Facts To Know:
- Based on stories by Robert E. Howard, a pulp-fiction writer of the 1930s. Produced by Buzz Feitshans and Raffaella De Laurentiis.
- Directed and co-written by John Milius, but Oliver Stone also helped with writing for the film.
- Basil Poledouris composed the music
- Ideas for a Conan film were proposed as early as 1970, and it took two years to obtain the film rights, after recruiting Schwarzenegger for the lead role and Oliver Stone to draft a script.
- Sets designed by Ron Cobb, were based on Dark Age cultures and Frank Frazetta’s paintings of Conan.
- The editing process took over a year and several violent scenes were cut.
- Won a golden globe award, which led to the making of Conan the Destroyer (1984).
The age of the barbarians – a time of brutality at its finest. When people were more inclined to roam freely, living however they pleased rather than to serve a royal house. But then there comes a mighty warrior, born Sumerian (a civilization without royalty), bred into a fighting champion, and as a free man he fought for his own crown, as legends say, by his own hand. He has become an inspiration to many through his actions. The man I speak of… is Conan.
According to the Sumerians, fire and wind come from the gods who rule the skies. But Crom, their god, lives in the ground. Once long ago, he resided alongside giants. In the darkness of chaos, Crom was fooled and they took from him the enigma of steel. This angered the Gods, causing fire and wind to strike down these giants. Blinded by their anger, steel was left abandoned to be discovered by man. Steel, above all else, is to be trusted. But a riddle shrouds steel, and one must discover it in order to enter the doors of Valhalla. This tall tale best describes Conan’s philosophy and what ultimately drives him, told to him by his father (William Smith).
Conan’s story begins much like the other legends of his time. His village plundered and destroyed, his family killed in the process, and enslaved by a fierce army. Except in Conan’s case, he got to witness first-hand the deaths of his dear mother and father. An army bearing a symbol of two snakes coming together, facing each other, connected, making it actually one snake, with a sun and a moon below it. Ruled by a man with a dark complexion, long shiny dark locks of hair (which looks like he came straight from a salon), and piercing blue eyes. His gaze has such a soothing effect on others that Conan’s own mother let down her guard for only a moment and was slain instantly.
Growing up, he was constantly forced to work hard physical labor which ended up giving him his body of perfection. Which led to him becoming a renowned gladiator, fighting to the death against other gladiators, never losing. Out of regret and sorrow, Conan’s master let him go without an explanation one night.
However, his first true taste of freedom came when he found a secret underground chamber bearing a steel sword. Conan found it beneath the hand of an unknown king upon a throne, whom Conan believed to be Crom, or at least a sign from Crom. This sword allowed him to roam without worry of being defeated, for Crom was unstoppable with steel. Oddly enough, it wasn’t his fighting prowess that got him fame first, it was his thievery.
Conan (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger) was travelling one day when a witch crosses his path (played by Cassandra Gauiola). She told him that there was talk of his coming. That a man from the North would conquer much, and become a king by his own hand. For the right “price”, Conan receives guidance to a destination that would give him what he seeks… Information of the snake clan army responsible for the death of his family.
On his journey, he finds an imprisoned thief/archer by the name of Subotai (Gerry Lopez), and after only a brief conversation, befriends him. Conan has quite a soft spot for a warrior who does not fear death, but instead embracing it, willing to fight to the end. To Conan, life and death are one and the same.
When the duo discover snake towers that belong to a man named Thelsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones, who everyone may know as the voice of Darth Vadar) and his devoted cult, they set their sights on the greatest jewel of all: the Eye of the Serpent. But not before taking the drugs that the townsman offered to them, causing Conan to be easily spooked by a camel and giving it a one-punch K.O. Poor camel didn’t even do anything.
Teaming up for a thieves’ mission, the duo sneak towards the tower and encounter a fellow thief: a beautiful blonde woman named Valeria (Sandahl Bergman). Her favorite line, “Do you want to live forever?” shows that she laughs at death. With her skillful tactics and planning, they all successfully infiltrate the tower and steal the prized jewel. Unfortunately, the men kill a gigantic-sized, human-eating snake in order to get out alive. But on the good side, Conan finds what he was looking for: a signet emblem bearing the symbol of the two snakes with a sun and moon. Success! He’s now one step closer to his sweet victory of revenge.
After bonding over the prized jewel, Valeria and Conan become a hot item, and over time their wealth allows them to live prosperous lives. Conan even has the Eye of the Serpent made into a necklace for Valeria, which she wears with much pride. The duo have now become a devoted trio, and the news of their thievery have spread far and wide, even reaching the ears of King Osric the Usurper (Max Von Sydow). His soldiers manage to easily swoop up all three warriors since they are continuously intoxicated and unprepared for battle. To their surprise, the King wants to pay them in mass amounts of jewels and treasure in exchange for them to retrieve his daughter (Valerie Quennessen), the princess fallen under Thelsa Doom’s enchantment.
After much deciding, it is clear what Conan wants to do despite the warnings from his comrades. Revenge, sweet revenge. Abandoning Valeria and Subotai, Conan heads to Thelsa Doom’s Mountain of Power, for it is said that he resides within. Manages to befriend a powerful wizard (played by Mako) on his way as well, after a few words spoken to each other. Dressed in disguise, he gets oh-so-far into the fortress until his “lack of emptiness” gets him discovered. Conan is beaten to practically within an inch of his life, but in his misery he is told the “riddle of steel” by Doom. According to Doom, “What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?”. Flesh is by far more powerful than steel is his eyes. But what I think he really means is: skills make the steel powerful, not the steel itself.
Left crucified to the Tree of Woe, a large tree in a deserted field of sand and vultures, Conan survives for what seems like two-three days before he dies laughing. The sight of Subotai in the near distance put Conan into a hysterical state of uncontrollable laughter before he croaks.
Obviously Conan gets into the good graces of his friends again, but how I’m not sure, considering his pals never met the Wizard beforehand. But regardless, his death brings them all together and brings much grief to them. Mainly Valeria, who is willing to pay the price to the Gods for Conan’s life returned. An agreement that she would pay for sooner than she may think… She makes a vow to Conan that nothing can keep them apart, for even in death, she would return to fight at his side again.
The ceremony was a success, and after only one night, Conan returns good-as-new the next morning. It was then decided that the trio would go to the Mountain of Doom and steal the Princess from their evil clutches so they could return her safely to her father. However, it was clear to his comrades that Conan wants his revenge.
Dressed and painted, they make it into the Mountain without any trouble. Inside, they witness an orgy of grand proportion and notice that the people there eat a disgusting light green goop-of-a-soup with human body parts in it. Eesh. Only after seeing the appearance of the Princess, do things get messy…literally. Soup gets everywhere, bodies are slain, and Valeria is almost killed by soldiers. It’s only when they escape with the Princess that Valeria pays the price she had promised. A snake, straightened into an arrow, is shot into her side by Thelsa Doom and she dies within minutes.
As her body is burned, Subotai is seen shedding tears. When the Wizard asks him why, Subotai claims that since Conan cannot cry, he cries for him. Conan swaps his necklace for Valeria’s Eye of the Serpent, which I feel is important to mention because it proves that Conan values something other than steel, and it happens to be somebody he feels strongly for.
The Princess, taken against her will, is then chained up to a huge boulder rock outside above where a trap battlefield is to be set up. She boldly exclaims that Doom will come for her. Good. Conan is counting on it.
He awaits in anticipation with his pals, Subotai and the Wizard. Sure enough, the Princess was right. They did come – but not for her. They come for blood, Conan’s blood. A battle of epic-ness commences. Despite the odds, Conan and his comrades pull through just fine. Even Valeria, dressed in a glamorous silver Valkyrie get-up, makes an appearance to help aid Conan in battle. Quoting her favorite line before disappearing. The only villain left standing is of course Thelsa Doom, but he flees the battle scene after seeing his allies fall to their doom. The Princess begs him to not leave her. He simply stops, wields his bow, and shoots a snake in her exact direction. It is blocked by a shield, so he fails, but he does seem to infect the Princess with rage.
Such rage that she goes on a solo mission with only Conan to the Mountain of Doom – right through the back door. Leading Conan right to Doom atop his Mountain, using her as a distraction while Conan does all the dirty work. Without much hesitation, Conan chops off his head after a few swings, and before all of his followers he throws the head to the crowd. Flabbergasted by what they’ve just witnessed, each and every one of Doom’s followers throws down their torch and leaves. The era of Doom is no longer, after a supposed reign of 1000 years alive.
Without speaking a single word this entire time, the Princess shows her admiration by fully bowing to Conan. He delightfully accepts, and whisks her off on his horse to her father King Osric. It ends with talk of Conan returning the Princess and becoming a king one day, but that is another story for another time…
By watching the deleted scenes, you come to find that King Osric the Usurper was originally planned to be murdered. But no scene of this was ever shown in the movie, which makes me wonder what would have happened to the Princess had the King actually died? I bet she would’ve devoted herself entirely to Conan. For better or worse he would’ve been stuck with her. But that wasn’t the fate of the King. Hmmmm, how odd. It would’ve been more suiting for the Usurper to get usurped if you ask me.
The costumes used in this film were very sexy and skin-revealing, and also spot-on to the barbaric era the film was trying to exude. Thanks to John Bloomfield, the fashion was a thrill to look at. The music was actually one of the best parts about the film I must say. It pulls you into the moment and feels realistic to what’s happening. No CGI was used in the fight scenes so the battle sequences were not flashy, which I love, making it realistic and modern. Nothing fake or “Hollywood” about it. Well, except for Doom’s snake transformation, that was pretty flashy.
I don’t recommend young viewers to watch this film, but people of age need to watch this! I give it a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 total. Majestic, sexy, thrilling, and brutal all in one. What more could you ask for?…More Conan movies??? Yes please!!