Friday, March 18, 2011

Clonin' the Barbarian: CONQUEST (1983)

Earlier we were bemoaning the fact that legendary Italian exploitation director Joe D’Amato failed to deliver the juicy goods in his CONAN rip-offs ATOR THE INVINCIBLE, ATOR THE INVINCIBLE 2, and QUEST FOR THE MIGHTY SWORD.  I mean, this is a guy who previously has shown a fetus pulled from a pregnant woman’s stomach and eaten in ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980).  If he couldn’t give us an Italian “gorified” version of CONAN, who would?  Well, thankfully veteran red sauce slinger Lucio Fulci arrived on the scene.  Fulci proved his gut munching worth previously with classics like ZOMBIE (1979), CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) and THE BEYOND (1981). And, thankfully, he brought those blood-spewing sensibilities along to CONQUEST to give us the proper sleazy Italian CONAN clone.

The film opens with a group of elders seeing Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti) off on some manhood quest that I’m not quite sure of.  Did I mention that everyone is translucent?  While he sets off on his journey with the powerful bow of Kronos, we also meet Ocron (Sabrina Siani), the evil Goddess of the Sun who rules over the primitive land where Ilias is heading. She sends her wolf-men soldiers to gather a sacrifice and they perform above expectations by braining an old man who offers a goat (“Ocron like young flesh” barks the wolf leader) and graphically tearing a cavegirl in half. Ocron uses the girl’s severed head in a ritual and the wolf-men shoot some blow up her nose. She writhes around seductively on a blanket of fog with a snake before seeing a prophetic vision of a faceless stranger who will shoot a glowing blue arrow into her heart. This all happens in the film’s first 12 minutes!

Ilias arrives into this violent land and quickly catches the fancy of a QUEST FOR FIRE reject before being attacked by the wolf-men.  He is saved by muscle-bound Mace (Jorge Rivero) and the duo immediately team up.  We’re not quite sure what to make of Mace as one scene has him saving a bird (stand up guy) and the next has him killing a wandering caveman to steal his dinner (uhhhh, so wrong).  Mace takes Ilias to meet his woman (at least in this part of town) and the attractive cavegirl is with them.  Following a wordless dinner flirt, Ilias looks like he is finally going to get some loving action.  But Fulci will have none of that.  Ilias closes his eyes when he cops his first feel, only to open them and see his cavegirl’s head split open.  Oh, these wolf-men have the absolute worst timing.  Ilias is captured, but Mace frees him and again they just barely escape.

Ocron realizes she might be out of her league, so she summons Zora, who materializes out of a dog she keeps at her side.  Huh?  Anyway, Zora gets down to business and sticks Ilias with a poison dart in the “valley of evil” (of course bad stuff happens there).  The poison causes our hero to break out in boils, so Mace heads into the swamp to get a special plant that can work as a remedy to the poison.  Of course, this means only one thing – swamp creatures!  Yeah, we get some muck men who Mace easily defeats before he returns to camp, confronts Zora posing as his double, and saves Ilias with the antidote.

All this hero stuff proves too much for Ilias and he decides to split for home. Ha, some hero.  Of course, he has a change of heart halfway there and returns to save Mace from some Sleestak looking mofos.  Actually, he doesn’t.  Ilias seems so preoccupied with the power of his new TRON-glowing arrows that he doesn’t bother to jump into the ocean and save the drowning Mace.  Instead, he leaves him and only later is all excited to see Mace after he washes up on the beach (some dolphins did the hard work of untying his straps).  Like I said, some hero.  Regardless, Ilias and Mace still chill out in a cave before our hero is snagged by some bat-men and beheaded.  Yes, beheaded!  Ocron is pleased, but freaks out when Ilias’ severed head opens its eyes during her ritual. Seems the prophecy is true and our main man Mace is the one who will be her undoing, which he promptly does with Ilias’ magical weapon.  A quick glowing arrow to her golden mask reveals a face straight out of Nick Zed’s GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983).

Okay, who slipped something into my Coke Zero?  As if you couldn’t tell from the preceding summary, Fulci’s CONQUEST is out there.  Actually, I take that back.  You know where “out there” is?  Well, go beyond that and that is where you will find this film.  This is without a doubt one of the strangest flicks of the post-CONAN THE BARBARIAN sword & sorcery subgenre and that is why we love it.  I’m sure if he could have flung some YOR-esque spaceships about Fulci would have done that too.  Filmed with lots of fog and filters, the film takes on a trancelike state, which bolsters the plot that unfolds like a dream. You know, the kind of dream where you are about to get some action with a girl but suddenly her head is split open by a half-man, half-wolf.  It is in bits like this that Fulci’s film can also be seen as brave as no one is safe in this (best evidenced by the hero literally losing his head).

It is strange, but I see a lot of people bitching about this film online and saying it sucks. I’ve even seen someone call it “tame.”  WTF?  If you feel that way, then I can safely say you can delete our bookmark because you ain’t no friend of mine! Sure, the film is a bit budget starved (watch for the bit where a wolfman flips onto the ground and loses his mask), but that is also part of its charm.  You also have a rocking score from Claudio Simonetti.  Trust me, the oft-repeated drum theme will be stuck in your head by the time you finish this.  And it is packed to the gills with over-the-top elements. Fulci, who always said this was a work-for-hire situation, seemed to have a D.G.A.D. (Don’t Give A Damn) attitude while making this, almost cynically thinking, “You want blood and guts? You want nudity? Fine, take this.”  How any trash fan can watch the aforementioned first 12 minutes and not be hooked is beyond me.  And let’s not forget one of the single greatest directorial flourishes of the post-CONAN era by having the intoxicating Siani onscreen the entire time clad only in a gold mask and thorny g-string.  I’m sure the budget department loved that decision, as did the audience. Honestly, if you can’t appreciate the exploitation on display, then head on over to Transformers-theMovie.com.  It is one of those great flicks where you can see every variation of wild posters for it and say, “Goddamn, the poster didn’t lie!” Guy with nunchaku made of bones?  Check! Guy shooting neon blue arrows? Check! Topless chick in gold mask? Check! The only disappointing things about CONQUEST are that it is Fulci’s only addition to the genre and the only Italian CONAN rip-off to go above and beyond.  Oh, and that we never got to see CONQUEST II: THE RETURN OF MACE.

Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. I love Conquest beyond all reason. It's so good to see that someone else in the world shares at least some of my joy in it.

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