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Conquest

tn_conquestI have this rule for fantasy movies, you might’ve seen me write about it before. I know, the LORDs OF THE RINGSes are great and everything, but I prefer some barbarians in these things. I don’t want a little innocent creature sneaking around trying not to get a spell cast on him, I want a big motherfucker with an ax smashing skulls. Sure, Aragon is pretty cool, but he’s just like a knight or something. Fuck a knight. And he’s not even on screen the whole time. To me, the best ones are where the main character is a beefy warrior whose code is not as civilized as ours, a man or woman forged in the fires of their savage era. CONAN THE BARBARIAN is the best example, but also WOLFHOUND, THE SCORPION KING, (I’m sorry but) the remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS, and BEASTMASTER qualifies I think. KULL THE CONQUEROR has its heart in the right place. But usually they’re about a little weinery guy who has to overcome that harsh world: a hobbit, for example, or Peter MacNicol in DRAGON SLAYER, or elfy Tom Cruise in LEGEND.

CONQUEST has both of those types of characters teamed up. Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti, THE NEW YORK RIPPER, THE SEA INSIDE) is the wimpy guy, he’s from the civilized part of the world, he reminds me of Harry Hamlin in the original CLASH OF THE TITANS and he has a magic bow that shoots an unlimited supply of glowing animated arrows.

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Mace (Jorge Rivero) is the barbarian.

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mp_conquestHe travels only in the savage lands, he has a forehead tattoo that means he has no friends, his weapon of choice is a pair of nunchakas made out of bones (!), he doesn’t care that his hair is caked in mud. They team up, they help each other, they quest to fight an evil topless sorceress in a metal mask who likes to writhe around with a snake rubbing against her crotch and pet a dog at the same time. And sometimes she fondles a guy covered entirely in little squares of metal who can shapeshift to look like other people. You know how it was back then.

It does a good job of making the behemoth and the girlyman work together as a team and it’s kinda sweet that they become friends. See, we’re all different, but we’re all the same too. I guess they could have fun doing more buddy movie type of stuff, but LETHAL WEAPON hadn’t been invented yet, so they didn’t know. They do develop a bond and a loyalty, they have opposing philosophies and they learn from each other.

Ilias even tries to convince Mace to come with him and have a better life living among the fancy lads and not having to fight monsters as much, but he thinks he wouldn’t be comfortable there. In my opinion he’s making a mistake. He should try it out. I mean he doesn’t want to go soft, but at least treat it like a Vegas vacation. Go have some fun, meet some princesses, see how the other half lives. In his mind he thinks he just knows himself well but in my opinion he’s set into his routine and afraid of new experiences. I’m that way sometimes but I’m trying to change.

Anyway all the sudden late in the game (SPOILER) Mace finds Ilias’s decapitated body hanging upside down in a cave, so he burns the body and then reaches in its stomach and rubs the ashes all over his arms and face and goes to avenge him. I hope you’re taking notes, hobbits. That’s the type of movie we’re dealing with here, the type where one hero suddenly has his head chopped off off screen so the other hero burns his remains and wears them as war paint. That was originally gonna be the ending of LETHAL WEAPON 2 but they chickend out and did reshoots.

Oh yeah, I left out some important information. This is directed by Lucio Fulci, noted director of gory Italian horror such as ZOMBI and THE BEYOND. He made it in 1983, the year after CONAN THE BARBARIAN, when everybody was trying to chase those barbarian bucks. He probly later regretted he did it because I guess it wasn’t much of a hit and doing it without his long time writer Dardano Sachetti apparently broke up their partnership. (Maybe Sachetti thought Ilias was supposed to be him and then didn’t like the implication.)

I’m glad he did it though because it’s like BEASTMASTER except even weirder and with tons of blood. Fulci is not gonna tone it down just because it’s not a horror movie. If he was doing a POLICE ACADEMY sequel he still would’ve had some slit throats and chopped off limbs. When Ilias is hit by an arrow it poisons him, he gets weak, his skin starts to bubble and welt and pulsate, pus and blood drips out of him, ants crawl all over him. It is the absolute perfect movie to give nightmares to kids. They’ll have weird images stuck in their brain for decades and never remember where they came from. “I remember this weird cave with all these dudes in it, and this faceless naked lady is fondling a severed head…”

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As you can see it is kind of a nightmare, or at least it’s very dreamlike. Most of the movie is shot with soft focus and a sort of foggy haze. There are enough magic hour shots for it to be a Michael Bay joint. But also there are snakes and beast men setting fire to things and weird creatures that at first looked like ZOMBI zombies but on closer inspection are more like mummified swamp things. But kinda cute.

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And when they’re wounded Fulci is happy to zoom in for a long shot of the blood pouring out.

It’s beautiful and atmospheric. It looks more like a Frank Frazetta painting come to life than any other movie I’ve seen. Also it has a score by Claudio Simonetti, leader of Goblin, so whenever shit is going down there’s likely to be some badass keyboard shit going on.

Mace is a barbarian’s barbarian. When he and Ilia are first getting to know each other he steals a dead goat from a guy and brings it to some ladies in a cave.

“Is she your woman?” Ilias asks.
“She is every time I pass by. You can have her too if you want.”
“Oh, it’s all right.”
“Well take her sister then.”

(Which is good because he already had the hots for the sister, she’s the girl with the face paint and mud-sculpted hair who he made lovey dovey eyes with.)

Mace has a badass juxtaposition. Like Wolfhound and his wounded bat, Mace finds a (very bloody) injured bird and tries to help it, and in exchange the birds tip him off later about impending dangers. Like a cop and his informants.

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Like most fantasy movies it’s more about a mood and atmosphere and imagery than a strong narrative. But man, is it strong in those departments. It looks great. LEGEND is the only one I can think of that’s more beautiful looking, and this one is obviously on a way lower budget. Kneel before cinematographer Alejandro Alonso García, aka Alejandro Ulloa (THE HOUSE BY THE EDGE OF THE LAKE). I bet I can sell you guys on this movie with a series of stills. If not I want to do it anyway just to see some of these shots one on top of the other.

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They create a whole world withsome dirt, some water, some filters and the right lighting. And a couple furry beastman costumes add a little spice. Also, Fulci’s love of violence and nudity seems so appropriate for the lawless world depicted in these barbarian movies that it really stands out from the pack. It’s enough to restore my faith in Barbaria. Maybe there are other good ones out there besides CONAN. I’ll have to go on a quest to find some.

Oh yeah, in case you were wondering:

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 at 12:23 pm and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

34 Responses to “Conquest”

  1. Advanced Lucifer Radio

    July 9th, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Man, that series of stills looked like an exhibition of Roxy Music album covers. I haven’t seen this but I adore Fulci. The Zombie Vs Shark fight in Zombie Flesh Eaters was possibly the most bonkers thing I had ever seen on film…until I watched The Beyond. For me it’s the only film that beats (sorry) On Deadly Ground for total quantity of “what the fuck?” moments (my personal favourites being the sign in the hospital that says “DO NOT ENTRY” and the guy that loads his gun by putting a bullet down the end of the barrel).

    After watching something unique/mental I usually find myself thinking “man, I’d love to know what Vern would make of that” and Fulci’s The Beyond is at the very tip top of my Please-Review-This-Vern Wishlist. A full on Fulci season from you would be like every single Christmas came on my Birthday.

  2. caruso_stalker217

    July 9th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I saw this several years ago and thought it was boring and a piece of shit. I was never a fan of that “Vaseline lens” look that was big in the ’70s but if used sparingly it can work. But here every fucking shot looks like that and it pissed me off. The one thing I remember liking about it was Queen Butterface and the music.

    However, after looking at those screenshots I’m wondering if I should give it another look. Those are actually some nice pictures there, Vaseline lens or not. Plus the DVD I watched wasn’t exactly the highest quality and everything just looked like smudged shit.

    I’m not sold on this Lucio Fulci guy as a maker of movies that aren’t garbage, but to be fair the only other film of his I’ve seen was CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD which was absolute fucking trash.

    Solid review, Vern.

  3. I saw this about a decade ago when I was on a big Fulci kick and I remember being really floored that they would kill heroic prophecy guy out of nowhere like that and I instantly fell in love with the movie. Outside of TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA has any other movie offhandedly killed the protagonist and left it up to the other guy to finish the job?

  4. Whoa. I’ve never seen this movie, but from the review, it sounds like the kind of imaginative old-fashioned 80’s fantasy flick I’d love. Gotta hunt this down somehow…

  5. Caruso: I don’t know, I think you might be looking for things from
    Fulci that he was never prepared to give. Like a lot of Italian exploitationeers, he was all about atmosphere and outrageous set-pieces. On that front, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (admittedly the worst of Fulci’s loose undead trilogy) delivers. The drill through the head, the gut-puking, these might seem old hat now, but they were really pushing the envelope for the time (not to mention the next 20 year or so). I love me some Fulci because he’s kind if like Michael Bay: under the guise of pure escapism, he gives you a little glimpse of his soul, and what you see isn’t very nice. My personal fave is HOUSE HY THE CEMETERY because I think it manages to be legitimately scary in addition to gory as fuck and totally incomprehensible (for decades two of its reels were swapped on home video and nobody noticed) but I also like his meta greatest hits compilation CAT IN THE BRAIN, which features gore scenes from a bunch of his movies as dream sequences and the like. But if you’re looking for something a bit more legitimately good, try his early giallo DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING, his nasty as fuck crime flick CONTRABAND, and one of his spaghetti westerns FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE. They’re probably the closest thing to good he made in his entire career.

  6. I liked this movie the first time I saw it, but then I tried to watch it again a couple years ago and I was like, “Why is this out of focus? How the fuck do you make an entire movie out of focus?” Couldn’t sit through it.

  7. Yeah, I can’t handle the soft focus. Nothing says cheap to me more than trying to shoot a movie through a fog machine. Cheap, or aging actress trying to not show her age. It’s my personal hang up, but I just get angry when trying to watch a movie that uses it.

  8. Only Brian DePalma should be allowed to use soft-focus.

  9. By the way, if anyone knows of any truly outstanding barbarian movies I’d appreciate recommendations.

  10. The last time I saw this movie I had a headache afterwards, then realized my eyes were struggling for 90 minutes to put the image into focus! Also, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is my favorite Fulci. I love the morbid atmosphere, the amazing Fabio Frizzi score, and how it flows as a series of episodic horror setpieces – priest hangs himself and opens the doorway to hell, the buried alive sequence, the cadaver in the house, the blow-up doll beside the maggot-infested child corpse, the bit with the drill, gut-punking, brain-crushing – etc – it’s loaded, though it does lose steam at when they finally go into the catacombs. I wasn’t into it when I first saw it in on VHS in the 90s, but it definitely grew on me, and the recent blu-ray made the imagery even more intense. I used to be more a BEYOND fan, but something about the grimy, dark vibe of CITY connects with me more. Though THE BEYOND does have the best ending ever – the perfect ending to any movie, I think.

  11. I don’t know of “truly outstanding” and “barbarian movies” really go together, but you should check out BARBARIANS, starring two bodybuilding twins, plus maybe ATOR THE FLYING EAGLE and the first DEATHSTALKER. If you’re willing to delve slightly deeper into the medieval wiener end of the pool, I recommend Albert Pyun’s THE SWORD AND THE SORCEROR and HAWK THE SLAYER, a personal fave. None of them are good movies but they all have some ridiculous shit going on.

  12. YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE is a pretty excellent barbarian movie with a spoiler in it’s title

  13. HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD directed by Mario Bava, one of the best of the earlier sword-and-sandal spectacles from the 50’s and 60’s. HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN(aka HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS)is sort of a companion piece since both star Reg Park. Not as good but it’s pretty fun and more self-aware than MST3K gave it credit for.

  14. Although it is, and mean this with all due respect, an animated cartoon film made for little kids and babies, FIRE AND ICE is actually pretty fucking badass when it stops fucking around and unleashes some action and battle scenes. And it unleashes them pretty frequently too.

  15. caruso_stalker217

    July 10th, 2014 at 12:20 am

    Goddammit. Now I’m starting to feel like I should give CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD another shot.

    DEATHSTALKER is straight garbage, but the main dude looks like Ted Danson and there’s a scene where he’s talking to another guy who looks like Ted Danson and then this guy showed up:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BVZDl3sCUAAipPV.jpg:large

  16. I can recommend BARBARIAN QUEEN 2: THE EMPRESS STRIKES BACK for two reasons –

    http://trashisking.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/barbarian_queen2_4.jpg

  17. “By the way, if anyone knows of any truly outstanding barbarian movies I’d appreciate recommendations.”

    None out there I haven’t seen except maybe a few obscure languages like still haven’t caught a Swahili barbarian movie. A film you prolly missed cos it was released in Australia but not the US that you would appreciate if you can get it is the Italian “I paladini – Storia d’armi e d’amori”. Not strictly barbarian but truly outstanding and inadvertently/ironically brilliantly feminist medieval romp. Looking it up, a VHS version might be available in US retitled “Hearts and Armour” instead.

    For pure barbarian movies I actually have to agree with all of Majestyk’s suggestions (and add Ator the Invincible as that sequel is good too), particularly though “The Barbarian Brothers” (sometimes called The Barbarians) is an absolute MUST SEE on par with Conan the Barbarian but opposite end of the spectrum (the idiot savant).

    I challenge anyone at all who comes to this website who hasn’t seen it to watch this one minute scene and tell me they don’t want to race out and see it right now:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6BAd7xJuU0

  18. Crom: I do not often pray to you. I have no tongue for it. But now I say, give us a Vern review of John Milius’ CONAN! (and Milius’ unmade sequel script KING CONAN CROWN OF IRON.) Let it be so!

  19. If you want to continue the quest for italian barbarians movies , I can suggest a couple of movies. These are all exploitation movies with very low production values and made by two scify-horror-fantasy specialists like Joe D’Amato and Ruggero Deodato. We had some Conan clones , back in the day ( but not as many as the Mad Max clones or post-apocalyptic movies ) :

    “Ator – L’invincibile” (1982) by D’Amato . Translated as “Ator the invincible” ,but also known as “Ator the Fighting Eagle”.

    “Ator 2 – L’nvincibile Orion” (1984) by D’Amato . With the unfortunate translation “Ator 2 , Orion the invincible” , but also known as “Ator the Blademaster”.

    “Lone Runner” (1986) by Deodato . This one is also Known as “Flash Fighter”.

    “Attila , Flagello di Dio” (1982) with Diego Abatantuono. Translated as “Attila-Bane of God” , but simply called Attila outside of Italy.This one is more of a comedy , toilet-humor style , but it’s a favourite of mine , and still hugely popular here .

    I’ve seen all of these in a late night show called “Fuori Orario” specialized in obscure and cult movies , and there are some good ideas and all are entertainig , but the quality is pretty low.

  20. The Sword and the Sorcerer is pretty awesome.

    You also got The Warrior and the Sorceress with David Carradine. It’s pretty much a remake/rip off of Yojimbo.

    If you want to try out anime watch Berserk – The Golden Age Arch, there is like three films which are pretty fun and brutal. Medeval anime. The main character is not a barbarian, but his name is Guts and he got a big ass sword. It’s worth a look, even thought it gets a little to rapey in the third film. The Eclipse storyline is dark as fuck. People compare it to Red Wedding, I don’t think it’s that dark, but it’s dark.

  21. Did you review Paul Verhoeven’s Flesh + Blood with Rutger Hauer? That’s a pretty good medeval film. Got all of Verhoeven’s trademark (perhaps not so much the satire, or perhaps it’s there).

  22. The mention of BARBARIAN QUEEN 2 makes me realize how sexist I was being for assuming that barbarians are always dudes. Two of my favorite barbarian-style pictures star women: SHE and HUNDRA. SHE is technically post-apocalyptic but it plays more like a CONAN ripoff than a ROAD WARRIOR ripoff. Both are full of the weirdness we enjoy about this type of movie, and both have a bit more umph than the average male-dominated sword-and-sorcery flick.

  23. I’ve been looking into female-centered movies lately so I’ve already watched HUNDRA and the BARBARIAN QUEENs. I’ll look into SHE. And AU, I added HEARTS AND ARMOUR to my list.

    I really didn’t get into THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, but I know alot of people who say it’s good. The sword was cool.

    Thanks for the suggestions, everybody.

  24. Majestyk, if you’re sexist then I must be misogynist for liking BQ2. It revels a bit in flesh and mire, somewhat rapey. A little torture thrown in for good measure.

    Lana Clarkson was a beauty though –

    http://www.planetpulp.dk/billeder/film/barbarian_queen_2/barbarian_queen_2_03_stor.jpg

    And the real barbarian –

    http://ts3.mm.bing.net/th?id=HN.607997305788696458&pid=1.7

  25. The BARBARIAN QUEEN movies are all about topless chicks getting tied up. They have no other real reason to exist. Lana Clarkson was a real healthy girl, though. She looked like she knew how to handle herself swinging that sword around. Nowadays they’d cast Keira Knightley and expect us to believe she could even lift the goddamn thing.

    Vern, you should definitely check out BARBARIANS. I think you’ll get a kick out of the main casting. And does knowing that it’s from the director of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST help or hurt its case?

  26. flyingguillotine

    July 10th, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I caught this movie a while back when I was digging into Fulci’s non-horror films (I also saw a Western he directed called MASSACRE TIME). For me, it’s definitely in the upper-third of the post-CONAN fantasy cycle. I think the grotesquery Fulci brings makes this unique… it’s definitely a dark world.

    And yeah, HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD is the shit.

  27. Mr. Majestyk – THE BARBARIANS was always hilariously entertaining to me. I never like using the term guilty pleasure cause I don’t feel guilty about enjoying anything that I enjoy. I march to the beat of my own drum in that regard and all that jazz. But I guess that one would qualify if I were talking about it to idiots like the ones who post on entertainment weekly websites and stuff like that.

    It’s actually quite up this community’s alley. It’s a Golan/Globus production filled with 80’s excess from an obscure italian director. Plus it checks off all the barbarian tropes like equal opportunity half naked warriors of both sexes, badassery and sorcery and filters them through the patented Cannon films formula. Who wouldn’t want to see that?

    Glad to see some love for it on this site. Haven’t seen it in many years though. I’m talking since the twilight of the VHS era. Should probably track it down again and see if it ever came out on disc format. I think I’ll find even more to like now as an adult.

  28. God, do I LOOOOVE Conquest. Jorge Rivero is my spirit animal.

    Not necessarily a barbarian movie, but a viking movie… have you seen SEVERED WAYS, Vern? It’s a documentary-like viking movie meant to show how they lived back then, specifically focusing on two vikings making a tortured trip through the wilderness. They rarely speak, but when they do it’s in the dialect of the time. It’s like a quest movie, but more of a traditional hiking movie. Keeping it from being boring are the fact that these are realistic but still badass vikings — they don’t look like they’ve ever been to a gym, but they get into tons of fights and brawls. Also, the whole thing has a pretty epic metal soundtrack.

  29. Oh yeah ! Now I remember Yor ! I’ve seen it back to back with one of the Ators !
    That movie is pure psychedelia and is the closest thing to an “Almuric” movie ( a short barbarian story from R.E. Howard with a twist ) that I’ve ever seen!

    Another movie that I have forgotten to mention is “I sette magnifici gladiatori” ( the seven magnificent gladiators ) , 1983 , by Bruno Mattei .With Lou Ferrigno with magical weapons,just like Occhipinti up there , who , by the way , presented an edition of the Sanremo Music Festival here in Italy and is now a very big producer of movies with his own label , Lucky Red . Not bad , Andrea.

    Speaking of the Deathstalkers , I will say that all of them have fantastic posters and my favourite one is Deathstalker II , because of the humor and lighter tone. I’ve also seen it with the commentary on , with the director and two of the actors , and you really get the idea that they had a lot of fun shooting it. There’s a good Deathstalker retrospective on the website “Cinemassacre” , if you want to have a little background on the movies , and it’s so well made that convinced me to check out the sequel.

  30. Has anyone seen Sorceress, the barbarian movie staring twin Playboy ladies? Jack Hill was so disgusted with Corman after directing the thing he’s never made a film since. A major loss to Cinema, in my opinion.

    Also Fulchi is quite good, though even at his best (House By The Cemetery, The Beyond) there are not just plot holes, but plot contradictions. It seems like he just took the best scenes of different screenplay drafts and shot them. Can’t hate on City of the Dead because of the general insanity and the buried coffin rescue.

  31. RCC: I’m glad somebody agrees with me about HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. I saw it on a fuzzy VHS with the reels out of order before I even knew who Fulci was, and even then I thought there was something fantastically creepy about this ugly throat-ripping mummy motherfucker living right in the same house with you and your family. He has other movies that are weirder, more technically accomplished, and certainly gorier, but HOUSE is the only one that actually works as a horror movie and not just a psychedelic freakout.

  32. Come on, Vern. Arago(r)n’s not a knight, he’s a Ranger, which means he’s trained to survive in the wilds, to hunt, track and probably eat things that’d make a billy goat puke.

  33. Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta’s Fire and Ice certainly fits the bill as a barbarian movie. It’s animated, but certainly worth checking out.

  34. Joining in late as usual. Woman badass barbarians — did anyone mention AMAZONS? 1986 New Horizons release filmed in Argentina with a bunch of hotties whose names on IMDB don’t look at all familiar. Lots of Deathstalker/Barbarian Queen-hokey swordplay and a fair amount of skin. Script was by sword/sorcery writer Charles Saunders who had an ’80s paperback African barbarian hero, Imaro. The names of the AMAZONS characters suggest that Saunders meant for the cast to be black, but nope. ARENA from 1974 New World was a cheapo gladiator movie — women gladiators, no magic but plenty of Pam Grier and other lookers.

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