“Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”
Crom, we have never prayed to you before. We have no tongue for it. Podcasts please you, Crom…so grant us one request: grant us a discussion with Greg Hatcher of the Atomic Junk Shop blog! Together we will travel back to an age undreamed of, and discuss the bloody fantasy epic that put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map: 1982’s Conan the Barbarian!
An adaptation of the classic Robert E. Howard pulp hero, Conan of Cimmeria is a warrior, a thief and a slayer of men. After the slaughter of his parents and tribe by a doomsday snake cult, Conan is enslaved and made into a gladiator. Thus begins his quest for bloody vengeance with sword, and axe and his own bare hands.
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As usual, great episode; I was wondering when you’d get around to this one, which was truly a milestone as I think it marked the genuine beginning of the whole Arnold cinematic phenomenon. And of course, your guest *had* to be Mr. Hatcher.
I have to say, though, that I’m not a big fan of the movie as such, mainly for the same reasons Greg mentioned in the show. It’s just too somber and brooding, whereas Conan is first and foremost supposed to be a devil-may-care swashbuckler – I think the comparison you guys made to the non-Worf Klingons is quite apt.
Also, I totally agree about James Earl Jones totally dominating this one. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a Jones pretty much stole the show in both of the Arnie Conans: James Earl in this one, and Grace in the second – or, as I said a few years back in the comments (alas, all erased now) to one of the Greg’s columns at the former Comics Should Be Good blog, in Conan the Destroyer, Grace Jones out-Conaned Arnie.
I just realized that I miscounted. Arnold brutalizes *three* animals. Not just the camel and the giant snake, but the vulture he bites to death on the Tree of Woe!
This episode amuses me somewhat. many episodes in past you guys have made clear the idea of hiring someone disconnected to the source material to keep it more Accessible to other audiences. Now it seems that it was a double-edged sword, After all, the movie has a reasonable reputation with general audiences. But it seems that it was a bit of a sacrifice of the spirit of the original source material. It is a bit of a conundrum in that sense. But then again, maybe just be happy they use so much Practical stuff in the movie as opposed to CGI.
I wouldn’t say that there’s a hard and fast rule about this.
While sometimes a super fan can distance themselves enough from the source material that they can understand where it’s necessary to make changes when adapting a work (like say, Peter Jackson on the Lord of the Rings or Sam Raimi on Spider-Man), being a super fan usually hurts it. Usually.
Then you have Nicholas Meyer on Wrath of Khan, who didn’t know the property at all, but understood it and its appeal.
That was always Zack Snyder’s problem on Watchmen. He was a super fan and his reverence for the comic is apparent, but he seems to have a superficial understanding of what made Watchmen great and unique.
So, I guess — for me, anyways — it comes down to a sweet spot. A place where you can both deeply understand what the core elements of a property are: what makes it special and popular and what its heart is … and likewise, not so dogmatic about adapting it perfectly that you forget to make necessary changes or updates so that it still works and that the loving details of the periphery don’t overtake the point of the story and the characters.
That said, even if I think that Milius’ Conan isn’t a great adaptation of the character, I think he really capturing the brutal nastiness that a lot of directors would have shied away from. And I can separate myself enough from being a Robert E. Howard fan to also say it’s a really good movie on its own.
And believe me, I adore all of the practical effects and locations in this movie.
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Ben Davidson played for the Oakland Raiders, back in the old AFL days. He was one of the prototype big bruisers and once caused a bench-clearing brawl. Prior to Conan, he made a name for himslef in Miller Lite commercials and in regular apeparances on ABC Sports Superstars competition. Davidson was notorious on that show for snapping oars in the rowboat competition, as he pulled so hard on the oars that they just snapped (or snapped from the oarlocks).
I would argue that Snyder’s problem with Watchmen was not being faithful to the source as being faithful to the imagery at the expense of the story elements (themes, characters, subtext). Snyder reminds me of the Cult of Rorschach that you encounter online, who think he is the hero of the story, not the truly demented psycho that a vigilante who see only in black & white would be.