“Conan The Barbarian” is a 1982 fantasy-action-adventure film. It’s based on the stories by Robert E. Howard (1906–1936), about the adventures of the character in a fictional prehistoric world of dark magic and savagery. Written by John Milius (Red Dawn, Flight of the Intruder) and Oliver Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July) and directed by Milius. Basil Poledouris provided the rousing music. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow, the film tells the story of a young barbarian who seeks vengeance for the death of his parents. The target of his hatred is Thulsa Doom (Jones), the leader of a snake cult. In the course of his adventures, Conan befriends a wizard, played by Mako, Subotai, a thief, played by Hawaiian surfing legend Gerry Lopez and falls in love with Valeria, a female brigand, played by Sandahl Bergman.
Schwarzenegger, Lopez and Bergman were given martial arts training before filming began. They were taught by Kiyoshi Yamazaki, a Japanese Kenjutsu and Karate Do master who drilled them in sword fighting methods that were meant to make them look proficient in using their weapons. They practiced each move in a fight at least 15 times before filming. Yamazaki Sensei advised the stunt coordinator on the choreography of the sword fights and had a cameo role as one of Conan’s instructors. He does a very impressive spinning back kick to one of his indolent students in the film.
Tim Huchthausen, the prop maker, worked with sword smith Jody Samson to create the weapons. Particular attention was paid to the two swords wielded by Conan: his father’s sword, the “Master’s sword” and the blade he finds in a tomb, the “Atlantean sword”. Both weapons were realized from Cobb’s drawings. Their blades were hand ground from carbon steel and heat treated and left unsharpened. The hilts and pommels were sculpted and cast through the lost wax process; inscriptions were added to the blades via electrical discharge machining. Samson and Huchthausen made four Master’s and four Atlantean swords, at a cost of $10,000 per weapon. Copies of the Atlantean sword were created and given to members of the production.
Samson and Huchthausen agreed the weapons were to heavy and unbalanced, and thus unsuitable for actual combat; Lighter versions made of aluminum, fiberglass, and steel were struck in Madrid; these three pound copies were used in the fight scenes. According to Arnold, the heavy swords were used in close up shots. The other weapons used in the film were not as elaborate; Valeria’s tulwar was ground out from an aluminum sheet. A tulwar is a type of sabre originating from India.
I saw this film when it was first released in theaters, I was a senior in high school then. I very much enjoyed it. They literally don’t make films like this anymore. It’s properly rated “R” for all of the violence, blood and sex. In these days of PG-13 action movies, I found it refreshing to watch. It holds up very well and didn’t seem dated at all. The best lines in the movie are “Conan, what are the good things in life? To crush your enemies—see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.” This is a a paraphrasing of a famous speech by Genghis Khan. I love epic sword and sorcerer films. I’m also looking forward to the new Conan film.