Conan The Barbarian (Definitive Edition)
Music By Basil Poledouris
Intrada MAF 7123
Disc One: 16 Tracks – Disc Time: 56:32
Disc Two: 21 Tracks – Disc Time: 78:41
Disc Three (Original 1982 Album):
13 Tracks – Disc Time: 52:06
Thirty years ago… an bloody, epic film of memorable proportions came out.
Before the summer of 1982 was completely dominated by a super friendly Reese Pieces eating alien named E.T. who was longing to go home and devoured its competition that included the likes of future memorable films such as John Carpenter’s The Thing, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, Poltergeist and Fast Times At Ridgemont High, there was one movie that really made a significant impact in surprising fashion and that is Conan The Barbarian. Conan was a striking work based on the stories of Robert E. Howard, who in a series of nights just wrote the genesis of this fearsome warrior which would really become popular throughout the years. When it was time to prepare the film, then famous bodybuilder and aspiring actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had done the comedy, Stay Hungry starring Academy Award winners Jeff Bridges and Sally Field, was the first and only choice to bring this character to life. While it was a somewhat bumpy road to the big screen with Academy Award winner Oliver Stone writing a rather apocalyptic original draft that eventually got reworked to a more conventional storyline by writer/director John Milius while working with Stone for a rather grand and epic looking film. The end result was a surprise blockbuster which grossed over 40 million dollars (over 100 million with inflation) and made Ahnold, a superstar actor.
Conan The Barbarian centered around a vicious, power hungry villian named Tulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), a charismatic leader of a Snake cult that has dominated the land after its search for steel in the film’s opening moments in which culminated in the death of both young Conan’s parents at the hands of Doom. Conan is then sent to a camp and forced to work the Wheel of Pain, where the young Conan is transformed into a muscle bound machine that is soon hell bent on revenge. After going through the ropes as a pit fighter, Conan is given his freedom and goes on a journey after meeting up with Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), a pair of thieves that help Conan discover a truer purpose in life other than revenge and in particular with Valeria, his first love. Conan discovers the snake cult that has kidnapped and brainwashed the daughter (Valerie Quinessen) of King Osric (Max Von Sydow)and is immediately tortured and left for dead by Doom and his followers and soon after a lengthy recovery period, Conan and company plan a rescue of her with tragic consequences losing Valeria in the process. After one final battle with Doom and his minions, Conan confronts Doom once and for all and freeing the minds of those enslaved by the cult. Of course, Conan would return in the lighthearted and enjoyable sequel, Conan The Destroyer which did well, but no where near the success of its predecessor.
As side from Milius’ astute direction, Ahnold’s and James Earl Jones’ charasmatic performances and a tighter final script by Stone and Millius’, Conan had the stars aligned to be a memorable film and there was one very important aspect that brought this world to life and that is the work of the late Basil Poledouris, which is still a masterpiece of a score after 30 years. Poledouris was the first and only choice of director John Millius delivering a score that is really is magnificent in all its structure and memorable in its thematic material. From it’s powerful, dynamic opening (“Prologue/Anvil Of Crom”), that sets the tone of the score and the score’s central theme. The score features some really powerful and memorable material such as “Riders of Doom/Riddle of Steel”, “Atlantean Sword”, “Wifeing (Theme Of Love From “Conan The Barbarian”), “The Mountain of Power Procession”, “The Kitchen/The Orgy”, and “Funeral Pyre”. Poledouris really unleashes Conan’s final battle and faithful meeting with his nemesis with both hell bent fury and moments of passionate restraint (“Battle of the Mounds Part 1, “Battle of the Mounds Part 2 and “Battle of the Mounds Part 3 (Revised)/Night Of Doom”) driving Conan to fulfill his fateful destiny (“Orphans Of Doom/The Awakening”) as well as destroy something that was meant to be destroyed.
While we have seen two releases of this magnificent score to date on an somewhat expensive import and the out of print expanded Varese Sarabande release from 20 years ago, Intrada Records’ latest release is the most comprehensive and astounding version of the score that has been release to date. While adding a solid forty plus minutes of new and memorable material (“Pit Fights”, “The Snake/Infidels”, “Warpaint”, “The Defilers”), as well as a wealth of alternate material that is just as great, if not better than the revised versions (“Orphans Of Doom (Chorus and Harp)/The Awakening (First Version)”, “Anvil Of Crom (First Version)”, “Battle Of The Mounds Part II (First Version)”) along with a reconfiguration of the original 1982 MCA Records forty-eight minute album that was meticiulously put together by the late composer which a very solid release for its time and a best seller for the label up until its eventual CD release in 1992, which was a huge success for Varese Sarabande. With stunning sound quality that easily trumps the original CD releases, Poledouris’ music has never sounded this great. The music really just feels more vibrant and energetic in everyway that you can feel every musical nuance and instrumentation with clearer precision. The sweeping soaring melodies and chorus just sends great chills down your spine for all the right reasons. In looking back 30 years since its original release, Conan The Barbarian is a film that holds up exceptionally well and the Blu Ray format will continue to give it great life, while Intrada Records newly released set, will continue to give its great score a greater justice that was somewhat lacking before and new fans of the film, will really discover the power and excitement one of the greatest scores of the 1980’s, a grand masterpiece continues to get better like a great bottle of wine. An exceptional release.