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Conan the Barbarian
1982 - R - 129 Mins.
Director: John Milius
Producer: Dino De Laurentiis, Buzz Feitshans, Edward R. Pressman
Written By: Oliver Stone and John Milius
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Sandahl Bergman, Max Von Sydow, Mako
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"Conan the Barbarian" is part of John Ulmer's Arnold Schwarzenegger Film Remembrance. One Arnold film will be reviewed a day for as long as it takes to pay an homage to the Austrian Oak and his film career, in honor of his political run.

"Conan the Barbarian"

I would bet that Arnold Schwarzenegger barely says over 100 lines of dialogue in "Conan the Barbarian," yet it is one of the most famous films in history. The question is whether it is any good. Sadly, though I am a big fan of Arnie's, I just cannot get into "Conan the Barbarian." I think it's boring, dumb and odd. That's just me. I know many people like it, but it's just not my piece of cake.

Arnie plays Conan, a fierce barbarian warrior who is bred a gladiator, and upon reaching ultimate manhood, runs amock to try and avenge the death of his father, mother, and tribes-people, who were all killed by James Earl Jones (not James Earl Ray!) when he was just a small boy.

Through this he gains a trusty comic sidekick, a trusty, lusty babe, and so on and so forth. And a totally cool-looking shield and sword, making him the most fearless warrior of all time.

This film was the ultimate in campiness, a small budget film with a leading man larger than most barbarians probably were back then. Arnold fits the part perfectly, but the film is just not fun to watch. The beginning tribe massacre is bloody and violent, but feels like one of those old 80s movies like "The Blademaster," where there is lots of fighting and lots of violence for no reason but to entertain - and like films with explosions throughout ("Rambo III"), it gets old after a while.

If you haven't seen "The Blademaster," it is an even worse film than this. You always know when a film is really bad if the title has been changed. "Cave Dwellers" to "The Blademaster," "Angels Revenge" to "Angels' Brigade," "Weekend at Kitty and Stud's" to "The Italian Stallion," etc. All terribly awful pictures lacking a certain something - maybe a plot, I don't know. "Conan the Barbarian" is ten times better than these films combined, but it is still much like them. Maybe there aren't as many continuity problems, or cheap filming techniques (in "The Blademaster," they use the same fight scenes twice), but it still has that genuine repulsiveness, the dumbness.

The script was co-written by pre-stardom Oliver Stone, whose other directorial and scriptwriting credits go to such films as "Platoon" and "Wall Street." Stone uses a lot of campy dialogue here, and though it fits the film, somehow it just isn't as fun as it could have been. Take, for instance, the opening scene where Conan's father is teaching him about the earth gods and whatnot. Barely quality dialogue, yet almost too campy - it's like "Star Trek" geeks talking about the meaning of life.

Arnold was in a film called "Red Sonja" a bit after "Conan's" sequel came out. It was a rip-off of "Conan the Barbarian," even though it starred Arnold. I will be submitting a review of that film as part of the Arnold Film Memorial, but the point I want to make by bringing it up is that "Red Sonja" might as well be called "Conan the Barbarian III," because everything about it is similar. Just wanted to point out that little-known film to the "Conan" fans out there.

Anyway, "Conan the Barbarian" is just not one of my favorites. Skip this one. Even if you're an Arnold fan like me.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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