“Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this: Conan, destined to wear the jewelled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow”.
Arnold Schwarzenegger may have ventured out in clothes many times since this movie, but here’s how fans first remember him: bare and belted, a Nordic superman justified in his use of force to avenge his parents’ deaths.
Director John Milius quotes Nietzsche and ladles on the fantasy atmosphere with a Wagnerian flourish that’s too heavyweight and humourless for its own – and Big Arnie’s – good. But the movie looks fabulous . . . rather like Arnie himself
A vicious raiding team attacks the village of Cimmeria, and a young boy named Conan watches as his blacksmith father (William Smith) falls in battle. Conan then watches – up close – as his mother is decapitated by a warrior, the evil and strangely magnetic Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones).
Conan is sold into slavery and grows up at the Wheel of Pain where he lives a life of drudgery, forever pushing one of the wheel’s heavy spokes. The years do not pass quickly for Conan.
When he is older (and much much bigger!) Conan becomes a champion of the arena and a favourite of the people. Once he is educated, he escapes from his masters and goes in search of the man who killed his parents all those years ago.
After battling a witch and teaming up with a thief called Subotai (Gerry Lopez), Conan pursues the rapidly-spreading Snake Cult – headed by Thulsa Doom – across the land. In one town, he meets up with the beautiful warrior Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), who is planning to rob a snake temple. The three wanderers steal the expensive jewels inside the temple and defeat a giant snake.
Conan and Valeria subsequently fall in love, realising they are soulmates.
King Osric (Max Von Sydow) summons Conan and his friends to his kingdom, revealing that his daughter (Valerei Quennessen) has fallen under the sway of Thulsa Doom, and gone to his temple as a priestess and slave. Osric offers to make Conan rich if he can bring the Princess back.
With Valeria reluctant to undertake the quest, Conan goes alone and is promptly captured by Thulsa Doom, crucified, and left to die in the desert.
Fortunately, Subotai, Valeria and a friendly wizard (Mako) nurse Conan back to health, with Valeria even beating back the soul-takers of the underworld at night to prevent them from carrying Conan away.
Conan finally prepares to rescue the princess and exact his revenge on Thulsa Doom.
Although her outfit is revealing throughout the entire film, the scene where Valeria disrobes must surely rank up there as one of the greatest nude scenes of all time.
Followed by a 1984 sequel, Conan The Destroyer.
James Earl Jones
Max von Sydow