Friday, 25 September 2009

Conquest (1983)

No, you do not need glasses.
The whole fucking movie is shot like this.

A Lucio Fulci sword and sorcery film? Sign me the fuck up! On paper it sounds like the best thing ever, but there are few things holding it back and it's not just because there aren't any fucking swords. Firstly, don't be fooled by the nunchuck-wielding Conan wannabe on the cover, the hero of the movie is actually this leather-clad wiener named Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti from The New York Ripper). As the movie opens he is being lectured by a bunch of toga-wearing beardos on a misty, soft-focus beach. A man gives him a longbow and then tells him that long ago a hero named Cronos was able to use it to fire laser arrows. Ilias asks "It was magic, wasn't it?" which I thought was a reasonable assumption but according to this guy it was a sign he had become a man. After some more rambling prophecy and vague words of wisdom, he is sent away to a strange, distant land to fulfill his ill-defined destiny.

This mysterious land is home to an evil Sorceress named Ocron, who rules over the six or seven peasants with an iron fist. Despite the fact that the peasants are all wrapped in furs she likes to walk around completely naked save for a g-string and a feather boa, not that I'm complaining. She also wears a metal mask that conceals her entire head, but I immediately recognised those breasts as belonging to Sabrina Siani (2020: Texas Gladiators). In her employ she has an army of wolf men (at first I thought they were just furries, but there is some mild articulation in their masks to suggest they are actually werewolves) and S&M masked henchmen. I say army even though there's only half a dozen or so but since there's only a handful of peasants, it works out pretty well. At first she seems like a pretty cool boss, at the end of a hard day slaughtering the innocent she lets you hit the crack pipe with her and then watch her writhe around naked and covered in snakes. If you fuck up, however, she'll torture you or roast you over some hot coals. So like any job there's some good and bad.

During one of her drug orgies she has a strange vision, a faceless man shooting her with a magic bow and arrow, so she sends out her soldiers to kill him. In Ilias' his first battle against them he puts in an utterly pathetic attempt to fight them off (he only thought to bring about four arrows). Luckily this muscled, long-haired dude leaps into the fray and starts whipping ass with a mace while our hero lies face down in the mud. He is named Mace and carries a mark on his forehead that means he is a friend to no man, probably because they all make fun of his generic name. Instead he has developed a kinship with all animals, but don't think he'll show you any mercy if you are a wolf man. I guess if you wear pants you are fair game.

His Conan-meets-Beastmaster philosophy has some interesting loopholes, though. For instance, he uses Ilias' bow and arrow to kill an innocent hunter and then steals his boar and eats it for dinner. When Ilias protests he replies "Hey, I didn't kill it." He uses the same excuse later when he steals a sheep to impress some hot cave women. Plus, despite his supposed hatred of all mankind he immediately takes a shining towards Ilias and saves his life on multiple occasions. He even lets him bone his girlfriend's sister. He's a man of contradictions. I like that.

We've discussed tits but another important part of sword and sorcery and indeed any of Fulci's films are the over-the-top gore effects. The highlight is early in the film when a couple of wolf men attack a naked cavewoman. They grab her by the ankles and pry her legs apart, so I braced myself for some old-fashioned barbarian gang rape, but instead the two wolf men keep on pulling at her legs until they tear her in half. Then they take her severed head back to Ocron so she can crack that baby open and eat out the brains. Apart from that there's several decapitations, brain splatterings and messy impalements, but nothing too outlandish.

Another typical Fulci scene is when Ilias gets stung by some poisonous quills, fired off-screen from an creature that is neither seen nor mentioned. As our hero lies there unconscious (again) Fulci documents every oozing, bursting pustule in gratuitous close-up while Mace battles swamp zombies to find a magical plant that will cure him. He also fights this guy named Zora that Ocron had conjured into the body of her pet wolf. He takes several forms in the film, but usually it's a guy in a cool outfit that resembles a Chinese jade burial suit. Ocron makes a deal that if he kills Ilias' then he can have her body forever. He's pretty eager, especially since you know she's probably got a hare lip or some shit under that mask. Although I guess he's completely covered in plate armour, so he can't really judge.

After being cured Ilias decides to pack it in and go home (quitter!) and Mace is captured by some cool-looking chirping mummies and crucified. Ilias decides to come back just as Mace, still mounted on his cross, is being dumped into the ocean. It's pretty funny because Ilias doesn't even try to save him, he has to get rescued by a couple of friendly dolphins like fucking Aquaman. I guess Ilias must have become a man somewhere along the way (I didn't notice) because suddenly there is an eclipse and Ilias starts using his bow to fire magic blue lasers, like that ranger guy from Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. They can split into multiple arrows, curve around corners and do all sorts of cool shit.

Up until know I was wondering why we are stuck with this dork instead of the awesome Mace. Well, I guess the four (!) writers must have thought so too, because pretty soon after the two of them escape Ilias gets kidnapped and decapitated by some of Ocron's wolf men. Wow, I sure wasn't expecting that. Zora tries to claim on their deal and you'd think decapitating him would have been enough, but now she starts talking some bullshit about how he had slain his body but not his soul. He probably dodged a bullet, though, turns out that under her mask she's the worst butter face ever (I'd still do her).

The rest of the film progresses pretty much the way you'd expect. Mace finds Ilias' headless corpse, burns it on a funeral pyre and then rubs the ashes all over himself, imbuing him with Ilias' spirit so he can use his magic laser bow to get revenge on Ocron. He shoots her with a blue laser she and Zora both turn into wolves and run off into the sunset together. Then the movie then ruins my assumptions of historical legitimacy by claiming that "Any reference to persons or events is coincidental".

There isn't much of a plot, the movie just kind of drifts along amiably with some weird unexplained shit happening every so often. Lots of boring traveling, mostly implied since most of the film looks like it was shot in somebody's backyard. It it has a few good things going for it, though. There's a throbbing Claudio Simonetti soundtrack and the dubbing is surprisingly good. The costumes and set design are a delicious mixture of inspired and cheesy and there's a fair bit of gore and nudity. Unfortunately, and this is one of my major gripes with the film, you can't actually see any of it properly for all the smoke and haze and darkness and soft-focus lenses. I know Fulci likes his dream logic and fog machines, but it's fucking intolerable here. Why would you have Sabrina Siani show her tits for an entire movie and then obscure them with fog? What an asshole. If you can put up with that though (just pretend you have glaucoma) this is a pretty decent Conan rip-off.

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