A long long time ago, probably before any of you were even born, young Conan
(Jorge Sanz) witnesses his entire tribe being wiped out by the Snake Cult of
Seth, his parents (William Smith, Nadiuska) are even killed before his very
eyes, only his own life is spared, but he is sold into slavery ...
later: Conan has spent the entire time working the grinding mill, & he has
put on quite some muscles which make him look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (&
wouldn't you know it, he's even played by Arnold Schwarzenegger). Realizing
this, his master decides to turn Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) into a
gladiator, & soon he is the most successful, strongest & most brutal
Eventually the gladiator is set free, & now he seems to
have but one mission: to destroy the snake cult of Seth, kill its leader Thulsa
Doom (James Earl Jones) & thus avenge his parents & tribe.
finds 2 loyal sidekicks in archer & thief Subotai (Gerry Lopez) &
lovely Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), & in the next bigger city the trio
decides to break into the local tower of the snake cult, where they prevent a
human sacrifice, kill a giant snake, steal the cult's diamonds & bring the
Everything seems to be fine & dandy, now that our trio has
become immensely rich (from selling the diamonds), & Valeria & Conan
even become a proper couple ... wouldn't King Osric (Max von Sydow) have found
out tht it was them who robbed the tower, & he has them arrested ...
fortunately, King Osric is a benevolent ruler who has a score of his own to
settle with Thulsa Doom, since Doom has kidnapped his own daughter (Valerie
Quinnessen), & he decides to hire the threesome to free his girl for him
... but of the three, only Conan is willing to take the risk, & soon he
splits up with the others, finds a new sidekick in a lonely wizard (Mako),
& finds Doom's temple, which he enters in a robe he has stolen from a
priest (genre fave Jack Taylor).
Of course he is soon found out, tortured
& crucified to a tree in the middle of the desert ... which is where
Valeria & Subotai find him, more dead than alive, & the wizard's magic
brings him back to full force. With his friends by his side, Conan enters
Doom's temple through a system of caves that serve as a rear entry, & they
fight valiantly against overpowering odds, even defeating Doom's troops,
freeing the princess, & once again br5inging the house down. Only Valeria
has to give her life as a thank-you for her efforts, hit by one of Doom's
snakes which he shoots like arrows.
Doom of course is not one to accept
defeat easily, & soon he has found our heroes' hide-out - a Stonehenge-like
formation of obelisks - & has his warriors attack it.
But our heroes have
not been idle since they freed the princess, & have built a series of traps
in their maze-like camp to even the odds (much like in A
Touch of Zen, but without that movie's panache), & in the end, of
Doom's vast army, he is the last man standing, & he cowardly retreats ...
but now Conan is really geared up, & when Doom has another of his little
bloody rituals, he once again sneaks into the temple, beheads Doom before the
very eyes of his followers, burns the temple to the grounds & puts an end
to the Snake Cult of Seth once & for all.
screenwriters John Milius & the largely overrated Oliver Stone wanted to
turn their source material (the Conan-novels by Robert E.Howard from the
30's) into some kind of nihilistic philosophical statement (& some
Friedrich Nietzsche-quotes deliberately thrown into the mix are supposed to
fortify that). The attempt - as anyone with half a brain could imagine - was of
course futile, after all Howard's novels were nothing more than pulp-stories
about a musclebound hero, whose hobbies are killing, maiming & destroying.
That Milius is not a creative enough director to aesthetically lift the
finished product above common sword-&-sandal movies doesn't help much
either, as the film looks like little more than an over-budgeted peplum (which
the employment of fantasy painter Ron Cobb further fortifies, as he is an
accomplished artist - but only within genre boundaries).
But exactly because
of all these shortcomings the film is not a total loss, it has the certain
naive charm of failure that makes it somehow endearing & also
unintentionally funny. So, for all the wrong reasons, this is an enjoyable film
... at the same time though it is a tad too long to stay wholly entertaining.