Tuesday, September 2, 2014

...and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Conan the Barbarian (1982) R
While not the first sword and sorcery film, this is the first based upon the character for whom the term was coined (by fantasy master Fritz Leiber). The movie that inspired several other films and television series, it is here that the sword and sorcery genre hit its peak, never to be surpassed. What followed this film was twenty years of copycats and pretenders to the throne.

Telling the story of Conan in a single film was a monumental undertaking. Beginning with Conan as a child and subsequently showing him as a slave, a gladiator, and (finally) a free adventurer the movie cherry picks moments from a number of the writings of Robert E Howard so as to maintain its appropriate, authentic, feel. This tale, while not a perfect fit for the true Conan of Robert E Howard, blends Howard's works into its script so well so as to feel a worthy torchbearer of the name, Conan.

The story opens up with the forging of a sword, and of Conan's father telling him of the riddle of steel. Raiders come and slay everyone in Conan's village, taking him away as spoils of war. He slaves away on a capstan in the middle of nowhere (for no real discernible purpose) as time passes and he matures from child to muscle-bound adult.

Taken from his slavery, Conan is then trained as a gladiator. We are treated to a montage of his gladiatorial combats, seeing him progress in prowess and fame. His masters allow him to learn to read and expose him to philosophy and a number of trains of thought that don't really play any part in the film. This section seems to attempt to serve up that Conan in the film, as described in the original stories, is an intelligent and exceptional man as opposed to an unthinking brute. This section is brief, however, and certainly did not deflect criticisms of the movie Conan being just that. One review went so far as to declare him "a dull clod with a sharp sword, a human collage of pectorals and latissimi who's got less style and wit than Lassie."

Finally released and cast out, Conan is next seen on the run from a pack of wild dogs (one of which actually attacked the actor). Fleeing from them he finds his way into a long forgotten tomb and emerges with the blade he uses for the majority of the film, the so-called Atlantean sword. Now armed and ready to seek out his fortune (as well as get off-screen payback on a certain pack of wild dogs), Conan continues his journey until he finds himself called into the hut of a comely woman.

Of course, the woman is really a witch. Conan doesn't know this (or simply doesn't care) and begins questioning her as to the identity of the men who attacked his childhood village...while bedding her. He's Conan, he can multitask and, oddly, the scene works. She tells him to seek out the realm of Zamora and to seek out Thulsa Doom.  Eventually the witch reveals her true nature and attempts to destroy Conan but he pitches her into the fire and she flees as a spectral ball of light. Conan truly isn't doing well on his own.

Fortunately he comes across Subotai, a convicted thief left chained as food for the wolves. The two banter back and forth before Conan frees Subotai and the two become fast friends and traveling companions. Following the words of the witch, the two travel to Shadizar, in the land of Zamora. In seeking information on the serpents, they are directed to the "Tower of the Serpents", home to the Temple of Set. While breaking into the tower, the two encounter Valeria. Herself an able thief and swordswoman, the three join forces in their robbery of the temple. They succeed in interupting a human sacrifice and in killing the temples guardian (a monstrous-sized snake, before escaping with their loot.

Their success leads to excesses in drinking an revelry. It also leads to them coming to the attention of King Osric. Confronted by the king, he offers them a fortune in gems and other wealth if they will rescue his daughter from the Temple of Set, and the villainous Thulsa Doom. Conan accepts, to the dismay of Valeria and Subotai (who wish nothing to do with Thulsa Doom, instead wanting to live a life of leisure with what they have). Undaunted, Conan proceeds alone.

Posing as a priest, Conan infiltrates the ranks of Thulsa Doom's followers but is quickly discovered. Beaten, tortured, and then crucified on the "Tree of Woe", Conan is left to die. His body is found by Subotai and Subotai and Valeria take him to Akiro the Wizard and demand healing. Despite being warned that the gods will collect a heavy price for such a deed, Valeria pushes Akira to restore Conan. Akiro paints Conan's body with mystic sigils and scripts, to aid in the warding off of demon, and performs the ritual.

With Conan restored, the three companions set off to rescue the princess and wreck bloody vengeance against Thulsa Doom. After sneaking through the caves under the mountain and into Doom's temple fortress, the trio come upon a horrifying orgy of flesh (both sensual and cannibalistic). In what is probably the greatest battle scene in the movie, the three bring ruination down on the forces of Doom, and escape with the princess. As they ride into the distance, Thulsa Doom enchants a venomous snake into an arrow and fires, striking Valeria and sealing her fate. The gods indeed demanded a hefty price for Conan's resurrection, a life for a life.

Knowing that they cannot outrun their pursuers, Conan, Subotai, and Akiro begin preparations to fortify Akiro's home amongst the mounds. Carefully laying a number of traps using the weapons of long dead warriors, the three make ready. When the forces come, Conan and Subotai battle them off using a combination of skill and cunning, while Akiro pitches in where he can. In the end, Thulsa Doom retreats and, while doing so, attempts to slay the princess with another of his serpentine arrows. Subotai blocks the arrow with his shield and Thulsa Doom's hold over the princess is broken. His forces scattered and dead, the evil priest retreats to his stronghold.

Finally, Conan confronts Thulsa Doom atop the temple, in full view of the followers of the Temple of Set. Using the broken blade of his father's sword, Conan behead Thusa Doom and sends his head bouncing down the steps of the temple's pyramid and into Doom's followers. In a final act of revenge for the murder of his family, his torture, and the death of his love Valeria Conan sets the temple ablaze.

Thus ends the story. We then see an aged Conan, sitting on a throne as Akiro (his chronicler) tells us that Conan eventually would become a king by his own hand...but that story too will be told. In an interesting twist, that story was sent to screen but, because Schwarzenegger turned it down, it became the movie Kull the Conqueror instead.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
The casting of the then virtually unknown Arnold Schwarzenneger brought a solid look to the titular character. Mr. Olympia from 1970-1975, Schwarenegger was the pinnacle of global bodybuilding. Training for the role meant losing a little bulk and developing a more athletic build. Cited in Cinefantastique as the "living incarnation of one of Frazetta's paperback illustrations", Schwarzenneger certainly had the look.  Dropping 30 pounds during his training for the film, Schwarzenegger took the time to enter and win the title of Mr. Olympia one last time in 1980.

Of course, among Schwarzenegger's previous roles were a deaf/mute and a vocally re-dubbed Hercules (Hercules in New York - 1969). His thick Austrian accent presented a bit of a problem for producers. Schwarzenegger underwent weeks of speech therapy and rehearsed each of his long speeches a minimum of forty times. Oddly enough, it was no Schwarzenegger but his American co-star, Gerry Lopez, was re-dubbed by actor Sab Shimono for not having retained a "certain quality".

Still, it was Schwarzenegger's accent that caused consternation. We do not even hear his voice for the first ten minutes of the movie (whereupon he grunts) and his first line, the famous quote often attributed to Gengis Khan, is nearly fourteen minutes into the movie. His second line isn't for another ten minutes. It is that very sparsity of Conan's initial dialogue that sets the tone for the movie. With little to no real dialogue for the first twenty minutes of the film, the viewer instead focuses on the breathtaking vistas and set pieces, giving the movie the feel of an old school epic. 

Sandahl Bergman
Sandahl Bergman was still more a dancer than an actress. Still, with the recommendation of dance legend Bob Fosse Sandahl was cast. He background as a dancer shows through, her movements as the warrior Valeria  are fluid and believable. Her dialog comes off as a bit wooden, but there does seem to be some level of real chemistry between her and Schwarzenegger. In an attempt to capitalize on her role as the Valeria, Sandahl went on to play another warrior woman as the lead in She. 

Lasting Connection
Svel-Ole Thorsen, who appeared as the giant-hammer weilding Thorgrim, also appeared in a number of other films with Schwarzenegger including: Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja, Raw Deal, Predator, The Running Man, Twins, Terminator 2, The Last Action Hero, and eraser (additionally he appeared in Kull the Conqueror - originally written as a Schwarzenegger film). 

The Soundtrack
The music of the film, written by Basil Poledouris (winner of one Emmy and five BMI awards for his soundtracks), was created as the script was being developed. This allowed for Poledouris' musical tones to blend seamlessly with the scenes. In this way the music almost becomes the star of the movie. There are times when the action on screen enhances the soundtrack, and not the other way around. The entire soundtrack was boiled down to a single-channel, mono, track. This was the last major film to be released without a stereo soundtrack and was done because producers balked at the #30k price tag of including a stereo soundtrack (despite the movie's estimated $20M budget). Poledouris would go on to also score the sequel, Conan the Destroyer.

Part of what makes the movie so successful is that it was approached as a serious film, as opposed to some light piece of fluff churned out to exploit the Sword & Sorcery craze. Instead, this film was the product of years of litigation and had a number of big names attached to it all through development (including a 4+ hour script treatment by a reputedly cocaine-fueled Oliver Stone).

While scriptwriting began in 1976, the final litigation and licensing wasn't even cleared until 1977, which is most likely a fortunate thing for the film. 1977 was the year that Star Wars hit the screen, and it too movie-goers by storm. Its runaway success convinced studios that they needed to loosen the purse strings and invest more heavily in fantastic action films. While Star Wars has gone on to bring in close to a billion dollars in revenue over 37 years and numerous re-releases, it brought in $122,576,055 during its original ninety one days of release (prior to its subsequent second round of showings beginning in September of 1977). By comparison, Conan the Barbarian was nearly as successful, bringing in close to $100,000,000 in global ticket sales.

This success fueled a huge wave of sword and sorcery films (more than 6 others released in 1982 alone) and set the bar high for everything to come. No film since has lived up to Conan the Barbarian, and it is unlikely (with the current Hollywood climate) that any ever will. The highest rated and best received of all Conan feature films (77% on Rotten Tomatoes vs 27% for Conan the Destroyer and 24% for the 2011 Conan the Barbarian), it stands at a testament of what can be accomplished with a cast of relative unknowns and a true love for the subject matter.

Final Thoughts
Seriously, if you have never seen this movie, you need to. This is the pinnacle, the unfair standard by which all other sword and sorcery films are judged. This is the five-star movie.

Works Cited
Andrews, Nigel. True Myths: The Life and times of Arnold Schwarzenegger. London: Bloomsbury, 1995. Print.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger." Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Sept. 2014.
"Conan the Barbarian (1982 Film)." Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Sept. 2014.
""Conan The Barbarian (1982)" Theatrical Trailer." YouTube. YouTube, 15 May 2011. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.
"Conan the Barbarian (2011)." Rotten Tomatoes. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Sept. 2014. <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/conan_the_barbarian_2011/>.
"Conan the Barbarian." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.
"Conan the Barbarian." Rotten Tomatoes. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/conan_the_barbarian/>.
"Conan the Destroyer." Rotten Tomatoes. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/conan_the_destroyer/>.
"“The Greatest Happiness Is to Scatter Your Enemy and Drive Him before You, to See His Cities Reduced to Ashes, to See Those Who Love Him Shrouded in Tears, and to Gather to Your Bosom His Wives and Daughters.”." Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.
Gunden, Kenneth Von. ""Conan the Barbarian: Sword and Sorcery." Flights of Fancy: The Great Fantasy Films. Jefferson, NC: McFarland Classics/McFarland, 2001. 26. Print.
"Hercules in New York." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.
"The Incredible Hulk." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077031/>.
"Kull the Conqueror." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kull_the_Conqueror>.
Leiber, Fritz. Editorial. Ancalagon 6 Apr. 1961: n. pag. Print.
"Mako." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0538683/>.
Morgan, David. Knowing the Score: Film Composers Talk about the Art, Craft, Blood, Sweat, and Tears of Writing Music for Cinema. New York: HarperEntertainment, 2000. 167-74. Print.
Patrick, Andrew. "Genghis Khan Quote - Straight Dope Message Board." Straight Dope Message Board RSS. The Straight Dope, 7 Sept. 2004. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.
"Sab Shimono." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.
Sammon, Paul. "Conan II." Cinefantastique Sept. 1984: 4-7. Print.
Sammon, Paul. "Conan the Barbarian." Cinefantastique Apr. 1982: 28+. Print.
"Secrets of Conan the Barbarian." The Barbarian Keep. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://www.barbariankeep.com/ctbsecrets.html>.
"She." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090009/>.
"Star Wars." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.
Steranko, James, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. "An Exclusive Conversation With Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Power and Peril of Playing Conan." Mediascene Prevue May 1982: 32. Web.
"Sven-Ole Thorsen." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0861752/>.
"Sword and Sorcery." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_and_sorcery>.
Thomas, Tony. "More Recently—Basil Poledouris." Music for the Movies. Los Angeles: Silman-James, 1997. 322-29. Print.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What could be on the horizon?

Other writing obligations have kept things pretty quiet around here as of late. But things are getting ready to move back into action quiet shortly. So, what is going to be the film to boost things back up to 11 you ask?

How about a hint? A musical hint...

All credit to the talented musician 331Erock. Check him out!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Another dead Conan Project...

In 2005, Swordplay Entertainment set out to create an animated feature Conan, Red Nails. Unfortunately it was never completed and none of the animation ever saw the light of day. However, one of the animators on the project has released this early animation work into the wild. 


Friday, February 21, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Do's & Don't's - Part 1

Dungeons & Dragons (2000) PG-13
Dungeons & Dragons, set in a divided kingdom where sorcery rules above all things, until a young empress sets to change things for the betterment of all her subjects. A pair of thieves get swept away in a quest for a rod to control Red Dragons as a political/military coup looms.

Certainly, this is a movie that has been universally reviled and panned since its release. One reviewer goes as far to call it the worst movie of 2000, while another proclaimed that God "hated him" for having made him suffer through the movie. Despite all the general loathing directed at the movie (and a mere 10% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, I sat down to brave this cinematic disaster.

Simply put? This movie is just is not as bad as it is made out to be. That does not mean that it is a fantastic film, but it is one undeserving of at least some of the venom thrown its way. The movie is Dungeons & Dragons which, for anyone who has not been near a basement in the past 40 years, is the name of the best selling role playing game in history. This movie is very accurate in reflecting its roots. This is not Lord of the Rings, instead this movie could believably have played out around a gaming table in someone's kitchen. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about this movie, it really is D&D.

The movie stars famed actor Jeremy Irons, television perennial Justin Whalin, comedian Marlon Wayans, a blue lipped Bruce Payne, and American Beauty's Thora Birch. To this fairly solid cast are added supporting players including Doctor Who's Tom Baker and Richard O'Brien. One would think that this fairly veteran cast would have made for an amazing movie. One would be wrong. Again, this movie is so universally reviled by people who have seen it that it has received reviews proclaiming it "disgraceful", "a flop", "an abomination", and more. Seriously, people absolutely hate this movie.

Producer/Director Courtney Solomon acquired the rights for Dungeons & Dragons in 1990, at the age of 19. It took him ten years to raise the money to make the film, all the while fighting the then head of TSR, Lorraine Williams. Williams vetoed every director choice that Solomon put forth (including Francis Ford Coppola) and forced Solomon to direct. Considering that Lorraine Williams considered gamers and most of her workers her social inferiors, and held it as a point of pride that she had never played Dungeons & Dragons, is it really surprising the quality of the movie suffered under her dictates?

But it really isn't as bad as all of that. This is a movie based on Dungeons & Dragons after all. The point is to be faithful to the game itself, not the story genres that may have inspired it. While this movie tries to be "high fantasy" (and fails) it falls right back into the niche of Sword & Sorcery.

The effects are low budget, but still better than many of effects from other Sword & Sorcery films. The cast is fairly solid, although some performances seem a bit too over the top. This can probably be credited to a reluctant, first-time, director. The story itself is epic in scope and local in feel.

So why the hate? Most likely, a good amount of the hate showered on this film is because it fails on the most important level. It does not feel that it honors the game that its potential fan base loves so much. Had a classic AD&D module been adapted for the movie (something Williams surely would never have allowed without demanding more money), and adapted well? This movie would've gotten high praise from the gaming community. Instead, it captures the feel of the game experience, perhaps too well.

It seems that, no matter how dark and serious a game someone is trying to run, there is always one person at the table who is determined to turn it into their own stand-up comedy spotlight. Putting that guy's character in the movie (Marlan Wayan's character "Snail") was a bad decision. Attempting to do other things that they simply didn't have the know-how to pull off (like making the dwarf look shorter than the rest of the cast) certainly dragged things down further.

The constant struggle between what this movie is trying to be, versus what the movie actually is, gets a bit exhausting. The potential for this to have been a much greater movie is clearly visible. Simply having better special effects would've carried this production to much higher praise (seriously, that sad-sack Beholder was depressing). Having someone a little more solid, and a little less stoned, than Marlan Wayans would really have helped too.

But there are moments that really shine through and show the love for D&D that inspired this project. The thieves guild, the aerial dragon battle, and the use of classic D&D monsters (yes, including the sad-sack Beholder) all point towards a real attempt to make something for the game's players. That it ultimately fell short is more a reflection of Lorraine William's meddling and Courtney Solomon's relatively small budget for a project with a scope so large.

When creating a movie based upon Dungeons & Dragons...
Do: Include a mixture of the game's fantasy races.
Don't: Have a "dwarf" who appears to be 5'8.
Do: Enhance the mystique of characters by making them appear exotic.
Don't: Give anyone blue lips. 
Do: Have a racially diverse cast representative of the game's player/fan base.
Don't: Have Marlon Wayans mug his way through the movie like a minstrel show player. Shameful.
Do: Create tension by showing that the characters are not invincible and can die.
Do: Kill off Marlan Wayan's character.

Don't: Wait so long to do it.
Do: Include dragons.
Don't: Use second rate computer effects that had already been surpassed by the computer game industry.

Final Thoughts
In the end, this movie truly is a fairly accurate reflection of the D&D experience of many people. It isn't a great movie, but it certainly isn't the worst in the genre, not by a long shot. This is light year's beyond something like Wizards of the Demon Sword for example. So, go ahead, give this movie another look. Don't go in with high expectations, be realistic. You might find that it isn't as bad as it is reputed to be. I'd give this 2 stars out of 5, on par (in my opinion) with Red Sonja without being as crushingly disappointing.

Works Cited
"Bruce Payne." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
Cecil, Christopher. "Save Vs. Nauseousness." DMChristopher.com. N.p., 3 June 2001. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Courtney Solomon." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Dungeons & Dragons (2000)." Dungeons & Dragons. Rotten Tomatoes, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Dungeons & Dragons." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Dungeons & Dragons Trailer." YouTube. YouTube, 24 Nov. 2009. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Dungeons & Dragons." Wulf's Pit of Sword and Sorcery Cinema. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
Heather. "Dungeons & Dragons [Retro Viewing]." Mutant Reviewers. Mutant Reviewers, 23 May 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Jeremy Irons." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Justin Whalin." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Marlon Wayans." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
Rausch, Allen. "Magic & Memories: The Complete History of Dungeons & Dragons - Part III." PC.Gamespy.com. Gamespy, 17 Aug. 2004. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Richard O'Brien." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
Sacco, Ciro Alessandro. "The Ultimate Interview With Gary Gygax." TheKyngdoms.com. The Kyngdoms, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Thora Birch." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
"Tom Baker." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Getting back to normal

Things have been quiet around here for a little bit. A sudden medical procedure and recovery kept me away. Everything is fine though, no fear. It gave me time to spoil myself with repeats of childhood favorites while on serious painkillers. In fact, it was watching all of the original Land of the Lost that inspired this great piece of work from artist Victor Layne. In the middle of the night while I was loopy on those painkillers I tossed out an idea that he brought to life. An old school image fitting for a return to normalcy here.

Conan vs. Sleestaks

This piece still just makes me grin. Victor Layne can be found on Facebook and is available for commissions big and small.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Breaking News: Sorceress

Screenwriter Jim Wynorski has announced that a DVD/Blu Ray version of 1982's Sorceress is coming soon. He has done an on-screen interview for it and the longer version of the film has been found.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A little levity

Korgoth of Barbaria (2006) NR

Korgoth of Barbaria was a pilot for an animated show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Set in a world similar to that of White Dwarf magazine's comic Thrud the Barbarian, Korgoth takes sword & sorcery tropes to the extreme, with hilarious results.

Starring a barbarian who would much rather use violence to solve an issue than speak, the story of Korgoth takes the feel of Howard's Conan series and turns them up to 11. An example takes place in one of the (many) battle scenes where Korgoth grabs a man by the topknot and tears the flesh off the front of his body, then douses the wound in alcohol, then sets him ablaze. Over the top and "gonzo" are both terms that have been used to describe this popular piece.

Shown as a pilot, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim had announced that the show was being picked up for a season. When the season never appeared, the next word of Korgoth's fate was in an Adult Swim bumper that revealed why several shows had not made it to production. Korgoth was listed as "Too Expensive". This sparked an on-line petition to raise support and awareness, as well as a Korgoth Facebook page.

While I'm not often a fan of Diedrich Bader and his tendency to ham up the gravely quality to his voice, for Korgoth it strikes the perfect note. The voice being as over the top as the action is really helps sell the concept.

Betrayed by the "Baron of Thieves", Korgoth must seek out the tower of the wizard Specules and steal the Golden Goblin of the 4th Age. Specules is believed to be dead, but when is anything ever that easy. Monstrous trees, giant pigeons, exploding fruit, diabolical poisons, and more all await Korgoth as he attempts to fulfill his quest.

Tropes Explored
Korgoth of Barbaria explores and lampoons a number of sword & Sorcery tropes, beginning with the quintessential beginning for many an adventure, the tavern. In a scene lifted almost directly from a Thrud the Barbarian comic, the brooding barbarian ignores everything until his drink is spilled. Then, all hell breaks loose. In this same scene, perhaps as another nod to Thrud the Barbarian, Korgoth cleaves a man in half.

Old acquaintances that are not truly friends is another theme that arises in many Sword & Sorcery stories and films. Kull the Conqueror, for example, has the character of Juba. In this case it is Ga-Ma-Gogg, the "Baron of Thieves." We know that theme demands that this character betray the protagonist (we are even told of a prior betrayal) and betray him he does. This sets up the motivation for Korgoth's quest.

Epic quest locales are certainly brought in. In montage we see the characters travel through desert, plains, forest, icy mountains,  swamps, and a floating wizard's tower. In the opening we see a fallen Statue of Liberty-like statue.

Since Korgoth of Barbaria is actually meant to be taking place in a post-apocalyptic setting, the inclusion of the Golden Goblin of the 4th Age is a wonderful touch. That it is some future equivalent to the singing "Billy the Big-Mouth Bass" adds a touch of humor while still touching on the concept of toys of the ancient past being looked on as great treasures.

Sexual Themes
The sexual theme of Korgoth is certainly, women as objects. Every female character is a focus of sexuality. The first is the stereotypical, buxom, barmaid who is last seen with a villain combatant's head buried deeply in her cleavage. The next, a rag clothed prisoner, sits in a golden cage while Ga-Ma-Gogg attempts to fondle her. Third is Orala, another rag clothed woman, rescued after being chained to a monstrous tree. This character is the "love" interest, and runs off to the bushes with Korgoth the first possible chance.

In addition, the evil wizard, Specules, adds to these themes in several ways. As his monster (made of chewing gum) attacks Korgoth, Specules repeatedly runs his hands up and down the golden goblin idol in an intentionally masturbatory fashion. His creature then becomes a bloated, six-breasted, monster that grabs Korgoth and mercilessly tongues him. Finally, after being slain, Specules' head appears on the body of the now decapitated Orala. The villain makes several suggestive comments before escaping.

The Music
Normally, one might not think too much about the music involved in a program like this. However, the music for Korgoth of Barbaria comes with a pretty solid pedigree. The music is by Lee Holdridge, who did music and orchestration for Wizards & Warriors and The Beast Master. His music is almost a character in itself. Having someone who has written music for the genre doing the music for this piece is an unexpected pleasure.

What Didn't Stink
The entire, and much too short, twenty three minutes of this cartoon are a non-stop delight. The over the top violence, the witty dialogue, the fantastic art direction. There is not a single sour note in the entire program. That is what makes it such a shame that the series was never picked up. So, enjoy the one episode that exists.

Final Thoughts
I note that I've been assembling notes and writing about this program longer than I was watching it. Korgoth of Barbaria really sticks with a person that way. Watching it is entertaining and, if you are a fan of the genre, you'll find yourself remembering bits and pieces of it later. The show really has legs. Too bad Cartoon Network kneecapped it and brought this cult favorite to a halt just as it was beginning. Check out the Bring Back Korgoth blog while you are at it.

Works Cited

"Adult Swim Pilots Update | BumpWorthy.com - Adult Swim Bumps." BumpWorthy. BumpWorthy, n.d. Web. 07 Jan. 2014. <http://www.bumpworthy.com/bumps/3898>.
"Bring Back Korgoth!" Bring Back Korgoth! N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Jan. 2014. <http://www.bringbackkorgoth.blogspot.com/>.
"Bring Back Korgoth of Barbaria - PetitionHosting.com." Bring Back Korgoth of Barbaria. PetitionHosting.com, 14 Apr. 2008. Web. 07 Jan. 2014. <http://www.petitionhosting.com/petitions/korgoth>.
Fouldamn, Skull. "Korgoth of Barbaria." Http://www.meangoblin.com. Mean Goblin Magazine, 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 7 Jan. 2014. <http://www.meangoblin.com/korgoth-of-barbaria/>.
Holdridge, Lee. "Korgoth of Barbaria Soundtrack 1." YouTube. YouTube, 26 Mar. 2010. Web. 07 Jan. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5QjMo8AG9k>.
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