Capsule Film Review: Conan the Barbarian (1982)

1982 swords and sorcery epic Conan the Barbarian is one of the most underrated films of 20th Century, today best known simply for launching acting the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is based on 1930s pulp novels by Robert E. Howard, which became popular in 1970s due to comic book adaptations. The plot is set in mythical Hyborian Age some 12000 years ago, and Schwarzenegger plays Conan, man whose tribe was slaughtered by hordes loyal to evil sorceror Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones). Enslaved as a young boy, Conan grows up to become strong man who would later learn martial skills as gladiator, win his freedom and begin career of thief, adventurer and mercenary before he gets opportunity for revenge against Doom. Produced by Dino de Laurentiis, written by Oliver Stone and directed by John Millius in his creative prime, Conan the Barbarian owes less to its literary and comic book sources than to strong libertarian mindset of its authors. Pacing of the film is perfect, allowing the audience to enjoy impressive action scenes together with detailed description of pseudo-historical world inspired by Bronze Age Europe, while cinephiles might enjoy many references to Seven Samurai and other classic films. Millius manages get the best acting from his cast, which includes both respected veterans like Jones and Max Von Sydow and relatively anonymous (but here very effective) Sandahl Bergman and Gerry Lopez. One of the key elements of the film is the musical score by Basil Poledouris, one of the most recognisable and the most effective scores in the history of film music.

RATING: 10/10

(NOTE: This is shortened/edited version of a review originally posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies.reviews on May 14th 1998. Full text could be found here.)

RELATED: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

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