Conan The Barbarian (1982): Breakdown by Kain424
A young boy’s home and village is massacred in violent raid. He grows up to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, and gets his bloody revenge.
After the fiasco that was Hercules In New York, Arnold Schwarzenegger went back to focusing on bodybuilding. After winning several more titles and being a stand-out in the documentary Pumping Iron, he headed back to the world of film. There were small roles in flicks like Scavenger Hunt and The Long Goodbye and a Golden Globe winning turn in the drama Stay Hungry, but it was when writer/director John Milius picked him for an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories that Arnie’s career would finally take off.
The film stands as a cannibalization of many sources, Nietzschean philosophy, Howard’s Hyborean myths, and the many sword and sandal pictures before it. Milius took this and added his own, rugged individualist themes and unknown faces to the cast.
As soon as the Nietzsche quote appears on the screen, you know you are in for a different kind of film. The movie is willing to quote a tough phrase, ominous drums pounding as it does, and tells us that it will be taking itself very seriously. The rest of the film follows the wildly operatic tone of Basil Poledouris’s music, with tons of blood thrown in.
Make no mistake about it, Conan The Barbarian is one gory film. Gory with tits and ass. At one point, Arnold jumps into the middle of an orgy (yes, I’m fucking serious) and begins hacking away at anyone willing to challenge the phallic sword he’s brought to the party. That’s pretty much the motif of this film; if Conan’s not fighting, he’s fucking. And it looks like it hurts, either way.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that James Earl “Darth Vader” Jones is in this one. As the bad guy. They give him long, black hair and blue eyes and the ability to turn into a goddamn snake! Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Darth Snakehead then shoots arrows at his opponents… Arrows made of snakes!
Overall, the visuals are damn great, the story is good, the Action is violent and thrilling, and the music is perfect. This is sword and sorcery done right, with all the goofy things taken seriously and the battles well-staged. Definitely a favorite of mine, and a recommendation to you.
On another note, much has been said in regards to the faithfulness of this film in relation to Howard’s original works. Usually in the negative. I, however, am going to disagree. Howard’s Conan was really about maintaining your individual self, through power, cunning and will, from outside forces (usually ancient and magical evils or corrupt and so-called “civilized” ones). While Milius’ Conan does indeed spend the earlier portions of the film not as a free warrior, but as a slave of one kind or another, it is at the film’s close that the message becomes clear. Conan doesn’t need Thulsa Doom to exist, nor his father’s sword to be strong. He stands before the followers of his fallen foe, nearly naked and without a weapon, a free man, powerful enough to topple a thousand year-old religion and face the consequences of his actions. He is free.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Conan
Conan is probably the most bad-ass character ever created in the fantasy genre (yeah, I’ll be that bold), so it’s only natural that Arnold Schwarzenegger should be picked to play the big brute. Sure, he doesn’t talk nearly as much as his literary counterpart, but he makes up for it in violent ferociousness. Arnold is proficient in the use of his sword, and allows for some truly bad-ass moments.
-Kills his first man with his bare hands.
-Learns to use a samurai sword.
-Kills a giant snake with only a couple swings of his sword.
-Gets crucified like Jesus, but kills the bird that tries eating on him
-Survives said crucifixion
-Topples a religion in a couple sword strokes
[THE BODY COUNT: 75 + 1 BUZZARD & 1 SNAKE]
Before the first 10 minutes are up, we are witness to about 25 onscreen deaths, all of which are violent. This sets the tone for the remainder of the film. While filming, Milius and his crew had the motto, “More Blood!” Well, they redefined what had become a silly genre, and this film remains nearly unmatched in terms of sheer bloody fervor. Conan himself kills 27 people (and the giant snake mentioned earlier), all in fairly violent fashion, and mostly with his massive pen– er, um, sword.
There are 75 total onscreen deaths, but there are also corpses, mutilated bodyparts, and burning villages to indicate many more deaths. In the orgy chamber, they are serving human remains to those partaking in the festivities. And Arnold kills a buzzard with his teeth.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Conan vs. Rexor (played by former NFL player Ben Davidson). When two huge guys with big-ass swords go at one another, this is what it would look like. There aren’t a lot of fancy moves, just two dudes chopping chunks out of one another. Like Costner’s final battle in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves, it’s also about the main character fighting his father, but it’s also just bad-fucking-ass.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Schwarzenegger plays Conan as a guy that’ll fuck about anyone, so he’s not gay so much as just really interested in cumming. He seems primarily interested is women, but there is a scene where he stumbles upon some people giving it hard to a camel (yep) and has a laugh until he himself bumps into a camel. His curiosity only going so far, Conan literally knocks the camel out in a single punch. Conan has his limits.
Later, Conan pretends he’s gay, wearing flowers and luring a priest away from onlookers to steal his clothes. Hey, that robe looked very comfy.
It’s also possible to read into Conan’s relationship with the Mongolian archer, Subotai. They run about through fields together and share meals whilst talking about religious philosophy. There’s a moment later in the film, when Conan, Subotai and Valeria are putting on their paint and Subotai gives Conan a jealous look because Valeria is applying Conan’s make-up. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into the scene. But given the big barbarian’s general horny behavior, I think it’s a safe bet that they had some man-on-man cave sex during at least some point in their travels.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
If they aren’t Sandhal Begman’s Valeria (which sounds an awful lot like a venereal disease anyway), then women in this film are shown to be sluts, easily manipulated, or witches. After banging one woman, Conan literally tosses her into a fireplace. Sure, she was a witch, but the message is clear: bag ’em, bang ’em, and burn ’em, ‘cuz there’s no living with ’em.
Conan The Cuddler
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
This is one of those films with many awesome lines, but I’ll go with the most quoted. Conan sits stoically atop a table, wise in the ways of battle and uninterested in the men bickering around him about what is best in life. Finally, they ask him:
“Conan? What is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”
Yeah, Conan is a fucking barbarian. And it’s awesome.
The epic moment comes far later in the film, when Conan finally understands the Riddle of Steel. He is confronted with the idea that without the man who made him who he is today still around, Conan might no longer have a purpose in his life. Conan realizes his father was wrong, that it is not steel that has the power. But Conan also understands that Thulsa Doom is wrong, and it is not the flesh wielding the steel that holds the power. The steel can break and the flesh can grow weak. It is the will, the spirit that alone must be strong to harness both. This lesson concludes with Conan teaching Thulsa through a metaphor:
He uses his father’s broken sword to chop Thulsa’s fucking head off and then tosses it at his hundreds of gathered follower’s feet.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Through focus and determination, one can do anything. Also, raiding villages is all fun and games until a survivor grows up to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then you’re fucked.
[THE SIGNS OF SCHWARZENEGGER: 4 outta 5]
[X] Performs A Ridiculous Feat(s) of Strength
[ ] Says, “I’ll be back.”
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Unnecessarily Violent Opponent Dispatch
[X] Wields A Big Gun or Sword With One Arm
[THE CHECKLIST: 21 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [Conan The Destroyer]
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
King Before Governor
Conan The Barbarian (1982) © Dino De Laurentiis Corporation and Universal Studios Home Entertainment