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Untold Tales of Hollywood #75

Film #16: Conan and the Eye of Death (1983)
Screenplay by William Stout

I have found that lots of the folks working in the film business are aspiring writers, no matter what their day job is. I was no exception. I wrote a Conan screenplay entitled Conan and the Eye of Death, a script that combined three of  Robert E. Howard‘s Conan adventures as a buccaneer/pirate, when Conan became celebrated and honored by his crew as Amra the Lion.

I did not have a lot of time to throw this together, so I used the structure of the Burt Lancaster movie The Crimson Pirate as the skeleton on which I fleshed out my tale.

Adapting Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories to the screen is incredibly difficult to do well. I started with breaking down the stories to their bare essence of plot. I quickly discovered there wasn’t much plot to Howard’s Conan stories. The bare stories I broke them down to wouldn’t work in a movie — the audience would have been way ahead of us for the entire film (not a good thing). The plot points were much too predictable or clichéd. Howard gets away with this because his descriptive details are fabulous — so fabulous that you don’t realize there is barely any story there. Often in these stories, Conan gets into a nearly unsolvable dilemma. What does Howard have Conan do in this kind of situation? He just has Conan bash his way out of the joint. Problem solved!

I found what I had to do was to make up a completely new story from scratch, then flesh it out with a healthy supply of Howard’s key story points and visual details. So, that’s what I did.

Upon checking my records, I discovered that Conan and the Eye of Death was the rewrite (I actually created an entirely new story but I still gave credit to Stanley Mann) I passed out at our first Conan the Destroyer production meeting. As you might have read in an earlier posting, nothing came of it except for pissing off the director and a producer.

I later learned that Raffaella DeLaurentiis had mentally put me in the box called “Designer”. Once you’re known for being good at at something in Hollywood, it can be difficult to jump categories.

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