Friday, March 03, 2006


I've just seen an exceedingly crappy movie, and I'd like to share it with you. In a recent post about sword & sorcery movies, I made a brief mention of Conquest, by the infamous Italian director Lucio Fulci. It arrived today, by the grace of Netflix and the US Postal Service, and... wow, it's really poor, a terrible, terrible movie.

Before I get to my own comments, here are some other reviews, so you can get a diverse set of opinions about the film and all. From the website names alone (other than Amazon, perhaps), it's obvious that the Merchant-Ivory mafia holds no sway here. Several of the reviewers are horror fans who think the director's normally a genius, except perhaps for this movie. Even the most harcore fanboys can't make this one look good:
And now for a few comments of my own:
  1. I've never seen so much fog in my entire life. Is it supposed to be artistic? Or did somebody's no-good brother need a job, and the only thing he could do was run a fog machine? Enough with the fog, already. It's true that a proper S&S movie needs a bit of fog machine work here and there, but not every freakin' scene. Certain Fulci apologists have tried to blame the movie's appearance on a bad video or DVD transfer, but it's obvious that there was fog in the original scene.
  2. The score is suitably cheesy. It's one scene after another of some dork noodling away on a synthesizer. One mentally associates 80's fantasy movies with heavy metal music, but I don't recall actually seeing the two combined on film. It's always synthesizers. And at least in this department, The Conquest delivers.
  3. If there's a moral to the story, which I doubt, it's that being able to see the future is more trouble than it's worth. The evil sorceress forsees her own demise at the hands of one of the two heroes, and everything from there is all self-fulfilling prophecy. Basically she decides that some guy in a distant land is a threat to her, because he has a WMD (a magic bow, in this case), and sends her minions out on a preemptive attack to deal with him. Sound familiar? Does this ever turn out well?
  4. If we're going to be genre sticklers, there are no actual swords in this movie. One guy has a magic bow, the other has a sling, plus some special rocks that explode when you toss them in people's campfires. The bad guys don't seem to have mastered tool use (probably couldn't, in those costumes), and rely on a bit of listless wrestling and occasional tossing of nets.
  5. You couldn't pay me enough to do the scene where the older guy's tied to a pole underwater, and he's rescued by a pair of dolphins that bite the ropes away from his wrists. The next time you see a dolphin, look at all those teeth. You couldn't pay me enough. Yikes!
  6. Not to spoil things, but the film does pull a switcheroo on viewers as to which guy will be the sole conquering hero in the end. You think it's one, but it's the other. I'm not telling which.
  7. There's a bit of gore here, but it's not exactly high-quality gore. Unless the natives of these weird and foggy lands have Campbell's tomato soup for blood.
  8. The evil high priestess spends the whole movie wearing just a spiky g-string and a gold mask, plus the occasional boa constrictor. If I'd seen this movie when I was 15 or so and impressionable, I might've ended up with some really odd notions.
  9. However, everybody keeps saying the movie's full of sex and violence, and it isn't, at least not by S&S standards. She alone accounts for about 90% of the movie's t&A. And not to be crude or anything, but that 't' is lowercase for a reason, if you get my drift.
  10. Like any S&S "buddy" movie, there's an obvious gay subtext to the movie, but as usual the movie doesn't pull it off very well. There's no real chemistry between the older and younger guy. It's almost as if the director wasn't aware of this theme, despite all the loincloths and furry boots.
  11. Also, the young guy is really scrawny, and the older guy is, well, older, and kind of stubbly. Neither takes his shirt off in the whole movie, which may not be a bad thing. So the movie really falls down in the beefcake department. I like to think I'm an egalitarian sort of person, so if the women in S&S movies are going to be objectified, the men ought to be as well. It's only fair.
  12. I don't think Fulci liked dogs very much. The sorceress's lackeys are weird dog-faced creatures, and she and the faceless male(?) being that arrives to help her out halfway through both are able to transform into dogs. None of this is ever explained, of course.
  13. People spend a lot of time sleeping in this movie. I don't know why. Tsetse flies, maybe? It's never explained, but you soon realize that you don't get a lot of action or character development out of sleeping characters, do you? Actually in this movie you don't get a lot of action or character development, period.
  14. Whenever people aren't sleeping, they're having "dramatic" scenes at what is either sundown or sunup. If you feel like creating a Conquest drinking game, you might want to start out with "If someone tries to emote in front of a sunset or sunrise, drink!", and go from there.
  15. There's an edgy moment where the older guy kills some random peasant with an arrow and swipes the pig carcass he was carrying. Our heroes then enjoy a hearty pig dinner. The young guy is puzzled because the older guy's supposed to be such a great friend of animals and all. The older guy makes a flippant remark about that, and we never revisit the issue. Hey, he's a barbarian, not a righter of wrongs and defender of the defenseless.
  16. The blue glowing magic arrow thing isn't a bad effect for 1983. It's the movie's one effect, so it's used over and over again. It's not bad, but you'll be sick of it before long. The bad-guy arrows inexplicably shooting out of a large bush are not such a good effect, and you'll see this one a few times too many as well. I did like the way our heroes endure a few minutes of these cheesy arrow effects, and then turn tail and run away.
  17. When the young guy ends up getting hit in the leg, we discover that the bad guys use really puny arrows. Not so much arrows as pipe cleaners, in fact. Or maybe pine needles. But these, ahem, arrows are poisoned, so when the young guy gets nicked by one, he ends up with a number of highly unconvincing boils. More tomato soup.
  18. You can always tell if someone's a peasant, because if so, they're always covered in caked-on mud. Yes, even on their hair. Peasants always have muddy hair, it seems.
  19. The movie doesn't lack for poorly animated birds and bats. The older guy finds an injured bird of some kind at one point, and once he's nursed it back to health in a day or two, it rejoins the film's other two marionette birds. I guess to heal one of these birds, all you really need to do is reattach the strings, and it's off flying again.
So in sum, if you're going to see exactly one S&S movie, see a different one. If you're going to see all S&S movies, you'll have to get around to this one sooner or later, but try some of the classics first, so you have a good handle on the conventions of the genre. Then watch this one just for the sake of completeness. For anyone who doesn't fall into either category, um, I don't know whether to recommend this or not. I'll be happy to recommend it to anyone who agrees not to blame me when they decide they hate the thing.

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