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In 1970, proposals were made to make a film about Robert E. Howard’s iconic warrior Conan The Barbarian. However, licensing problems for Conan were present since 1966 because Lancer Books (rights holder to the Conan stories) went into receivership and were frozen due to an injunction. Then in 1977after two years of securing the rights to Conan, executive producer Edward R. Pressman secured them. But due to a lack of funds, Pressman sold the Conan project to Dino De Laurentiis. Laurentiis’ daughter Raffaella produced the film.
Heavily influenced by famous fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, the sets were dark and nowhere near tame. Optical illusions and mechanical constructions made the atmosphere more real and in tune with Conan’s dark world. Oliver Stone wrote a script for Conan but was expensive to be brought to life until an agreement between Pressman and De Laurentiis was made with director John Milius; Milius was granted changing Stone’s script during the agreement.
Milius was known for Macho films like Dirty Harry and Magnum Force. He was also a fan of old sword films like 1958’s The Vikings. Many prospective actors were chosen for the lead of Conan, including Sylvester Stallone and Charles Bronson. But thanks to a rough-cut bodybuilding film called Pumping Iron from 1976, there was a person that would embody the themes of Conan: Arnold Schwarzenegger. And the rest is history…
Conan The Barbarian was released in March 1982. It was a hit, but not big enough to be considered a blockbuster smash. Over the years, it would achieve cult status becoming a beloved classic that spawned another cult classic: Conan The Destroyer in 1984.
The story is dark, primitive and gives life to dark fantasy. James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom was a great pick against Schwarzenegger’s muscular Conan as The Riddle Of Steel was the main theme of the film. Mako as the wizard Akira gave a memorable performance.
The music of the film ranks high as a proper soundtrack to an epic tale. Composer Basil Poledouris, a friend of director John Milius, was cast to provide the music for the film. He used Musync, a tempo and music editing software and hardware system to match scenes with music to create emotions. The film would be the first to elegantly use Musync while the soundtrack would be the last music to use mono for a film.
The biggest winners of this film would be Schwarzenegger and Pouledoris. Arnold’s acting career exploded while Pouledoris was hired to make epic soundtracks to future epic films like Red Dawn, Robocop, The Hunt For Red October, and Starship Troopers.
Conan The Barbarian is a must-see for fans of dark fantasy. Also, read the many stories made by Howard. But that is a tale for another day…