Monday, March 14, 2011


(May 1982, U.S.)

I've often told people that the only thing that has ever made me really feel my age (43) is the fact that Hollywood is remaking films that I saw in the 1970s. It feels worse now because they've started in on films from the 1980s. The remake of CONAN THE BARBARIAN (starring someone I never heard of!) is due out before the end of this year. For my tastes (any everyone elses from my generation!), I'll stick with the Arnold Schwarzenegger original.

By 1982, comic book heroes on the big screen were still trying to make it's big modern breakthrough. SUPERMAN (1978) had been a huge success. FLASH GORDON (1980), though, was a complete dud (though I still love the Queen song, "Flash"). On the other other, the early 1980s saw the birth of a very popular game with freaks and geeks called Dungeons & Dragons (I never played it!), and with it came spectacles on the screen including DRAGONSLAYER (1981), CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981) and THE BEASTMASTER (1982). So it's safe to say that the time for CONAN THE BARBARIAN was just right. Now whether Arnold could actually ACT or not was probably irrelevant because he was already well known regardless, and he had just the right body for the role. But then again, acting was probably not a key factor in any of this considering the original comic book character doesn't say much (if anything at all) to begin with. So there you have it - Arnold was perfect for the role of the legendary sword and sorcercy master of the prehistoric Hyborian Age. The story itself is all cliche in that Conan's people are murdered when he's a small boy by the evil warriors of Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones) and Conan will (of course) grow up to inevitably take his revenge and destroy the evil army forces behind Doom. He'll have help along the way and also fall in love with the beautiful female warrior Valeria (played by Sandahl Bergman). When she's killed by the evil Doom, Conan's bloody revenge will take on more meaning.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN was co-written by Oliver Stone, by the way, so it had the darkness and the edge that one might expect from a Stone script. It was a serious, R-rated film that didn't waste your time with a lot of over-the-top comic book campiness, and for that I'm very grateful. In other words, it was a worthy film for its time and still is today. I'm more than confident the remake has virtually no chance of matching it.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Conan: "Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!"


  1. I read a story once, I think in The Rolling Stone, that when Schwarzenegger, first met Dino De Laurentis, the producer on this film, in his office, the first thing he said was "Why does such a little man need such a big desk?" De Laurentis, was a small man but a big time producer, when Arnold was still playing third lead in a Cowboy Comedy. That is the attitude that made him perfect for this part. This was the role that made him a leading man, Terminator made him a star two years later. I want the new Conan to be great, the poster is terrific but the trailer is iffy.

  2. Dino De Laurentis was behind some of Federico Fellini's best knoown films. When he became "Americanized", his name was behind some of the biggest commercial flops like KING KONG (1976), ORCA-THE KILLER WHALE, FLASH GORDON and DUNE, all of which have developed cult followings ever since. What can one say except, "Only in America!"

  3. I love that De Laurentis bad mouthed his own "Manhunter" to justify a remake of "Red Dragon". The latere film was commercially successful, but the original had ten times the suspense.