Conquest (1983)





Excerpt from
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police
Criminal Investigation Department Interview


Subject: Nathan Decker
Regarding theft of corporate account funds and swear jar cash from Million Monkey Theater, LLC.

Friday: Good morning Mr. Decker. I'm Sergeant Friday and this is Officer Gannon. As you know we're investigating the theft of the Million Monkey Theater corporate funds and swear jar monies. How are you feeling this morning, sir?

Nate: A little groggy, but better. Say, aren't you guys from Los Angeles? What are you doing out here?

Friday: It's an exchange program. Now, we know you've had a traumatic experience, but if you're feeling up to it we'd like to ask you a few questions. Would that be alright?

Nate: Sure. I mean, I don't remember much, but I'll tell you what I can.

Friday: According to our records the incident occurred on Saturday, September 22nd on the first floor of Million Monkey Towers, in downtown Indianapolis. Could you describe for us what happened that morning?

Nate: Well I came into the office to look for some DVDs I'd left there...basic bad movie stuff, mostly from the 70's and 80's, you know.

Gannon: Yes, sir. There were a lot of bad films being made then, especially in the genres of horror, sci-fi and big studio comedy remakes of classic television police procedurals.

Nate: Yeah, you've got that right. These were pretty much horror and Kung-fu, though there might have been a crappy eurospy thriller or a blacksploitation movie in there, too. I'm sorry I can't remember all the titles.

Friday: That's fine, sir. We have a list on file.

Nate: Then you know better than me. The only one I remember for sure was this Lucio Fulci fantasy film called Conquest that I was going to send to Bradley. I just can't watch any more shitty Italian Conan the Barbarian rip-offs, you know?

Friday: Believe me, sir, we understand. Just because we're cops doesn't mean we're not human.

Gannon: Yes, sir. We get a lot of calls about Lucio Fulci films. Some people find them confusing and upsetting. Please continue.

Nate: Anyway I set the movies on my desk and looked down the hallway there and saw that the door to the wine cellar was open.

Friday: Is that the wine cellar and man cave where Mr. Lyndon found you last week?

Nate: Yeah, I have a little home theater down there with drinks and snacks and stuff, but I always keep the door closed and locked because of the interns.

Friday: That would be interns Kelby, Jonesy, Sparky and Nibbles?

Nate: No, not Nibbles. He lives in New York now, teaches classes over at Sarah Lawrence and works at his fiancee's artisanal mayonnaise bodega in Bushwick. He's doing great and we're all really proud of him.

Friday: We'll make a note of that, sir. So it's just the three interns now and that's why you keep the door to the cellar locked?

Nate: It's really because of Kelby. There's a lot of booze down there and he drinks.

Gannon: Yes, sir. We have that on file, too. Where is Jonesy now? We haven't been able to locate him.

Nate: That's a good question. I haven't seen him either...he hasn't even stopped by to see if I'm okay.

Friday: I see. Please continue with your account of the morning in question, sir.

Nate: Well I walked down the hall to investigate and when I got to the top of the steps I heard this scurrying behind me.

Friday: Scurrying, sir?

Nate: Yeah, like cat claws on a marble floor. I turned around but didn't see anything so I took a step into the cellar and called down to see if any of the interns were there. That's when somebody knocked me over.

Gannon: So you were pushed?

Nate: Yeah, pushed from behind. The weird thing was it felt like more than one person was there. I distinctly remember feeling the impact on my shoulders and my calves. It all happened so quickly I didn't really have time to notice anything else. I fell down the steps and I must have hit my head and blacked out. When I woke up the door was locked from the outside and I was trapped. I banged on the door and yelled for help but it was the weekend and no one was in the building. Eventually I went back down, had a snack and some wine and watched the only movie I could find.

Friday: That was a film called Maniac right?

Nate: Yes, Dwain Esper's Maniac. Terrible film.

Gannon: Yes, we read the review by Mr. Lyndon. We found it to be well-written and informative. Please go on.

Nate: I'm sorry it's all just a blank after that. I turned on the movie and...well I just can't remember anything until I woke up in the hospital a few days ago. I'm sorry I'm just too upset. Bradley showed me that picture from Rome of Kelby and somebody wearing my clothes...I just want that cat and my money and my clothes back! Nurse! Nurse!

At this point the subject became agitated and the nurse on duty asked that we continue the interview at another time.

Sgt. Joe Friday and Officer Bill Gannon, November 25th, 2018.


Just the facts.

Howdy folkses. Dark days have come to Million Monkey Theater. Our operating capital has been stolen, our CEO Nate has suffered a mental breakdown from exhaustion and malnutrition, and our ongoing attempts to locate and apprehend Intern Kelby and his accomplice in the theft has stalled since our private investigator Tizwin caught a fleeting glimpse of them at a wine bar in Rome in early November. Pam's been busy with her day job and making little sweaters for homeless ferrets.

Intern Sparky has been financially supporting our efforts, but he's become surly and irritable of late, hinting that we may need to wrap things up and cut our losses. As you probably know Sparky is the president and sole owner of Catnip Club for Cats, the world's largest distributor of medicinal and recreational catnip. It seems that his top selling variety, a genetically modified hybrid called "Meowie Zowie" has come under scrutiny by the FDA after a number of anecdotal reports linking its use to erratic and even dangerous feline behavior have emerged both online and in the press. I have been unable to extract from Sparky any details of his contacts with the agency, but CCFC Vice President Mr. Blackburn said FDA agents were pressuring them to immediately cease distribution of Meowie Zowie and drop their entire line of GMO nip.


"I rolled over and gave them my cutest upside-down love-eyes but it didn't even help."

I was therefore in no great mood when I read the police report above and discovered that my next assignment was to be the low-budget Italian fantasy Conquest (1983). I am no great fan of director Lucio Fulci. He's one of those guys who you see his name on the box and you just know the movie you're about to see is gonna make no fucking sense. In the past if Nate had asked me to do a Fulci film I'd have told him no thanks, buddy, I've got my own pile of shit movies, but I didn't like to upset him just now while he's still languishing in his delicate condition. He's not strong, you know.

Conquest opens on the empty, mist-shrouded shores of a calm, pretty lake. After a few seconds a number of mist-shrouded figures fade into view via the magic of mist-shrouded double exposure, but for some reason they never fully materialize and remain translucent throughout the entire mist-shrouded introductory scene. Get very used to that mist-shrouded-ness, people. Aside from the mind-numbing stupidity of the "plot" it's the single most consistent thing about the movie. That fog machine should have gotten its own credit.


It's like we're watching the entire film through frosted glass.

Two women in flowing white dresses bring a thin, ineffective-looking leather breastplate over to a young man with a Bob Dylan haircut and as they slip it over his head an old guy with a wicked permanent wave walks over. Permanent Wave tells Bob "You have chosen the path of courage and sacrifice..." and gives a speech about how he'll be taking a journey into darkness and how he'll face lots of dangers and see lots of stuff ripped off from other, better movies. It's really hard to hear what he's saying, though because the dialog echoes like the lineup announcements in a baseball stadium. He's basically describing the Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey George Lucas exploited so effectively in his original Star Wars trilogy. If only Fulci had actually read and understood Joseph Campbell we might have gotten a decent little movie out of it instead of this jejune counterfeit Conan the Barbarian (1982) crap.


Someone forgot to wipe the lens.

Permanent Wave holds out his arm and "Zooooooip!" A big, elaborately crafted bow comes flying across the beach and directly into the palm of his hand. This is the ancestral weapon of their people, allegedly used by "Cronus" many years before to chase away the terrible, evil creatures who had invaded their land. In Greek mythology Cronus was the king of the Titans and ruled the universe until his son Zues overthrew him and exiled him to the underworld. In some pre-Hellenic traditions Cronus' rule was looked on as a lost golden age for mortals, so there is actually a kernel of legitimate mythology here. The original Cronus, however carried a blade (usually depicted as a curved sword called a harpe), not a bow and arrows. He quite famously used it to castrate his father Uranus (Heaven), thus separating him from his mother Gaea (Earth), a brutal act of insurrection which allowed him to claim the throne of the gods.


And remember...this was before the invention of bactine.

According to Permanent Wave Cronus ran out of arrows, but "the sun came down from the sky and entered his bow in a ray of glory, shooting out a deadly hail of flaming arrows at all of his enemies."

He hands the sacred bow to Bob Dylan, thus passing on the legacy of their peoples' greatest warrior-hero.


"I'd prefer a guitar or a harmonica, but thanks."

When this celestial fire entered the bow, Permanent Wave says, it meant that Cronus had become a man. This path to manhood is now Bob Dylan's path, and he willingly accepts it, setting off across the lake and into a dark, dangerous land of unknown travails in search of immortal glory...or death!

Then they all disappear and the opening credits roll.


I do not think that word means what Lucio Fulci thinks that word means.

The music, it should be noted, is exactly the kind of hackneyed synth garbage you'd expect from an Italian genre b-movie from 1983, no more or less distinguishable from any of a thousand crappy, cheap movie scores recorded at the time for a thousand crappy, cheap productions that had no budget to hire a decent composer, orchestra or ensemble. It's uniformly bland and awful and that's the last I'll mention it.

We now enter what is presumably the land to which our hero is traveling, where a bunch of filthy hippies are lounging around in a big open field by the ocean, just hanging around and enjoying this well-kept and heavily subsidized public space without contributing one iota to the tax base that preserves it.


Get a job!

Up on a mountain a few scrawny dudes in tribal masks and some awkward-looking long-haired bipedal fox people are standing around posing while a mostly-naked lady gestures towards the east, chanting and awaiting the coming of the morning sun. It seems the denizens of this land are early risers.


It seems her nipples are early risers, too.

This is Ocron, our villain, who rules her people with an iron fist and an army of masked minions and ragged dog soldiers. She's played by Sabrina Siana, making her third appearance in a Million Monkey Theater review. She also appeared in 2020: Texas Gladiators (1982), Black Cobra (1987), and a slew of other forgettable Italian exploitation and b-movies from the mid-80's before retiring from acting at the age of 27. Looking at the productions on her resume I'm thinking she may have had a few unpleasant experiences in the industry. She spends the entirety of Conquest topless, wearing only a spiked codpiece, feathered cape, bronze mask and occasionally a couple of live snakes.

Ocron chants some mumbo-jumbo, apparently either thinking she's making or pretending to make the sun rise. When the sun finally breaks over the horizon she starts chanting "Kimbiya! Kimbiya!" and the hippies finally get off their asses and chant along with her.


Apparently it's the only thing that motivates these people.

Now we cut to the hairy fox bros and a bunch of masked human soldiers running across a valley and heading for a cave where another bunch of lazy hippies are lounging around naked or covered in ragged furs.


They look like a cross between Wookies and the dog people from Bitter Lake (2011)

The marauders barge in and start knocking people over, demanding the hippies give them food for Ocron. An old hippie who probably dropped acid at Woodstock and got arrested while protesting against the war in 'Nam offers the Head Honcho fox bro a couple of skinny rabbits, saying that's all they have to give. It seems the hippies are starving and many of them have already died. Fox Bro Honcho isn't satisfied, saying Ocron will take the sun away if they can't provide more food and that he'll kill some of them to eat now. Old Hippie offers himself up as a sacrifice to save his people. Honcho tells him that Ocron only likes young flesh and angrily bashes his brains in.


Another victim of the corrupt military-industrial complex, man!

The marauders now capture a naked chick in body paint.


The naked chicks are ripe for the picking here at the hippie commune cave.

They drag her off towards the mouth of the cave, grab her legs, slowly rip her in half lengthwise (a process shown in gory, if unconvincing detail) then chop off her head--all of which seems just a little short-sighted if Ocron and her troops are relying on this already quite sparse population to provide them with daily sustenance. We've seen maybe forty people total in this group and Fox Face just killed two of them in a single raid. That's 5% of the total population. At this rate they've got less than three weeks until they've completely burned through all of their meal tickets.

Back at the lair Honcho hands Ocron the severed head. She cracks it open with a stone hatchet and eats the brain.


When he hands it to her she actually says "Yum!" I'm not making that up.

We then cut to the fox bros using hollow reeds to blow some kind of ashy powder into each others' noses, which seems to induce a euphoric state. Ocron is now lying down on some furs with a couple of big snakes slithering up and down her body. Honcho blows some of the powder up the nose holes of her mask and she immediately starts to writhe and moan, gripping one of the snakes seductively against her crotch.


Nope...I'm not making that up, either.

She begins to hallucinate about a faceless Bob running into her lair and aiming his big, glowing bow at her. She shimmies around on her furs like she's in a Penthouse Pet video then stands to silently beg him not to fire. He shoots his arrow into her heart, however, causing her chest to burst open in a fountain of blood.

If the prologue hadn't explicitly set the movie up as a mythical hero-journey I might be inclined to be more lenient, but since Fulci threw down that gauntlet himself I'm pulling out the long knives to do a little mytho-cinematic vivisection here:

This scene is an embarrassing, naive and clumsy attempt at phallus-as-weapon, penetration-as-death, cycle-of-life symbolism. It's badly muddled and unimaginative, murky, confused and conveys absolutely nothing of the primal wonder of true myth. If you compare these dank, banal visuals to the vibrant imagery of the "Shrine to the God of Humor" sequence from Federico Fellini's Fellini Satyricon you can see by contrast how badly Fulci has missed his mark. Transforming the myth-logic of fertility cycles, life, death and rebirth into a profound and affecting visual narrative requires the sensibilities of an artist, but Lucio Fulci was little more than a soft-core pornographer with a fetish for gore.




FELLINI=ART





FULCI=CRAP
Also the makeup FX people forgot to tint the areolas on that prosthetic model of Ocron's boobs.

It's worth noting that Fellini: Satyricon isn't even a film specifically about myth, but uses deconstructed mythical imagery to reconstruct in bold and provocative tableau the strangely alien daily life of an ancient civilization, whereas Conquest is a film specifically about myth that can't even get its own mythology straight. Go ahead, Fulci fans. Tell me again how I just don't "get" him. I'm all fucking ears.

We jump from Ocron's exploding cleavage to a young woman in body paint filling a bowl with water at the edge of a lake. She's doing this by holding the bowl in one hand while she cups her other hand and dips it into the lake, then transfers a miniscule bit of water into the bowl again and again until it's full.


No wonder her people are on the edge of extinction if they can't figure out how to dunk a fucking bowl in a lake.

We see that she is being watched...a gang of Ocron's goons are hiding in the brush as she carefully walks the bowl of water about 100 yards away to where she's left her stuff. If she lives in such a dangerous place why doesn't she keep it close to where she's working and away from such obvious cover for brigands to hide in? They're so close there they could spit on her. Seriously, people this girl is a poster child for natural selection.

Anyway she proceeds to gingerly pour the water from the bowl into a narrow-mouth clay pot. Why not just take the whole pot to the water and fill it up there? Why use the bowl at all? How does she even manage to walk without falling over?


Somebody give that girl a funnel...and make sure you show her how to use it in a way she can understand.

With her obvious intellectual deficiencies there's no way she's going to notice that gigantic snake that's sneaking up towards her through the grass. It kind of meanders a bit, scoping her out to make sure she's as stupid as she looks before slithering in for the kill. It creeps up close and it's about to strike when "thwoop!" Bob sends an arrow straight through its head, pinning it to the ground.


Bob Dylan to the rescue!



Just a crawl-on cameo? That snake needs a better agent.

Idiot Water Girl screams and the guys in the grass look at each other in wonder, perplexed by this strange and dangerous weapon. All they have are stone axes, spears and clubs so I guess these deadly projectiles seem like some kind of mad wizardry. Bob walks up to Idiot Water Girl and says "That won't be bothering anybody anymore." He's really good with words. He won a Pulitzer Prize for literature, you know. Idiot Water Girl just stares for a few seconds, perplexed.


"My brain is severely underdeveloped. I cannot comprehend this."

She looks up at Bob then runs away, forgetting the little clay pot she just spent like three hours filling up with water. She pauses in her flight just long enough to give him a flirty over-the-shoulder glance and a coy little giggle before she disappears across the marshlands, so it's a safe bet we'll be seeing her again. I can hardly wait.


Her next acting job was in a Summer's Eve commercial.

Ocron's minions decide to attack, and although Bob has the superior weapon he only has four fucking arrows which he fits into four little slots on his right boot. That's barely enough ammo for an afternoon at the opera, picking off spectators who can't wait until the intermission to cough, let alone for a months-long, manhood-defining quest-journey. Because Bob has nothing else to defend himself with the minions overwhelm him.


You'll want to remember that he's tackled face-down in calf-high water. Just sayin'.

Thankfully this beefy dude shows up to save Bob's biscuits:


He uses a pair of stone-and-linen nunchucks, which even I have to admit is pretty cool.

Nunchuck Guy starts slingin' and smashin', and the goons start leapin' and pokin', but Nunchuck gets the upper hand and the evil henchmen flee in terror. He looks over to see Bob, who has been bludgeoned unconscious.


So did the minions drag him onto dry land in the middle of getting their asses kicked or did Bob and his bow magically levitate there?

Nunchuck picks up the bow and examines it as if it's some kind of uber-complex Rube-Goldberg device. He plucks the string thoughtfully.


And we all know what rhymes with "pluck it."

He seems to think it warrants further investigation so he sets up camp and waits for Bob to recover. When he does we find out that Nunchuck is something of a curmudgeon. He explains that the little red swirly tattoo on his forehead means "every man is my enemy." Bob asks "Then why did you save me?" Nunchuck explains that he didn't save him he saved the bow. Good answer! He says if Bob will show him how to use it he'll take him along and they can go "wherever our feet carry us." I don't see the appeal of the offer, but Bob agrees.

They suddenly hear a pathetic little squawk and find a blood-soaked falcon half submerged in a tidal pool. Nunchuck says with surprise "He's wounded!"


What was your first clue, Inspector Morse? The half-bottle of ketchup the props guy poured over his head?

Nunchuck picks the bird up, cleans him off, puts some ashes on his wounds and blows on his head, which somehow helps him in some way because he can suddenly fly again. The bird joins two others up in the sky and Nunchuck smiles as the very fake birds linger, ostensibly thanking him for helping their pal.

Nunchuck is supposed to be the archetypical feral man who lives apart from human society but has a deep connection to nature and animals. Like the wild, untamed Percival, who in the King Arthur myths begins as a forest waif, then becomes a knight of the round table and eventually finds the Holy Grail, healing Arthur and restoring harmony to the kingdom, Nunchuck must reconnect with human society to bring man and nature back into balance. Well, that's how it's supposed to work, but here it's underwritten and barely conveyed. It occurs to me that Ocron may be meant as a sort of anti-Arthur, whose connection to the land she rules ensures barren want rather than bountiful plenty, but again this is not adequately represented or explained by what we see on screen. You can almost taste Fulci's frustration as he grasps for Jungian legitemacy but consistently finds it beyond his reach.


Here's Percival from John Boorman's Excalibur (1981). See? You can have mist in your movie, Lucio Fulci but still be able to see what the fuck is going on.

Back at Ocron's lair one of her minions is lying at her feet with an arrow sticking out of his thigh, bitching and making excuses to her about the stranger with the weapon that kills from far away. She wants a closer look at the arrow so she pulls it out, making sure to give it a few good twists first, and the poor bastard passes out from the pain. She goes to Honcho and tells him she wants this man and this weapon brought to her. Like about 80% of the movie this scene is filmed with the primary light source behind the actors, ensuring that little detail of the sets, costumes or props can be seen.


I'm beginning to think they didn't have much confidence in their production design.

We cut to an old geezer carrying a dead boar across his shoulders.


He looks...fragrant.

Up on a ridge top we see a hairy, muscular arm pull back the bowstring and let an arrow fly, hitting the old dude right in the chest. Nunchuck lowers the bow and says "I learn fast, don't I?" And what do you think Bob Dylan's reaction might be to his new friend killing this poor, innocent hippie?


Smug amusement. Bob is an asshole.

So Bob and Nunchuck go down and find the geezer struggling for breath. Nunchuck hands Bob the bow and pulls the arrow out of the poor guy, finishing him off. Then they grab the boar he was carrying and leave to go have a barbecue, leaving the corpse to rot where it lay. And these are the guys we're supposed to be rooting for, remember?


Our heroes are just fine with cold-blooded murder so long as they get a little taste-a-sumthin' out of it.

As these two murderous cretins greedily gnaw on their ill-gotten meat, Nunchuck muses that "When a man meets man you never know which one will die, but when an animal meets a man it's always the animal that dies. I'm on the animal's side." He says as he stuffs his face with tasty stolen boar. When Bob points out that he's eating an animal at that very moment Nunchuck shrugs and says "I didn't kill it." Bob thinks that's a strange attitude, but Nunchuck says "Not when you're hungry!"

And this demonstrates the central, inexcusable flaw of the film: It simply has no moral center, no concept of honor, no lesson to convey. That would be fine if it were meant as a deconstruction of mythical fantasy, but if that was Fulci's intention he consistently undermines it by drawing clearly delineated lines between who is supposed to be good and who is clearly evil. Then again if he meant the film to be the heroic pseudo-myth he explicitly attempts to present it as he undermines that notion through the deplorable situational ethics of his two lead protagonists. The result is a jumbled, joyless, unentertaining mess that has no fucking idea what kind of film it wants to be.

Back at their little cave/bungalow/campfire Nunchuck thinks he hears something, so he goes out to have a look. All he does is stand at the mouth of the cave and look at the horizon for about three seconds, but that seems to satisfy him that there's no one there.


He may be wrong.

Later Bob and Nunchuck are asleep next to the remains of their campfire.


Sleeping! Part one.

They awaken to find some burning brush rolling into the cave and cutting off the exit. They run further into the cavern but multiple fires have been set and it seems they have nowhere to go


Trapped!

Luckily they find a pit in the middle of the cave they hadn't noticed before and jump into it, down to another cavern about 30 feet below. One of the fox bros appears above and begins to climb down, but Bob dispatches him with an arrow and the others back away, knowing their prey is trapped and all they have to do is wait. Bob and Nunchuck must feel they're pretty safe down there because they go right back to sleep.


Sleeping! Part two.

It seems like the whole "burning them out" strategy was a hell of a risk on the part of Honcho and the fox bros. Ocron was pretty clear about wanting both Bob and the bow brought to her and if that fire had done its worst there might well have been neither Bob nor bow left to bring. It's tedious work watching a film where every single character is as dumb as a box of turds.

Down in the pit a snake slithers out of a hole in the wall and towards sleepy Bob, but both he and Nunchuck wake up before anything bad happens. Bob wants to shoot it with an arrow but animal man Nunchuck stops him and lets the snake go back through the hole from whence it came. They suddenly realize the little critter has just shown them the way out and they start pounding and pulling at the rocks until there's a hole in the wall big enough to crawl through.

Now we cut to another dirty old hippie who's just gutted a sheep for his breakfast. Our "heroes" don't kill him but they do steal his food and run off with it, laughing like a couple of schoolboys who've just pulled a sweet caper.


I hate these people and I hate this movie.

They end up at a cave belonging to a dirty hippie woman and some dirty children whom Nunchuck hangs with when he's passing through the area, and who should be part of the family but Idiot Water Girl, who has just enough cognitive activity going in her walnut-sized brain to recognize Bob and be pleased to see him.


That tribal body paint looks mighty familiar...



...because it's likely inspired by the tribal body paint from Jean-Jacques Annaud's visually rich Quest For Fire (1981), which had been a huge hit in Europe just two years prior.

So Nunchuck likes to get it on with Idiot Water Girl's sister when he's in town, telling Bob "You can have her, too if you like, or take her sister..." Oh, for those heady days gone by when you could just shuffle women around between you and your friends like trading cards.

There's a long scene now where they're all sitting around a fire gnawing on fistfuls of dripping, greasy meat and Bob and IWG are making seductive, flirty eyes at each other while they slurp and chew. I can't imagine anyone finding this sexy beyond a small group of fetishists now, but I guess this was what qualified as foreplay back in the early bronze age.


It's both savory and erotic!

So they flirt and smile and chew and slurp and then they all fall asleep because they're lazy, slovenly fucks who ate so much so fast they couldn't even be bothered to put on their pajamas.


Sleeping! Part three.

Cheeky IWG has only been pretending to sleep, however, and she gets up to go moon over adorable little Bob. She blows on his face with her meat breath to wake him up.


You can almost smell it.

Bob and IWG walk over near to the entrance of the cave. She takes Bob's hand and puts it on her boobie.


I'll bet that put a little tension in his bow.

IWG playfully wanders around a rock, giggling and batting her paint-encrusted eyelashes at him, but as soon as she's out of sight behind it we hear a sickening, crunching thud and a scream!


She must have walked head first into a jar of Tabasco sauce...that's gotta sting.

Honcho and the fox bros attack, grab Bob and knock Nunchuck unconscious, leaving him for dead. When he wakes up IWG's entire family has been slaughtered and Bob is nowhere in sight. He wanders out to the mouth of the cave, looks out across the valley and shouts for Bob, but Bob is far away and does not answer.


"I'm gonna miss that adorable little scamp."

Suddenly he hears the squawking of falcons and his three fake bird buds from earlier in the film are flapping away above him. He smiles knowingly and we are to assume now that he somehow realizes they're going to lead him to Bob to repay him for his kindness. Yep.

We cut to the same valley where we first saw the marauding band heading for the hippie cave. They're carrying an unconscious Bob tied by his arms and legs to a log and he briefly opens his eyes to see the three fake bird buds looking down at him. He smiles knowingly and we are to assume that he somehow realizes that they're going to lead Nunchuck to him. Sure.

You'd think from having seen this place as a reference point earlier in the film that they're close enough to Ocron's lair to make it there by sundown, but Honcho decides they need to stop for the night and start back out in the morning. He has a post pounded into the ground and Bob tied to it, and he taunts him a bit by telling him he's taking him to Ocron and that she's going to kill him and stuff. He tells him Ocron controls the sun and makes night and day, and gets pretty pissed off when Bob doesn't believe it.


"I'm so mad I could just nibble your darling little ear!"

So Honcho leaves off teasing Bob and he and all the fox bros and the generic masked minions bed down for the night.


Sleeping! Part four.

Up on a ridge above the fox bro camp Nunchuck finds some nice round stones and a deposit of sulfur that some kind soul has already ground to a fine, flammable powder for his convenience. He coats the stones with the sulfur and wraps them with leaves, then sneaks down to where the gang is sleeping. He makes a tremendous amount of noise every time he jumps to the ground from a rock. I kept thinking they'd wake up from the noise, but maybe they snorted too much wacky ash before bed and are sleeping it off.

Nunchuck sneaks over to the post and unties Bob. One of the fox bros wakes up but Nunchuck whacks him across the face with a stone on a stick and sends Bob across to get the bow. You'd think maybe they'd want to be stealthy here, just grab it and sneak away, but Nunchuck decides to toss one of his sulfur bombs into the campfire and all hell breaks loose.


It doesn't kill or even hurt them, but it wakes them right the fuck up. Nice job, Nunchuck!

Now there's a poorly-choreographed, day-for-night fight that's peppered with lots of barely-visible leaping fox bros and barely-visible gratuitous gore-shots. I mean I think I'm watching those things, but with the incessant, gauzy fog and the f-stop being way too high it's too dark and indistinct to make out any details. It might just be an outdoor gymnastics class or a break dance competition.


Fight! Possibly!

The fight doesn't really end with any satisfying victory or resolution. It just abruptly jump-cuts mid-melee to Honcho being slow-roasted to death on a red-hot stone back at the lair, ostensibly for letting Bob Dylan and his manly bow escape his fuzzy clutches.


Again, you can almost smell the smoldering fur. This film is an olfactory experience on so many levels.

Ocron is the worst boss ever. I'll bet she's got a serious problem with employee turnover.


I need more minions! Call the temp agency!

So Honcho is dead and Ocron is running out of options. She walks slowly towards the mouth of her lair and says "Only great Zora can help me stop the wanderer, only great Zora!" and we dissolve to her back on her furry bed, totally trippin' and dreaming again about faceless Bob. She mutters and breathily shouts "Go away! Go back to your land, wanderer," moaning and twisting as she strokes her snakes and gently rubs herself around her boobie-zones. I think it's meant to be erotic.


Nope.

We get a little snippet of her dream again and when we cut back to her a big, fluffy white dog is sitting next to her. This is one of the forms of Zora, who is some kind of demon or evil nature spirit or possibly a lycanthropic insurance salesman. We never really find out what he is exactly, but he's powerful and sinister and has control over minions of his own. She practically has an orgasm repeating his name again and again, calling him "king of darkness, master of treachery, knight of all evil, great slayer of souls!"


Who's a goo-boy? Who's a goo-boy? Zora's a goo-boy!

So the fluffy pupper dog Zora transforms via a cheap dissolve effect into some guy in a metal mask and what looks to be a bronze-age cocktail dress. Ocron promises to give herself to him forever, body and soul if only he will use his power over the darkest and most dreadful creatures of the earth to stop the wanderer Bob Dylan from getting all up in her kitchen with his big, smooth, succulent bow.


Then she and Zora can go out on the town for drinks and dancing.

Meanwhile Bob and Nunchuck are building a raft and having a chat about the mean, hairy guys they just escaped from. Bob wants to know who or what Ocron is, but Nunchuck tells him that he's lucky to be alive and he should forget about her. "How can I?" Bob says. "Innocent men, women and children were slaughtered because of us!" Really, Bob? I don't recall any moral outrage when you were hungry and watching your big, beefy pal there kill a dude to steal you some dinner.


Bob, with a stomach full of stolen meat, finally grows a conscience.

Nunchuck agrees to take Bob to the edge of Ocron's land if he wants to go, but says that he has never been beyond that point and Bob will be on his own if he decides to pursue her.

The two decide to hunt for some food and as they're walking Bob talks about how sweet his land is and how men can live in peace there and how everybody grows their own food and everyone is so fucking happy. If his land is so damned wonderful then why did he leave to come to this shithole in the first place? He could be lounging around with some gossamer-clad nymphs eating grapes and pita bread, drinking wine and listening to lyre music instead of wandering around a stanky marsh with a sleepy-eyed, people-hating Conan-wannabe. I don't think Bob is much brighter than Idiot Water Girl. It's a shame her head got bashed in. They'd have made a cute couple, eating greasy meat, spooning and making idiot babies together.

Nunchuck suddenly gets spooked because "the birds are flying towards the water..." which seems like a peculiar thing to take as a bad omen. I've seen birds flying towards water hundreds of times and to the best of my knowledge it never portended anything more sinister than those self-same birds getting their asses wet.


"They might catch an ague...it keeps me up at night worrying."

A clump of reeds nearby begins to rustle and a weird, wheezy voice gives a gurgly laugh. Nunchuck and Bob drop to the ground and a bunch of reeds shoot out over them like a hail of arrows. Hmmm...I thought projectile weapons were unknown here. I guess Bob's stiff, glossy bow isn't the only big shooter around these parts.


The "arrows" are actually horizontal lines drawn directly on the film stock.

Nunchuck and Bob manage to get up and run back to the edge of the water, but Bob has been struck in the leg by one of the reed-arrows and is beginning to feel the effects of some kind of poison. Nunchuck takes him across the lake, saying he will fetch a magic herb from a valley nearby. By the time they reach the opposite shore the sun is setting and Bob is developing yellow, pus-filled boils all over his body. They weep and burst and make a sound like someone ripping open a crab to get at the flesh, which is classic, icky, graphic, gory Fulci. He loves this gross, nasty, bodily fluid stuff and never misses and opportunity to shoehorn it into his films.


Boobies, boils, bugs and blood are the four cornerstones of Lucio Fulci's career in cinema.

Nunchuck tells Bob he'll be back with the magic herb by sunrise and takes off to fetch it. On his way to the valley he passes a spooky swamp where mummified bodies hang in the gnarled trees.


Gee...do you think they might come to life and attack him? Step right up and place your bets!

Nunchuck reaches the valley and begins to gather armfuls of a blue flower. His journey is inter-cut with many close-ups of the weeping boils, pulsating and bursting on Bob's skin. Eventually we see that there are ants crawling around these open sores and for the second time in as many reviews I'm reminded of Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel's seminal surrealist film Un Chien Andalou (1929).



Its shadow looms large, even on a piece of shit like this.

Nunchuck gets as much of the herb as he can and sets off back to towards the lake and the increasingly desperate Bob. As he's re-crossing the swamp the tree corpses start to move and a bunch of them come up out of the water to attack him. I hope you went all-in with your wagers on that one.


They'd be just like those cool water zombies from Creepshow (1982)...


...except they're shit.

We get another too-dark-to-follow fight scene now and I'm getting so tired of straining my eyes at this point I'm just going to skip it. Like the last too-dark-to-follow fight it just cuts away mid-action, unresolved, this time to Nunchuck running across a field in what is clearly the wrong direction--because continuity and accurate directional references are about as important to Lucio Fulci as coherent plots and decent lighting.

Bob meanwhile looks up to see Nunchuck, who suddenly picks up a rock and tries to bash his skull in!


Yes! Do it! Do it!

Sadly the real Nunchuck appears behind the imposter and they start duking it out. Although this scene is still a bit too dark and still filmed mostly with the sun behind the actors I have to admit they did a nice job making the stunt double look like the real Nunchuck. It's also a fairly well choreographed fight and edited well enough to tell who's who as they spar for advantage. See? I can find some nice things to say about a crappy movie once in awhile.


Just don't get used to it.

Eventually the real Nunchuck pins the fake Nunchuck to the ground with a forked branch. Fake Nunchuck first transforms into bronze mask Zora then completely disappears.




Wuss.

Back at the lair Ocron is whining to Zora about how if he doesn't stop the wanderer she's doomed. She begs him to set loose all of the dark and evil creatures at his command on him. She again pledges her total fealty to him if only he can rid her of this saucy young menace with his buoyant hair. Zora swears it shall be done.


Maybe those dark and evil creatures aren't as likely as their master to be defeated by a grunting beefcake armed only with a hunk of driftwood.

Back at the lakeside Nunchuck is slathering Bob's face with the herb and looking down at him like he's just so cute he could eat him right up. By the time the sun has risen Bob's boils have completely disappeared and his skin is once again baby-soft and radiant. They've now traveled to the spot where Bob left his boat when he first arrived in Nunchuck's land. It seems Bob's near-death experience has thrown a wet blanket over his ardor for justice and revenge against Ocron because he's decided to bag all that shit and run off home. He asks Nunchuck to go with him but Nunchuck doesn't want to leave his own country, however lonely his life may be. Bob then offers him the bow. He says he can't accept it as it's the ancestral weapon of Bob's people and belongs with them, but Bob insists, saying he no longer needs it.


"It is sooo tempting...just look at the size of it!"

Ultimately Nunchuck decides it's too dangerous a weapon for his land and declines. He watches wistfully as Bob sails off across the water and seemingly out of his life forever.


"Why, oh why didn't I kiss him when I had the chance?"

Nunchuck wanders through some igneous formations by the sea and the camera repeatedly lingers on what at first look like some kind of big cocoons tucked into the nooks and crannies of the rocks. When the camera zooms in on these, however we see that they have big round eyes and little muppet mouths that make weird high-pitched chirps.


"Elmo tired. Doctor say Elmo anemic."

These gauzy white, green-eyed puppet people stalk Nunchuck for a bit then leap down on top of him, snagging him in a net. He struggles valiantly but there are too many of them and he becomes hopelessly entwined.


Anemic Elmos attack!

When Nunchuck is fully subdued the King of the Elmos appears and questions him, demanding to know where they can find Bob and his mystical bow.


"Speak or I shall goose you with the royal dildo."

Back on his little boat Bob has an auditory hallucination featuring the voice of Permanent Wave, telling him of the path of courage and sacrifice he has chosen and how sooner or later a man must face danger and choose to confront evil even at the cost of his life. He sets his jaw, girds his loins, turns his boat around and heads back towards Ocron's land.

Meanwhile the Elmo people have bound Nunchuck to a saltire and propped him on a rock above the sea. King Elmo threatens to throw him into the water and drown him if he doesn't tell where Bob has gone.


"It doesn't matter. I can't live without him anyway."

Suddenly Bob appears, shouting and holding his bow aloft, declaring "I'm here! I'm not afraid!" The sun dims and we slip into slow-mo as Bob pulls back his bow and a celestial blue arrow appears.


Today, Bob Dylan, you are a man.

Bob fires his one magic arrow and it splits into many arrows which bend and curve to hit multiple Elmos with each pull of the bow.


He doesn't even have to aim.

I am reminded here of a scene in "The Mahabharatha," the venerable Hindu epic, where the hero Arjuna uses the celestial Gandiva Bow to fire a watertight canopy of arrows above Khandava wood, keeping Indra's rain at bay so that Agni the fire god can consume the forest for nourishment. There are a couple of similarities between Gandiva Bow and Bob's bow which may or may not have been intentional. Each is a supernatural weapon the power of which can only be unleashed by a warrior chosen by the gods to wield it and each has an infinite store of ammunition, although in the case of Gandiva Bow the arrows come from two magical, inexhaustible quivers. Each can also fire many arrows simultaneously.


Gandiva Bow was said to be so heavy and stiff that no mortal but Arjuna was even able to lift or string it.

Elsewhere in "The Mahabharatha" another character named Barbarika possesses three magic arrows that may partially have inspired Bob's magic arrows. One arrow could be used to tag each of an unlimited number of Barbarika's chosen targets. A second could tag an unlimited number of people Barbarika wishes to spare. The final arrow would either kill all of the people marked as targets or kill everyone in the entire world who had not been marked for survival, depending on which of the other two arrows he had chosen to fire first. Wisely Barbarika declines to participate in the central battle of the epic, deeming the arrows too powerful to ever be used.


I highly recommend the prose translation of "The Mahabharatha" by William S. Buck. It stays true to the spirit of the original verse but presents it in a narrative style accessible to western readers. Buck's "Ramayana" translation is also outstanding. They're fascinating, spiritually rich, transcendent works--a stark contrast to the soul-sucking, vapid chunk of derivative offal I'm reviewing for you today.

So Bob dispatches the Anemic Elmos in wave after wave of blue, glowing vengeance, but not before they manage to shove the helpless Nunchuck over a cliff and into the ocean.


Nunchuck: fucked and outta luck.

Nunchuck sinks like a stone, struggling to hold his breath against his inevitable, watery demise. As he begins to lose consciousness he sees a pod of dolphins leaping and circling above him.

Oh no...you have got to be shitting me...


SWEET CHOCOLATE JESUS



THE FUCKING DOLPHINS



ARE GONNA SAVE HIM!

This movie hurts my brain.

Bob finishes off the Anemic Elmos then does absolutely nothing to try to save Nunchuck, just assuming he must be dead. He sulks like only a 1960's folk singer can sulk, walking dolefully along the beach until he finds Nunchuck washed up on the shore, face down in the tidewater.

Okay, for fuck's sake! Who wrote this? For one thing Nunchuck is underwater a really, really long time, I mean minutes upon minutes, and he was already unconscious by the time the dolphins even started working at the ropes holding him to the saltire, so unless they also knew how to drain his lungs and give him CPR they'd have been shoving a corpse up onto the beach by the time they'd gotten him loose. Also, they're fucking dolphins so they couldn't have gotten him all the way up to the beach without beaching themselves in the process. Plus that saltire is made out of wood, so it should have floated for awhile at least instead of going straight down to the bottom.


Did I mention he's face down in the water when Bob spots him?

Against all odds, logic and biological reality, Nunchuck wakes up with just a bit of gentle prodding. The first thing he sees is smiling Bob standing over him, telling him it's time for them to go and confront Ocron.


"You've won my heart, you sweet little man. I just can't say no to you."

So off they schlep towards Ocron's mountain lair. Bob is all gung-ho and wants to get there as soon as he can, but Nunchuck says they have a lot of open ground to cross so they should probably travel by night. They decide to make camp and set out after dark.


Sleeping! Part five.

As they snooze away and quite plainly do not wake up to travel by night, a man-sized mole-claw pops up out of the ground and grabs Bob's leg, pulling him down into a hole in the earth.


I see the mole man just had a manicure.

Bob falls to the floor of an extremely dark cavern and is set upon by a bunch of extremely dark Manicure Moles whom we can only see as silhouettes because it's too fucking extremely dark. We're talking inky, stygian, can't-clearly-make-out-a-goddamned-thing dark. The Manicure Moles are all just blobs to me as they lift up Bob roman style and run away with him into an even darker cavern.


Kidnapping Bob. Possibly.

Nunchuck wakes up and looks down the hole but like us he can't see a dern thing. He hops down to the cavern and is set upon by the Manicure Moles, who seem to jump and leap around a like they're practicing a trampoline routine, but you can't see any kind of details. They eventually mob Nunchuck and carry him off as they did to Bob but again, you can't really fucking see it. It's more of a shadowy suggestion of him being carried off. They dump him on the floor somewhere and he seems to be harassed by a swarm of bats for awhile, but it's all so lightless and obscure that I can't capture a single clear and discernable screen shot from this entire sequence. Under no circumstances would I suggest watching this film for yourselves so please just take my word for it that all of this happens as I described it and that eventually a friendly bat leads Nunchuck to a slightly less murky cavern where he discovers that Bob has been brutally decapitated and both his head and the bow have been taken away.


Wait, say what? I honestly did not see that coming.

At first I thought this was another illusion, like when Zora was pretending to be Nunchuck, but we immediately cut to Ocron's lair and there's Bob's bloody head in Zora's armor-clad hand.


An ignominious end for the greatest songwriter of his generation.

Zora brags on his victory a bit and eventually hands a grateful Ocron the head. She places it on her throne and gets ready to "open his temple of secrets and devour him." That's a fancy euphemism for "crack his head open like a soft-boiled egg and suck out his brain." Just as she's about to land the blow Bob's eyes pop open and give her what I assume is supposed to be an ominous death-stare, but because of the soft focus filter and mood lighting it looks more like a Rick Astley music video.


"Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, gonna find a way to kill you even though you killed me first."

Ocron tells Zora he has failed her, that he has "slayed his body but not his soul," and she panics, knowing in her black heart that Bob will somehow return to fulfill her ominous vision.

Back in the cave Nunchuck has lit a pyre and we get a bunch of long, loving shots of Bob's body roasting and sizzling like a succulent pig.


Reminds me of a song by Tom Waits.

Now it's Nunchuck's turn to have an auditory hallucination where Bob tells him that he now dwells within his spirit and that he should anoint himself with his ashes. This will cause the power of Cronus' bow to flow through him and allow him to rid the earth of Ocron and her evil forever.


Nunchuck finally consummates their relationship. You know he's wanted to all along.

Back at the mountain Ocron rises before dawn to do her little "I'm bringing up the sun" routine and we see the remaining hippies gathered with their emaciated goats and ragged furs to watch the show.


Must be a cold morning.

As soon as Ocron begins her mumbo-jumbo Nunchuck shouts from a nearby cliff that he is there to mete out revenge and that today the sun will rise without her. He reaches out his hand just like Permanent Wave did way back at the beginning of the movie, back in that dimly-remembered time when I still had some faint vestige of hope that maybe, just maybe Lucio Fulci might prove me wrong about his being a complete and utter hack. The bow comes flying out of the lair, across the field and into the palm of Nunchuck's hand and a slow-motion, magical ass-whuppin' begins.


It's a really badly tracked overlay shot. The neon glow and goofy synth sound effects don't do it any favors, either.

Ocron orders Zora to stop Nunchuck, but he wusses out again, simply says "no" and disappears. She turns to her henchmen to attack, but Nunchuck has gone into full beefcake power mode now and the blue arrows start a-flyin'.


Today Nunchuck is a man. It took him long enough. He's got to be pushing 40.

Also there's not a lot of tension or sense of danger when your hero can kill an entire army with three shots.

Ocron gets all bitter now as she looks down at all the dead minions, complaining that they've all betrayed her by selfishly being dead. She vanishes and reappears in her lair, calling out for Zora, begging him not to abandon her.


I'm pretty sure that ship has sailed, lady.

Nunchuck is so in tune with the universe at this point he doesn't even need to see Ocron to take her out, and he shoots an arrow all the way through the mountain to her lair. It hits her smack in the mask, splitting it open and revealing whatever the fuck this is:


I believe they found it on clearance at a Spirit Halloween shop.

Nunchuck inexplicably materializes in the lair where Ocron is now gutturally growling like a dyspeptic bear and shuffling desperately like a cornered panther. Nunchuck raises his bow one last time and fires.


Right between the boobies!

Ocron falls to the ground as if she's dead, but then she transforms into a dog and runs off to join happy fluffy puppy Zora out in the wilderness.


Is that supposed to be setting this up for a sequel?


Because there ain't gonna be no sequel!

His task complete, Nunchuck walks off across the marshes into the sunrise.


The end.


Robert E. Howard, Joseph Conrad
and John Milius


It's impossible to overstate the influence screenwriter and director John Milius' 1982 Conan the Barbarian adaptation had on the fantasy genre throughout the 1980's and beyond. Co-written with Oliver Stone and based on the character created by the innovative fantasist (and H. P. Lovecraft pen-pal) Robert E. Howard, it was a bold, muscular and violent film that took cinematic fantasy into a more serious and adult-oriented realm than the youth-oriented adventure films that had come before it. Conan the Barbarian raised the bar for the genre and opened the flood gates to a host of imitators, most of whom missed the point of what made it such an effective and entertaining film. Conquest owes not only its setting, but a good deal of its plot to Milius' production, which itself owed a debt to Joseph Conrad's classic novella "Heart of Darkness" (1899) which Milius had previously co-adapted into the screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece Apocalypse Now (1979). The central focus on a pseudo-religious cult of personality, and the ritualized death of the cult leader (Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now and Thulsa Doom in Conan) were taken from Conrad and subsequently filtered through Apocalypse Now into Conan and eventually passed on to Conquest.


Thulsa doom in the throne room of his opulent snake-cult temple.

Sadly, Conquest gets absolutely nothing right. Aside from its tenuous grasp on its own mythological elements and its lack of moral focus it simply tries too hard to be a film for adults in all the wrong ways. Lacking the gravitas with which Milius imbued the world and characters of Conan, Fulci's film is instead stuffed full of overt violence and artless nudity, with nothing else worthy of a viewer's thoughts or attention. It has no human stakes and no human drama, just gratuitous gore and adolescent silliness. It was a hollow shell festooned with only the barest trappings of the richly mythic fantasy world Robert E. Howard created and John Milius brought to vibrant life.


Milius based much of his film's iconic imagery on the work of Frank Frazetta, widely considered to be the greatest fantasy artist of all time.

Today, when we've had a full fifteen years to digest Peter Jackson's monumental Lord of the Rings trilogy, it may seem strange that fantasy films were once dismissed as kiddie-fare and unworthy of mature consideration, but when we consider the time and the entertainment culture in which Conan the Barbarian was made it stands out as a truly remarkable and lasting cinematic achievement.

Final Observations:

--Conquest is one of the two or three worst and least entertaining films I have ever seen.

--I would rather watch Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula every day for a week than to ever have to watch Conquest again.

--There are multiple reviews on imdb defending Conquest as either a good, watchable film or a misunderstood gem. Do not believe them. If you let them get to you and you watch this film they will force you to read Lucio Fulci cult literature and make you drink dangerously doctored kool-aid.

--I developed several of those pus-filled yellow boils Bob got from the poisoned reed just by watching Conquest for this review.

--Seriously. Don't ever watch Conquest.



As always cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December 2018.



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