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Conan the Barbarian

Year: 1982
Production Co: Dino De Laurentiis Company
Studio: Universal
Director: John Milius
Producer: Raffaella Di Laurentiis
Writer: John Milius/Oliver Stone/Robert E Howard
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gerry Lopez, Sandahl Bergman, Max von Sydow, James Earl Jones, Mako
People of my generation would consider Conan the birth of a genre. Although there have been swords & sandals epics since the dawn of Hollywood, Milius brought a special quality to Scwarzenegger's breakout hit that is still missing in most action films today.

It has a certain pacing where scenes are long, slow and subtle. The descent into the giant snake's lair is one example, including Valeria sneaking up behind a cleric to overpower him. We cut away to Conan and Subotai sneaking into the temple, then back to Valeria, standing calmly in the cleric's costume.

We know she's ruthless, skilled and deadly and Milius shows us that without any violence or bloodshed; just the fact that Valeria has accomplished her objective without breaking a sweat. If a big action director did a similar scene today, we'd see Valeria execute some cool martial arts move or slice the guy in half with her sword.

That's not to say there isn't bloodshed or action. It's just that the whole thing is done with a cool charisma most Hollywood films can't muster no matter how much blood and action they portray.

After his village is plundered by a warlord, the child Conan is taken prisoner and made a slave where he spends his childhood turning a giant lathe wheel, growing into the muscled hulk we know as Arnie.

Swearing revenge against the warlord Thulsa Doom (Jones), Arnie teams up with mercenary Subotai (Lopez), and professional breeder and warrior woman Valeria (Bergman) on his quest.

Despite the complete lack of conversation between Valeria and Conan (a good thing, owing to Schwarzenegger's acting skills at the time), their relationship is more real than most of the ones you see in adventure movies. You get a real sense that the world is a horrible cruel place and the only safe place in it is between them (as Valeria convinces you with her 'we have warmth' speech).

And she's no marketing add-on just to show some T&A. She's as much a character as either of the men, and drives the story completely on her own more so than a million action movie babes ever do, just hanging off the arm of the hero.

The effects are great for the time - mostly animatronic - and the slow, steady script punctuates the action beautifully. What a great remake it'd make.

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