Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer of 1982: CONAN THE BARBARIAN (May 14, 1982)

With numerous classic genre films released over a four-month period, the summer of 1982 is generally regarded as a benchmark year for summer movies.  30 years today, the summer movie season kicked off with its first blockbuster, John Milius' CONAN THE BARBARIAN.  Not only did a make a movie star out of five-time Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it also broke the floodgates on an endless series of ripoffs, imitations, in addition to official sequels, spinoffs, and, 29 years later, a remake.  Based on the influential series of books by Robert E. Howard, CONAN THE BARBARIAN reveled in its much-deserved R-rating, as Milius (who co-wrote the script with Oliver Stone) gave us an unforgettable villain in James Earl Jones' Thulsa Doom, a memorably sexy heroine in Sandahl Bergman's Valeria, but also filled the screen with all manner of blood, gore, and skin.  The nine-year-old version of me found it to be, at least for 129 minutes, the single greatest movie ever.  Of the week.  And the summer of my dad taking me to a ton of movies that a nine-year-old had no business seeing was just getting started.  Thanks, Dad!

Arnold Schwarzenegger in his star-making performance as Conan the Barbarian

James Earl Jones as the nefarious Thulsa Doom

Sandahl Bergman as Valeria. 

The 1984 sequel was geared toward teenage boys and younger, with the gore
and sex significantly toned down, completely missing the point of
what we found so appealing about the original film in the first place.

In 1985's RED SONJA, another Howard adaptation, Schwarzenegger plays Kalidor, but
might as well be named Conan.  It was supposed to be a cameo, but
his role got increased after production began.

The success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN resurrected a
forgotten 1970 Arnold Stang comedy that featured
 Schwarzenegger, under the name "Arnold Strong."

The impact of CONAN THE BARBARIAN was seen at drive-ins and in video stores for several years to come.
 If you walked into a video store at any point in the 1980s and into the early 1990s,
 chances are you saw the boxes for all of these.  Some were better than others, and some
(THE BEASTMASTER, ATOR, DEATHSTALKER) spawned their own series of sequels.

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