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'Growing Up As a Slave Thing'
Crackpot Mailbox: Mike_C & James Discuss the Conan of John Milus versus Robert E. Howard's Conan
© 2018 James LaFond
commented on Casting Kull and Conan
Dec-13-2018 4:49 PM UTC
It's been a very long time since I saw Arnold/Conan I, but if I recall, the opening premise was that child Conan was captured in some sort of raid, enslaved, and set to work as a human ox pushing that gristmill (or whatever) for years. The labor made him hugely muscular, which caught the eye of a gladiator trainer or something like that. And it was the slavemaster/trainer who taught him that Genghis Khan-ish quote.
That growing up as a slave thing completely negates the basic premise of Howard's Conan as an idealized barbarian unsullied by the corruption of civilization. (If I recall, Conan's first real encounter with the civilized Hyborians was at age 15 when he fought in the sack of Venarium.) Howard's Cimmerians are technologically primitive, but they are also the free folk, who would unhesitatingly choose death over subjugation.
Personally, my belief is that slavery beginning in childhood will do things to a man's character, thought processes, behaviors—soul if you will—that are forever inimical to self-ordered liberty thereafter, even if he is freed. Basically, it fucks you up, and in many key areas you can never be unfucked. There are a lot of unpleasant implications that follow from this, including what Nietzsche said about all of us being domesticated by society, and what I privately call eternal victim mentality (EVM).
IMNSHO the real problem with EVM is that, by viewing yourself/your people as victims, ANYTHING you do can be rationalized as "revenge", "getting back" and therefore righteous. A remarkably unsuccessful ethnic group in the US uses this (or their apologists use it) to justify outrageous amounts of violent crime, antisocial behavior, plain stupid behavior, and general dysfunction. Another, wildly successful, group uses this to justify both economic depredations on society as a whole, and to gnaw away at the logic, order, decency and morality that are the philosophical underpinnings of Western culture. (Níðhöggr eternally eats away the roots of Yggdrasil.)
Two final thoughts. 1) Of course, not ALL of group X are like that (NAXALT). 2) To specify anything about these groups is socially unacceptable in these (not so) United States, and literally illegal in places such as France.
Mike_C, this is the best comment I've fielded on anything in a while, out of a stream of excellent comments.
I agree with everything you wrote and would like to expand a little.
Let me go on record that Conan the Barbarian by John Milus, the movie starring Arnold Blackearthfarmer in his breakout role, was an excellent piece of guerilla masculinity, a defiant movie that spit in the face of Hollywood convention and earned from a reviewer, the compliment "Star War written by a psychopath."
However, this was in no way a Conan movie, had almost zero Conan story elements and most importantly, places the Conan character as a product of slavery, which is the exact opposite of his barbaric essence as depicted by Howard.
I suspect that Milus took this tack as a way of using the artifice of Conan—basically his appearance—to resurrect a kind of feral neo-masculinity, taking a character likened as a wolf, a panther a tiger and a lion in the totemic imagery of the author and making him into a pitbull, an abused and used creature that rises out of slavery to strike down a religious hippy cult—a total postmodern fabrication.
The movie begins with a quote by the sissy German philosopher Nietzsche which should be a clue as to its purpose, an attention to inspire a kind of civilized strength that has never existed in the modern world, a feral rising of the masculine from within it's simpering cocoon.
Milus totally betrayed the creator of the character which he had hijacked. However, in so doing, he crated a reactionary masterpiece that could resonate with the modern person, who had no reference for a wild barbarian, but knew in his bones that he was a slave. Instead of going the Star Wars route, that sissy movie being the adventure film template of the day, in which an orphan child of a domesticated stepfather becomes the vector for The Force according to the precepts of the self-sacrificing slave cult of the Jedi [based equally on the sacrifice of Christ, with Luke Skywalker something of a Paul to and the Japanese cult of martial sacrifice, synthesized by Lucas with the aid of comparative mythology guru Joseph Campbell] Milus latched onto the one Howard image that struck him hardest and went with that as his apex statement.
Note that Howard's Conan "was born on a battlefield" and that Milus orphan version was captured and enslaved on a battlefield and was reborn as an industrial slave, actually pushing a machine.
In A Witch Shall be Born, Howard delved into Christian heresy by having Conan defy his crucifiers on the cross and bite the head off a vulture. When bandits cut him down wondering if his back will break nailed to the falling cross, not only does he survive, but after his hands are unspiked he shoves the man working loose the spike in his feet and tears the spike out himself and rides away with the bandits, whose chief he soon becomes after regaining his strength and crushing the bandit chief's hand in a hand shake. Milus weakened that scene by 300% [Conan is rescued and nursed by friends] but still had something defiant of sacrifice, with the entire movie a framing of the risen slave overthrowing his metaphysic master, one might say a supreme work of willful revolt.
I am guessing that Milus basically took the story of a wolf among dogs and turned it into a story of a pitbull among other dogs in a bid to get stronger identification from the entirely domesticated audience. Remember that the only two guaranteed demographics expected to see this movie were Conan readers and bodybuilders and I was in both camps at the time the movie was made and the bodybuilders had money and girlfriends while the comic and paperback readers had neither. Milus knew that these two groups were heavily domesticated and made similar adjustments to the Conan character [mostly by way of prowess reduction] as he had in the script he wrote for Jeremiah Johnson, the Robert Redford movie—a pretty bot actor—which was based on Crow Killer, a partially mythic treatment of Liver Eating Johnston, a character that Milus softened by about 500% in order to permit 1970 era moviegoers to identify with him.
Like many corruptions of our culture and myths and identities, John Milus' Conan the Barbarian became what it was due to monetary concerns and was made to sell, and like all or our pulp culture represents and offering to the great living god of our civilization, The Economy. However, despite all of this, the man made a film that still spit at the Devil that owns us.
Elements taken from Robert E. Howard's Conan tales were:
-Father was a blacksmith [heavily embellished] The Hour of the Dragon
-Born to the Cimmerian tribes [heavily embellished] All Tales
-Had an ass-kicking female partner [heavily distorted from Valeria of Red Nails who he did not fuck] Red Nails
-Was crucified [heavily softened and downplayed into a victim scene] a Witch Shall Be Born
-Fought a big sacred snake [but did it alone] The Hour of the Dragon
-Saved by a Deceased love interest, the only faithful element, Queen of the Black Coast
-The setting and the choice of Spain for filming, did result in a more authentic depiction of the Hyborian world than either of the subsequent movies.
Note: The Atlantean sword and wolf scenes all come from an L. Sprague de Camp Conan story
-Valeria was a composite of Valeria from Red Nails, Belit from Queen of the Black Coast, conflated with Howard's medieval Dark Agness and Red Sonja. This character greatly distorted, emasculated and reduced the Conan character and predicted video game and movie trends towards female heroines as sex objects for nerd and avatars for feminist viewers, arguably the most dominant trend in heroic storytelling, and ironically hero-negating. This arguably makes Milus the single most corrosive movie maker in history, up there with the DreamWorks fаggot and Lucas Film.
Elements adapted from other Howard Tales
-The Oversexed Witch, heavily adapted from Worms of the Earth in which barbarian king Bran Mak Morn fucks a lizard woman-sorceress to bring down doom on his Roman enemies.
-Thulsa Doom, named for an early Kull villain but based on the Grandfather of Hashishans at Alamut circa 1200 A.D. The scene where Thulsa Doom beckons the girl to leap to her death was lifted directly from Louis L'Amour's crusader novel The Walking Drum.
-Subadai the side kick, faithfully adapted from Brule, Kull's Pictish sidekick
-The wizard played by Mako, heavily adapted from Solomon Kane's witch doctor N'longa
Milus Elements
-Choice of soundtrack was an epic success
-The feral philosophy of Nietzsche
-Civilization as slavery as a means of getting the viewer to partially identify with Howard's Barbarism versus Civilization thesis, greatly enhanced by Arnold's highly domesticated and posture-based physique. Once cast as Conan, Arnold does not work as a wild man as he is too mechanical
-The King and the Khan were pure Milus, who had a masters in History
-The cult of doom was pure reactionary culture war against the abomination of the 1960s hippy movement, which we can say was all Milus all the way, as Conan even beats up a homosexual propositioning him in cultic garb!
Turd America
Trumpapocalypse Now: The Advent of an American Usurper at the fall of Western Civilization
Own the collected works of John Saxon, Professor X, Eirik Blood Axe, William Rapier and other counter culture critics, on Kindle, via the link below. Amazon:
The Great Train Wreck of the West
Casting Kull and Conan
a well of heroes
thriving in bad places
your trojan whorse
son of a lesser god
masculine axis
the first boxers
the combat space
time & cosmos
Shep     Dec 16, 2018

Milus was probably not the only one modifying the tale and straying from canon. Hollywood films have a coven of screenwriters, editors, etc. who are constantly messing with the product in a way that they hope will maximize profits. Once Sol and Morty get done tweaking each scene to appeal to moviegoers in every possible demographic, you're lucky if the finished product bears any resemblance to the original vision at all.

The only way I've heard to counteract this syndrome is if the star is a BIG star, and he really cares about the original script/story. Arnie wasn't a star until after Conan came out, and I'm sure he didn't care about anything except Arnie anyway.

That's why it will be important to get total buy-in from Wesley Snipes or MJ White before Poet goes into production!
James     Dec 17, 2018

If you can make it happen I'll split the dough with you, Shep.

I'd say Snipes is the right age but either would be great.
Shep     Dec 18, 2018

I have activated my idea machine.

Expect results.
James     Dec 19, 2018

Expectation of results in place.

Tomorrow I will be posting on a stud football player with no offers if you have anything to add on melanin-based NFL and university recruitment.
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