Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Pain Continues

The Cimmerian's Al Harron has a round-up of the latest rumors about the casting of Conan in the upcoming film. With one exception, I can't say I'm particularly pleased, but then I didn't expect to be. I'd love to see an unambiguously Howardian cinematic take on Conan one of these days; I simply don't expect to see it anytime soon.

Although much good work has been done in the past 30 years rehabilitating the literary reputation of REH, the popular conception of Howard and his creations, most notably Conan, still lies beneath the Stygian cloud L. Sprague de Camp conjured up. To the average person, the name Conan is associated with a muscle-bound oaf rather than the cunning, pantherish bastard Howard actually described in his tales.

I still hold out hope that one day we may see a good Conan movie, but that day is not now.


  1. Who's your exception? Urban? He'd be mine.

  2. Have you ever read Gary Gygax's review of the first Conan movie in Dragon #63? Pretty scathing.

    However, he also said if a D&D movie was ever made it would be slick and professional...

  3. @bat: He also preferred The Sword and the Sorcerer. :D
    --Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;)

  4. Shouldn't we lay the blame for the current image of Conan more at Frazetta's feet than deCamp's?

  5. I lay the blame on Frazetta for my awareness of Conan and Howard. Thanks, Frank!

  6. The best D&D movies are those that do not try to be.

    As for my vote out of that lot, it also has to go to Urban. I'd much prefer somebody a little less ripped but with proven acting ability.

  7. There are so many really well executed fan-films floating around nowadays. I can see a group of dedicated film students-cum-history buffs/gamer nerds making a good Conan movie that would fly completely under Hollywood's antiquated radar.

  8. Yeesh. Karl Urban is the only name on that list that didn't set off my Douchebag indicator. I'm honestly surprised not to see the cast of The Jersey Shore in the running.

  9. Okay, let the hate begin; I...ummm..actually enjoy the Conan dammit I LOVE the Conan movie:

    Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!

    Anyway, I did love the movie (the first at least), AND the original REH stories (maybe even a couple of the carter, de camp ones too...don't tell anyone though). I have to say though what has probably most influenced my visual image of the giant Cimmerian has to be the old Savage Sword magazine from Marvel; so when I looked at those images on the link all I could think of was some MTV generation pretty boy Conan which made me vomit just a little in my mouth. Maybe Urban could pull it off, I don't know. But from everything that I've read so far this looks like it's going to be a rel hack job of a movie to join the legion of hack job movies that seem to inundate the theaters...sigh...

  10. Yea, the Sword and The Sorcerer was preferred by Gygax over Conan. That staggered a friend of mine and I back in the day. We couldn't believe it.

    The muffin in SATS became the wife of Thomas Dolby of One Of Our Submarines fame. I rented the movie recently and watched it and frankly she's the most watchable thing in it. The lead, who became Matt Houston on TV, was long haired and wearing this absurd fur cloak. It has some good moments, but - wow - Conan The Barbarian was awesome. John Milius believed every word of that script. "Conan! What is best in life?"

    "To crush your enemies! To see them driven before you! And to hear the lamentation of the women!"

    At the time I thought lamentation must be something sexual. I had no idea what that meant. Pretty bad ass. PC it was not.

    But the best scene was at the beginning with William Smith, famous for biker movies, explaining the secret of steel to young Conan. When he says "Not gods... not giants... just men." I love that.

    I re-watch Conan every couple of years.

    "Do you want to live forever?"

  11. I've come to believe the purest Howardian Conan film would have to be animated.


  13. I love the original Conan movie too. I would not put it in my top ten favorite movies (filled mostly with non sci fi like Goodfellas, Scarface, Casino, Jaws, etc), but top 20 fo sho'. I think they got it right (happy accident, but so was the first Star Wars movie).

    James, could you point out a few of the things you didn't like? Excluding Ah-Nuld, who is an easy target, what turns you off of it? Was there anything you liked about it?

  14. They did try to animate an adaption of Red Nails:

    (Site last updated in 2007...)

  15. I have to say, I like the first Conan film quite a lot, as well. I just don't think of it as "Conan", but more as "Arnold the Barbarian", and remember that it is more about Milius and Stone's paranoid political and Nietzschean philosophical meanderings than about Howard's characters or themes. Milius, even though I don't particularly share his politics or philosophy, has always been entertaining at presenting both.

  16. @faoladh

    Yea, I think you're right in pretty much everything you said. Milius and Stone were of a Viet Nam mentality and the movie is sort of a strike against the hippies, communes, and soft group culture. If I recall correctly the nature of Howard's Conan versus Arnold is a difference in humor. Conan's sort of crafty in Howard's stories. He's trickier and has a kind of sneaky sense of humor. Arnold didn't have a lot of personality. He just sort of looked the part. The interesting dialog was usually said by a secondary character.

    Milius and Stone are fascist good times (like Heinlein): The Wind And The Lion with Sean Connery; Apocalypse Now; Midnight Express; Platoon. I saw Milius reading cut screenplay scenes from AN that extend that attitude towards women, which sort of makes you hair stand on end. No wonder he was the inspiration for Walter in The Big Lebowski.

    Ok, I'm convinced. There could be a truer adaption of Howard's Conan.

    "And what pains me most... you killed my snake!"

  17. Who's your exception? Urban? He'd be mine.

    Yeah, Urban is at least an actor. I don't immediately laugh at the notion of him as Conan, even though he's far from ideal, whereas the others just fill me with dread.

  18. I've come to believe the purest Howardian Conan film would have to be animated.

    You may well be right.

  19. James, could you point out a few of the things you didn't like? Excluding Ah-Nuld, who is an easy target, what turns you off of it? Was there anything you liked about it?

    My feelings about Conan the Barbarian are complicated. I think, as a film, it's actually rather good and I'm favorably inclined toward it. However, as an evocation of Howard (and, specifically, of Conan), I think it's a woeful mess -- the characterization of Conan, chief among its flaws.

    I don't think it's a bad movie; it's actually quite well made in many ways. If it hadn't made any claims to Howard's writings, my complaints would mostly be quibbles, but, since it does lay claim to Howard's legacy, I can't overlook its misrepresentations of that legacy.

  20. They tried it as a children's cartoon! It was called "Conan The Adventurer".

    Who's great idea was it to do a kid's cartoon about the world's most womanizing, brawling, bloodlusting barbarian around?

    How could this have looked like a good vehicle for a children's cartoon?

  21. @brasspen:

    "Milius and Stone are fascist good times (like Heinlein)"

    I'm not taking the bait, except to (once again, resignedly) note that Heinlein ran for political office on a socialist platform, not a fascist one, and to add that Milius and Stone are hardly fascists, but they are certainly paranoids in the political realm (see, e.g. Red Dawn and JFK). Please stop using the "fascist" slander for people who are not, as it minimizes the terrible reality of that political philosophy, and makes it seem almost reasonable when applied to ones which are marginally more sane.

    Word Verification: idnex - a catalog of the deep, hidden desires of a person.

  22. I do think that in the Conan film we were seeing more of the melancholy times in Conan's life, rather than the mirthful. I think you saw some hints of the humor (especially drunk Conan), but I have to agree that this Conan didn't get to show his intelligence much.

    I disliked that as much as I disliked Sam Raimi giving us a Spider Man who just didn't seem that smart (a genius wisecracker in the books). Downright dumb most of the time.

    I loved both movies for giving us universes and settings that did fit the source material. We can wish for perfection with our beloved things in fandom, but we also have to appreciate those that tried to get it right. I don't think the Conan movie was just a generic barbarian movie with "Conan" stamped on it. It felt like Hyperboria to me.

  23. @TJ, @VacuumJockey: they were indeed making an animated Red Nails. Ron Perlman and Mark Hamill among the voices, conceptual art by Michael Kaluta... it figures they'd run out of money to finish it. *sigh*  I really want to see that film some day.