(1982)4.5Keith PhippsIf John Milius has a specialty as a director, it's making enjoyable films out of highly questionable material. In his directorial debut, Dillinger, he made the cold-blooded gangster an almost lovable figure without toning down the story's violence a bit. Here he uses Robert E. Howard's pulp hero to justify a militaristic worldview just a little to the left of a backwoods militia. Social Darwinism transported to a mythic past, Conan presents a kill-or-be-killed world in which the musclebound Schwarzenegger logically sits at the top of the food chain. Working in top form, Milius has the smarts to pull it off. The world he presents seems strangely plausible and complete, filled out with merchants, cults, and other fixtures. The action sequences are staged excitingly and, like fellow film school pals Lucas and Spielberg, he fills the film with classic film references, with one segment borrowing especially effectively from Kwaidan. On some levels it might be reprehensible, but it's entertainingly reprehensible, particularly in the fleshed out director's cut form found on the DVD version.