In the latest GROGPOD we watch Conan The Barbarian (1982) in the GROGGLEBOX section. There’s an animated difference of opinion between Judge Blythy who finds the film interminably boring and Ed in his Shed who declares it to be “The Best Fantasy Film of the 80s.”
It’s fair to say that I am somewhere in the middle of these extremes, but I do still carry the scars of disappointment from the first viewing. My expectations had been built by Starburst, the long running ‘Magazine of television and cinema fantasy’, as they had featured the film with some eye-catching stills from the film prior to its release. At the time I was in a vortex of playing one RPG session after another with my friends and the images alone provided fuel and adventure hooks for my games.
“The pictures are great, until they start moving,” says Blythy in during the discussion, while Eddy says that it’s “perfect RPG fodder.” I think they’re both right. One the one hand the film has great Conanesque set-pieces, Schwarzenegger has not yet acquired the charisma and screen presence that he would bring to his later films in the decade. I thought he was a klutz. Conan is not a klutz. He’s a thief, a mercenary, a brigand, a pirate, an adventurer and a king, but never a klutz.
He looked the part and maybe, with hindsight, it was enough to enjoy the film.
The reviewers at the time were savage, even in Starburst, with Arnold getting the bulk of their ire; not one of them would admit that, in the words of Eddy, “he’s perfect for the role, he’s a five out of ten.”