To be truthful,it's difficult to review this movie without some bias.I vividly recall walking the 5 mile round trip with my big brother and best friend Johnny,to see this movie as often as possible because Johnny knew that,since he and his late wife had given me my first Conan book in '72,I was,and still am,a major Conan fanatic.With my Johnny gone now,this movie evokes memories both wonderful and bittersweet.But,I will try to address it purely from a movie fan's point of view.
The first,and biggest,question to ask is 'Is this Robert E.Howard's Conan?' The answer is a resounding,uh,yes and no.There are cringe-worthy moments far removed from the original character :
REH's Conan would never present his case to his enemy,Thulsa Doom,in a near pleading way.He would
snarl it with vengeful anger.And one can only imagine the fate of a little 'swordmaster' who even attempted to slap the 'real' Conan in the face.And,he would look defiant,not ashamed,when brought
before King Osric.
I could continue to nitpick about this small blunder or that,but,let's skip over that and get to the good stuff:The musical score,note for note,is not only perfectly suited to the Hyborian Age but can easily stand on its own with the likes of "Jaws";"Ben-Hur";The Magnificent Seven";and"Star Wars" as one of the great scores of all-time.The photography and costumes are excellent and Sandahl Bergman's Valeria is spot on REH.And,though Arnold is known for his on-again;off-again acting,when he IS on,this is the best performance of his ENTIRE career.Whether it's discussing theology with Subatai or his famous "Crush your enemies..." speech(though lifted almost word for word from Harold Lamb's bio of Genghis Khan) he truly seems like the real McCoy.But the highlight for me,dialogue-wise,both in writing,delivery,and even scoring,is the prayer to Crom prior to the final battle.It truly is unforgettable!
And speaking of action scenes,though too heavily edited at the behest of the studio,they are truly great.Whether it's Conan battling a giant snake,or the raid to steal the princess,or the final clash at the
mounds,the battles more than do Howard proud.
In the end,the question of which is better and more faithful to Howard's Conan:the '82 version or the
2011 reboot is,like beauty,left to the eye of the beholder.But with its remarkable low price and ton of
fascinating extras,including deleted scenes that definitely should have been in the theatrical release,
this is a movie,whether you're a Howard fan or a sword-and-sorcery fan,or even just an Arnold fan,is
well worth owning!And as far as which version is best? My advice,for whatever it's worth,would be get and watch and rewatch both.If nothing else,I promise you'll have a blast trying to decide!
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