deleted King Osric scene and how it was originally intended to fit in the movie. Finally, the documentary "Conan Unchained" was a pleasant surprise. I expected the usual 15 minute "making of" promo dating back to the original release but it is a beefy, informative(and amusing)featurette with many recently filmed interviews with cast and crew. A fan's wish come true. And speaking of wishes, that exchange between John Milius and Arnold about getting together sometime to make a third Conan....YES! Let's get Conan on that throne! Anyway, while we're waiting, we can all watch this one till the sun comes up like I did last night.

Back in 1982, when this film first came out I remember being absolutely spellbound by the production. It was as if Conan had stepped right out of Robert E. Howard's books. I remember some grumbling, because the script was not perfectly true to the original books. But, frankly, I did not give a darn. Valeria (Sandahl Bergman) was the perfect warrior maiden, Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) was the snake worshipper from hell, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was totally out of sight as the nearly inarticulate Conan. What a glare he had!

I don't mean to slight the rest of the cast, all the actors are great. Garry Lopez as Conan's sidekick and Mako as the wizard provide comic relief. And who can forget Max Von Sydow as King Osric. In a world that expected science fiction and fantasy movies to be hokey, grade B schlock, 'Conan the Barbarian' proved that it didn't have to be that way. No small part of what makes the film work are the elaborate sets and cinematography. Director John Milius strove to give the film something of the flavor of a history that could have happened, and succeeded. In addition, he makes up for the lack of dialog by presenting a continuous flow of carefully orchestrated and framed film sequences.

I was struck while watching it this time how much the dialog and action work to build the thematic structure. Often events or dialog will foreshadow action to come. In Valeria's death scene, she asks Conan to keep her warm. And in the next scene we find him building and lighting a funeral pyre where no fire had burnt before. In the background, the mound with its sacred stones echoes similar shapes seen throughout the film. This kind of thoughtful work is only to be expected of Milius and De Laurentis, but in 1982, it was far beyond the norm for this genre.

Two features are added for the DVD. The first is a running film analysis by Schwarzenegger and Milius, which is every bit as good as the movie itself. A the second is a feature on the film's production done 20 years after the fact. It is quite interesting to hear what the acting and production teams thin about the film in retrospect.

Violent and sexy, the film's core is built of constant action and spectacle, with very little dialog. Sudden moments of filmic stillness act to emphasize the intense and often gory fight scenes. This and several moments when there is apparent mistreatment of animals give the film its R rating. Of course, the controversy only added to the film's popularity at the time. Even today, this manages to be a surprising film. By all means make and effort to seek it out.

Buy Conan the Barbarian (1982) Now

Conan as a movie is one of the few films that performs the fantasy setting well. Right from the beginning, there is a huge sense of epic scope, with great men shaping and forging a young, wild world. Not a single character in Conan is timid or petty they all stand like giants in their world. Special effects are rarely used and never seem out of place. While the plot doesn't stray too much from a simple quest for revenge, director John Milius presents everything with such sheer charisma that I couldn't help but smile and soak it all in. This is not Citizen Kane, and Arnold is not Olivier, but the movie is entertaining nonetheless.

As a collector's edition, key deleted scenes were added, including a wonderful scene were Arnold does more acting than anywhere else in the movie! Right before the final battle, Conan has a rare moment of reflection on his life of fighting, and wonders at the meaning of it all. The producers thought no one would be able to understand Schwartzenegger, but I had absolutely no problem, and the scene fits the pace perfectly. Overall, the other "new" scenes don't add too much.

The "Making of" documentary is great, but the commentary by Schwartzenegger and Milius is priceless. During the scene where Valeria begs Conan to forget his revenge quest against Thulsa Doom and run away with her, Arnold comments in his wonderful Austrian accent, "Here Conan begins to get soft... listening to the women problems..." Classic Schwartzenegger bravado (or arrogance, depending on your view). John Milius is a very intelligent person, and certainly know quite a bit about history and the deep roots that inspired this movie, but I actually felt that Arnold provided the best insights into the film.

Read Best Reviews of Conan the Barbarian (1982) Here

Altho it's been over twenty years since I have first laid my five year old eyes on Conan, this movie is still a very large part of my life, my movie choices and who I am in general. Like so many people who have reviewed it here, seeing this at a young age really sticks to a young brain as it's still my favorite movie of all time.

What is magnificent about Conan the Barbarian? The basic story is of a child who's whole village has perished under a powerful sorcerer's genocide of Conan's people. As he is taken into slavery with the other kids, he grows up pushing what is called a Wheel of Pain; he works as a farming horse walking in an endless circle pushing a mechanical wheel. As he grows older, stronger and more trained in the art of war, he is set loose by hid drunk master and he goes seeking the sorcerer, Thulsa Doom the reclaimed snake wielding master responsible for the cruel life he endured.

I cannot say how important and realistic the soundtrack composed by Basil Poledouris is to the movie. I love absolutely every track and the movie starts playing in my head as the music starts. You literally hear horses galloping slowly in the hot red sand, carrying horned warriors to far away battle. The music is so ancient, royal, majestic and fierce that you hear the intense battles, the cerulean wind sweeping golden wheat fields as Conan and Subotai run in their search and the cobalt waters of Cimmeria.

Prior to being in Conan, Arnold branched out with his acting skills in Hercules in New York, Stay Hungry, Pumping Iron, The Villain and few other random projects, but I must say that he truly shines in the Bran and Iron Wielding roles. What I like about his role is that he told the story of Conan as a man of honor and discipline. His whole existence was about strength, body and mind as he looked innocent and lovable and an invincible killing machine that no one could beat. He was a superhero in the age of darkness and he looked magnificent with Crom's Atlantean steel sword in his hand.

In my mind Arnold is Conan, and no matter how many other movies are going to be made no one will ever succeed him in my mind. This movie has it all, wonderful scenery, falling snow and hot sun, giant snakes, wizards, witches, enchanted princesses, jewels, assassins and a snake cult, all being cut in half by Conan's sword as he plows through them to met his quest. Milus the director wanted to create a modern legend like Beowulf or Hercules by showing us his painful passage form slavery to being a king and all by his own hand. He had a very clear vision of what he wanted to attain, it was his reality and his enlightened path, and we got to sit back and enjoy the ride as he took us with him on this magical quest.

Fantastic movie, I can't say enough about it. Enjoy!

Want Conan the Barbarian (1982) Discount?

With the arrival of "Gladiator" to DVD, movie fans and critics are cheering to the film's famous chant of "Maximus! Maximus Maximus!" While indeed an impressive film, the arrival of "Conan the Barbarian" to an excellent collectors edition DVD makes a welcome companion.

"Conan the Barbarian" is a fantastic film in which the marriage of visual style with beautiful rich music creates a rare fantasy adventure unlike any to blaze the big screen. Ok, all fans of Conan know this. So what makes the DVD Collector's edition so great?

1. Widescreen: I can actually see all of Arnold's sword now! 2. Audio: While still a mono soundtrack, the DVD creates a CD like audio which is presented in all its glory. 3. Documentary: Awesome! So many facts, so many interviews, so much insite. Conan heaven! 4. Full Feature Commentary: Arnold and John (the director) are both funny and informative. Who knew Conan had so much depth? Only the obsessed fans like me of course! 5. Cut Scenes & Special Effects: Awesome again! Not enough words.

Overall, this is what DVD should be all about! Great Movie (widescreen), excellent picture, clear sound, and lots and lots of obsessed fan stuff. Get it!

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