Skip’s Quips: Having Another Go at ‘Conan the Barbarian’

Blog Sketch 082813Why, I asked myself last night, am I watching the original 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian again?

Isn’t once enough for this film? It doesn’t have great cinematography. Much of the acting – except for stalwarts such as James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow – is atrocious. And the special effects are pretty poor by today’s or even yesteryear’s standards.

Oh, yeah: And the blood squibs are gloppy. Really gloppy.

Well, parts of it are watchable, for some reason. I’ve read one of the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories, “The People of the Black Circle,” and the film stays true to the tale’s sensibilities. You know: blood, gore, lust and all that. Plus, there’s the much-lauded score by Basil Poledouris, which is somewhat bombastic but definitely works.

Then there’s the script, courtesy of director John Milius and Oliver Stone. Pretty simple stuff, but at least it’s not verbose and pretentious. I was grateful for that.

There were also a number of seemingly derivative moments that may have been “inspired” by classic films such as Kwaidan (the scene in which the wizard writes runes on Conan’s body to protect him from demons) and The Seven Samurai (the stake-adorned defense against Thulsa Doom’s cohorts). Surprisingly erudite stuff for a film such as this. I did see part of an interview a long time ago in which Milius lauded Kwaidan as being “dreamlike,” so perhaps he was mining that movie for Conan. Nevertheless, it made for strong viewing.

So all in all: kind of a sloppy film, with dull moments and some very good ones. I may end up watching it again in the future and asking myself, once more, why I’m doing so. Hopefully, I’ll be able to answer myself the same way.

Skip’s Quips: To Squirm or Not to Squirm

Blog Sketch 082813Bad movies make me writhe. Stuck in my seat, knowing I paid mucho moola to watch them, I only have one recourse as the flicks meander on.

Fidget. Courageously.

It’s what I did while watching Oliver Stone’s dreadful Nixon, a dull, overstuffed journey into the life of Tricky Dick. The darkness of the theater, the film’s length and the fact that walking out would mean deserting my friends all prevented me from running the heck outta there.

So I writhed. Shifted in my seat. Tapped my fingers.

As Father Merrin from The Exorcist might cry: “The tedium of the movie compelled me!”

What else can we do in the face of such cinematic horrors? It’s even worse when you’re at a screening, where one must maintain a kind of politesse. Your power to criticize vocally is taken away from you. You’re even removed from any light—so there goes your ability to exit without stepping in someone’s popcorn.

The movie is your master. And you can’t do anything about it.

That’s why, these days, I prefer watching flicks on TV. You can always change the channel if, say, Nixon graces your screen. You can always go to the kitchen to get a snack or spend an inordinate time in the bathroom if the film takes too long.

The power of TV compels me … to embrace it. As well as remember that we still have the capacity, as consumers, to avoid the worst movies.

More power to us.