Off the shelf: Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Reggie W, Aug 29, 2014.

  1. Reggie W

    Reggie W Cinematographer

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    conan-the-barbarian-movie-poster-1982-1020268043.jpg

    Let me start with a confession...I never bothered to watch Conan the Barbarian until just recently. This despite the fact that my brother is a big fan of the film and I have long been a big fan of John Milius. I'll admit that the main reason I never bothered with it and never watched it when it first came out was the fact that it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger an actor I've just never really cared for.

    So what prompted my desire to finally pull a copy of the blu-ray of Conan the Barbarian off the shelf and watch it after 32 years of ignoring it? Quite honestly it was a viewing of the recent documentary about the life and career of John Milius titled, of course, Milius. Conan was not the only film from Mr. Milius I had not seen, I also have never seen Red Dawn and again that is primarily due to the cast just not appealing to me and the trailer making the film look...well...horrifically bad.

    I can report though that after all these years finally sitting down and watching Conan the Barbarian was a revelation. Arnold is actually perfectly suited to the role and so gives what I think is probably his best performance in a motion picture. Milius treats the material the way you might expect he would and creates a fantasy film for adults...which I think is probably a pretty rare item. This is not a film for children or teens but rather a violent and carnal adventure film which plays like...well...a fever dream you could imagine Milius might have awoken from one night soaked in sweat and who knows what other bodily fluids.

    The cast is pretty much perfect and includes folks like James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow, and Mako and they all seem to totally buy into all the weirdness Milius sets out to create. Basically, I would say this film is a pretty unique experience and any fan of Milius that has not seen it (and maybe I was the only one) should rush to get a copy, pop some corn, and sit down for a wacky but fun night in your home theater.

    Another thing I want to tell you about this blu-ray is it includes a commentary track that features Milius and Arnold watching the film together...and I have to say this was a hoot. These two guys sound like a couple of goofy teenagers geeking out on what they created and I have to admit I laughed a hell of a lot listening to them because I found their back and forth so off the wall. Trust me, I don't think they are attempting to be funny...they are just being themselves and well...it makes it a must that you watch this one a second time with their commentary running. Truly one of the most oddball film commentaries I have ever heard.
     
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  2. atfree

    atfree Cinematographer
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    Yes, I agree, this is a totally different experience that what people would expect. An adult (complete with nudity and graphic violence) pulp fiction adaptation. I saw it in theaters when it originally came out and loved it. Not so much the sequel (Conan the Destroyer) which they sanitized to get a PG-13 rating.
     
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  3. Reggie W

    Reggie W Cinematographer

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    A friend of mine used to joke "Imagine what the Star Wars trilogy might have been like had it been written and directed by John Milius. Darth Vader would have given some amazing speeches, Yoda would have been a true badass lizard, there would have been no goddamned Ewoks and I'd still be in my house rewinding Princess Leia's sex scenes with Han, Luke, Chewbacca, and Jabba the Hut licking that metallic bikini right off her!"

    Based on the evidence on display in Conan the Barbarian I'd say he is probably right.
     
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  4. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    I would love to see a new scan.
     
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  5. AdrianTurner

    AdrianTurner Banned

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    Don't forget the contribution from Mr Oliver Stone. And Mr Basil Poledouris.
     
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  6. Reggie W

    Reggie W Cinematographer

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    Yes, I forgot that Oliver Stone wrote the first version of the script and yes, Basil's music is pretty awesome...

     
  7. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Unfortunately, the magnificent Basil Pouledouris score is mucked with in certain places on the domestic br. You have to get an import to get the correct audio.
     
  8. Reggie W

    Reggie W Cinematographer

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    So an imported version on blu-ray has the correct score?
     
  9. YanMan

    YanMan Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, sort of, if you are OK with the original mono as the source of the correct score.

    Start reading here in this thread:

    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/307522-conan-the-barbarian-blu-ray-review/page-2#entry4104998


    There is also an AWESOME theatrical cut reconstruction some guys over at OriginalTrilogy forums have done. It includes the original LD PCM mono audio track, a 2.1 track derived from the LD PCM, as well as a new 5.1 track one of the contributors created supposedly from the final audio masters used to create the original mono track (not sure how he got access to those...).
     
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  10. Tom St Jones

    Tom St Jones Second Unit

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    Critics weren't so kind to this movie, despite the rarity it was and is (as noted above, a thoroughly adult fantasy-comic book movie). Of course, few of them waxed lyrical of Schwarzenegger's acting. I say, not all actors need display Laurence Olivier's level of skill. If the performance works for the role, it works. Also, some critics thought James Earl Jones was miscast but I thought he had tremendous, menacing presence as Thulsa Doom. All films are not meant as "art" nor meant to be perfection-in-film-theory. Some, like this one, are just meant as entertainment. Pure, well-made, unapologetic entertainment with a decent story, like (if not quite like)...Star Wars.
     
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  11. Reggie W

    Reggie W Cinematographer

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    I'm trying to think of other R-rated adult fantasy films and I'm coming up pretty empty at the moment...what else is there?
     
  12. Tom St Jones

    Tom St Jones Second Unit

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    There's the original "Total Recall" (if considered fantasy), "Highlander" (1986), "Galaxina" with the late Dorothy Stratten, and there's got to be at least a few other lesser-quality pictures.
     
  13. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    "Excalibur"...Boorman's take on the King Arthur legends...
     
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  14. joshEH

    joshEH Producer

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    One of the other things that seriously irks me about the Region 1 BD of this film is the omission of the so-called "Moby-Dick" scene near the conclusion, with Conan and Subotai reflecting on their upbringings just prior to the final battle.

    A superb, quiet, character-building moment that the film actually takes time out for, it's a scene that Milius added to the International Cut DVD almost at the last minute, but for some reason was left out of the 2011 Blu-Ray release.

    When you listen to the DVD's audio commentary track, it's pretty clear that Milius's discussion of that scene was recorded after the session with Arnold, and then inserted into the track in post-production. The BD uses what is probably the original, uncut commentary track, without the added Milius "Moby-Dick" remarks included, since the film itself omits the entire scene.
     
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  15. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    That's another reason why the import disc is better. That scene is included.
    Actually, the multichannel track sounds correct to me.
     
  16. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    Revenge stories are hard to mess up, because it's such a basic concept. Hero is out to get bad guy that did him wrong. He succeeds, audience satisfied. But with the setting in the fantasy realm, with lots of blood, magic, demons, and serpents it makes this one stand out a bit more.Robert E. Howard would be proud, and as an avid Conan reader I've always thought this film was a great representation of the character. One of the best fantasy films ever made.
     
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  17. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    For $7.50 from Amazon, I decided to have another look at this film, so I ordered it. I remember being somewhat unimpressed when the movie came out. I, too had the original stories in the Lancer paperbacks, and i was a big fan of Marvel's various comic book titles on Conan. I think at the time I was disappointed in the fact that they used snippets of stories, rather than just concentrating on one. I still think A Witch Shall be Born would have made a great movie on its own. I was also a bit put off by Ah-Node's thick German accent (though he looked perfect!). In times of stress and danger, Conan will utter the name of his Cimmerian God Crom. Schwarzenegger's pronunciation was more akin to "Carrwom".

    However, this is Milius, and I probably didn't give the movie a fair shake. I hope I have time to watch it this week.
     
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  18. Worth

    Worth Screenwriter

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    Not a feature film, but Game of Thrones has brought it back in a big way.
     
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  19. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Roger Ebert pointed out that the Conan stories take place in a time prior to "modern" accents, so a German accent sounds just as appropriate as any other. :)
     
  20. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    Yes the "Hyborian Age" of Robert E. Howard predates known history. I just always imagined Conan with a rough American manner of speech, so as to stand out from the civilized types, sort of in the manner of Kirk Douglas' Spartacus, where the gladiators were American (for the most part) and the Roman elites British (for the most part).
     

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