Mythical hero Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) vows to take revenge after the murder of his parents and destruction of his village. Determined to learn the 'riddle of steel', he sets off with his companions, Subotai the Mongol (Gerry Lopez) and Queen of Thieves (Sandahl Bergman), to kill Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), the leader of an evil snake cult. John Milius, who co-wrote the script with Oliver Stone, directs.
The film that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger's international career, Conan the Barbarian
is still regarded by many as his finest hour. Limited to a mere handful of lines and expertly directed by John Milius to play up the Nietzschean strength of the character, the Austrian Oak has never looked more suited to a role, his muscle flexing and sword twirling apparently effortless. The extraordinarily finely detailed production design ensures that the barren Spanish countryside perfectly suits the Hyborean-era backdrop envisioned by author Robert E Howard. Whether dressed in rags or riches, Schwarzenegger and companions Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria (Sandahl Bergman) look believably born to their surroundings. Backing their own very fine performances are brilliant supporting roles from James Earl Jones as serpentine baddie Thulsa Doom and Max Von Sydow as doomed King Osric. Plot-wise the film is simply the transformation of a wild barbarian into a worldly-wise king who, via a quest for revenge, finally learns the riddle of steel. The script is highly regarded for its dazzling set-pieces (the opening village raid, the orgy of body parts) and quotable dialogue ("They shall all drown in lakes of blood"), and it comes complete with an anti-peace movement reactionary subtext for anyone who cares to look closely enough. One other element deserving mention is the extraordinary score by Basil Poledouris, which inspires the film with a sense of operatic grandeur. --Paul Tonks
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.