"You adopt detachment, and ironic humor, while secretly praying for a miracle."
August 24, 2011 1:27 PM   Subscribe

What's it like to have your film flop at the box office? "When you work "above the line" on a movie (writer, director, actor, producer, etc.) watching it flop at the box office is devastating. I had such an experience during the opening weekend of Conan the Barbarian 3D."
posted by Fizz (134 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Crom laughs at your box office!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:33 PM on August 24, 2011 [19 favorites]


What is worst in life?
posted by Babblesort at 1:35 PM on August 24, 2011 [38 favorites]


The Ed Wood quote at the end makes it.
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:37 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Reviewers, even when they were positive, mocked Conan The Barbarian for its lack of story, lack of characterization, and lack of wit. This doesn't speak well of the screenwriting...

This past Sunday I spent a lazy evening in watching tv, and must have seen a commercial for Conan a dozen times over the course of three hours. It consisted of 15 seconds of screams, roars, grunts, moans and exactly one line of dialogue ("I WANT YOUR HEAD!!!!")* I know commercials and trailers can be deceiving and all, but I doubt the script was much of a factor for many people who were trying to decide whether or not to see this movie.

* I know! It sounds like a porn movie!
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:37 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ahh the lamentations of a shitty writer-director. THAT is worst in life.
posted by basicchannel at 1:38 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I live, I burn with life, I write, I flop, and am content.

The Conan film isn't awful, and hews a little closer to Robert E. Howard's original conception, but I think the florid lunacy of Oliver Stone and John Milius's adaptation just works better as a movie. And Conan is such an iconic character that it takes an iconic actor, like Schwartzeneggar, to play him -- Jason Momoa is serviceable in the role, but serviceable? What is this, Kull?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:38 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I know that I wanted to see it, but decided to wait until I started seeing some reviews, given that the original is one of my favorite films, and the thought of seeing a limp remake was appalling. Some friends whose opinions and taste I respect have seen it and quite enjoyed it. One even prefers it to the original, finding it more faithful to Howard's stories. So, I'll probably watch it, and hopefully my respect for my friends is not shaken.
posted by polywomp at 1:39 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


How much money did he make doing this? Probably a lot.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2011


There is no way in hell I'm going to a 3D movie as long as they're jacking up the price for those crappy glasses. The original Conan was quite good though, highly recommended.

Oddly enough, I was looking at various stills from the film and the actual costume design and makeup looks fantastic. Almost makes me interested, but hell no to 3D.

Apollo 18 though? I'm so there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Making the parallels between the opening weekend of a wannabe blockbuster and election night does seem fairly accurate -- but in this instance, I think the remake of Conan was always destined to be -- as far as comebacks go -- not Nixon in 1968 but instead what would have happened if Zombie Nixon had run against Obama.


(I mean if that had happened 4 years ago back when Obama was still some people's second coming and before zombies and ridiculous Republicans had recaptured the American public's imagination.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:44 PM on August 24, 2011


And Conan is such an iconic character that it takes an iconic actor, like Schwartzeneggar, to play him

Was Arnold Schwartzenegger really that iconic when his Conan movie came out? Maybe in 20 years Moma will be an iconic action star as well. Also, Hollywood doesn't seem to have that many "Big dudes" like Schwarzenegger and Stallone from 80s/90s.

I thought the Conan movie looked interesting, but it seems to have gotten terrible reviews on Rotten Tomatos, so it probably sucks.
posted by delmoi at 1:45 PM on August 24, 2011


Conan is such an iconic character that it takes an iconic actor, like Schwartzeneggar, to play him -- Jason Momoa is serviceable in the role,

It's easy to forget that Conan was Arnold's breakout role. It was the movie that made him iconic. Every producer/writer/actor/whatever hopes a movie will do that for them. It usually doesn't, though.
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:46 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Something i've wondered about, is what it's like to work on a film that gets ignored or lambasted on release, but years later is considered a classic, cult movie, or ahead of it's time. There are ones i've never heard of before, but see on netflix streaming from the 80s or so, and have become my favorites (Dead and Buried for example). Yet the more recent "blockbusters" i've seen have been frankly embarrassing (Transformers, Battle Los Angeles, i'm looking at you). I wonder if that stings more or less, knowing it was finally appreciated.
posted by usagizero at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had no idea there was even a film out there called Conan the Barbarian 3D. Whoops.
posted by Windigo at 1:48 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


How much money did he make doing this? Probably a lot.

As a rewrite guy? It sounds like he was doing it on the fly, while they were filming, which usually pays more as a result of desperation, but these sorts of writers usually, in my experience, live sort of mediocre middle class existences. You want a hit, so that you can actually make a decent wage. Fortunately for him, in my experience, a flop is usually worse for a director than a rewrite guy.

Was Arnold Schwartzenegger really that iconic when his Conan movie came out?

I guess that depends on whether you think actors have a certain iconic quality to them. What separates a Schwartzeneggar from a Marc Singer, who both played sword-wielding barbarians at about the same time in films that are about as entertaining as each other?

In my opinion, there's something about Scwartzeneggar that Momoa ain't got.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:49 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


How much money did he make? I don't know what a script doctor makes. The screenwriter made at least union rates, certainly. Probably between fifty and a hundred grand. Maybe more, but almost definitely not a LOT more.

It's pretty okay money, but it's not fuck-you money. And in an industry that increasingly has only respect for massive hits and is uninterested in even modest successes, a flop is bad news. Worse news for the director, but bad news for everybody.

So yeah. Guy's got my sympathy. I mean, he's not out on the streets, but "not out on the streets" is not much of a success metric.
posted by pts at 1:51 PM on August 24, 2011


It's Schwarzenegger.
posted by lumensimus at 1:53 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sounds very much like web design and bureacracy.
posted by rahnefan at 1:53 PM on August 24, 2011


With less $ I mean
posted by rahnefan at 1:54 PM on August 24, 2011


Yes, just what I said. Scwarytzagganer.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:54 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times.

stupid monkey!
posted by blue_beetle at 1:56 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


It almost makes me feel sorry that this unnecessary waste of time, talent, and money didn't do better at the box office.
posted by Legomancer at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's Schwarzenegger.,

I'm the only one who got it right! I think I copied it from somewhere.
I guess that depends on whether you think actors have a certain iconic quality to them. What separates a Schwartzeneggar from a Marc Singer, who both played sword-wielding barbarians at about the same time in films that are about as entertaining as each other?
Well, who would you cast?
posted by delmoi at 2:00 PM on August 24, 2011


#firstworldproblems
posted by PenDevil at 2:00 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, who would you cast?

I wouldn't, unless I had the right actor.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:02 PM on August 24, 2011


I guess it's a stretch to argue for the value of art, as art, when your piece is called "Conan the Barbarian 3D." If this was a Lovecraft film it would be impossible to watch, but we'd still find legions to defend it.

I enjoy Conan but only in guilty, ten minute sessions.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:02 PM on August 24, 2011


I've watched my kid deal with this as a producer...

1st movie - low budget, surprise hit, studios love 'em
2nd movie - bigger budget, good reviews, made decent money
3rd movie - huge deal, important property, reviews sort of meh (can't be the favored child forever)
4th movie - critical flop, but made more than it cost.. whew!
5th movie - now filming, a HUGE property, literally everything is on the line with this one.

I've watched he and the director he works with deal with the success and the failures, this guy's description of the days leading up the the release and the responses when all is not well is pretty spot on.
posted by tomswift at 2:03 PM on August 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Well, who would you cast?

Jack Black, of course.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, who would you cast?

Mads Mikkelsen.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 2:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


If this was a Lovecraft film it would be impossible to watch, but we'd still find legions to defend it.

Actually, it sort of is. Howard's stories were set in Lovecraft's universe (a fact that was often edited out on publication), and this film has what seems to be a cameo by Cthulhu, as well as a very Cthulhoid mask as its heroic prop.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:06 PM on August 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


They should have cast Conan O'Brien and got Robert Smigel to write it. That would have been awesome.
posted by w0mbat at 2:07 PM on August 24, 2011 [11 favorites]



Actually, it sort of is. Howard's stories were set in Lovecraft's universe (a fact that was often edited out on publication), and this film has what seems to be a cameo by Cthulhu, as well as a very Cthulhoid mask as its heroic prop.


Yeah, I haven't seen the film, but I used Lovecraft as an example because they're so contemporary and related. I love both dearly, in their own very special, occasionally terrible ways.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:08 PM on August 24, 2011


5th movie - now filming, a HUGE property, literally everything is on the line with this one.

Superman?
posted by empath at 2:09 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Schwarzenegger became iconic in large part because he was distinctive, i.e. not just some dude with muscles, but that dude with muscles--the Austrian one.

The new Conan guy is just some dide with muscles.

And also, they couldn't even settle on a single pronounciation of "Conan" for the trailers. I mean, really.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:10 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, a dide, people. He does not even rise to the level of dude.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:11 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, it sort of is. Howard's stories were set in Lovecraft's universe (a fact that was often edited out on publication)

This isn't really true. Some of them were, but the Conan stories were their own thing and only rarely referenced the mythos.
posted by empath at 2:12 PM on August 24, 2011


Well, perhaps I should say that Howard was very influenced by Lovecraft and made frequent, not-quite oblique reference to him. The Conan films, in the meanwhile, are far more overly Lovecraftian.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:15 PM on August 24, 2011


Anybody even vaguely interested in Conan has already seen the two old Conan movies and isn't going to watch a third. Anybody not interested in Conan is going to look at this new Conan and go "Wasn't there already a Conan? This must be a new weird 'director's cut' and those things are stupid, we'll watch it when it's on cable in a month." Other people will torrent it if they can even be bothered. It's not enough of a spectacle or an event to make it a must-see-in-the-cinema movie, and it's too sweaty to be arthouse, and isn't even foreign. There was never, ever a compelling reason to make this film and I don't understand why people in Hollywood don't realise things like that.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:16 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh wow. There's a new Conan movie out?
posted by grounded at 2:21 PM on August 24, 2011


Well, perhaps I should say that Howard was very influenced by Lovecraft and made frequent, not-quite oblique reference to him. The Conan films, in the meanwhile, are far more overly Lovecraftian.

Oh, the wish to snark here...
posted by KokuRyu at 2:25 PM on August 24, 2011


"Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if these were good films or bad, why we shot, or why we edited. No, all that matters is that a story was told against the odds. That's what matters. Money pleases you, Crom, so grant me one request, grant me RETURNS! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!"
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:26 PM on August 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I've watched my kid deal with this as a producer...

1st movie - low budget, surprise hit, studios love 'em
2nd movie - bigger budget, good reviews, made decent money
3rd movie - huge deal, important property, reviews sort of meh (can't be the favored child forever)
4th movie - critical flop, but made more than it cost.. whew!
5th movie - now filming, a HUGE property, literally everything is on the line with this one.
"

I think you forgot the movie with the owls.
posted by klangklangston at 2:32 PM on August 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think all you need to know about this guy is that, for him, the dramatic moment is not watching the final cut and being either elated that it's great or shamed that it sucks.

For him, the dramatic moment is finding out how much money the movie made.
posted by straight at 2:34 PM on August 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Schwarzenegger became iconic in large part because...

He was eerily perfect for the part. Probably the most muscular man you've ever seen. Really good at posing and flexing. Kinda dumb, but cunning. Scarcely capable of verbal conversation, but with an expressive face. Some rage issues. Sexist verging on misogynist. Exceedingly arrogant. That's Conan.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:36 PM on August 24, 2011 [19 favorites]


What separates a Schwartzeneggar from a Marc Singer, who both played sword-wielding barbarians at about the same time in films that are about as entertaining as each other?

John Milius does.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:42 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


empath: This isn't really true. Some of them were, but the Conan stories were their own thing and only rarely referenced the mythos.

Well it depends. What is the Cthulhu Mythos? Other writers added things to the Mythos that Lovecraft later picked up on, and sometimes Lovecraft added things that Howard wrote to his own stores. If one takes an inclusive stance then a lot of things Howard wrote are in the Mythos (my copy of the "Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia" by Daniel Harns contains a short entry for him under CONAN OF CIMMERIA, but says his use in the Mythos is marginal). The setting, Hyperborea was written of by other Mythos authors like Clark Ashton Smith, more than Howard's characters.

I think a closer point of similarity are all the sorcerers in Howard, which are more obviously Lovecraftian. But on the other hand, Conan was a character with no magical powers who continually triumphs over just about every sorcerer he meets. That's not a very Lovecraftian theme; in fact it sounds ennobling of petty mankind.

straight: For him, the dramatic moment is finding out how much money the movie made.

Well, it is the moment he chose to write about. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as far as making the movie (although it doesn't sound nearly as Howardian as Conan really should be, what the hell's wrong with making a good movie adaptation of a real Howard story), but the success of the movie at the box office does determine the nature of his next project, and the course of his career as a director. It is a legitimate cause for concern.
posted by JHarris at 2:43 PM on August 24, 2011


John Milius does.

I am not sure that Milius is any better or entertaining than "Beastmaster" director Don Coscarelli. The difference between Conan and Beastmaster strike me as mostly being a matter of budget and promotion. I go to see Arnold films because I like him; I have yet to meet anybody who sees films specifically for Marc Singer.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:47 PM on August 24, 2011


John Milius does.

Didn't keep Red Dawn from being fucking awful. And being fucking awful didn't keep Red Dawn from getting rebooted.
posted by absalom at 2:55 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Marc Singer were a governor, which state would he govern? I'm thinking Idaho.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:56 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be honest, I wanted to see this until I found out that I couldn't see except in 3D. At this point, 3D is a huge detraction to me. It's overpriced and I'll wait to see it later.
posted by clockworkjoe at 2:57 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


> He was eerily perfect for the part.

Schwarzenegger wasn't already a movie star but he was already known; had not only the big bulky muscles but also several top muscle-guy titles, and had been in a movie (Pumping Iron) that was pretty widely shown. Whoever may have been the reigning Mr. Universe at the time the first Conan movie appeared, it was S. who had the public rep of being the most muscular guy alive, the single individual whose arms and legs looked most like condoms stuffed with walnuts.

Howard fans approached the movie suspiciously, ready to walk out at the least sign of suckage. But miraculously it didn't suck; like Star Wars it was witty and fun right from the beginning. And there in the role of the outlandish, cartoonish bunnyfur-barbarian hero was... a human actor who managed to pull the role off with complete conviction. Austrian accent and all, Schwarzenegger was born to play Conan just as surely as Shelley Duvall was born to play Olive Oyl.
posted by jfuller at 2:58 PM on August 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


I did a single digital shot for Hudson Hawk, never even saw the thing, to this day.

Then again, there are a ton of Hook shots under my belt, and my ex-wife had to drag me to see that thing at the crew screening (she's a die hard Peter Pan fan). I walked out and instantly pronounced it Spielberg's _first_ dinosaur film (while Jurassic wasn't out yet, a couple of guys I worked with at ILM had been cranking out T-Rex test shots, so I knew it was in the works).

And the very last movie I did fx shots on was David Arquette's Tripper, so I know all about working on a stillborn dog. Still, I got paid, had lots of wacky fun in the Santa Cruz redwood forest, got blasted with Paul Reubens, what's not to like?
posted by dbiedny at 3:01 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, the 1982 version wasn't well received by critics.
The New York Times: it will only be fully realized as a work of art when Woody Allen takes charge and dubs it into Icelandic. About Schwarzenegger's acting: when he beheads Thulsa Doom, he looks petulant, as if someone had left chewing gum on his favorite barbell.
New York Magazine: Schwarzenegger glowers sullenly (...), his face nearly dead in attempt to suggest the soul of a purely instinctual man (...) Milius workships force but he does not have the consistency of visual skills to be a good fascist filmmaker.
Texas Monthly: the perfect movie for 98-pound weaklings who want to kick face into bullies' faces and win the panting adoration of a well-oiled beach bunny. (Milius') self-esteem may balloon into a rampaging blob of sumo wrestler blubber.
Orange Coast Magazine: How a film with so much going for it missed the mark by so far, only Conan's God Crom knows for sure.
Roger Ebert did enjoy it but he still compares it to a perfect fantasy for the alienated preadolescent.
French critics nicknamed the film "Connard le Barbant" (Asshole The Boring), an obvious spoonerism caused by the rather ponderous nature of the movie.
posted by elgilito at 3:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's Conan.

Eh, I always think of Conan the wise and just king, who sometimes needs to get naked, hulk out, and kill a hydra in between sleeping with the rival king's daughters. Arnold (for all of his camel-punching awesomeness) sorta missed the whole essence of the character for me.
posted by georg_cantor at 3:11 PM on August 24, 2011


And there in the role of the outlandish, cartoonish bunnyfur-barbarian hero was... a human actor who managed to pull the role off with complete conviction.

But it's really not Conan. These Conan movies take elements at random from Howard's stories and mix them up into a general Howard themed movie, but they do it with complete disregard for the stories themselves. Really, how can someone read Red Nails and think this wouldn't work as a movie?
posted by JHarris at 3:12 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I saw that there was a Lovecraftian tentacle monster in the trailer, I was strongly tempted to go see it for that reason alone. Then I realized that, the name of the movie being what it was, the Lovecraftian tentacle monster was going to have to lose. That would leave me with the rest of the two hours full of grunting, yelling, sword-swinging, tubular boobular joy, and other old-school fantasy cliches. I can't stomach it.

Still, I honestly feel bad for this guy. As hard as it is to bear that you've written fiction that falls flat, I can't imagine the weight of the failure of a whole movie. I wish better things for him.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:17 PM on August 24, 2011


It goes without saying that I would go see a Cohen the Barbarian movie without a second thought, but moviegoing audiences are not made of such as I.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:18 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


John Milius does.

Didn't keep Red Dawn from being fucking awful. And being fucking awful didn't keep Red Dawn from getting rebooted.


This is Milius' list of writing credits alone.

Coscerelli wrote Phantasm. Milius, Apocalypse Now, for starters.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:20 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Beastmaster is awesome. That is all.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:21 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, now I am somewhat intrigued....
posted by The1andonly at 3:22 PM on August 24, 2011


Wouldn't the rewrite/"script doctor" role be about the most insulated from the bad consequences of a flop? All he has to say is "You should've seen it before I worked on it."
posted by RogerB at 3:22 PM on August 24, 2011


Seriously, Milius wrote this.

That's film writing.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:25 PM on August 24, 2011


Beastmaster is awesome.

Seriously. Although it had a downside of turning our big red wiffle bat battles into fifteen minutes of swinging them around our bodies before someone either bonked themselves in the head or let the bat slip, sending it crashing into the nearest parked car.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:32 PM on August 24, 2011


It consisted of 15 seconds of screams, roars, grunts, moans and exactly one line of dialogue ("I WANT YOUR HEAD!!!!")* * I know! It sounds like a porn movie!

More like a Republican candidates debate.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:37 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, who would you cast?
Cloris Leachman.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:41 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yay! Beastmaster fans! Did you grow up watching a lot of TBS (aka "The Beastmaster Station) too?
posted by lesli212 at 3:45 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]




Well, who would you cast?

Steve Zahn is Conan the Barbarian!
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:53 PM on August 24, 2011


Yes, just what I said. Scwarytzagganer.

I thought it was Schwartzenberger. The guy who played the Hulk, right?
posted by philip-random at 3:57 PM on August 24, 2011


What were they expecting?? Stop feeding us mindless crap, Hollywood.
posted by secondhand pho at 4:01 PM on August 24, 2011


Coscerelli wrote Phantasm. Milius, Apocalypse Now, for starters.

Milius was a screenwriter for Apocalypse Now, and on of the writers who wrote the famous Jaws monologues. It's good work, but he doesn't get sole credit for it.

I like Phantasm, but you did Coscerelli a disservice by leaving "Bubba Ho Tep" off the list.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:06 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


What were they expecting?? Stop feeding us mindless crap, Hollywood.

I think Hollywood was expecting this to flop, to be honest...

Speaking of Beastmaster has reminded me of Beastwizard, the imaginary Beastmaster clone that cropped up in the lore of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. I ended up really, really, wanting to see Beastwizard 7.

Clip 1

Clip 2
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:12 PM on August 24, 2011


I go to see Arnold films because I like him; I have yet to meet anybody who sees films specifically for Marc Singer.

I've been not going to Arnold-related films for years, because they all suck. That is, anything featuring Arnold where he's not a robot sucks. How do I know that they suck if I haven't seen them? Because I've seen the trailers and they suck. I think it must have something to do with me just not thinking he can act. Not even slightly. I mean, even in the robot movies he's got an Austrian accent. The man's a stain (artistically speaking) on pretty much everything he touches.

And yeah, I saw the original Conan in 82, the day it opened, with high hopes because I was a sword + sorcery fan, but nah, it didn't deliver. The critics were (still are) right. The French in particular:

nicknamed the film "Connard le Barbant" (Asshole The Boring), an obvious spoonerism caused by the rather ponderous nature of the movie.

Yup, that's about how I felt about it.
posted by philip-random at 4:16 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did a single digital shot for Hudson Hawk

Wait, are you the guy who was digitally airbrushing out all of Willis' bald spot shots? Because I remember hearing about that being done, and it adding $X to the production costs, but he was being a prima-donna about it all, etc.
posted by hippybear at 4:22 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reason Arnold was the best Conan is because Conan has always, to my mind, been very a much a "NYYYAAAAHHHH!" character, and not a "RROOOOOHHHHH!" character.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:25 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have an irrational fondness for the original Conan because I saw it on my first date ever, with the only boy I ever dated. (He knew I liked girls, and figured that one way or another, some bit of oiled flesh would work for me. Practical fellow, that.)
posted by restless_nomad at 4:41 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't stand Beastmaster, because they took the title of an Andre Norton science fiction book I liked, and attached it to a generic sword-and-sandals movie. It was a major media disappointment of my teen years, like if someone took the title "The Martian Chronicles" and used it for "Ghosts of Mars". The director even had the nerve to say the book was boring, the illiterate bastard.
posted by happyroach at 4:44 PM on August 24, 2011


Mmmm, oiled flesh...
posted by stinkycheese at 4:44 PM on August 24, 2011


Beastmaster rules, if only by virtue of the fact that the hero is bovine-born. That and Rip Torn.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I preferred Conan the Destroyer over Conan the Barbarian. Wilt Chamberlain was formidable, almost as much as Grace Jones; Mako kicked ass; and Andre the Giant played a straight up Lovecraftian monstrosity.

And the real stars of Beastmaster were those ferrets and the hawk, not Marc Singer. I longed for a pet ferret as a kid because of that movie.

Are there any cute furry animals in this new Conan film? Any professional sports icons?
posted by jabberjaw at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It was a major media disappointment of my teen years, like if someone took the title "The Martian Chronicles" and used it for "Ghosts of Mars".

Well, Ghosts of Mars is sort of a Grindhouse remake of Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed....

Please stop hitting me.

That is, anything featuring Arnold where he's not a robot sucks.

angle bracket Phoenix Wright close angle bracket

OBJECTION

angle bracket slash Phoenix Wright close angle bracket.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines also sucks.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:48 PM on August 24, 2011


Yes, but that wasn't Arnold's fault. He was still a badass Terminator.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:49 PM on August 24, 2011


SUSTAINED!
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:50 PM on August 24, 2011


So, this writer has used the example of an endeavor that relatively few people have undertaken (working on a political campaign) to illuminate the experience of an endeavor that relatively few people have undertaken (working on a feature film)? And his film failed, you say?
posted by Pecinpah at 5:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


French critics nicknamed the film "Connard le Barbant" (Asshole The Boring), an obvious spoonerism caused by the rather ponderous nature of the movie.

Why would the French have a problem with an Austrian?

I loved the conan movies and will probably see this one, just for the sake of tradition. I'll probably like it too, if only for the sake of my fondness for campy movies
posted by Redhush at 5:10 PM on August 24, 2011


Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines also sucks.

I think this depends on how seriously you take Terminator movies. I loved 1 and 2, but always thought they were kind of silly. I thought it was a genuinely entertaining action movie, and the fire truck/crane chase was awesome.
posted by Hoopo at 5:30 PM on August 24, 2011


Well, who would you cast?

I'd try to cast Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, but then somebody would tell me we couldn't afford him.
posted by box at 5:48 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed the story about his dad the trumpet player. That was a great little bit of writing.
posted by Aquaman at 5:49 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I recently bought a boxed set of the Dirty Harry movies. Anyone who is a fan of overblown, arrogant, cheerfully dim characters uncontaminated by any self-knowledge -- essentially the role that Fred Willard plays in every Christopher Guest movie -- really will enjoy Milius' commentary on Magnum Force.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:50 PM on August 24, 2011




I watched Jason Momoa in Stargate Atlantis and Game of Thrones - there was no mistake made in casting him. The problem in the Milius film, and I suspect in this one, is the disregard for the source material. I cut my teeth on the old Frazetta covered Conan books and the Ahnold picture was a complete disappointment. They messed with the character's origin and then totally ignored any the better plots in the books for something truly outlandish. And you have to be pretty fucking outlandish to top pulp fiction. But Milius managed to do it.

Several years ago my wife had me move all old pulp books from one bookshelf to another. I had not read most of these since I was a teen. I decided to read the opening paragraph/page from each author as a test to see if they held up. I was very disappointed: Doc Savage, John Carter of Mars,Tarzan, etc. all sucked. Just some gawdawful writing. Then I picked up one of the Conan books and started reading "Beyond the Black River". Next thing I knew a half hour was past and my wife was wondering why I was reading instead of working. Howard had issues: racism, a fear of women, but DAMN, when he put the accelerator to the floor he fucking stood on it and it was all you could do to hang on and turn the pages. I want to see a movie that uses that Conan but I fear it will never happen in my lifetime.
posted by Ber at 6:21 PM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


M. Night Shyamalan says eat it monkeyboy!
posted by storybored at 6:31 PM on August 24, 2011


If this was a Lovecraft film it would be impossible to watch

I thought you meant this literally: Call of Cthulhu in 17D... these glasses will make your brain bleed.

Also, I don't think you can remake Conan without swimming pools filled with liquid cocaine... to approximate the feeling of the original production. Did they have swimming pools of cocaine? No... QED.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:35 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


if someone took the title "The Martian Chronicles" and used it for "Ghosts of Mars".

Oh yeah? Do you want to have a discussion about "I am Legend"?
posted by P.o.B. at 6:42 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


You make a remake of a semi-cult classic that stared a hugely popular action-movie star and produce/direct/write/act it with unknowns!!! How do you expect this to work? This was doomed from the start. The fact it's being released in august should be proof enough for everybody.

For some reason I can't fathom I really like the 1st one (only the 1st one, I find Destroyer unwatchable). There's something to it, the origin story, the weird cult of the ex-barbarians, the corny dialogue the blend of stealth/fight, the awesome music, and you have Schwarzenegger and James Earl Jones... this one has what?

But then again, I haven't read the books so I can understand people who don't like it because it doesn't fit what they expect from it.
posted by coust at 6:59 PM on August 24, 2011


I'd try to cast Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, but then somebody would tell me we couldn't afford him.

To be honest, I've always seen The Scorpion King as essentially a Conan story with the serial numbers filed off.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:03 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wans't Millius going to do a trilogy, but the second one flopped on him? I think it was supposed to follow the fortune told to him. In the first he was the thief, the second was the warrior, and the last one was supposed to be the king.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:11 PM on August 24, 2011


I watched Jason Momoa in Stargate Atlantis and Game of Thrones - there was no mistake made in casting him. They guy was a fucking lion in GoT. Somehow he just seems too small in my mind for Conan though...

I preferred Conan the Destroyer over Conan the Barbarian. I always assumed the Destroyer was written by some people transcribing a DND gaming session, it plays out like one. I still don't really understand why Conan threw his sword in the mirror covering the wizard and not the one covering his friends. The first movie is really quite slow, with some long sequences that tend to put me to sleep.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:31 PM on August 24, 2011


absalom writes "Didn't keep Red Dawn from being fucking awful. And being fucking awful didn't keep Red Dawn from getting rebooted."

Wait, What?

.
.
.

Holy crap it's true. No way that movie is going to even touch the first; there just isn't the floating fear of nuclear death and invasion floating around like there was in the 80s.

And North Korea as the bad guy?!? That's not even quasi-realistic. This is one of the failings of Hollywood recently, there isn't a globably acceptable bad guy which you can feature for fear of offending someone. We're left with aliens and terrorists.
posted by Mitheral at 7:43 PM on August 24, 2011


But it's really not Conan. These Conan movies take elements at random from Howard's stories and mix them up into a general Howard themed movie, but they do it with complete disregard for the stories themselves. Really, how can someone read Red Nails and think this wouldn't work as a movie?
posted by JHarris


Are you my Dad? I swear at least 12 times he's gone a rant about Red Nails and how awesome it would be for a movie. Sometimes the conversation was Conan based in some way, other times he seemed to pull this idea from thin air.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:00 PM on August 24, 2011


But it's really not Conan.

The original movie is the only Conan I know and it is awesome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:03 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Conan the Barbarian: The Musical
posted by Sys Rq at 8:20 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


And North Korea as the bad guy?!?

Not only that, the bad guy was changed from China in post production because distributors objected!
posted by telstar at 9:07 PM on August 24, 2011


They screwed up from the beginning. Conan didn't need to be remade. And if you are going to remake it, you need to do so with an actor in the role who will clearly take it, with force, from Schwarzenegger.

I saw the trailer in the theater, and my first reaction was WTF? My second thought was, this guy better be really damn good as Conan.

Schwarzenegger was perfect as Conan - the teutonic muscle bound warrior. You'd have to be better than perfect to pull it off. I can't think of an actor alive today who could do it.
posted by Xoebe at 9:09 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Conan the Barbarian: The Musical

Yeah, I'd buy Arnold in musicals, a sort of latter day Mario Lanza, with violence (and the Austrian accent, of course).
posted by philip-random at 9:19 PM on August 24, 2011


Making Video Games is just. like. this. And to the note about 'caring more about the sales than the art' - yes, you do care about the art, but it still stings if the money doesn't follow. To the 'cult hit' comment - it comes so long after release that the satisfaction is like a tepid bath compared to a scalding shower. Somewhat satisfying, but not nearly as immediate and breathtaking.
posted by jopreacher at 9:47 PM on August 24, 2011


The movie I'd like to see is an old Arnold as Conan the King.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:29 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"There was never, ever a compelling reason to make this film and I don't understand why people in Hollywood don't realise things like that."

And why a revenge flick? Is it some ratings thing? They have to kill his parents and village before he punches out someone?
Conan was a very interesting character. The barbarian hero seems trite now, but the way Howard did it ...

"Howard had issues: racism, a fear of women, but DAMN, when he put the accelerator to the floor he fucking stood on it"

Yeah it was always the imitators that wore through the sword and sorcery stereotype. Howard (and yeah, despite his problems) could actually write.
Plus? Looked like Al Capone.

"Kinda dumb, but cunning. Scarcely capable of verbal conversation, but with an expressive face."

There's your problem right there. Most people don't look past the pulp cover or the "muscles = dumb" stereotype. Conan was fluent in six to eight languages. Howard even mentions him losing certain dialects in the later stories because he hasn't used them.
He was a thief early on. He got into fits of brooding, but had a wry sense of humor. Really, he's closer to Indiana Jones than the Franzetta illustrations. A sword-instead-of-whip wielding, foot taller, Indiana Jones, who routinely stomps on Chthulu mythos creatures, but still, more adventurer and pragmatic thief who happens to become a hero through determination.

I agree with JHarris and haveanicesummer's dad about Red Nails. And you could do a "Conan the King" story pretty easily with an old Ahnold and The Phoenix on the Sword. Conan liberates country. Conan rules country. Racists attempt to oust Conan. Conan fights giant ape.
Writes itself.

But he's mostly if not all public domain by now. And Howard wrote a ton of stories. How is it possible to screw this up?
It seems like the "digital marketing" and "distribution strategy" to "modernize" the "campaigns" and focusing on turning the "short term strike outs" into "doubles" get in the way of crafting something. I know nothing about the film industry, but it's easy to discern from the comments on the site, watching film, and particularly watching trailers.

I mean, what, I'm wrong the movie sucked from just watching the trailer? How is it you know? We're psychic? It's just that friggin' obvious.
You'd have to not trust the material to screw it up, and to not trust the material you have to think you know better than the series which hasn't been out of print for almost 80 years.

"And if you are going to remake it, you need to do so with an actor in the role who will clearly take it, with force"

I'd go with Andrew Bryniarski.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:15 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Regarding Conan/Cthulhu: As I understand it, the Conan stories are explicitly set in the same universe as the King Kull stories, and there is at least one Kull story that makes plain that this is also the same universe Cthulhu resides in. But, you wouldn't call the Conan stories part of the Cthulhu Mythos, because despite being the same universe, the philosophy and tone are wrong. Conan always wins, and nobody wins in the Mythos.
posted by rifflesby at 12:38 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really, he's closer to Indiana Jones than the Franzetta illustrations. A sword-instead-of-whip wielding, foot taller, Indiana Jones, who routinely stomps on Chthulu mythos creatures, but still, more adventurer and pragmatic thief who happens to become a hero through determination.

Yeah, the revenge plot always sat a little oddly with me, too, even with the first Conan film (which seems to take some of the fascist undertones to the stories about the superiority of the barbarian and foreground them in an oddly po-faced and serious way). Conan doesn't seek revenge: he's an ambitious nobody, seeking the good life (money, drink, women) but his instincts keep leading him to do the right thing (usually involving protecting women and walloping monsters). He's an emotionally intense man - Howard sometimes describes him in a way that sounds practically bipolar, and was based, I think, on Howard's own emotional instability. And he's heartily cynical and not-at-all idealistic, which really cuts against the tendency of Hollywood to turn him into a righteous avenger.

For me, the best actor to play Conan as Howard wrote him is probably Toshiro Mifune. Sadly, of course, he's dead. But as a young man he had that combination of furious emotional intensity, quickness of intelligence and physical dynamism that Conan is supposed to exemplify.

Are you my Dad? I swear at least 12 times he's gone a rant about Red Nails and how awesome it would be for a movie.

"Red Nails" is a great story, but the funny thing is, it sort of already has been adapted. It's very, very close to Dashiell Hammett's "Red Harvest"*, which is one of the most adapted stories in cinema (As A Fistful of Dollars, Last Man Standing and, most successfully IMHO, Yojimbo).

*NB: I know that there are lots of bits of "Red Nails" that aren't in "Red Harvest" or its adaptations, including a gigantic dragon. But the basic structure - hard-as-nails outsider comes into a situation where two tribes are at war and plays them off against each other; in the third act, one side gets its hands on a superior weapon (the wand in "Red Nails", the gun in Yojimbo) has always seemed quite similar to me.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:01 AM on August 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


What separates a Schwartzeneggar from a Marc Singer, who both played sword-wielding barbarians at about the same time in films that are about as entertaining as each other?

John Milius does.


Really? I thought that Basil Poledouris did. There's so little dialog in Conan, it might as well have been a music video.
posted by Jpfed at 3:14 AM on August 25, 2011


While I don't think it's as suitable to being filmed for current audiences as Red Nails (it's too short for one, and Conan is less a hero than the agency which sets the supernatural force at work in resolving the plot), I think I'd prefer to see Tower Of The Elephant on a movie screen.
posted by JHarris at 4:53 AM on August 25, 2011


> The movie I'd like to see is an old Arnold as Conan the King.

Seconded with force and violence. The Conan you see sitting motionless on the throne at the end of the first movie behind the rolling credits. Still has the muscles and the long hair but it's going grey. The crown looks heavy and getting heavier by the minute. His expression is smoldering anger but also weariness. "I kicked every butt in the Hyborean Age and things still don't work right." With his years as Governator behind him today's Arnold could probably bring a perspective to the part that wouldn't have been within the young Arnold's range.

But who is there now to write a screenplay good enough? Milius? He wrote Apocalypse Now but also Red Dawn. Which Milius would we get?
posted by jfuller at 7:20 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apollo 18 though? I'm so there.

Not sure if porn parody
posted by Sutekh at 7:37 AM on August 25, 2011


Apollo 18 is documentary style horror, probably cheesy, but OOOO spaceships!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:45 AM on August 25, 2011


I recently bought a boxed set of the Dirty Harry movies. Anyone who is a fan of overblown, arrogant, cheerfully dim characters uncontaminated by any self-knowledge -- essentially the role that Fred Willard plays in every Christopher Guest movie -- really will enjoy Milius' commentary on Magnum Force.
I despise John Milius, mainly because he is a genius.

One day Jon Ronson will be given access to his personal archive and there will be boxes and boxes of meticulously catalogued, rare and unique soft-core pornography.
posted by fullerine at 7:47 AM on August 25, 2011


Not sure if porn parody

Not porn parody. Porn parody would be Apollo 18 Inches.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:55 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


[Toshiro Mifune.] as a young man he had that combination of furious emotional intensity, quickness of intelligence and physical dynamism that Conan is supposed to exemplify.

So instead we get Arnold, who's basically smug, with lots of muscles. I haven't read much Conan other than the odd comic. It was something my little brother was into. But reading some of the stuff in this thread, it sounds like I missed something. But it also raises the question: how could anyone who loved the original stories stomach the movies? It just seems like such a series of willfully wrong moves.

And sing the praises of John Milius all you want, you'll not convince me of any particular greatness. I think he's a guy who stood by his guns (literally) in a sort of admirable way, but we only really remember him because he was the only living conservative under the age of fifty in the Hollywood of the 1970s. How could he not stand out? Yeah, he got screenwriting credit on Apocalypse Now but most of his script got tossed by Francis Coppola during shooting as he steered the narrative more and more in the direction of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. And much of the dialogue was improvised and/or written on the spot.

One movie I really did like (at the time) was The Wind and the Lion but on recent review, I was surprised how stilted it all felt, although it does boast one of Sean Connery's finest performances.
posted by philip-random at 9:07 AM on August 25, 2011


This has been a topic that I've certainly wondered about numerous times being hugely interested in films. Wanting and anticipating movies to be great that have totally flopped.

With that said, this article transcends films for me and relates to anyone who's personally invested themselves into a cause. This isn't a first world problem, it's an honest and very human response to something I've personally dealt with, and I think it's fascinating to see someone so openly address it.

If we were more transparent about these sorts of topics as a culture I think we could genuinely learn something about each other.
posted by straight_razor at 11:43 AM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I despise John Milius, mainly because he is a genius.

Me too. I disagree rationally with what he says and does. But damn, he's fighting on another level and he's good at it.

And Thulsa Doom? He makes a few good points. He points out to Conan, that his actions of killing Conan's family have created the desire for revenge that has made Conan into who he is today.

In a sense, Milius is pointing out the fruitlessness of revenge, while pointing out that good things come from it, such as the defeat of an evil snake-demigod.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:11 PM on August 25, 2011


In a sense, Milius is pointing out the fruitlessness of revenge, while pointing out that good things come from it, such as the defeat of an evil snake-demigod.

That and the child's desire to break free of their parent's shadow in order to create their own identity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:22 PM on August 25, 2011


Ironmouth: What is weird though is movie Conan has a different motivation than Howard's Conan, who was usually motivated more for money and women than revenge when taking down sorcerers and Picts and Stygians whatever crap fate was throwing at him.
posted by JHarris at 2:39 PM on August 25, 2011


"But, you wouldn't call the Conan stories part of the Cthulhu Mythos, because despite being the same universe, the philosophy and tone are wrong. Conan always wins, and nobody wins in the Mythos"

The mythos as a whole (August Derleth, all that) or Lovecraft? Lovecraft, yeah, I agree. But the mythos as a whole, sometimes people escape, fight back, etc.
In Conan's case I think the commentary (at least among that group of Arkham House writers*) was:
Civilized man - "Ahhh! I can't deal with this mind numbing horror that shatters all of my expectations of reality!" *gibbers*
vs.
Barbarian "Ahhh!" *stab stab stab* "Die! Die! Die!" *burns entire area* Weeks later - "WTF was that thing? Is it possible that our reality is only a shadow of some greater malevolent ....ah, whatever. More wine!"
Although that philosophy too runs into it's own problems (see below)

*I can't read "Arkham House" without thinking of Animal House and hearing "Louie Louie" set to weirdo Theramin music sung by gurgling octopi

"Toshiro Mifune"

That would've been beautiful.

And Thulsa Doom? He makes a few good points. He points out to Conan, that his actions of killing Conan's family have created the desire for revenge that has made Conan into who he is today.

I always thought that was the answer to the riddle of steel. Thulsa Doom tells him that the command of flesh is stronger because he can command people to destroy themselves.
Then later tells him - or implies - the spirit which drives the desire to that destruction is yet stronger, and as the source of that desire, hey, Thulsa Doom is like your dad.

Conan remembers from his dad that there's nothing in the world you can trust (not men, women, beasts) but the steel itself.
So you can trust what you can do, what you can make, not what you can destroy with it.

Desire, strength, all that, is just a man pretending to be a god ("those of us who found it (steel) were just men") just like Thulsa Doom. So Conan, if he followed Thulsa Doom or even killed him thinking to take his place, would be joining the delusion that he's a god.
And when Conan kills him the cult of Thulsa Doom's empire (it's implied) falls.

The whole "this too shall pass" is a big theme in Howard's books. And why Conan has such a problem wearing a crown. He's king, but so what if all things pass and the universe is meaningless?
And it's hard for him to be king because that's really not what he is. And it's certainly not what he enjoys. He's just explored all other roles and he winds up sort of trapped there because there's really nowhere else to go.
He's run through the apex of what his world has to offer in gold, women, other pleasures, and indeed, he's killed aliens, demons, gods, etc.
Existence has nothing more to offer him so he winds up leaving the throne and heading off the map.

I think Frank Herbert does this in the Dune series as well. Some writers, their answer seems to be the characters have to lose themselves in infinity (multiplicity) rather than succumb to nothingness.
Which seems to be Lovecraft's response, at least for many of his characters. But his characters seem to be mostly everymen rather than heros (in the Campbell sense of the word). Lovecraft was more interested in his environment exposition than character exposition. Not a criticism.
Either sort of tale lives or dies on it's own merits. I'm a Conan fan, but I don't gush over a story just because it says "Conan" on it.

Actually Lord Dunsany seemed to be able to transcend both those directions (and wrote IMHO the finest work on crafting a magical sword I've ever read) and make both the characters and their environment transcendent even though sometimes the characters die/fail/etc.

One of my favorite crossovers from Marvel was Captain America vs. Conan. Conan basically wins. It's interesting because Captain America is a hero representative of his environment (Gilgamesh in Red, White and Blue), but Conan is just Conan. And it was nice they gave him the win because that's one of the essential themes in the Conan books.
Conan needs to be the absolute pinnacle of human invulnerability to get into that deconstruction of what an environment (civilization) means to people.
If Conan loses it's a win for whatever cultural values, blah blah, all the things we use to forget what's off the map, in the dark recesses of humanity.
But if he wins, and keeps winning, and completely overcomes civilization - well, now what? What does the world, and having it, really mean? Even if, or especially if, you triumph over nothingness.

Sort of the flip side of the coin there of the Chthulu Mythos, but definitely the same theme. What if there aren't titanic incomprehensible and unassailable forces that don't care about us, what if you overcome every obstacle in human life and...there's nothing (which, by definition, couldn't care less)?

Gilgamesh beats Enkidu, they become friends, Enkidu dies and Gilgamesh seeks immortality and there's this whole navel gazing thing on how to live as a civilized man. Understanding of death. The gods. All that. Not very Chthulu themed at all. There's a conclusion. And it creates boundaries.

Enkidu beats Gilgamesh, different story. You have the natural world and civilization conquered, so you have to go explore new territory off the map. No matter what dangers lay there (dreaming), transcending (or even transgressing) those boundaries is better than doing nothing or even making new boundaries (as a king).
posted by Smedleyman at 3:44 PM on August 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


I read the three Karl Wagner edited Conan books several years ago and to this day, I still have the impression of Conan as a symbol of freedom. It seemed that where-ever and whatever Conan was up to he was fighting a squeeze of some kind. Conan had a personal space somewhat bigger than Aquilonia and didn't tolerate anyone, mortal, supernatural, or physical law telling him what to do. The essential struggle of Conan is one of absolute ideal of freedom. Conan of the stories cannot be contained or commanded. Conan needs no reason or justification for being, Conan is either free or becoming free; freedom it is all his power and everything Conan does comes from or serves that power.

When I got around to watching the movie again, at first, I couldn't watch past the beginning, because the Conan of the movie is defined by an enduring slavery: first represented as a youth, helpless against the murder of his family and community; then enslaved until manhood, a time represented ultimately of a single man pushing a wheel around and around (nearly as clever a temporal and symbolic transition as the one in _2001_, in my opinion). When that ends he becomes a gladiator, still a slave, in service of violent entertainments. Slavery teaches the movie Conan everything he knows. Even when movie Conan wins his freedom, he stumbles around trying to find a purpose, a task, a job, something, anything to make him be. He finds revenge.
posted by wobh at 7:45 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


After a lifetime of slavery revenge is a good start.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 PM on August 25, 2011


This thread, especially Ber and Smedleyman's comments, has made me eager to seek out a collection of Howard's Conan stories. They sound magnificent. Thank you!

(Unfortunately the only reasonably-priced volume I was able to source at lunch was a movie tie-in. If I bought it, I would be one of "those guys". I'll have to save for that big complete collection.)
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:20 PM on August 25, 2011


And it's hard for him to be king because that's really not what he is. And it's certainly not what he enjoys. He's just explored all other roles and he winds up sort of trapped there because there's really nowhere else to go.He's run through the apex of what his world has to offer in gold, women, other pleasures, and indeed, he's killed aliens, demons, gods, etc. Existence has nothing more to offer him

He sounds like King Solomon ready to sit down and write Ecclesiastes.
posted by straight at 9:12 PM on August 25, 2011


Well, the last shot you got of him is in Rodin's Thinker pose, which is also the shot we get after he kill Thulsa. You really don't get the exalted Conan, even after he's accomplished something huge. Instead he sits around brooding and thinking "Now wtf am I supposed to do?"
posted by P.o.B. at 11:29 PM on August 25, 2011


There is an absolutely hilarious story called "The Challenge from Beyond" which was a sort of exquisite corpse story written, in turn, by C.L. Moore, Abraham Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long.

The bit where the story transitions from Lovecraft to Howard is wonderful.

A man whose brain has been somehow transferred into the body of centipede creature faints in horror at the climax of the Lovecraft section, as he realizes his horrifying fate!

"Yet -- horribly verifying his disordered and unfamiliar sensations -- it was not his own body at all that he saw reflected in the burnished metal. It was, instead, the loathsome, pale-grey bulk of one of the great centipedes."

Then Robert E. Howard takes over and straight away we get this:

"From that final lap of senselessness, he emerged with a full understanding of his situation. His mind was Imprisoned in the body of a frightful native of an alien planet, while, somewhere on the other side of the universe, his own body was housing the monster's personality.

He fought down an unreasoning horror. Judged from a cosmic standpoint, why should his metamorphosis horrify him? Life and consciousness were the only realities in the universe. Form was unimportant. His present body was hideous only according to terrestrial standards. Fear and revulsion were drowned in the excitement of titanic adventure.

What was his former body but a cloak, eventually to be cast off at death anyway? He had no sentimental illusions about the life from which he had been exiled. What had it ever given him save toil, poverty, continual frustration and repression? If this life before him offered no more, at least it offered no less. Intuition told him it offered more -- much more.

With the honesty possible only when life is stripped to its naked fundamentals, he realized that he remembered with pleasure only the physical delights of his former life. But he had long ago exhausted all the physical possibilities contained in that earthly body. Earth held no new thrills. But in the possession of this new, alien body he felt promises of strange, exotic joys.

A lawless exultation rose in him. He was a man without a world, tree of all conventions or inhibitions of Earth, or of this strange planet, free of every artificial restraint in the universe. He was a god! With grim amusement he thought of his body moving in earth's business and society, with all the while an alien monster staring out of the windows that were George Campbell's eyes on people who would flee !f they knew.

Let him walk the earth slaying and destroying as he would. Earth and its races no longer had any meaning to George Campbell..."


Marvelous. Bonkers, grandiose and bloody marvelous.
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:54 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


lucien reeve, what Howard wrote there sounds, to me, exactly what one of Lovecraft's villainous madmen would conclude before devoting his life to serving Yog-Sothoth. The passage works in both Lovecraft and Howard's worldviews, but the implications are entirely different.
posted by JHarris at 4:25 AM on August 26, 2011


There's just something strange to me knowing that Conan is married to Lisa Bonet. The disconnect it creates in my brain makes me unable to see the movie.

Also, 3d only? No thank you. I'll wait for the non-3d version.
posted by antifuse at 12:15 PM on August 29, 2011


Hi, JHarris.

I'm not so sure I agree, because I think that Lovecraft is surprisingly - pleasingly - short on villainous madmen. There's Charles Dexter Ward in "The Case of..." and possibly Ward's associates; but otherwise most of Lovecraft's baddies are members of degenerate groups, not aspiring Faustian conquerors (I'm thinking about the major stories here - there are some creepy wizards in the early stuff, and Herbert West, of course). Generally, in Lovecraft, human ambition is dwarfed by the scale of the universe and the slow processes of history. He seems to have believed in a rise-and-fall-of-Empires view, in which even star things from another world have their periods of expansion and of decadence.

I think the crucial difference is that while both of them are grappling with the idea of a fundamentally meaningless and amoral universe, Robert E. Howard affects to exult in it, while Lovecraft affects despair. What either man sincerely believed is probably more complicated than that - it's important to remember that when dread Cthulhu does finally rise from the deep, he doesn't get very far - an ordinary sailor rams a boat into his head (a surprisingly Howardian ending to what was previously Lovecraft's paradigmatic story).

It's always hard to substantiate these things, but I think the two writers were obsessed with - and frightened of - different feelings. Lovecraft was interested in disgust and contamination; sexually, I think he was actually quite fascinated with the bodies of his monsters and was capable of treating them with immense compassion. He is, if anything, much more sensitive to the monsters than to the humans in his stories at times - some of his alien races are almost "hyper-white". His imagination seems to be ruled by water - glossy, rubbery, aqueous are his adjectives, things lurking in the deep or fashioned out of deep-sea life.

Robert E. Howard, on the other hand, seems much more interested in life and death. When his madmen go insane, they slit their own throats. Sex is sadistic whipping or Romance novel clinches in which the man presses his lips down hard on the woman's. The monsters are broadly described, generally look fairly similar (shadowy, toad-like) and don't really have personalities. The "hyper-white" sorcerers are like barbarians gone bad - overthrowing civilisation to produce something worse. For me, Howard's imagination seems to be ruled by fire - his devils are shadows, his heroes are blazing with passion, events tend to happen in the tropics where clothes can be shed in the heat.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:50 AM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can be a Faustian madman and a degenerate, just ask Dr. Armitage about that fiend Wizard Whateley.
posted by JHarris at 1:09 PM on September 4, 2011


True. And it's a very old - rather Christian - trope that he who aspires upwards winds up travelling downwards. Still, I think Whateley more suits the Lovecraftian template of "sinister hick" than he does "hyper-civilized aspirer to forbidden knowledge".

I think Lovecraft is almost in-spite-of-himself rather sympathetic to people who aspire to forbidden knowledge (remember that Pickman of "Pickman's Model" turns up as a sympathetic and helpful secondary character in "The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath") - as long as they are the right kind of people. A sort of snobbery among sorcerers, maybe.

(In the land of Dunwich, the Cabbotts talk only to Lowells and the Lowells talk only to Yog'Sothoth.)
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:22 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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