When you think of Arnie you think of guns, big muscles and witty puns. Arnie has been in some truly iconic films (Terminator, True Lies, Twins) and some really awful ones (Jingle all the way, End of Days), but one of the most defining roles of his career is the muscle bound warrior Conan.
Conan the Barbarian is one of those films that over time has had a profound effect on me. So many films try to emulate a sense of another time or world and fail dismally and this is where Conan shines. Based around the books by Robert E. Howard, the film is about Conan the Barbarian, a warrior of the Hyborian age who after witnessing his entire village being massacred by the evil cult of Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) is taken into slavery to push the wheel of pain. After doing this for years he has built himself up to be a monster of a man ripped in muscle. He wins his freedom in a gladiatorial arena and sets off to make his way in the world. After making friends with a warrior woman and a thief he is asked by a king to save his daughter from the Thulsa Cult. This leads Conan to confront the wizard that murdered his parents and retrieve the sword that his father made.
… It’s stunning and violent yet touching and sad at moments …
Conan is a bit of an anomaly in cinema. It’s stunning and violent yet touching and sad at moments. The journey from childhood to confrontation happens over a long run time, but as an audience you are compelled to watch. The air of sorcery and destiny fit perfectly in the world of the characters, from Thulsa Doom hypnotising a woman to commit suicide to prove her loyalty to Conan’s lover’s spirit returning to save him form a mortal blow.
The set pieces are stunning from the villain’s temple dwarfing the thousands of cultists, a decadent cannibalistic orgy to climactic battle at the mound of kings. There is even a giant snake guarding an ancient treasure horde.
… a beautiful and haunting soundtrack …
Most importantly is the soundtrack. Between the gruesome deaths and rippling muscles lies a beautiful and haunting soundtrack from composer Basil Poledouris. It reflects the heroic and savagery of the older ages, yet appeals to our sense of mystery and adventure.
Conan the Barbarian is more than and hack and slash action film. At its heart is a riveting story of adventure and revenge with knock out performances by all those involved. For an actor with few acting roles under his belt (by the point the film was released) Arnie gives us what he is best at: rippling muscles, little talking and uber violence, but also there is a sweetness and sadness too his character.
So if you have time for a bit of adventure and possibly the greatest fantasy soundtrack of the eighties then engulf yourself in the world of Conan the Barbarian. If you’re not a fan of those things then stick around for the giant snake and ridiculous amount of flesh that is shown off.
If you don’t have time to watch the film then check out the musical version. You won’t be disappointed.