Review Summary: Undoubtedly one of the best original soundtracks of all time.
It would be stretching the imagination to proclaim the 1982 "Conan the Barbarian" film starring Alex Schwarzeneggar as some sort of cinematic triumph. Director John Milius attempted to play the movie as a straight sword and sorcery epic without much hint of the usual cheesy humour that pervades the genre, which is quite admirable, but the less than stellar cast and sub-standard script didn't quite match up to the vision. Schwarzeneggar was, and always will be, the definitive Conan, James Earl Jones is suitably charismatic as Thulsa Doom and Jerry Lopez as Subatai does an admirable job considering he was plucked from the surfing beaches of Honolulu with no previous acting experience but the film falls flat in a number of areas. No, the film isn't a classic. But the original soundtrack composed and conducted by Basil Polidouris most certainly is. It nearly elevates the actual movie into a work of art.
Most people will be familiar with the rousing main theme "An Age Undreamed Of - Anvil of Crom" which is available on this album in two versions, one of which thankfully lacks the voice introduction by Mako the wizard. But there is a whole lot more to this soundtrack than the Conan theme. Whenever I hear this soundtrack I cannot but picture the actual movie scenes in my mind. The music fits the action in the film so well that it almost seems as if the film was based on this tone poem and not the other way around. The opening scene in which Conan's father bestows the "Riddle of Steel" upon his son, "no one in this world can you trust, not men, not women, not beasts...this you can trust" as he passes him a sword, followed by the raid on the village by the "Riders of Doom" is aptly mirrored by the wonderful music. The "Atlantean Sword" piece conjures images of barren frozen wastes and windswept mountains and perfectly captures the sense of wonder as Conan discovers the ancient atlantean sword on the corpse of the skeleton king in the mountain cave. The extended battle scene as Conan and his followers assault the palace of Thulsa Doom is also brought to life by the epic "The Kitchen - The Orgy - Stealing the Princess - You!" and the sheer joy and optimistic enthusiasm of the beautiful "Theology - Civilization" as Conan and Subatai discuss their personal mythologies over a campfire and are then to be seen running across the mountains in search of civilization is a real high point. The cinematography in each of those scenes is nothing particularly special but due to the epic soundtrack the film comes to life. You can even close your eyes and listen to "The Battle of the Mounds - Resourceful Warriors" and try to imagine the battle scene at the mounds isn't marred by the appearance of the spirit of Valeria as an appallingly tawdry incarnation of some sort of avenging Valkyrie.
If ever there was an example of how a soundtrack can elevate a film beyond it's natural state, this is it. The music that accompanies these sort of movies usually consists of worthless synthesizer themes and appallingly cheesy faux-metal. Happily that wasn't the case in this instance. Absolutely one of the best original soundtracks of all time.