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Tag Archive: Conan the Barbarian


Drive-in Screen SE 14th ST

I was 11 in the Summer of ’82.  And yet I remember that summer vividly.  Rare has there been a year since that I saw so many awesome movies in the theater.  Many have commented on what was the best year in movies over the years, with the classic answer from critics usually being 1939 because of stellar films like The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Little Princess, Young Mr. Lincoln, and Drums Along the Mohawk.

So what do you think is the best year of movies?  If you whittle it down to the best summer of movies, I’ve got a real contender here.

I remember standing in line at a new theater on my side of town, with my mom and sister, getting a sticker advertising a new brown and orange candy somehow tied to one of the movies.  I saw an unexpectedly powerful sci-fi franchise entry with my brother at the S.E. 14th Street Drive-In Theater (pictured above before they tore it down a decade later) on a really hot day one Friday night.  And he and his RadioShack computer tinkering friends took me to see a new Disney film that had its setting inside a computer at a Saturday matinée.  The preview for one of the movies gave me nightmares.  Two of the movies I wouldn’t truly appreciate for another 20 years.  It all happened during the summer 33 years ago.

ET Reeses sticker from theater giveaway 1982

Check out this summer movie sneak preview from the YouTube archives and recall where you were during the Summer of ’82:

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Dark Horse Digital Fantasy Sale

Get it while it lasts…

Dark Horse Digital’s online comic book service is now offering steep discounts on select fantasy titles.  Select from Amala’s Blade #0-4, Conan the Barbarian #1-10 (by Star Wars writer Brian Wood), Dragon Age: Those Who Speak #1-3, Dragon Age: Until We Sleep, #1-3, several Finder books, The Last Dragon, and even Issues #1-8 of one of borg.com‘s favorite series, Dynamite Comics’ Grimm series.

Most of the single issues are offered at 99 cents.

Conan Queen of the Black Coast Grimm1

Purchase and download your books here.  While you’re at it, download free copies of Dungeon Siege III and Falling Skies issues here.

The solicitation for the offer doesn’t include a timeframe, so get them now before Dark Horse Digital no longer has the offer available.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

riddick-blu-ray-box-art

Review by C.J. Bunce

Many times when a movie is heavy with CGI and matte paintings, the overall look can suffer.  Not so with Riddick, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on January 14.  In his third live-action performance as Riddick, Vin Diesel finds his character marooned on an unnamed desert planet in its own primitive, almost Jurassic stage.  The first half of the film showcases the night-visioned anti-hero in an almost Conan the Barbarian-like quest for survival in a very Frank Frazetta-inspired fantasy world setting.  It’s a setting that really pops in the new hi-definition Blu-ray format.  We’ve previewed the Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios, including its extra features.

Riddick manages to surpass the epic second franchise entry Chronicles of Riddick with its more basic and tightly-written survival story.  We get a cameo from Karl Urban’s Vaako, including some of those great Necromonger soldiers and futuristic costumes familiar to fans of the series.  But this Riddick has more of the feel of the first entry into this world, Pitch Black, also written and directed by David Twohy.  Because Twohy has maintained control over the universe and its characters, the three films (plus the early animated entry, Dark Fury) all make for a cohesive and well-designed saga.  Twohy discusses his take on the character at length in the special feature “The Twohy Touch.”

Riddick and storm

Along with the stunning Monument Valley on Mars sets is some excellent CGI and motion capture creature work, including vicious mud-demons which take Riddick down a Ridley Scott-esque path toward films end, and some dog-like jackal beasts.  Riddick ends up raising one of these dogs as he finds his way through challenges to grasslands and an abandoned science station, where much of the remaining action takes place.  He sets off an S.O.S. beacon which brings two opposing groups of bounty hunter mercenaries, one to get the bounty for his head in a box, the other a military based group with a more personal agenda.  Their two ships become Riddick’s target for a plan to leave the planet.  His shadow ninja abilities allow him to drop in on these mercs, and create his own form of psychological war.  And his early encounter with the mud-demons plays into the coming rainstorm and his face-off with the mercs.

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Thrud the Barbarian cover

A parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian and other classic fantasy comics, Thrud The Barbarian will bring a welcome laugh to fans of fantasy stories.  As a comic strip first published in the pages of the role-playing game magazine White Dwarf, Thrud’s sound-effect laden panels (FOOM!  THWOP!  WHUMP!) became a staple for regular readers.  The new edition from Titan Comics reprints Issues #1-5 of the limited comic book series, as well as some original single page stories.  Thrud The Barbarian first came from the mind of 18-year-old Carl Critchlow back in 1981, and developed into a solid parody series.

Thrud manages to poke fun at nearly all of the conventions of fantasy stories, but does it in a wink-wink manner like Monty Python.  It’s funny and quirky with in-jokes aplenty.  Thrud is big and mean and dumb.  He’s a barbarian after all.  And he, and his free-swinging axe, are pretty funny.

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Conan the Phenomenon

Review by C.J. Bunce

This month Dark Horse Comics is re-releasing the 2007 guide to the history of Conan the Barbarian, Conan The Phenomenon: The Legacy of Robert E. Howard’s Fantasy Icon.  Not in print the past few years and costly to obtain via online retailers in its original hardcover edition, this new paperback edition includes all of the original edition’s visually dense look at the history of Conan, which will appeal to longtime fans and new fantasy fans curious about this classic sword and sorcery character.

The overview of Conan begins with a prologue by Michael Moorcock that delves into the historical context of Robert W. Howard as creator of Conan the Barbarian in his very short time as a writer (he died at 30).  Moorcock explores why the character was an outgrowth of the times of the early 20th century.  The book then takes a unique look at the influence of living in bleak rural Texas on the young writer and how it came through in Howard’s creation of Conan’s world.

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Red Sonja by Doran

This Wednesday Dynamite Comics will take on a reboot of the fierce and beautiful she-devil with a sword, Red Sonja.  We’ve previewed Issue #1 and were happy with the result–full of swordplay and the mythic dialect you’d expect from the heroine originally found in the pages of Conan the Barbarian.  The big news is that the new series is written by Gail Simone.  Known for many comic book series, but particularly her gutsy Batgirl and Wonder Woman, Simone’s fans will find her Red Sonja a worthy new addition to the pantheon of strong women characters in comics.  With some nice classic Conan-style artwork by Walter Geovani, Dynamite will no doubt have a winner with this new series.

Red Sonja by Scott

Simone’s Red Sonja story has bits and pieces of archetype characters and settings.  In Issue #1 keep an eye out for a new take on Akira Kurasawa’s classic save the village story.  She also includes enough backstory to allow new readers easy accessibility to the character and her medieval high fantasy world.

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Continuum Rachel Nichols cop suit

Following on the heels of the successful Canada import Lost Girl, the Vancouver based sci-fi series Continuum premiered this year on the Syfy Channel in the U.S. and it easily earns the status of best new TV series of 2013.  Like Lost Girl, the first season has already aired in Canada, and is being shown one season behind here, hopefully to catch up in the U.S. market later this year.  The series has already been renewed in Canada, and Season 2 is being filmed on location in Vancouver, B.C.  Tonight, episode four airs at 7 p.m. Central/8 p.m. Eastern on the Syfy Channel.  You’ll want to set up your DVR for this series and if you’ve missed episodes 1-3 you can still catch them on primetime Free Per View.

Continuum stars Star Trek 2009, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and Conan the Barbarian’s Rachel Nichols as a British Columbia cop from the year 2077 named Kiera Cameron who gets transported back in time to 2012 where she tracks down a group of rebel terrorists who have come to the past with her.  The terrorists, who go by the name Liber8, were sentenced to death and at their execution someone smuggled in a device that created a warp field that spun the convicts back in time and sucked in security officer Cameron.  Like her cool and tough performance as Scarlet in the first G.I. Joe movie, Nichols is perfect as a no-nonsense cop, quick to act in a gunfight and several other situations she never could have trained for.

Continuum Rachel Nichols

The producers of Continuum have created the most seemingly realistic future technology here along with a creepy possible future political structure where corporations have bailed out the defaulting government and eventually taken over all its functions, taking away individual liberties from citizens.  The police force Cameron works for is in protection of this new world order, and the great twist of Continuum is having the terrorists’ ideal be a return to our political structure today.  Continuum is the series many hoped the Battlestar Galactica spinoff Caprica would be, but in only three episodes Continuum has already surpassed that other Syfy Channel series in production quality and story.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan has had many incarnations in the past 100 years, so it’s probably time that he is thrust into the far future as a 300-year-old human who, along with wife Jane, encounters a future world you might find in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes, Nolan and Johnson’s Logan’s Run, or Richard Matheson’s I am Legend in the new one-shot comic book The Once and Future Tarzan.  Tarzan faces strange creatures big and small, and a tribe of women who speak in a future French dialect, who he assists on their quest.  Tarzan is a well-educated survivalist who communes with the animal kingdom–the main element that ties this future Tarzan to the Tarzan of our past.

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Many wars and feuds did Conan fight.  Honor and fear were heaped upon his name, in time, he became a king by his own hand.  But that is another story…”

Without Conan, there probably never would have been the Terminator or the Governator.  Arnold Schwarzenegger first played Conan in Conan the Barbarian in 1982 followed by Conan the Destroyer in 1984.  Because of the box office success of those films, Arnold dawned the fantasy-warrior mantle (albeit a different one from Conan) for his last sword and sorcery adventure in 1985, co-starring along with Bridgette Nielsen in Red Sonja.  Universal Pictures has announced Arnold has signed on to play Conan the Barbarian one more time–or maybe even Conan the King–as we last left him on the throne.  Arnold will star in The Legend of Conan, slated for release in 2014.

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By Art Schmidt

I have a few Honorable Mentions that I am going to list first, rather than sticking them at the end like after-thoughts.  Since I didn’t include them in my actual Top Ten list, the least I can do is put them first so they aren’t entirely skipped over.  These made my initial rough list but, for one reason or another, just didn’t make the final cut: Heavy Metal, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Dragonslayer, Shrek, Time Bandits & The Wizard of Oz.  (Note: Starting at number one, since #10 is the ‘top’ of my list)

#1 – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

A favorite of my youth, and one of the Ray Harryhausen classics.  Dynamation doesn’t hold a candle to the powers of today’s CGI engines, but in its day it ruled the cineplex, at least as far as fantasy went.  Sinbad’s voyage across the seas to find the Fountain of Destiny was fun and exhilarating and awesome in its day.

Of course, this is more a sentimental favorite than a real ‘All-time Top Ten’ winner, but it works for me.  And of course, there was Caroline Munro…

#2 – Willow

“The power to control the world is in which finger?” the High Aldwin asks the young apprentice hopefuls, holding out his hand.
“I was going to say my own,” Willow later admits, after first choosing poorly.
“That is the correct answer!” Billy Barty’s High Aldwin exclaims.  “You lack faith in yourself.”

Willow is one of those movies that just makes me smile.  It’s funny and different and has quirky characters, but the fantasy element is strong and Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Heat, Wonderland), Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, the Harry Potter movies) and Joanne Whalley (Scandal, The Man Who Knew Too Little) are all great.  Especially Kilmer.  Davis’ Willow gives the movie its heart and soul; Kilmer’s Madmartigan gives it the proper excitement and humor.

What I like about Willow most is that it avoided all of the Conan rip-offs of the day.  No muscle-bound hero, no comedic side-kicks, no supreme magical spell/artifact/being/weapon (unless you count Princess Elora herself).  It was an honest tale in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien, about simple people trying to thwart evil.

#3 – The Frighteners

One of my favorite movies, The Frighteners is a little bit horror movie, little bit comedy, little bit fantasy, little bit love story, and a whole lot of cool rolled into one hundred-and-ten-minute roller coaster ride.  Michael J. Fox (The Back to the Future movies, Family Ties, Spin City) is funny and believable as Frank Bannister, a self-proclaimed ‘psychic investigator’ who claims to be able to rid the living of the mischievous spirits of the dead, when in fact he’s a psychic con man who sends in the spirits to drum up business in the first place.  Until he runs into the Grim Reaper, taking a deadly toll on the small coastal town Frank inhabits, at which point he begins to use his powers for good in an inhuman man-hunt.

Bannister’s ghost side-kicks are hilarious, the sight gags are funny, and the scary parts have the right amount of creep in them.  The whole movie is fast-paced and fun, and while some bits of the storyline are fuzzy, it’s a blast right up until the end credits roll to the tune of ‘Don’t fear the reaper’.

#4 – Conan the Barbarian (1982)

This pick needs little explanation.  I’m a life-long Conan fan; the Howard stories and novels, the Marvel comics, the movies, the ongoing novels by various authors, the Age of Conan MMO (though that was short-lived), and of course numerous toys and other stuff.  And Conan the Barbarian is one of the pinnacles of barbarian culture there is.  The original, that is, though the recent remake was a fairly decent movie.  Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hero, James Earl Jones’ villain, Mako’s gritty narration, and Sandahl Bergman’s fiery Valeria come together in what might have otherwise been a terrible movie.  Many still think it is, but I beg to differ.  Conan came forth in the era in-between Claymation and CGI, after Clash of the Titans but before Jurassic Park, but the effects were good enough.

#5 – Shrek 2

Disney was the king of all things animated for seventy years, and lately Pixar has ruled that roost.  But Dreamworks Animation absolutely nailed the animated fantasy adventure with the Shrek series, and the best one by far is the second installment.  This is one of the few sequels that surpassed the first.  The clever twist on fairytale standards begun in Shrek goes crazy in the sequel, with Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother, the frog turned prince (and then king), and the fairytale land Far, Far Away all getting a well-deserved skewering as Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and the whole troop make a joyous wreck of everyone else’s plans and schemes.

The tongue-in-cheek references are just the icing on the cake; Shrek 2 is a movie I can watch again and again and never get tired of seeing Pinocchio getting jiggy wit’ it chanting “I’m a real boy! I’m a real boy!  I’m a…” *poof* “Awwwww…”

Color me tickled pink.

#6 – The Princess Bride

What can be said about The Princess Bride that hasn’t already been said?  Nothing, nothing at all.  Why do people love this movie so much?  You mean, you don’t?  Inconceivable!  Ok, lemme ‘splain.  No, there is no time.  Lemme sum up:

It’s not a kissing book, but there is some of that in there.  And the hero is not left-handed, but he is the dread Pirate Roberts.  Sort of.  But give him a break, he’s been mostly dead all day.  And the other hero’s name is Inigo Montoya; someone killed his father, and they better prepare to die.  You still don’t know what the story is about?  Inconceivable!  It’s about true love, of course.  And perfect breasts.  And having fun storming the castle.

Wow.  That makes me want to watch the movie again.  What’s that?  You still don’t know how that movie is on my Top Ten list?

Inconceivable!

I know, I keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

#7 – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I won’t bombard you with movie quotes from this one, the most quotable of all movies ever made, whether by the Python troop or not.  Holy Grail is, quite simply, the Holy Grail of all comedies.

What is your favorite movie?  The Holy Grail!  No, wait, The Lord of the… AHHHH!!!!!!!

#8 – Sleepy Hollow

Tim Burton is a great director (Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland (2009)), and his ongoing collaboration with Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) has given us some great fantasies over the years (did Edward Scissorhands really come out more than twenty years ago?  Sheesh, I’m old…)  To me, almost all of Burton’s work is great in its geeky, off-kilter, out-of-the-box way, but none shines like his take on Ichabod Crane.  The plot elements from Washington Irving’s original story, the screenplay by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker, the atmosphere Burton creates, the innocent beauty portrayed by Christina Ricci, and the superb fish-out-of-water academic played by Depp, is a perfect storm of fantasy creativity.

The Headless Horseman is especially well-conceived, with Ray Park (The Phantom Menace, X-Men) performing the combat acrobatics and Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone, True Romance) giving ‘the Hessian’ ghoulish life when his head is in place.  The curse, the old tree, the vengeful witch, the sleepy town, the foggy woods, they all come together in the perfect blend of fantasy, horror and, thanks to Depp, humor amidst the gore.

#9 – Excalibur

John Boorman’s masterpiece tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is my kind of fantasy movie.  It’s dark, gritty and foreboding.  It pulls no punches and doesn’t candy-coat.  Arthur is the boy hero but he’s also fatally flawed, Merlin is the all-knowing but equally-flawed magician, and of course the relationship between Guinevere and Lancelot is passionate, compelling and tragic.  Combat is harsh and cruel and down-in-the-mud filthy, and not many of my friends came away from that movie wanting to swing a sword for a living.  Boorman’s hallmark was always his ability to set a mood, dark and deep, that grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go.  And Excalibur is all of that, and Boorman’s finest work.

“Good and evil,” Merlin says wisely.  “There never is one without the other.”  Indeed.

#10 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Whose blood doesn’t start pumping faster at the rousing opening notes of the theme to Indiana Jones?  Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re probably thinking “Wait a minute!  This isn’t a fantasy film, at least not in the truest sense of the word.”  But hang on, it does contain magic.  At the very least it contained religious paranormalism, which is pretty darned close even if you don’t think of it as real ‘magic.’  But let’s not get into a debate about that, shall we?  Inevitably, no minds would get changed and it would only spoil the mood.

Raiders was and still is one of the greatest classic adventure movies of all time (fantasy adventure movies, that is!).  And besides, I could not allow myself to have a Top Ten Fantasy list without a Spielberg movie on it.

#11 – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Duh.

I assume that you wouldn’t be reading this article unless you were interested in fantasy movies yourself, so there should be no need to explain this at all.  In fact, it almost goes without saying.  As in I almost didn’t even list it, since almost any Fantasy Top Ten Movie list would in reality go up to an understood Eleven, and Eleven would be The Lord of the Rings.

But if you are aren’t a fantasy fan, reading this for some other reason (I have no idea what that might be), let me educate you as to why The Lord of the Rings is the most awesome fantasy ever.  It’s the chicks.  All those elven chicks running around in leather halter tops with bare midriffs, and the scenes where they make out with the heroes (that rules!).  And all of the dragons, the ones rampaging across the skies and waylaying all those armies of trolls and skeletons, yeah, that’s what it was.  And the big, strong hero guys in cool-looking armor on horseback with the huge magic swords cutting all of the bad guys’ heads off, those guys rule.  Oh, and the awesome sorcerer combat scenes where the wizards are hurling fireballs and lightning bolts and vorpal bunny swarms at each other.  These movies totally rock!

Of course, all those common tropes of hum-drum fantasy movies are not in LOTR, and that’s what makes it so awesome.  Years ago, a friend of mine summed it up perfectly.  “In most fantasy, the heroes are questing for all-powerful magic that’s central to their success and will make them famous.  In The Lord of the Rings, the heroes are striving to destroy the great magic so they can return to their normal lives.”  Fantastic.

Turn out the lights, this discussion is over.

(OK, not really, tomorrow… come back for ten more of our favorite fantasy movies).

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