The original Conan the Barbarian movie from 1982 not only put Arnold Schwarzenegger front and center as the most definitive Conan of all time, but it also acted as another stepping stone (pun!) for Oliver Stone’s future Hollywood career.
But Stone’s script was not exactly what Paramount Pictures was going for, considering it strayed so heavily from the original Robert E. Howard books written almost 20 years prior. The final product was certainly unique in its portrayal of the Conan character and dark themes it conveyed, but if Stone had his way, we would have seen mutants and dark gods in a Dante’s Inferno world.
The opening sequence in Stone’s script describes a map of present-day Europe, Asia, Africa, and America that eventually crumbles to the sea as volcanos and earthquakes reshape the land.
According to CBR.com, remnants of that script did remain, but for the most part, it was rewritten by John Milius.
“The script begins in a familiar fashion, with Conan as a child, witnessing a raid on his village and the slaying of his family,” CBR describes. “But the story then takes some big swerves. In Stone’s draft, Thulsa Doom is a side character, despite being described as the greatest threat; a sorcerer-general who relies on his unholy conduit to Set. The central villain for much of the film is Taramis. Believed to have perished long ago, she returns after the death of King Prospero to wrench the kingdom away from her twin sister, the newly crowned Queen Yasmine.”
But here’s where it gets really post-apocalyptic as Thulsa Doom is joined by legions of mutants to battle against Conan. Thulsa eventually crucifies Conan as in the 1982 movie, but “the circumstances are quite different.”
CBR goes on to note that a significant loss from Stone’s original script that would have been fantastic in the movie is Stone’s depiction of the infamous decapitation scene. “The demon god Set, Lovecraftian in its tentacled splendor, rises from the depths of the earth to claim the sorcerer’s head. But Stone’s biggest scenes, like this one, threatened to balloon the cost of production beyond what was possible. Stone envisioned battles with thousands of mutants, all requiring intricate effects work. Between the draft’s length and its ruined future setting, John Milius quickly set it aside.”
Of course, it’s important to note that a Conan-esque Saturday morning cartoon WAS created in a post-apocalyptic universe, even before the movie was released. Thundarr the Barbarian was a Ruby-Spears production that ran from 1980 to 1981 depicting a traditional fantasy landscape in a far-future world. The cartoon was never wildly popular at the time, only lasting two seasons, but is now considered a cult classic.
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