Song of the Day: The Leaving/The Search from Conan the Barbarian (by Basil Poledouris)


Conan the Barbarian OST

If there’s been one constant in this site right from the beginning it’s been my love for the film Conan the Barbarian and it’s equally great orchestral score that was composed by the very underappreciated film composer Basil Poledouris. Sure, everyone loves John Williams and rightly so. Then there’s the inexplicable love and worship of Hans Zimmer. Zimmer does some good, and sometimes, great work, but his overall work all tends to sound the same.

Basil Poledouris, on the other hand, seem to have been pushed to the sidelines despite creating some very iconic pieces of film scores in his lifetime. The peak of which will always be the orchestral score he composed for John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian.

I’ve chosen some key pieces from this soundtrack throughout the years. From the Carmina Burana inspired “Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom” to the rousing “Anvil of Crom” intro all the way to the melancholy and introspective “Orphans of Doom/Awakening”. I think in time every piece of music from this score will make it onto this site. That is just how great this soundtrack from start to finish really has become. Even it’s weakest moments have elements of to them that make them stand out from the latest Zimmer.

Today, it shall be the section of the score for the film that accentuates Conan’s decision to take on a quest that will finally bring him to the very warlord who destroyed his people and killed his family: “The Leaving/The Search”.

Song of the Day: Orphans of Doom/The Awakening (by Basil Poledouris)


Basil-Pictures-2

We’re closing out another year and it’s always time to reflect back on the events the we all experienced.

Here in Through the Shattered Lens we saw a new writer join the ranks with the arrival and addition of Alexandre Rothier. We also saw more and more of our writers grow in confidence with their writing. This didn’t just translate into more writing from them, but better as well. There’s Dazzling Erin with her constant surprise of finding new artists to share. Then leonth3duke who finally made the jump to truly appreciating horror. Leonard Wilson continued to find his voice with each new review he wrote.

I can’t forget necromoonyeti who continues to be my source of all things music and with each new band written I pick up something new to experience. Semtex Skittle showed the world his appreciation not just for the franchise of Final Fantasy but Sailor Moon as well and to that otaku are grateful. Speaking of otaku there’s the site’s own big bear of one with pantsukudasai56 who always brings in his choice recommendations in anime.

Then there’s Dork Geekus giving us his thoughts on things comic book. We also have trashfilmguru gracious enough to take time to share his unique take on horror, comic books both high and low-brow who also keeps the rest of us from drinking the Marvel Kool-Aid wholesale which makes for a better site.

Finally there’s my co-founder and partner-in-crime Lisa Marie Bowman who upped her game as she literally propped up the site at times with her voluminous, insightful and unique brand of writing. I will be forever grateful for her continued support and for becoming one of my closest friends.

I’ve chosen the latest “Song of the Day” as an analogue to what I saw myself and this site go through this year of 2014. I had just lost my father at the tail end of 2013 (it is a loss still felt even today) and then had fallen deathly ill around the holidays. Through it all I was thankful and proud of the work my fellow writers were able to do in my absence through my grief and sickness.

Basil Poledouris remains an artist I’ve admired from the moment I heard his music transform John Milius’ screen adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Cimmerian barbarian from just your standard violent sword-and-sorcery matinee piece to something close to a perfect blend of epic fantasy and primal storytelling. Poledouris would go on to make other memorable film scores, but it’s his work in Conan the Barbarian that always remains his most iconic piece of work.

With the final denouement that follows the climax of the film we have a somber piece titled “Orphans of Doom/The Awakening” closing off the film. I chose this piece to symbolize the year Through the Shattered Lens went through. The piece begins on a somber note with the use of a choir adding a layer of the ethereal, but as the piece continues to it’s conclusion it gradually segues into something triumphant with hope for the future.

This song perfectly encapsulates Through the Shattered Lens circa 2014 and it’s my hope that brighter future awaits me and mine as the new year dawns.

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.36 “Pigeons From Hell”


In this episode of Thriller, two brothers from up north (played by Brandon De Wilde and David Whorf) have car trouble while driving through Louisiana and, naturally, they decided to spend the night in a deserted mansion that happens to be sitting in the middle of a swamp.  Needless to say, as is usually the case whenever Yankees get stranded in the bayou, bad things happen….

Pigeons From Hell is actually a surprisingly effective horror story.  Director John Newland creates a pervasive atmosphere of dread and De Wilde makes for a sympathetic protagonist.  This episode was originally broadcast on June 6th, 1961 and watching it today, it’s hard not to suspect that a lot of the kids who watched Pigeons From Hell later grew up to the be the directors who made the slasher films of the late 70s and 80s.

Incidentally, Pigeons From Hell is based on a short story by native Texan Robert E. Howard.  Apparently, Stephen King once said that this was one of his favorite TV shows ever but we won’t hold that against it.

Review: Conan the Barbarian (dir. by Marcus Nispel)


In 1982 the duo of John Milius (director) and Arnold Schwarzenneger (actor) brought to the big-screen the first film adaptation of the classic, pulp character of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard. The Milius-Schwarzenneger Conan the Barbarian was an instant hit and classic. It also made Schwarzenneger into an A-list superstar who would rule the 80’s and 90’s. This film was followed up by a lesser quality, though fun in its own way, sequel in 1984 with Conan the Destroyer. Milius saw this franchise as a trilogy with the third and final film to be called Conan the Conqueror. But a sort of blacklisting of Milius as a filmmaker and Schwarzenneger moving onto other projects killed the planned third film. The start of the new millenium saw an interest in restarting the third film, but after countless delays and changes in filmmakers and stars the project was once again shelved.

In 2010, the franchise which launched an Austrian-bodybuilder into superstardom was finally greenlit, but this time around it would be a reboot of the series with the film hewing coser to Robert E. Howard’s creation and world-building than the Milius version of 1982. To bring Conan the Cimmerian to life would be Hawaiian-Irish Jason Momoa (of Stargate Atlantis and Game of Thrones fame) with German-filmmaker Marcus Nispel taking on the directing reins. The film’s trio of writers (Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood) would literally take the world of the Hyborian Age which Howard had meticulously created for his Conan character and use that as the basis for this reboot.

Conan the Barbarian begins with a surprising introductory narration of the world of the Hyborian Age by none other than Morgan Freeman. This narration was one clue that while this film wouldn’t and shouldn’t be seen as thought-provoking and award-season fare it looks to try anything and everything to make it fun and relevant. The film succeeds in this respect in its own way. As we see Conan come into the world as a baby born of battle in the most literal way. It’s not often we see on the big-screen a pregnant mother delivering her child by way of battlefield C-section. From this moment forward this film will wallow in the bloody carnage and machismo-fueled world of Robert E. Howard to the nth degree.

The film’s Conan as played by Leo Howard as the younger version then to Jason Momoa as the adult version looks to be different than the Schwarzenneger one. While Momoa was still quite the physical specimen on the screen he also exuded a sense of fluid, athleticism like that of a sleek jungle cat whereas Arnold’s Conan was more of the big cat of the savannah. The stand out performance in the film comes from both Leo Howard (quite ferocious as the young Conan) and Momoa. The film lives or dies on whether we believe these two actors as the characters they inhabit. Not once during the near 2-hour running time do we not believe these two as Conan.

Conan the Barbarian as a film does have several weaknesses which could derail it for me. For one, the story itself is quite cliched as we see the typical hero’s journey coinciding with the goal of saving the world from an almost cartoonish villain (Stephen Lang clearly having fun as the warlord Khalar Zym) with an equally cartoonish sidekick (Rose McGowan who seemed out of place as Zym’s witch-daughter Marique). The story’s plot seems more geared like a video game where each sequence was there to put Conan in the best way possible to do what he does best and that’s kill enemies by the score and do it with bloody panache.

While the film will definitely not score very well with many people I think they will do so as they compare it to the original Milius film. I think the mistake they also will use as an excuse to not like the film is that it’s dumb and loud. I, for one, thought I would feel the same, but as I watched the film I acknowledged those very same criticisms, saw the flaws, but in the end I still enjoyed the film for what it was: an almost gleeful, throwback to the 80’s sword-and-sorcery exploitation film that tried to cash in on the success of the original Conan the Barbarian.

Nispel’s film may not stand the test of time as the original, but in the end he made a film that actually stayed true to the pulpy origins of the character (Robert E. Howard was never known as a subtle writer and this film reveled in his blunt-way of writing). This Conan the Barbarian was several steps above the usual sword-and-sorcery stuff which the SyFy Channel seems to churn out by the dozen each year and it’s steps below that of the original. What it does share with the 1982 film is a sense of fun even if it’s at the expense of story and character and at times I’m fine with that. Not everything has to be Inception or Pride and Prejudice.

Review: Conan the Barbarian (dir. by John Milius)


Khitan General: “Conan, what is best in life?”
Conan: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!”

1982 premiered what has to be one of my favorite films ever. It was a film that was year’s in the making and had as one of it’s producers the eccentric and powerful Hollywood icon, Dino De Laurentiis. It also starred who was then a very much unknown Austrian bodybuilder-turned-actor in Arnold Schwarzenneger. To round out this unusual cast of characters producing this film would be the maverick screenwriter-director John Milius not to mention a young writer still fresh from Vietnam, Oliver Stone. During it’s production there were conflicts between producer and director as to the tone of the film right up to who should actually play the lead character. It’s a good thing that Milius was the ringmaster of this group of characters as his personality was able to steer things to what finally ended up as the film legions of fans have known and seen throughout the decades since it’s release. Conan the Barbarian was, and still is, a fantasy film of quality which still remains as action-packed and full of flights of fancy in the beginning of 2011 as it did when it premiered in 11982.

Milius and Stone adapted the stories of Robert E. Howard while adding their own flourishes to the iconic Cimmerian character. While many Howard purists were aghast at how these two writers had turned a character who was muscular but also athletic and lean into the hulking muscle-bound one Schwarzenneger inhabited the final result would silence most of these critics. The film kept the more outlandish backstory of Howard’s writing, but left enough to allow the film’s story and background to remain something out of Earth’s past prehistory. It was a film which was part origin tale for the title character, part coming of age film and part revenge story.

The film begins with a sequence narrated by iconic Asian-actor Mako as he tells of the beginnings of his liege and master Conan and the high adventures which would soon follow. Conan the Barbarian actually has little dialogue in the very beginning outside of that narration and a brief interlude between a young Conan and his father about the meaning of the “riddle of steel”. Most of the film’s beginning is quite silent in terms of dialogue. This didn’t matter as film composer Basil Poledouris’ symphonic score lent an air of the operatic to the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film. It’s here we’re introduced to James Earl Jones’ Atlantean-survivor and warlord in Thulsa Doom whose barband scours the land trying to find the meaning to the “riddle of steel”. The destruction of Conan’s village and people is the impetus which would drive the young Conan to stay alive through years of slavery, pit-fighting and banditry. He would have his revenge on Thulsa Doom and along the way he meets up and befriends two other thieves in Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and Valeria (Sandahl Bergman whose presence almost matches Schwarzenneger’s in intensity and confidence).

The rest of the film sees these three having the very tales of high adventures mentioned of in the film’s beginning narration and how an unfortunate, albeit succcesful robbery of a cult temple, leads Conan to the very thing he desires most and that’s to find Thulsa Doom. It’s here we get veteran actor Max Von Sydow as King Osric in a great scene as he tasks Conan and his companions to find and rescue his bewitched daughter from the clutches of Doom. In King Osric we see a character who may or may not be a glimpse into Conan’s future, but as Conan’s chronicler says later in the film that would be a tale told at another time.

Conan the Barbarian is a film that was able to balance both storytelling and action setpieces quite well that one never really gets distracted by the dialogue that at times came off clunky. Plus, what action setpieces they were to behold. From the initial raid by Doom and his men on Conan’s village right up to the final and climactic “Battle of the Mounds” where Doom and his men square off against Conan and his outnumbered friends in an ancient battlefield full of graveyard mounds. The film is quite bloody, but never truly in a gratuitous manner. Blood almost flows like what one would see in comic books. Conan is shown as an almost primal force of nature in his violence. In the end it’s what made the film such a success when it first premiered and decades since. It was Howard’s character (though changed somewhat in the adaptation) through and through and audiences young and old, male and female, would end up loving the film upon watching it.

This film would generate a sequel that had even more action and piled one even more of the fantastical elements of the Howard creation, but fans of the first film consider it of lesser quality though still somewhat entertaining. The film would become the breakout role for Arnold Schwarzenneger and catapult him into action-hero status that would make him one of the best-known and highest paid actor’s in Hollywood for two decades. It would also catapult him to such popularity that some would say it was one of the stepping stones which would earn him seven years as California’s governor at the turn of the new millenium.

In the end, Conan the Barbarian succeeds in giving it’s audience the very tales of myths and high adventures spoken of by Conan’s chronicler. It’s a testament to the work by Milius and Schwarzenneger couple with one of the most beloved and iconic film scores in film history by Basil Poledouris that Conan the Barbarian continues and remains one of the best films of it’s genre and one which helped spawn off not just a sequel but countless of grindhouse and exploitation copies and imitation both good and bad. The film also is a great in that it helped bring audiences to want to learn more about the character of Conan and as a lover of the written word the impact this film had on Howard’s legacy is the best compliment I can give about this film.

Trailer: Conan the Barbarian


1982 saw the release of one of the most iconic fantasy films ever with the John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenneger collaboration, Conan the Barbarian. There was a follow-up sequel that wasn’t as great as the first, but still did well enough that down the year there was talk of a third film to finish off the Schwarzenneger Conan trilogy. It never happened as the project continued to be shelved year after year until even Arnold himself backed out and thought a third film was never in the cards.

This trailer suggests otherwise though it’s more of a reboot to the Conan film franchise and sticks much closer to the character and world created by it’s creator Robert E. Howard. This film is directed by German filmmaker Marcus Nispel whose body of work tends to be in the genre arena like the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the Viking-Indians mashup story, Pathfinder. There’s also to be a new Conan in the form of Jason Momoa (who played the character of Ronan in the long-running scifi tv series, Stargate Atlantis) who is currently gaining some fans outside of his Stargate work due to his casting as the mighty Khal Drogo in HBO’s critically-acclaimed and very popular fantasy series, Game of Thrones.

This Conan the Barbarian remake looks to return the character to it’s Age of Hyboria roots. The trailer gives ample evidence of the film using much of the fantasy world Robert E. Howard created with long-lost civilizations, evil warlords, sorcery and, of course, fantastic monsters. While the trailer doesn’t show just how well Jason Momoa acts as the character Conan it does show that he fits the role the way Howard originally wrote him. While still having a muscled physique this Conan also is more agile and lithe than the Schwarzenneger iteration.

Conan the Barbarian is set for an August 19, 2011 release on both 2D and 3D screens.