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From the Wire: Celebrating 30 Years of 'Conan'

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire May 14, 2012 at 3:34PM

Crom! It's time for a celebration of a Schwarzenegger classic.
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"Conan the Barbarian."
"Conan the Barbarian."

Crom! Can it be? Can "Conan the Barbarian" really be thirty years old?

Though we're not entirely convinced this isn't some sort of illusion spell cast by Thulsa Doom, The Playlist's Oliver Lyttelton claims that the original "Conan" -- based on the Robert E. Howard pulp novels and brought to life in unforgettable fashion by director John Milius and star Arnold Schwarzenegger -- was released thirty years ago today, on May 14, 1982. Those lamentations you're hearing aren't from the women -- they're from me bemoaning yet another reminder of my mortality. This feels worse than a spin on the Wheel of Pain.

In celebration of this momentous and altogether depressing milestone, Lyttelton counts down five things about "Conan" that you might not know. I was most interested to learn the stuff about the original "Conan" screenplay by a hot young writer named Oliver Stone, who was fresh off his script for "Midnight Express" and apparently as high as a kite. According to Milius, Stone's original script was a "total drug fever dream... which moved the character to a post-apocalyptic future to battle against an army of 10,000 mutants." Sounds vaguely "John Carter"-ish (in a good way), but fortunately (or unfortunately) the story was later returned to its original prehistoric setting as a budget-cutting measure. Milius, in turn, adapted Stone's work while taking some creative license with the original material in order to fashion "Conan" into a story that suited his own thematic interests:

"Villain Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), for instance, was named after a bad guy in the non-Conan 'Kull of Atlantis' series, but the character was closer to sorcerer Thoth-Amon,  the villain in the first Conan story 'The Phoenix on the Sword,' albeit embellished with Milius' own research on the Hashishim and Thuggee cults. Female lead Valeria, meanwhile, is named after the sidekick in 'Red Nails,' but has a personality (and tragic fate) closer to lady-pirate Belit in 'Queen of the Black Coast.' Milius was't above inventing characters, though -- sidekick Subotai was an original character, based on and named after the right hand man of Genghis Khan (always a recurring interest of Milius)."

I encourage you to continue the Conan Opened A Long Time Ago Today Day party by taking out your own copy of "Conan" on Blu-ray or DVD -- you know you own it, don't even pretend you don't -- putting on your best "viking face," and listening to the immortal and hilarious commentary track by Milius and Schwarzenegger.  

Read more of Oliver Lyttelton's "5 Things You Might Not Know About John Milius' 'Conan the Barbarian.'"

This article is related to: Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Milius, Oliver Lyttelton


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