May the 14th, 1982, 30 years ago today the unmatched movie summer of 1982 begins….
The first big movie to kick off the season was Universal Pictures’ Conan the Barbarian. I had been waiting for this one for well over three years, when it was announced somewhere in 1979 that Super Body Builder Arnold Schwarzenegger was cast to play the starring role. Like most of my friends at the gym, Arnold was a huge role model, and everyone aspired to work out hard and to be like him!!! It was a huge day when the news came out that the king was going to be Conan; Arnold was born to play this part and, although his acting is not his sharpest talent, looking invincible and destroying everything with a sword was!!!
I was going to college in Arizona at the time, and my movie going buddies Rod Andrewson, Steve Boltz, Mark Zainer, and my cousin Jeff Goff were all ready for this one. Opening night at the Mann’s Christown Theater was packed, and once the movie started, the cheers and howls never stopped. The film was 2 hour + roller coaster ride of incredible carnage and violence that was pretty hard to take at the time. This was the begining of the bloody epic films, and the Summer of 82 had several more in store before the season was through.
Conan was an incredible film. It is epic in it’s scope and visual scenery, and it stays fairly faithful to the novels by Robert E. Howard. The film was written for the screen by Oliver Stone and John Milius (who was also the director). Ron Cobb was the production Designer, William Stout and Pier Luigi Basile made up the rest of the art department. Cobb’s work has always been the cornerstone of my inspiration and art career and, for me, Conan was a visual feast of Ron’s talent. From Swords to Temples his imagination was free to run wild, as well as the fine works of Stout and Basile. The incredible costumes were designed by John Bloomfield, and there are so many styles and tribes of people he had to design for, not to mention a huge cast of actors and hundreds and hundreds of extras that had to be suited.
One of my favorite parts of the film is the musical score composed by Basil Poledouris. Basil is legendary and his work for Conan is definitely one of his many shining stars!!! A robust and Romantic score filled with memorable themes, and his use of the choir only added to the majesty of the underlying voice he created to carry us to another place and time. There are many versions of this soundtrack out but there are only one or two complete scores available. These would be the best to seek out. The original soundtrack was on vinyl and accompanied the release of the film. Because of the time restrictions of an LP there was only about 45 minutes of music to listen to from a 70 to 80 minute complete score. Not until I did find the complete soundtrack some 20 years later did I realize how much beautiful, subtle music there was carrying the easier moments in the movie.
The filming locations for the most part were all in Spain except for a few in Canada. Duke Callaghan’s cinematography is breathtaking to say the least, and his use of natural light and surroundings added yet another beautiful layer to the films exotic look. The casting was perfect from the big parts to the minor roles, and there were some big names in this one. James Earl Jones as the evil Thulsa Doom, Max von Sydow as King Osric, and Mako as the wizard. Arnold’s costars were excellently cast, and their parts made for the right character balance for supporting roles. Gerry Lopez played Subotai the archer, and Sandahl Bergman played Conan’s love and protector Valeria. This was a big role or Sadahl who was previously a professional dancer. Her work can be seen in “All that Jazz” and also as one of Olivia Newton John’s sister muse’s in (one of my guilty pleasure films) “Xanadu”.
I’m sure most of you reading this have seen “Conan,” but for those of you who haven’t, it is worth your time. The movie is dated but stands the test of time pretty well. Lots of long establishing shots and fixed camera dialog scenes let you know your in the 80’s, and I find it a fresh reminder that the camera does not have to be moving at all times to tell a story.
Milius succeeded in turning a fairly simple story into a much larger than life motion Picture. “Conan” cost 20 million dollars to make, and at the time that was a fairly expensive price tag. Box office grosses were high and the film made it’s money back inside of it’s first two weeks in theaters. Overall the film was loved by moviegoers and received mostly positive ratings from the critics…I saw this one at least 6 times over the Summer, and it was a must VHS purchase when it came out the following Summer.
There is a lot out on the web about this movie so below are some of my fav links to go to if you’re in the mood for more about “CONAN THE BARBARIAN.” If you’re an old reader to this blog, You know a lot about production designer Ron Cobb. If you’re a new reader, here is a link to a post from several years ago showing Ron’s art from Conan… https://johneaves.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/conan-and-cobb/ The art of Bill stout can be seen at, http://conancompletist.com/EN/william_stout.html This is a fabulous website telling you everything about everything Conan, http://conancompletist.com/EN/home.htm
OK fellow fans have fun, and hope you enjoy the grabs below.