The World According to Arnie – Conan The Barbarian (1982)

Conan The Barbarian Title

Goodbye sucky 70’s, hello awesome 80’s! I’m here! I made it! I’ve put on my comfy pants and I’m ready for some quintessential Arnie! Action! Violence! Mangled English! Far too many exclamation marks! And I haven’t been let down. Conan The Barbarian has all those things in abundance, but for my viewing pleasure boobs get thrown into the mix. Lots and lots of boobs! If ever there was a legitimate reason for exclamation marks it boobs! BOOBS!!!!!!!

conan the barbarian poster Conan is a young lad learning the ways of the world from his father. One day his peaceful village is attacked, and he watches as poor ol’ dad gets an axe in the back and then gets his forearms mauled by ferocious dogs. Then to make matters worse Mum gets dazzled by the mystical phenomenon known as ‘a black guy with blue eyes’. Suitably hypnotized by the gaze of snake worshiping cult leader Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), she is then decapitated by ol’ blue eyes. Young Conan is then sold in to slavery and spends the next 15-20 years on the Wheel of Pain, walking around in a circle, which must be a damn good workout because through a few stealthy transitions he turns in to a massive Austrian bloke named Arnie. Seeing what a big bastard he’s become, some bloodnut bloke buys him and turns him into a Gladiator. After cracking the skulls of everyone within arms reach, they set off to the Far East to learn to read, get a little kung fu action and bang lots of unwilling chicks. One day bloodnut inexplicably frees Conan, and off he goes to seek revenge.

Conan The Barbarian 4 Along the way he bangs a witch, who he understandably tries to throw into a fire when she forgets his safe word, meets a sidekick with a funny bowl cut and an awesome moustache (Gerry Lopez), gets on the medieval equivalent of Bolivian Marching Powder, sucker punches a camel, bangs a sexy thief (Sandahl Bergman), fights a snake big enough to upchuck a winking Jon Voight, meets the worlds first lifeguard, eyeballs a lot of boobs, and hacks peoples heads off.

Conan The Barbarian 5 It really does make a huge difference when Arnie is in his element. Arnie’s 70’s stinkers were atrocious, but here he’s finally found the role he was meant for. A big, dumb killing machine. And he’s good at it. Although never exactly graceful wielding a sword, he looks more comfortable in a role that doesn’t require any acting except for looking constipated most of the time. You can see the beginnings of his appeal here. He’s not exactly the most complex of actors. When he’s happy he laughs that idiotic loud, abrasive laugh of his. When he’s really pissed his nostrils flare and he screams a lot. When he’s sad/thoughtful/concerned/concentrating/listening/interested/tired he furrows his brow. Quite simple really and that’s all we want from the big fella.

Conan The Barbarian 1 I would, at this point, like to bring up the ‘Wheel of Pain’. Honestly, fucked if I know what it’s purpose is! Basically Conan spends 15 odd years strapped to this wheel going round and round in circles. Is the wheel part of a greater machine? Maybe one that pumps water through a towns water or sewage system? If it’s not attached to something, why not have the slaves doing something useful like making knock off handbags or wrist bands to sell to tourists? It all seems fairly pointless and the logistics of utilising this wheel, monitoring it, staffing it and the general upkeep seems to me to be a total exercise in futility. One that’s an even greater punishment than manning the wheel, because the whole concept would drive you insane. An illiterate, musclebound sub-moron could be put to greater use I’m sure.

Conan The Barbarian 2 Based on the character created by Robert E. Howard, Conan The Barbarian is directed by John Milius and written by Milius and Oliver Stone. I will make note of this now, and won’t dwell on it. The screenplay sucks. The dialogue is stilted, overly theatrical and it never comes across as if actual people are talking. There’s a voiceover by a bloke who doesn’t appear until halfway through the movie, therefore wouldn’t know the details of what happened previously. I found the story to be a bit muddled. I never really understood who Thulsa Doom was, and what his intentions were. He didn’t come across as particularly dangerous, but merely a dodgy bastard who enjoyed brainwashing women in to having sex with his minions so he could sit on a throne and watch. In the days before the internet I suppose you needed to ascend to the status of cult leader to get your perv on. The only thing I found interesting about the character is wondering how and why he can transform in to a snake. And maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but Arnie repeatedly yelling “Crom!” confused the hell out of me. I don’t remember any explanation of who Crom was, but whenever Arnie got angry he would bellow it and I would be baffled. It took a line of dialogue 15 minutes from the end for me to understand that Crom was his god. That is probably my biggest issue with the storytelling of Conan The Barbarian. Things just happen, without explanation and we are supposed to work to try to follow. And I don’t want to have to think too much in an Arnie flick. Especially one where he sports such an impressive mullet.

Conan The Barbarian 8The acting ranged from serviceable to okay. Arnie showed huge improvement in the three years since Cactus Jack, but benefited from a more physical character and a better story. Sandahl Bergman certainly looks like she could hold her own, but lacks presence and there is zero chemistry between her and Arnie. Gerry Lopez as the moustachioed sidekick is entertaining, but his character is one note. But most importantly, James Earl Jones looks a bit lost as Thulsa Doom. The character doesn’t make much sense, isn’t threatening, far from a worthy physical match for Arnie, and the nature of his supernatural powers is never fully explained. So when Arnie faces Doom on the Mountain of Power at the end, we never feel there is any danger. We just wait for the inevitable head lopping.

Conan The Barbarian 3The score is a mixed bag. For the first 15 minutes or so it had a huge, epic feel to it and I was really enjoying it. But it slowly began to grate on me, because it never lets up. Every moment of screen time is dominated by a bombastic score and what started as a huge positive for the film becomes it’s biggest detriment. I learn that this was Milius’ intention, as he wanted “a continuous musical drama”. Fine in theory, but it becomes oppressive after a while and it takes away from the overall effectiveness of the film when your mind yells obscenities at the music. Another aspect of the film that takes away from it’s effectiveness is it’s length. At two hours plus it is about 20 minutes too long. With the right amount of editing this would be a cracking good time.

Conan The Barbarian 11Those problems aside, this is undoubtedly a very enjoyable film, employing Arnie at what he does best. The action is well staged and the effects and sets are impressive. There are plenty of exposed breasts and Arnie sucker punches a camel. I cannot stress this enough. Arnie actually king hits a camel and knocks it out. It’s genius. And immediately made me consider giving this film a 4 Chang rating.

The 80’s is off to a flyer and there’s loads more to look forward to.

two and a half changsNext up, Conan is back and this time he’s Destroying everything in his path.

 

Droid

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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

84 responses to “The World According to Arnie – Conan The Barbarian (1982)”

  1. Droid says :

    I might have gone a bit overboard with the pics, but there is a lot of great/hilarious imagery in this flick. I could’ve included more.

    • lordbronco says :

      Droid, this is your best review yet-I enjoyed reading somebody’s virgin response to a movie so over-flowing with kickass and boobies.

      As a resident nerd, I was tempted to assail you with clarifications, explanations, justifications and elucidations on some of your minor (but ultimately salient points) about casting of characters and behaviors.

      But, the hell with that-I even choose to agree with your Chang rating.

      Yours, not mine.

      My professional Chang rating is 3.5.

      My personal Chang on this bad boy: $FOUR CHANGS$

      Best,

      -LB

      • lordbronco says :

        Also Droid, I recommend that Jarv gets to review the recent flick “Mongol”.

        The story of Genghis Kahn Part One.

        It’s actually quite good.

        Seriously.

        It has lots of Hot Barbarian On Barbarian Action.

        Unless, you aren’t to disabused to review a second barbarian movie?

      • Droid says :

        Cheers LB. I actually found this one really easy and fun to write, unlike the previous Arnie efforts.

        I reckon if this was one I’d watched as a kid I’d give it a higher chang rating and forgive a lot of it’s issues (like I will with Commando). But watching it for the first time I was able to be a bit objective. Lots to enjoy, but the problems I had with it drove down the chang rating a bit.

        I’ve got Destroyer lined up next, and after that I may be Sword and Sandal’d out for a while, especially after seeing Clash recently. So I reckon Jarv should take the reigns on Mongol. Or why not do one yourself? It’d be great to get your take on it.

      • Jarv says :

        I’ll do Mongol gladly. I really like it.

  2. Continentalop says :

    I am probably one of the few people who don’t like CONAN THE BARBARIAN. I loved it as a kid, and I admit it is not a bad movie per say, but if you ever read REH’s Conan you see that this film doesn’t do him justice. Conan isn’t a big dumb, musclebound bruiser, he is a hero in the mold of Ulysses – strong, powerful and cunning. He dares to challenge the cruel gods, and sometimes he succeeds. He is also incredible ruthless – he would put Snake Plissken, The Man With No Name and Max Rockatansky to shame.

    I don’t expect a literal adaption of the character from the book to the screen, but like Raimi’s Spider-Man I could see that there was a better adaptation waiting to be made than the one they did.

    Still, great review and excluding my snobbery, the movie is redeemed because of BOOBS!!!

    • Droid says :

      I haven’t read the books, Conti, but I don’t doubt for a second that the film is a lot different. Just doing a bit of research for the review revealed quite a few changes, like Thulsa Doom was even a Conan villain. He was part of a different characters series. And he wasn’t out to seek revenge. There’s a lot like that.

      Still, an enjoyable flick.

      And… BOOBS!!!!

    • lordbronco says :

      Conti-I adore this movie as a movie, but i have read a few of the books as a youngling. Conan is Supposed to have Black Hair and Blue Eyes, though.

      So maybe the remake will be closer to the books…

      hmm O.K.-probably not, but one can hope.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Bronco they hired a guy to play Conan in the reboot that is half Native Hawaiian and a mix of Native American Irish and German. Nothing about Jason Mammoa, the new Conan, is even remotely like how REH described Conan, not one damn thing. Also his range as an actor is limited and I am being generous with that.

        Although I will say he was acceptable for what they asked him to do on the massively stupid but somewhat entertaining Stargate Atlantis TV show.

      • lordbronco says :

        Yeah Xi, I know…

        *sighs*

        The omens are not good.

        At all.

        They are very bad.

        They look fucked and far from home…

        They look-O.K. I’ll stop with bad analogies. Or similies.

        I’m attempting to have a Positive Mental Attitude.

        Some PMA, if you will.

        But it does look like—Oh Fuck, it looks like it’s going to be World Of Warcraft Meets Twilight!

        Shit, there goes the PMA!

      • Continentalop says :

        You know, I don’t care if they are 100% accurate on Conan’s ethnicity or even his build (in the books he is like 6’2″, 220lbs, so hardly the totally massive body builder Ahnold was, but people’s ideas of what is big and muscular change).

        What I care about is that they get the character of Conan right. The closest I have ever seen to someone with Conan’s personality in film is Snake Plissken – different tone, obviously much funnier, but he had the same kind of cynical outlook at life at times. Living life for the now, and for someone who was completely self-centered had a strong code of honor.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Conti I disagree. The description of Conan and how he looks and moves is integral to the character.

        I know that there isn’t an actor that matches the book but I think they should at least shade it more towards the way Conan looks in the book then not. Also if they could find somebody that can ACT that would be a huge bonus.

        I do agree that the sprite of Conan is very important and maybe slightly more so then the actors skin tone, still i don’t think they should have cast a guy who is tall and slim and built like an NBA forward.

        Lastly, I thought Arnie was miscast he was too big they needed to find a a leaner but still big dude.

      • Continentalop says :

        Xi, I probably phrased that bad. I’m not saying the physicality of Conan is unimportant. I do agree – you need a guy who looks like a legitimate ass-kicker. You need a guy who looks like could wrestle with a gorilla and he has quickness that would put a leopard to shame.

        I’m just not to particular if they get a guy who is 250lbs and built like a linebacker or 220lbs and built like an olympic wrestler. I also don’t care if he is a perfect Cimmerian having black hair and blue eyes. His eyes can be brown for all I care, and his hair brown (but you can dye those and get contact lenses).

        I want someone who I physically buy as an ass-kicker and a barbarian, I’m just not hung up on him looking exactly like Ahnold or having the same exact racial description of Conan they list in the book.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Olympic wrestler build is exactly how I see Conan Ripped to hell and muscular but not bulging gym muscle.

  3. Stuntcock Mike says :

    John Milius = Total Fucking Destruction!

  4. Droid says :

    HA! I just read that Walter Sobchak from Lebowski is based on Milius. That bloke must be fucking looney tunes.

  5. Stuntcock Mike says :

    He also co-wrote Apocalypse Now with Coppola.

    Epic success.

  6. Tom_Bando says :

    I liked Sandahl Berman. Droid–you needed a good shot of her, too.

    This has Mako in it, by the way. Mako is worthy of at least One(1) chang, seems to me. He had presence and helps put this one over.

    I liked the Camel punch-it was a riot. And that big guy who whacks down a beam w/ a Wile Coyote sledgehammer. Hey what’s not to like?

    Isn’t William Smith in this too? Smith ala Mako–is worth tuning in for, too.

    You will be disappointed w/ Conan the Destroyer though.

    • koutchboom says :

      that big guy who whacks down a beam w/ a Wile Coyote sledgehammer.

      Sven-Ole Thorsen!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Greatest actor EVER!!! Actually he is just Arnold’s old work out buddy who is in all of his films and was the best thing about Gladiator.

      Funn story about Arnold and working out, I went to college in Cuntecticut and an Arnold movie was filmed near the college, and after the movie was over he donated all his work out equipment to the school. It was a whole fucking gym. So I’ve worked out on the same equipment as Arnold.

      But imagine that, you get a whole fucking gym’s worth of work out equipment while filming a movie.

  7. Continentalop says :

    You know who I think could actually probably direct a decent Conan movie (if he had a good script)? Mel Gibson.
    The violence of Braveheart and Apocalypto fits in with the milieu of the Hyborian Age. And so does his The Passion of Christ (in the stories, Conan isn’t tied to a tree, he is actually staked and crucified to one).

  8. xiphos0311 says :

    One of the biggest mistake Milius made was hijacking parts from to many Conan stories then trying to fit all the parts he took into one narrative whole. Here’s the list of stories he “borrowed” heavily from.

    The Thing In the Crypt.

    The Tower of the Elephant

    The Queen of the Black Coast

    A Witch Shall Be Born

    The People of the Black Circle

    Plus minor bits out of other stories and from the pseudo-historical essay Howard wrote called the Hyborian age Parts 1 and 2.

    If anybody ever comes correct about Conan they either need to make up their own story completely and independent of REH, cast it right and not make a dope out of Conan. The other option is do one of REH stories right(stick close to the source) like Red Nails, Queen of the Black Coast or the one that would work best in my opinion Beyond the Black River.

    • Stuntcock Mike says :

      I’m actually kinda glad I never was into comics at all(the only comics I’ve ever owned were a few Punisher War Journals and those gay Kiss comics that had their blood or semen or whatever in them).

      It just sounds like a lot of baggage that gets in the way of enjoyment.

      Like I didn’t know fuck all about Conan now of before, and I’ve got nothing but love for this movie.

      Conan the Destroyer on the other hand……….

      • Continentalop says :

        The Conan stories by REH are different from the comic book Mike. Completely different tone (although I give credit to Roy Thomas for making the one in the comics resemble the literary Conan more than the movies did).

      • lordbronco says :

        Mikey,

        All those comics you listed were the definition of BallSack.

        I think you should read Archie and Veronica.

        Deep Feelings are to be had there, brother.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I had those KISS Comics also.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Reggie Mantle IS the anti-christ. C’mon you know it’s true.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      I was a fan of the comics back when c. 79-80 or so, haven’t honestly read anything Conan since. I thought the movie was OK, it dumbed down the character certainly, but it had it’s moments.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      And it should be remembered Roy Thomas was notorious for taking the Conan blueprint(TM) and wallpapering Marvel w/ it in the early 70’s–Killraven, for example, Ka-Zar(wasn’t that one of his? no? it shoulda been), Morbious(I kid), Congorilla—

      • Continentalop says :

        Tom, Ka-Zar was brought into the Marvel U by Lee & Kirby in X-Men (#9 I believe). He was actually based on a Timely comic book character from the 40s called Ka-Zar, who was an adaptation of a pulp character called Ka-Zar, who in turn was a big Tarzan rip off.

        I will leave my lunch money on the counter for you…

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Oh I remember King Kirby doing Ka-Zar, that’s not what I meant. I meant they took it in a pseudo-Conan-lite direction, didn’t they?

        He was kinda cool, rode a sabre-tooth and fucked penguins.

      • Continentalop says :

        I don’t think you can say they took it to the Conan direction because really, Conan was always inspired by Tarzan (as well as John Carter of Mars and other Burroughs creations) and I think Roy just based Ka-Zar on him.

        However, I do think Roy had a tendency for milking Pulp characters, especially in the Conan mold. I believe he brought Tarzan and Doc Savage to marvel, plus he introduced REH’s Red Sonja, Kull, and Solomon Kane to the Marvel Universe.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Yeah Doc Savage didn’t last long there if I remember right. My comic knowledge kinda runs the 70’s and some mid-80’s stuff, and those 60’s reprints they put out in the seventies. But don’t ask me about anything after Reagan was in-forget it. I know nada.

  9. Stuntcock Mike says :

    Oh they were books as well?

    Just goes to show how little I know about this stuff.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      They are great stories Mike written for pulp mags by a dude named Robert E. Howard between 1932 and 36 when he decided to stop a bullet with his head.

  10. Continentalop says :

    Fuck. Now I want to break out all my REH and Lovecraft books.

  11. ThereWolf says :

    Camel punch… ah, the memories. I watched Conan the Barb a few years ago, it didn’t have the same effect on me as it did in ’82. But maybe that was because on my old taped copy I discovered that ITV (or BBC, can’t recall which) had hacked the movie to pieces. Twats.

    Droid, where are the pictures of boobs? Boobs have a right to be represented in the context of this review. It wouldn’t be gratuitous at all, no sir…

  12. Tom_Bando says :

    Watching old genre tv shows or movies you remember liking back when is always a trick. I still like seeing repeats of Simon and Simon or Kojak, but try to get me to sit thru the A-Team, for example? Egads. Just can’t do it. Sliders? depends entirely on the episode. Johnny Sokko? I’m there!

  13. MORBIUS says :

    Sorry, wasn’t paying attention, mind wandered…
    any BOOBS in this here pitcher show? Preferably
    the nubile nekkid kind…

    • Tom_Bando says :

      Hey I spotted our old friend Ringy9 over on a Harold thread(!) amazing.

      • MORBIUS says :

        Doesn’t Ringy a bell with me!

        Tom, ever see any postings by ToadKillerDog
        in any of your forays to GingerWorld? Been quite
        a while since he’s posted anything here…..

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Nope I didn’t see him. Did see D.Vader and MrGeyser there but nada on Toad’s Killer Dawg, sad to say.

  14. Tom_Bando says :

    Xiphos and Jarv know only too well who I mean when I say ‘Ringy’.

  15. DocPazuzu says :

    Great movie, but it’s got fuck-all to do with the awesomeness of Howard’s character. Milius didn’t respect the source and merely used Howard’s work as an excuse to make his “mythic viking” movie.

    I love the film for what it is, but it’s a terrible — TERRIBLE — adaptation of Howard’s Cimmerian.

  16. Jarv says :

    I’d give this 3 changs. Fucking love it.

    I also know nothing about Howard’s Conan.

    Droid, I warn you now: Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja both skate dangerously close to being shit- although at least there are laughs to be had from Sonja.

    Destroyer has Grace “boner killer” Jones in it.

  17. Droid says :

    I’m disappointed in all of you. I worked a little photoshop magic but it appears no one is eagle eyed enough to notice it.

    Anyway, it amused me.

  18. Jarv says :

    Right- Question for any Conan nuts out there:

    I’m fucking confused. I just finished reading The phoenix one, and it’s excellent stuff, but appears to be under the Conan the King second sequel time. I followed it with the Scarlet Citadel and then working chronologically through Howard’s stories started on the Tower of the Elephant, but that’s miles back in time.

    Is there an accepted chronolgy of Conan stories? Wikipedia lists about 7.

    • DocPazuzu says :

      Howard didn’t write them in any particular order. In fact, the Phoenix one, while chronologically the last, was one of the first he wrote. No need to read them in order. Born a barbarian in the wilderness, ends up king of Aquilonia. That’s the only real “spoiler” in the saga.

      • Jarv says :

        I’ve read the Scarlett whatnot now, and that seems to come after the Phoenix, and just started on The Hour of the Dragon- which also seems to come after Phoenix.

        I couldn’t do this sort of thing if I had a job I didn’t hate.

        I reckon over the next few weeks I’ll have read the lot of them.

  19. Jarv says :

    I know I’m opening a whole barrel of cans of worms, but was Howard a closet racist, by any chance?

    • Jarv says :

      Not that it matters- I’m just curious. I know they’re products of their times (like the Bond Books- Live and Let Die in particular), but I’m kind of curious.

    • Continentalop says :

      Actually, I am going to defend REH against racism. He was a lot like Jack London, he believed you naturally should side and advocate for your race, so be todays standards he was a racist.
      But unlike HP Lovecraft who was a absolute bigot who painted all other races as being less than human, REH had no problem showing other races as being heroic and noble, including even black characters. I mean, Solomon Kane owed his life to an African shaman/witchdoctor, and El Borak was a white American who dwelled with the Arabs and admired their culture.

      • DocPazuzu says :

        I love Howard’s stuff like a fat kid loves cake, but he was a racist — albeit not more so than most people in his socio-cultural environment. In fact, he may have been less so. However, while he did portray non-Northern Euro types as heroic at times, he also gave them a lot of other characteristics which mirrored 1930s prejudices such as hook-nosed and greedy “Shemites”. The latter is a particularly good example because Conan’s great love in life, Bêlit, was a Shemite pirate queen and every bit as fierce and noble a warrior as the Cimmerian himself.

        Howard’s sometimes retarded views on other peoples doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of his stories one whit. There are few writers I re-read as often as Howard.

      • Continentalop says :

        Yeah, but Doc he also attacked the entire idea of civilization and civilized people. The white people who dwelt in cities and towns and in great kingdom’s were viewed as weak and soft and corrupt.

        By todays standards Howard was most certainly a racist, but he was pretty damn progressive in my opinion for a rural, depression-era Texan.

        Although he did have that one story that took place in Louisiana where there is going to be a slave revolt and he sides completely with the whites. So yeah, he definitely wasn’t a civil rights champion.

      • Jarv says :

        So he was like Ian Fleming then?

  20. DocPazuzu says :

    Hahaha, a rural, depression-era Texan a racist?

  21. just pillow talk says :

    Right, never read any Howard Conan stuff, so my love for this movie is untainted.

    “Come to me my child.”

    • Jarv says :

      Droid didn’t mention the legendary “Lamentations” line.

      And I thought that circle thing was a mill.

      • Droid says :

        What was the Lamentations line?

      • Jarv says :

        “What is best in life?”

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

        Best line in the film. Also the cheesiest. I think I’ve slightly misquoted it, but that’s the gist

      • Droid says :

        You’re right, that is a great line. I remember chuckling quite a bit. I don’t really quote dialogue too much in reviews, unless I want to call particular attention to it for some reason.

      • koutchboom says :

        Also its the first thing Conan says in the film and its like 20-25 minutes into the movie.

  22. just pillow talk says :

    “That is power. What is steel compared to the power that wields it?”

  23. Fata says :

    I think the filmscore is completely awesome, so is the movie. The sequel is, however, horrendous.

  24. MicycBrs5 says :

    Interesting write-up. Thanks for posting

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