Picks and Pans Review: Conan the Barbarian

updated 05/17/1982 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/17/1982 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In that troublesome epoch after the successful quest for fire but before the invention of the Franklin stove, a young boy's parents in some unspecified but obviously evil-ridden land are slaughtered by marauders. The lad grows up to be a kind of comic book hero called Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger). He's a 60-watt bulb even in these Dark Ages; but boy, does he have muscles! He uses them to dice and slice his way ever nearer Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), who when not pillaging finds time to head up both a legion of flower children and a cult of snake worshipers. When not vacillating between unintentional humor and gory special effects, director John (The Wind and the Lion) Milius replicates scenes from such disparate predecessors as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Demetrius and the Gladiators, Blazing Saddles and The Seven Samurai. When does homage become cribbing? Of the players, James Earl hams it up grandly and the sinuous dancer Sandahl Bergman is smashing as Valeria, Conan's decidedly unbar-baric love. Schwarzenegger comes across like iron-deficient white bread. An epilogue announces there will be sequels. Conan the Civilized! No, thanks. (R)

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