Conan the Barbarian
Dir: John Milius
Star: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sandahl Bergman, James Earl Jones
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 1982
Format: DVD R1

A young boy witnesses his parents killed and his village destroyed. Taken captive he is forced into slave labour until he reaches manhood, then he is trained as a gladiator. This is the story of Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) the Barbarian, and his quest to avenge the death of his parents. He is up against the sorcerer Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and his snake worshiping band of mercenaries and religious zealots. To complete his revenge Conan enlists help from Subutai (Gerry Lopez) the archer thief, the warrior Valeria ( Sandahl Bergman) and the wizard (Mako). Can he win, Crom only knows.

This is the role Arnold Schwarzenegger was born to play, and it is the role that made him. At the time shortly after his Mr Universe days, he is in great shape, a mass of muscles. In fact he was so closely matched to the look of a barbarian warrior that his look is now the stereotype. Even better still is the fact that his dialogue is strictly limited to the obligatory one-liners. Arnie is always better when hitting people rather than talking to them, or trying to act.

The other roles in the film are also well cast. Sandahl Bergman is athletic and beautiful as a warrior (very much a Xena prototype). Gerry Lopez (a surfing buddy of the director) is a great sidekick, and Mako (recently appeared as Yamamoto in Pearl Harbour) provides the comic relief and narration. Acting talent is provided in truck loads by the menacing James Earl Jones (with the worst haircut in motion picture history), and by a great cameo from Max Von Sydow. The most bizarre casting though is of Sven-Ole Thorsen and Ben Davidson, who are both fine as hench men but look very like Hale and Pace.

The characters in the film are based upon the comic books and stories of Robert E Howard, but the originally screenplay was written by Oliver Stone (rewritten by John Milius). It is a simple tail of revenge. Yet it manages to include some great dialogue (see the start of the review), some top action, and all the necessary fantasy staples. Demons and Wizards do battle with warriors and giant creatures, its all great stuff.

John Milius's direction is superb, especially so during battle scenes. Slow motion and weapons swung at the camera are quick cut to provide frenetic and exciting scenes. At other times good use is made of perspective (a perfect example of this is provided at the end of the movie). This is all aided by some fantastic set designs, based on the conceptual drawings of Ron Cobb (look out for his cameo). Check out the snake tower, or better yet Thulsa Doom’s temple which just has to be one of the best sets ever built.

Interwoven with the sets and direction is the fantastic Basil Poledouris score. From the thunderous overture to the choir lead worship music it is faultless. It not only fits perfectly but it enhances the emotions in many scenes, and adds timing to the great battle choreography (by stunt co-ordinator Terry Leonard).

This may not be one the all time great movies, but it is still the best fantasy action adventure film ever made. It contains one of Arnold Schwarzeneggers best ever performances. Its direction, set design and music are all of the highest order. One or two of the effects have dated (don't they always), but this does not detract from the overall film. In short Beastmaster, Hercules, Xena and all owe a great debt to Conan. This is the original and still the best. Or as Conan would say:


(Introduction) "Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And onto this, Conan, destined to wear the jewelled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!"

(Conan explains the best things in life) "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women."

Rating: 5 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic A really good restored picture, a bit grainy at times though.
Audio Dual Mono Very disappointing no 5.1 track.
Features Audio Commentary with John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Interesting deleted scenes
An excellent hour long retrospective documentary regarding the making of the film.
A fully scored in a slide show of a large number of photos
Production Notes
Special Effects breakdown
Verdict Passible film presentation but excellent extras. However the Region 2 disc does have the 5.1 track so is better.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Theme Back Top Home