Wednesday 11 August 2010

Conan the Talkative Barbarian

A little lesson on film dialogue.

The tagline to Conan the Barbarian was: He conquered an empire with his sword. She conquered HIM with her bare hands!

Central to the film is the touching and tender romance between Conan and Valeria. However, in the two-hour movie Conan says only five words to the object of his affection, and they're all within thirty seconds of their first meeting.

'You're not a guard.'


True love, eh? But it does show the value of brevity. A screenwriter friend of mine once explained that film is a basically visual medium. You should be able to watch a good movie with the sound turned off. I have experimented with this theory and it's thoroughly true. Even a verbose movie like Pulp Fiction is utterly comprehensible without the words. There are two gangsters in a car. They get out. They go to a flat with some teenagers in. They search it. They find a briefcase. They shoot the teenagers.

Because the storytelling is entrusted to the pictures, the dialogue is free to range through such topics as European hamburger restaurants, foot massages and the Bible. In Conan the Barbarian the dialogue is free not to exist at all.

Incidentally, the taciturn script was the work of the young Oliver Stone.

Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak.


  1. Arny in the good old days. Although now that he is a Senator and all, can one still call him Arny? And does it apply to non Americans? mmm.

  2. Keda,

    Please, he is the Governator of California not a Senator.

  3. I recently inherited a wheel of pain from my uncle, in brutal antique condition.

    Inky, I want to know whether the break-up value of this instrument (selling the parts on to scrap vendors and art dealers) is more than if I arrange for a child slave to work the machine and wait for one of the large entertainment corporations to bid for the slave in a few years, after he has bulked up to a grotesquely entertaining size.

    What are the economic factors I need to be aware of in order to make the right decision here?

    The wheel is on a very desolate plot of land in the desert, so it’s not really taking up any of my arable land.

  4. Everet,
    The question is what property rights you would be able to maintain on the child. A star is a fast-depreciating asset. If you produce and then sell freehold of the child you wouldn't make too much money. However, if you hang on for too long you'll find yourself in complete ownership of one of the cast of Stand By Me, and nobody wants that. There's a graph here that should give you some pointers on when your infantile option should mature.

  5. Hi Inky,

    Thanks for settling that. Why go long on a squirmy living thing indeed.

    My follow up question is this:

    Would I get a huge alpha return if I cashed the NPV of the child slave and bought these mythical objects instead:

    • Columns of Sadness
    • Anvils of Crom
    • Riddles of Steel
    • Orphans of Doom
    • Gifts of Fury
    • Orgies of Iconoclasticisms

  6. I'd definitely invest in the Anvils of Crom. Columns of sadness are ten-a-penny (consult Mourner's Weekly). Orphans of Doom are doomed and fury and iconoclasm are too Byzantine.

    The great advantage of an anvil is that you can use it to make your own riddle of steel, thus doubling up on your original investment.

  7. Dogberry, did you factor in the PR potential of Orgies of Iconoclasticism? They could potentially form a loss-leader that will get people to your website or through the door, particularly if you mention 'free' and 'video.'

    I don't think iconoclasticism has ever really gone out of style.