Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Conan Movies

Two movies have been based on the creation of Robert E Howard.

1. Conan the Barbarian US movie (1981). Dino De Laurentiis/Edward R Pressman. Pr Buzz Feitshans, Raffaella De Laurentiis. Exec pr D Constantine Conte, Pressman. Dir John Milius. Spfx Nick Allder. Vfx Frank Van der Veer. Anim vfx Peter Kuran, Visual Concepts Engineering. Screenplay Milius, Oliver Stone. Novelization Conan the Barbarian * (1982) by Lin Carter and L Sprague de Camp. Starring Sandahl Bergman (Valeria), Ben Davidson (Rexor), Cassandra Gaviola (Witch), James Earl Jones (Thulsa Doom), Gerry Lopez (Subotai), Mako (Akiro), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan), Max Von Sydow (Osric). 129 mins. Colour.

Knowing that he can trust nothing save his own Sword, Howard's Sword-and-Sorcery hero goes through many rigours, magics and women on the way to Vengeance against Thulsa Doom, the cult leader who slaughtered Conan's family when he was a child. En passant, he undergoes a period as a gladiator; discovers mid-copulation that the glamorous Witch who has told him, by way of foreplay, that he is fore-ordained, is in fact a Vampire; allies with an eccentric Wizard, Akiro; battles with Ghosts; and suffers crucifixion, although he recovers swiftly. Any summary of CTB makes the movie seem like a self-Parody; in fact, though self-consciously ponderous, it is a very respectable attempt to invest Howard's creation with the full burden of epic Myth. The well drawn character of Valeria (admirably played by Bergman) is one of the earlier prominent examples of the powerful, independent heroines (see Heroes and Heroines) who would become more prevalent in this subgenre as the 1980s progressed. [JG]

2. Conan the Destroyer US movie (1984). Dino De Laurentiis/Edward R Pressman. Pr Raffaella De Laurentiis. Exec pr Stephen F Kesten. Dir Richard Fleischer. Technical advisor L Sprague de Camp. Spfx Barry Nolan, John Stirber. Screenplay Stanley Mann. Novelization Conan the Destroyer * (1984) by Robert Jordan. Starring Olivia D'Abo (Princess Jehnna), Wilt Chamberlain (Bombaata), Sarah Douglas (Queen Taramis), Grace Jones (Zula), Mako (Akiro), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan), Tracey Walter (Malek). 103 mins. Colour.

Conan, as Prince of Thieves, and sneakish sidekick Malek are commissioned by evil Queen Taramis to escort her cutely innocent niece Jehnna on a pre-ordained Quest to collect a key (in the form of a gem) and use it to retrieve the missing horn of the local God Dagoth, thereby bringing him to life; at all costs Jehnna's Virginity must be preserved – although Taramis does not tell Conan that this is because, for the Prophecy entirely to be fulfilled, Jehnna must be made a virginal Human Sacrifice. Conan recovers the gem from an island castle of Illusion after slaying its Scrying guardian Wizard – who, in CTD's most interesting fantastication, appears to him in monstrous form in a hall of Mirrors, and can be harmed only by attacking his reflections. Treachery abounds before the requisite Plot Coupons are collected, the witch-queen and animate god slaughtered, and the maiden saved. Although just as gory as its predecessor, CTD lacks the gratuitous sex and cod theology, being clearly designed as a straightforward S&S romp; as such, it succeeds. [JG]

see also: Red Sonja (1985).

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.