Friday, June 3, 2016

ReWatch: Conan the Barbarian

1982, John Milius (Red Dawn) -- Netflix

I was introduced to Conan (barbarian, not talk show host -- i ain't that young) when I was a kid, by family friend / cousin by marriage. He and his brother knew I was into The Lord of the Rings and presented something more primordially sword & sorcery to me. I engulfed them hungrily. These pulp fantasy stories, that I already knew existed as comic books, were so raw & meaty, I loved them. And then a movie was coming out, one that needed adult accompaniment. Oh shit, mom & dad hated anything fantasy and would never indulge me. So I went through the list of Cool Uncles and Ray said yes. He didn't seem to mind he knew nothing about the subject matter, but was happy to be dragged to the cinema by a bunch of adolescent boys.

Boy was I embarrassed when there were boobs.

In these days, any movie with swords was fodder for our D&D games. Not long after seeing this, the swords of epitome in any D&D game became the one forged by his father and the one found with the King under the hill. Everyone loved the helmets and multiple attempts at Snakes to Arrows were made; even officially, if I do recall. Everyone had to fight a giant snake.

It's not a very good movie, but it spoke to a generation, not only of Conan fans but of pulp adventure fans of eras past. And adolescent D&D players. The acting is terrible, the script rather pedestrian and some of the props look plastic. But it connected with people, not just adolescents. It spawned a sequel and even a TV series.

These days I can only look upon it with nostalgic fondness. Arnie has long since been tainted by all his other iconic roles, but in this one he got to punch a camel. He had the size and muscles of a Conan but I was always disappointed by his lack of coal black hair. Arnie also had a certain lack of melancholy and none of the rapier intelligence the character had. Still, he was better than Ralf Möller in the 90s TV show adaptation of the movies.