Friday, October 20, 2006

Doom is one of the baddest movie villains of all time (Sept. 06 Manistee News Advocate)

Associate Editor
James Earl Jones has a commanding body of professional work. His first successes were in the theater. He won a 1969 Tony award for playing boxer Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope, and an Oscar nomination for playing the same role in a 1970 film version. I’ve enjoyed watching him (or hearing him) as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars film series, and some of my favorite roles Jones has portrayed over the years are the reclusive Salinger-like author in Field of Dreams, and the CIA chief in the Tom Clancy spy flicks The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Being a father of two, I must also mention his fine work as the voice of Mufasa in The Lion King. These performances are well known by everyone and always turn up on lists of favorite films by the esteemed actor. But I have to admit, one of my favorite roles is his portrayal of Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian. I remember seeing the film for the first time when I was thirteen years old -- a time in the early-eighties when science fiction and sword and sorcery films were just starting to pique the interest of the general public. Conan is arguably the film that started the fantasy genre explosion.At that age, I had plowed through all of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as J.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings books; fantasy and swordplay were at the forefront of my imagination, and Conan was right up my alley. This film is often overlooked because it is considered to be minimalist in the dialogue department. What makes up for its lack of wordiness are the fantastic visual qualities of the film, rousing score, minimal reliance on special effects, and especially the performances of its main actors, first and foremost Jones. His lines are carefully crafted and delivered in a cold, dark, malevolent tone. I have often quoted Doom’s “Infidel Defilers. They shall all drown in lakes of blood,” or my favorite line of the film, “contemplate this on the tree of woe. Crucify him!”Even when he isn’t speaking, Jones’ portrayal of Doom is that of pure evil. He manages to make you hate him in the film’s opening scene, and throughout the film with his sinister and ominous presence alone and non-verbal posturing, and provides the audience the needed fuel to root on Schwarzenegger, (in his breakout role), to find and destroy the man who has killed his family.The film was directed by John Milius, who co-wrote and/or directed such popular and critically acclaimed films such as Apocalypse Now, The Hunt for Red October, and Red Dawn, and Conan was co-written by famed writer/director Oliver Stone. Stone and Milius hired an impressive cast around Jones, including Max Von Sydow as King Osric, and some bold casting of some brand new actors -- Schwarzenegger included.Thulsa Doom is one of the top ten movie bad guys of all time. It is amazing that Jones, so often known for playing a good guy, could pull off such an evil character portrayal. It’s a true testament to his acting ability. And while there may not have been any Oscars awarded to the film, it stands as one of the most loved and re-watched fantasy films of all time.

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