The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema here in Austin, Texas, has once again outdone themselves with another fun movie campaign. The Alamo Drafthouse has partnered with eight websites to co-host what is still being called the best summer of movie releases in the history of film, or simply Summer of 1982.
The movies are being shown here in Austin from May until July and Mondo, the collectible art boutique arm of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is expected to have some new silkscreen prints for selected films being shown. The full list of films and dates can be found here.
On Friday, May 11th, they started the Summer of ’82 line-up with Conan the Barbarian in classic 35mm film and sold two amazing posters by Canadian artist Jason Edmiston. The new prints, a regular and a variant version, were available at both screenings for this flashback evening.
Conan the Barbarian is the film that is arguably the most popular of the Sword and Sorcery genre from the ’80s, starring a not-so-well-know actor by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger. What is best in life? “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.” Those words resonated through my skull as a kid and I never forgot them 30 years later, seriously.
As I sat in the theater feeling older than anyone in the room because I saw this in the theatre as a kid, I wondered if it would have the zing I remember, if it would return the love for me as much as I had for it? Had it stood the test of time and the likes of John Woo? Well, if you remember, this was a movie of very little dialogue and lots of fight action, so you can answer yes to those questions.
The original Conan the Barbarian begins with Conan’s village being attacked by a band of raiders bearing the standard of a snake cult. They slaughter the villagers, including Conan’s mother and father, and take him as a slave. We later learn that the attackers were after the secret of steel, which the village had. Advantage went to the raiders only because they caught the villagers by surprise. Conan grows up as a slave and later is thrown into a pit to test his worth. He begins to win victories and as his fame grows, he is rewarded with knowledge, and finally freedom. With his freedom he sets out to seek revenge for his mother’s and father’s deaths.
I just don’t remember it starting out so slow, but maybe as a kid I didn’t care. I had all the time in the world then, yet watching it this time I had my girlfriend’s 15-year-old son, who looked so disinterested it was almost comedic. I saw people nodding off and hoped I wouldn’t, but after a few nudges I was woken up about an hour into the movie. It’s not that it was boring, it was just 30-year-old dialogue and didn’t have the explosions of today’s movies that normally keep me awake.
The thing I do remember most about this movie was the amazing cinematography and the chest-thumping score of the late composer Basil Poledouris (Robocop, Starship Troopers, etc.). The powerful score enhanced the film’s fight scenes, which are still classic and don’t appear as obviously choreographed as fight scenes in movies made today. The scenes will entertain you visually even if the storyline doesn’t.
Conan the Barbarian is a film that blends one of the best stories with some of the best action and music and then rolls them all into one of the best films from 1982 in this writer’s eyes. It is not a movie that is easily forgotten. Even as a young lad who was able to see almost every movie that came out in 1982, Conan stayed with me and so did the first thing you see on the screen after the previews, the Friedrich Nietzsche quotation that opens the movie:
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
Take some time to enjoy the trailer: