This is the buffest you'll ever see Arnold (not including his cameo's and body building films) on the big screen or your TV. I've even heard that the seven times Mr Universe and five times Mr Olympian had to tone done his bicep training because they were too big and he couldn't hold a sword properly.
This film is seriously undervalued, partly becuase critics have maligned and partly becuase not a whole lot of its nay-sayers have acutally seen it.
So just how good is this film and what makes it so great? Well personally I'd say this is Arnold's third best film behind Terminator Two: Judgement Day and Predator, and the best Sword and Sorcery film anywhere. And there are a number of reasons why.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the perfect choice to play Conan and that accent only helps add to his character, admittedly his acting was a bit stiff but then there wasn't that much he had to do and you have to take into account the fact that this was one of his first films. Arnold plays this character completly serious which is a rarity in his films these days, where he tries to add comedy with bad one liners. Sandhal Bergman in maybe the performance of her life as Valeria (who by the way remained nameless until the final credits rolled). James Earl Jones as the excellently named Thulsa Doom. Imagine Darth Vadar uttering "Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark". Now imagine Darth Vadar decapitating someone, your getting close to Thulsa Doom. Japense screen vetern Mako plays the magician to very pleasing ends, and his opening has to be heard to be believed. Max Von Sydow also appears if briefly as King Osrik to round of a great cast.
Basil Poledouris acadmy award winning score has to be one of the greatest scores I've ever heard, if not the greatest. It's beautiful, tragic and triumphant all at once, it truly is amazing. And it rivals the best of John Williams, James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith.
Four tracks in particular impressed me: Track #1 Anvil of Crom, #2 Riders of Doom, #6 Theology and #12 The Kitchen. The score is perfectly suited really brings the film alive, I strongly recommend buying it.
The cinematography is terrific, and the sets are outstanding. Also, the makeup on the actors is fantastic. I especially like the scene where a form of calligraphy is done on Conan's face and hands. There are so many scenes that are both spellbinding and memorable.
Oliver Stone wrote the script in his heyday, right before writing the acadamy award winning best picture Platoon. A lot more thought went into this film then it gets credit for, a line in the film is "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!" this is an abbreviation of a real quote attributed to Gengis Khan: "The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters." Conan's opinion of what is best in life is not all that links him to Genghis Khan. Subotai (or Subedei Baghadur) was also the name of Great Khan's general. The fact that Conan is not only chased but to some extent orphaned by dogs also recalls Genghis Khan's well-documented fear of that particular animal. Finally, the writers' preoccupation with steel seems oddly coincidental, given that Genghis Khan's birthname, Temujin, is frequently translated as "finest steel."
The script was both a deviation from the novels and a true to character movie, in fact a number of events in the film happened in novels, for instance Conan was crucified on the Tree of Woe and killed the vulture in similar fashion.
All in all if you like Schwarzenegger, and who doesn't, you'll like this film. Its a must see and one for the collection.
I give it 9/10 stars.