Indianapolis Metropolitan Police
Criminal Investigation Department

Today's Episode: Litter Box of Doom

Subject: Nathan Decker

RE: Assault & Burglary Complaint, Million Monkey Towers

Friday: Good morning Mr. Decker. I'm Sergeant Friday and this is Officer Gannon. As you know we're investigating the theft of your 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 rough 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 face but it didn't work."

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 made a few bona fide horror classics, but he's also one of those guys who you when see his name on the box you just know the movie you're about to see is gonna make no fucking sense. Hell, even his best films are pretty damned incoherent...and this sure ain't one of his best films. In the past if Nate had asked me to do a "lesser" Fulci title I'd have told him no thanks, buddy, I've got my own pile of shit movies to worry about, but I didn't like to upset him just now while he's still in his delicate condition. He's not strong, you know.

Conquest opens on the empty, mist-shrouded shores of a calm and mist-shrouded lake. After a few seconds a bunch of mist-shrouded figures fade into view via the magic of poorly-executed double exposure, and for some reason they never fully materialize but remain translucent shades throughout the entire mist-shrouded 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.

The fog machine should have gotten its own credit.

Two women in flowing white dresses bring a thin, insubstantial naugahide 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. Even his beard has a permanent wave, so I'mma call him Permanent Wave. So 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 face lots of dangers and see lots of stuff ripped off from other, infinitely better movies.

It's really hard to hear what he's saying because the dialog echoes like the lineup announcements in a baseball stadium, but he's basically describing Joseph Campbell's concept of a mythical "Hero's Journey" that 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 this instead of a jejune, backyard-bootleg of Conan the Barbarian (1982).

They'll never get all that vaseline off 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 curved sword called a harpe, not a bow and arrows. He quite famously used the harpe to castrate his father Uranus (Heaven), thus separating him from his mother Gaea (Earth) in a brutal act of insurrection which allowed him to claim the throne of the gods.

Get that fellow some Bactine.

According to Permanent Wave Cronus' quiver ran dry, 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 onto him 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...or perhaps both as the case may be. Sorry that may have been a little spoiler there.

Then they all disappear and the opening credits roll.

Interestingly there is no conquest of any kind in this film.

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 other cheap, crappy movie scores recorded at the time for a thousand other cheap, crappy movies with no budget to hire a decent composer, orchestra or ensemble.

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 fucking job!

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

Such a cold morning, too.

This is Ocron, our villain, who rules her people with an iron fist, an army of masked minions and a platoon of 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. The productions on her resume suggest she may have had a few unpleasant experiences in the industry, and in fact she retired from acting at the age of 28. 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, and it's apparent she's pretending to make the sun rise. When it finally breaks over the horizon she starts chanting "Kimbiya! Kimbiya!" and the hippies finally get off their lazy asses and chant along with her.

Kimbaya is the only thing that motivates these people.

Now we cut to the hairy Fox Bros and a bunch of Masked Soldiers running across a valley and heading for a cave where another bunch of unmotivated, low-energy hippies are lounging around naked or reclining half-asleep in ragged furs.

The Fox Bros look like the dog people from Bitter Lake (2011)

The marauders barge in and start knocking people over, demanding the hippies give them food for Ocron. One really old hippie dude, who probably dropped acid at Woodstock and got arrested protesting against the war in 'Nam, offers the Head Honcho Fox Bro a couple of scrawny rabbits, saying that's all they have to give him. It seems the hippies are starving and many of them have already died, but Fox Bro Honcho isn't satisfied. He says Ocron will take the sun away if they can't provide more food and that he's going to kill some of them for Ocron to eat right 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 and the marauders capture a naked chick in body paint.

They're ripe for the picking here at the commune.

They drag her off towards the mouth of the cave, grab her legs, and slowly pull her apart 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 sparse population to provide them with daily sustenance. We've seen maybe forty people total in this group and Honcho 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 their entire meat supply.

Back at the lair Honcho hands Ocron the Hippie Chick's severed head. She cracks it open with a stone hatchet and starts eating the brain.

She actually says "Yum!" I'm not even 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...not even making that up, either.

She begins to hallucinate about a faceless Bob Dylan running into her lair with his curly hair and breastplate, 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: this scene is an embarrassing, naive and clumsy attempt at some classic phallus-as-weapon, penetration-as-death, cycle-of-life symbolism. It's muddled and unimaginative, murkily shot 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 visual narrative requires the sensibilities of an artist, but Fulci's approach is "soft-core pornographer with a fetish for blood."

Fellini. Art.

Fulci. Exploding Titties.

It's worth noting that Fellini: Satyricon isn't even a film specifically about mythology, but it uses deconstructed mythical imagery to recreate the strangely alien daily life of an ancient civilization, whereas Conquest is a film specifically about mythology that can't even get its own mythology straight. Fulci should really have stuck with slashers and zombies. This shit is clearly out of his wheelhouse.

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 water, then transfers a miniscule bit of it into the bowl again and again and again until it's full.

If she can't figure out how to dunk a fucking bowl in a lake it's no wonder her people are on the verge of extinction.

We see that she is being watched by a gang of Ocron's goons hiding in some bushes. She carefully walks the bowl of water about 100 yards away to where she's left her stuff.

She's really thick as pigshit, isn't she? If she lives in such a dangerous place why doesn't she keep it close to where she's working? Why leave it next to the dense brush which could easily provide cover for hostile brigands? Seriously, this girl is a poster child for natural selection.

She now proceeds to gingerly pour the water from the bowl into a narrow-mouthed clay pot. For fuck's sake, sweetheart, why didn't you just take the whole pot to the water and fill it up there? Why use the bowl at all? How do you even walk without falling over?

I'd say give her a funnel but she might not understand how to use it.

With her obvious intellectual deficiencies there's just no way she's going to notice that gigantic snake that's currently 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 deciding she sure is and slithering in for the kill. Just as it's about to strike "thwoop!" Bob sends an arrow straight through its head, pinning it to the ground.

He's just blowin' in the wind.

It was a crawl-on cameo.

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 arrows 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, see. That's why he won a Pulitzer Prize for literature. Idiot Water Girl just stares for a few seconds, rendered catatonic by her perplexity.

"My brain is very small. 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 sure can't hardly wait.

Promotional consideration paid by Summer's Eve.

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 hold their coughs until intermission, the swine, let alone for a months-long, manhood-defining quest-journey. Because Bob quickly runs out, and with nothing else to defend himself the minions overwhelm him.

They leave him face-down in calf-high water. Just sayin'.

Thankfully this glimmering hunk of oiled up beefcake shows up to save Bob's biscuits:

With a pair of stone-and-linen nunchucks, no less...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.

Good thing he's on dry land or he might have drowned. Wait, what?

Nunchuck picks up the bow and examines it as if it's some kind of uber-complex Rube-Goldbergian thought engine. He rubs the wood and takes the string between his fingers to pluck it.

We all know what rhymes with "pluck it."

He seems to think this all warrants further investigation so he sets up camp right there and waits for Bob to recover, and when he does we find out that Nunchuck is a surly dickwad. 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.

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 this offer myself, but Bob agrees. I guess Nunchuk is kind of dreamy.

As they amble and ramble they hear a pathetic little squawk and find a blood-soaked falcon half submerged in a tidal pool. Nunchuck shouts "He's wounded!" Like it's a big fucking surprise.

The half-bottle of ketchup the props guy poured over its head seemed like a dead giveaway to me.

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

Nunchuck is supposed to be the archetypical "wild 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, an action which heals Arthur and restores harmony to the kingdom, Nunchuck must reengage with human congress and use his feral qualities to bring man and nature back into balance.

Well, that's how it's supposed to work, but they just couldn't be bothered. Nunchuck mainly just makes bad decisions, smashes things and flexes his pecs. It occurs to me, however 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. Again this is not adequately conveyed by what we see on screen, but it makes it seem more interesting than it actually is if you think about it that way. You can almost taste Fulci's frustration as he again and again grasps for Jungian legitemacy here but consistently finds it beyond his reach.

Here's Percival from John Boorman's Excalibur (1981), which proves you can have mist in your movie 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 peep 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 much of the rest 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.

You can barely see anything for like 70% of the film.

Now we jump cut to an old geezer carrying a dead boar across his shoulders.

He seems 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? Shock? Horror? Moral outrage?

"I'll take smug amusement for a thousand, Alex."

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 which finishes him off. Then they grab the boar he was carrying and take off to go have a barbecue, leaving the corpse to rot where it lay.

Murder is just another way of saying "lunchtime."

As he and Bob dine Nunchuck muses that "When a man meets a 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." Inaccuracy of this statement aside, when Bob points out that he's eating an animal at that very moment Nunchuck shrugs and says "I didn't kill it." Bob says he thinks that's a pretty strange attitude, but Nunchuck counters "Not when you're hungry!"

This scene demonstrates the central, inexcusable flaw of the film, a flaw far worse than its copious technical shortcomings or shaky grasp of mythological symbology. Conquest simply has no moral center, no concept of honor, no lesson to convey. That would be fine, I suppose, were it 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 a heroic pseudo-myth as he explicitly attempts to present it he also undermines that notion through the deplorable situational ethics of his two lead protagonists. The result is a jumbled, unrelentingly joyless mess that has no fucking idea what kind of movie 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 glance at the horizon for about three seconds, but that seems to satisfy him that there's no one there.

He may be wrong.

Later on we see Bob and Nunchuck 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 to escape them.

Now they know how that barbecued boar felt.

Luckily they find a pit in the middle of the cave and jump down into another cavern about 30 feet below. One of the Fox Bros appears above and begins to climb down, too but Bob dispatches him with an arrow and the others back away, knowing their prey is trapped and all they'll have to do is wait. Bob and Nunchuck feel pretty safe down there, though because no sooner do the Goons back away they go right the fuck back to sleep.

Sleeping! Part two!

It seems to me 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 job there might well have been neither Bob nor bow left to bring. I guess I've got to accept that every single character in this thing 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, waking up both he and Nunchuck. Bob wants to shoot it with an arrow but animal man Nunchuck stops him and lets the snake go back through the hole through which it came. They suddenly realize the little critter has just shown them the way out. They start pounding and pulling at the styrofoam...uh, 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 prank on a hobo.

I hate these people and I hate this film.

They end up at a cave belonging to a dirty hippie woman and some dirty hippie children whom Nunchuck beds down with when he's passing through town, and who should be part of the family but Idiot Water Girl, who has just enough active neural pathways in her walnut-sized brain to recognize Bob.

That tribal body paint looks mighty familiar...

...because of Jean-Jacques Annaud's Quest For Fire (1981), which had been a huge hit in Europe just two years prior.

Nunchuck likes to get it on with Idiot Water Girl's sister when he's in the area. He tells Bob "You can have her, too if you like, or take her sister..." Sexual politics aside, both Bob and Idiot Water Girl seem to think that's a fine idea.

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

It's both sexy and savory.

So they flirt and smile and chew and slurp and then they all immediately fall asleep because they're lazy, slovenly fucks who ate so much fatty tissue so fast they couldn't even make it to their own orgy.

Sleeping! Part three!

Cheeky Idiot Water Girl has only been pretending to sleep, however, and she gets up to go moon over adorable little Bob. She creeps over and wakes him by blows on his face with her stanky meat breath.

You can almost smell it.

Bob and Idiot Water Girl walk over near the entrance of the cave. She takes Bob's hand and puts it on her heaving boobies.

That'll put a little tension in his bow.

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

Looks like she walked headfirst into a jar of Tabasco sauce.

Honcho and the Fox Bros attack, grab Bob and knock Nunchuck unconscious When he wakes up the following morning Idiot Water Girl's entire family has been slaughtered and Bob is nowhere in sight. He shuffles pensively out to the mouth of the cave, gazes out across the valley and shouts for his friend, but Bob is far away and does not answer.

"I'm gonna miss that little scamp."

Suddenly he hears the squawking of falcons and looks up to see his three fake bird buddies from earlier in the film are fraudulently flapping away above him. He smiles knowingly and we are to assume now that they've somehow told him they're going to lead him to Bob.

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 to a log by his arms and legs 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 they've somehow told him that they're going to lead Nunchuck to him so he can be rescued.

You'd think from having seen that this place was close enough to Ocron's lair to pass through and make a quick raid on the hippie cave the previous morning thay it would be close enough to Ocron's cavs now to make it back by sundown, but Honcho decides they need to stop for the night because his little tootsies hurt and he needs his beauty sleep. The Bros pound a thick post into the ground and bind Bob to it, and Honcho taunts him by telling him what his boss is going to do when she gets her brain-eating mitts on him. He tells him Ocron is all-powerful, that she controls the sun and makes night and day, but Bob ain't picking up what he's laying down. Honcho proceeds to nuzzle his fuzzy muzzle against Bob's neck, which is every bit as weird and uncomfortable as it sounds.

"I'm so mad at you right now 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 camp Nunchuck finds some nice round stones and a deposit of sulfur that some kind, helpful 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. Every time he hops down a tier of rocks he makes a noise like a a sack full of oysters hitting the hood of a Buick, but the Fix Bros must have snorted too much wacky ash and passed out in a stupor because not a single one of them wakes up.

Nunchuck sneaks over to the post and unties Bob, and now the the barely-audible sound of the rope rubbing against the post wakes one of the Fox Bros. That's what I like. Consistency. Before the Fox Bro can figure out whst literally hit him Nunchuck whacks him across the face with a stone on a stick and sends Bob across to snatch the bow. You'd think maybe they'd be glad things went so smoothly and just grab the thing and run, but Nunchuck decides to toss one of his sulfur bombs into the campfire and all hell breaks loose.

It doesn't kill them, but it sure wakes them right the fuck up.

Now there's a poorly-choreographed, day-for-night fight that's peppered with lots of barely-discernable leaping fox bros and barely-visible gore-shots. At least I think that's what's going on, but with the incessant, gauzy fog and the f-stop set to maximum might actually be a gymnastics class or a break dance competition.

Droppin' beats and bustin' moves.

The melee abruptly jump-cuts away past the the fight without showing us how it ended, presumably because the rest of the footage was too dark to use. Honcho is suddenly back at the lair being roasted to death on a red-hot stone, ostensibly for letting Bob Dylan and his manly bow escape slip through his fuzzy fingers.

"Call the temp agency! We're gonna need more minions!"

So Honcho has failed 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!"

Now she's back on her furry bed, tripping balls from the wacky ash and dreaming once again about faceless Bob. She mutters breathily and shouts "Go away! Go back to your land, wanderer," moaning and twisting as she strokes her snakes and gently rubs herself around her perky, early-rising nipple-zones.

I believe this is meant to be erotic.

We get a little snippet of her previous dream again and when we cut back to her lair a big fluffy white dog is sitting next to her bed. This is one of the many forms of the great and powerful Zora, who is some kind of demon or possibly a lycanthropic insurance salesman. We never really find out exactly, but he's strong and sinister and has a bunch of minions of his own.

She practically gives herself an orgasm repeating his name again and again, calling him by his many sinister honorifics such as "king of darkness," "master of treachery," "knight of all evil," and "great slayer of souls!"

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

So the fluffy pupper dog Zora transforms via a hazy 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, mind and soul if only he will use his power over the darkest and most dreadful creatures of the earth to stop the insidious wanderer Bob Dylan from getting all up in her budoir with his big, smooth, succulent bow.

Then she can grab her metal tux and they can go bronze-age ballroom 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 just to be alive and he should totally fuggedaboudit. "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 feeling kinda peckish and watching your big, beefy pal there kill some random hippie dude so he could steal you some dinner.

Bob's conscience exists in an inverse ratio to the amount of stolen meat he ingests.

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.

As they walk side by side Bob talks about how sweet is his homeland, how men live in peace, how everybody grows their own food and they're all so fucking happy. It begs the question if his land is so damned wonderful then why did he come to this shithole in the first place? He could be lounging around with some mega-breasted, gossamer-clad nymphs eating grapes and pita bread, drinking wine and getting a nice hot-oil rubdown with a happy ending, but instead he's wandering around a stanky hell-marsh with a sleepy-eyed, people-hating, low-rent Conan clone.

To be honest I don't think Bob is much brighter than Idiot Water Girl.

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 catching a minnow or two and getting their feathery asses wet.

"But they might catch keeps me up at night."

A clump of brush nearby begins to rustle and a weird, wheezy voice gives a gurgly laugh. Nunchuck and Bob drop to the ground and a bunch of sharp reeds shoot out over them like a hail of arrows. Hmmm...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 poison. Nunchuck hurries him across the lake, saying he will fetch a magic herb from a nearby valley to heal him.

By the time they reach the opposite shore the sun is setting and Bob is developing nasty, yellow, pus-filled boils all over his body. They weep and burst and make a horrible sound like someone ripping open a crab to get at the flesh, which is all some classic, icky Fulci. He loves contaminated bodily fluids and never misses and opportunity to shoehorn them into his films.

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

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 through a spooky swamp where mummified bodies hang in the gnarled trees. you think they might come to life and attack him on his way back?

Nunchuck reaches the valley and begins to gather armfuls of a blue flower. His journey is inter-cut with far too many graphic close-ups of the weeping boils as they pulsate and burst on Bob's skin. Eventually we see that there are ants crawling around the open sores they leave and for the second time in as many reviews I've got to give a shout-out to my bois Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel and their seminal surrealist opus Un Chien Andalou (1929).

It casts a long shadow even over a piece of shit like Conquest.

Nunchuck gets as much of the herb as he can find and sets off back to towards the lake and the increasingly ill and delerious Bob. As he's re-crossing the swamp, and as anyone who's ever seen a movie before could have predicted the tree corpses start to move and a bunch of them come up out of the water to attack him.

They're much like those awesome water zombies from Creepshow (1982)...

...except they're shit.

We get another too-dark-to-follow fight scene now and my eyes are getting so tired from the strain 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 and probably for the exact same reason, and now Nunchuck is running across a field in what is clearly the wrong direction--because smooth 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 standing over him, and the big lug suddenly picks up a rock and tries to bash his skull in!

Yes! You can end this all right now!

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 and a handful of gauze bandage over the lens I have to admit they did a stellar job of making the stunt double look like the real Nunchuck. It's also a fairly well choreographed fight and edited effectively enough to tell exactly who's who as they spar for advantage.

See? I can find nice things to say about a crappy movie once in awhile.

Yeah, 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 vanishes.

What a wuss.

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

I hope those dark and evil creatures aren't also allergic to sweaty men with forked sticks.

Back at the lake Nunchuck is slathering Bob's face with the herb and looking down at him like he's so cute and precious he could just eat him right up. By the time the sun has risen Bob's boils have completely disappeared and his skin is once again soft, smooth and supple aa a hard-boiled egg.

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 short-lived sense of justice because he decides 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 offers him the bow as a parting gift, but he says he can't accept it. As the ancestral weapon of Bob's people, he says, it belongs with them. He also believes it's too dangerous a weapon for his already perilous land.

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

Nunchuck watches wistfully as Bob sails off across the water and seemingly out of his life forever.

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

Nunchuck wanders through some igneous formations by the edge of 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 chirpy mouths.

They're like Muppets with anemia.

These pale, cotton-limbed, green-eyed puppet people stalk Nunchuck for a while before leaping down on top of him and snagging him in a net. He struggles valiantly but there are too many of them and he becomes hopelessly entwined.

Welcome to Sesame Street, bitch!

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 Elmo 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. Suitably chastenened, he clenches his jaw, girds his loins and heads back towards Ocron's land.

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

"Go ahead and kill life is meaningless without him."

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

Today, Bob Dylan is a man.

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

Well ain't that convenient?

I am reminded here of a scene in "The Mahabharatha," a cornerstone Hindu epic, where the hero Arjuna uses the celestial Gandiva Bow to create 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 his 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 with mystic power that can only be unleashed by a warrior chosen by the gods and each has an infinite store of ammunition, although in the case of Gandiva Bow the arrows come from two inexhaustible quivers. Each can also split one arrow into many.

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 also have partially 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. Just as Nunchuck declined to use Bob's bow, Barbarika wisely declines to participate in the central battle of the epic, deeming his own 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 trash I'm offering you today.

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

Nunchuck fucked and outta luck.

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

Oh have got to be shitting me...




This fucking movie hurts my brain.

Bob finishes with the Elmos then does absolutely nothing to try to save Nunchuck, assuming he for reals must be totally dead by now anyway. He sulks like only a 1960's folk singer can, walking dolefully along the beach, humming tunes and blowing his mouth organ until he finds Nunchuck washed up on the shore, face down in the tidewater. Yeah, he's fine.

Okay, 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 cold, floppy 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 instead of going straight down to the bottom.

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

Against all odds, logic and biological reality, Bob wakes Nunchuck with just some gentle prodding and a few whispered verses of "Tangled up in Blue". The first thing Nunchuck sees is Bob standing over him with a broad, goofy grin, telling him it's time for them to confront Ocron and rid the land of her foetid scourge once and for all.

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

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! Is everyone in this fucking movie narcoleptic?

As they snooze away and quite plainly forget to wake up in time 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 cavern beneath the soil.

Dude needs a manicure.

Bob finds himself on the floor of an extremely dark cave and is set upon by a bunch of extremely dark Manicure Moles whom we can only see as silhouettes because it's so extremely pitch fucking dark. We're talking inky, stygian, can't-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 part of the cave.

Kidnapping Bob?

Nunchuck wakes up and looks down into the hole but much like the irritated audience he can't see a goddamn thing. He hops down blindly and is set upon by the Manicure Moles, who seem to jump and leap around a like they're practicing a trampoline routine, but they're still just shadowy lumps streaking against a barely-visible backdrop. They eventually grab Nunchuck and carry him off, and again, you can't really fucking see it. It's more of a suggestion of him being carried off gleaned from context clues rather than a definitive statement.

They dump him on the floor somewhere and he seems to be harassed by a swarm of bats for awhile, and it's all so obscured 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. Also please accept that eventually a friendly bat appears to lead Nunchuck to a slightly less murky cavern where he discovers Bob's corpse hanging upside-down and decapitated.

Okay, I really didn't see that coming...and I still can't really see it now.

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 blood-spattered head in Zora's armored 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." Which is a fancy euphemism for "crack his head open like a coconut and suck out his sweet, tasty brain." Just as she's about to land the first blow Bob's eyes pop open and give her what I assume is supposed to be an ominous, mystical death-stare, but because of the soft focus filter and sexy mood lighting it looks more like a sultry gaze from 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." She panics, knowing in her evil, boob-flanked 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, delicious shots of Bob's body roasting and sizzling like a succulent pig.

Now that's some mighty fine eatin'.

Now it's Nunchuck's turn to have an auditory hallucination wherin Bob tells him that he now dwells within his spirit. Bob's voice insteucts him to anoint himself with his ashes to acquire the power of Cronus' bow. Once that power is his to channel and control he can finally destroy Ocron and her.

That's some serious fetish shit there, way weirder than the succulent meat thing.

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

Another cold morning.

As soon as Ocron begins her new morning mumbo-jumbo Nunchuck shouts from a nearby cliff that he is there to mete out his 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 utterly hackish lack of consistency. The bow comes flying out of the lair, across the field and into the palm of Nunchuck's hand and a final slow-motion, magical ass-whuppin' begins.

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

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

Today Nunchuck is a man. Which is nice for him 'cause he's got to be pushing 40.

Ocron gets all bitter and bitchy now seeing all the dead minions and complaining that they've all betrayed her by selfishly dying. 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.

Nunchuck is so in tune with the universe at this point he doesn't even need to see his target. He shoots an arrow all the way through the mountain to Ocron's lair, and it hits her smack in the mask, splitting it open and revealing a November clearance fright mask from a Spirit Halloween store.

Nice body. Shame about the face.

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

As was prophesized he gets her right between the titties.

Ocron falls to the ground dead, but then transforms into a spry little pup and scampers off to join happy floofy doggie friend Zora out in the wilderness.

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

'Cause there ain't gonna be no sequel.

His task complete, Nunchuck walks off across the marshes into the spreading, healing light of the rising sun.

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 film 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 grim, muscular and violent film that took cinematic fantasy into a darker, more serious realm than the vast majority of 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 had 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 strong debt to Joseph Conrad's classic novella "Heart of Darkness" (1899) (which Milius had previously co-adapted for Francis Ford Coppola's 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 filtered through Apocalypse Now into Conan and eventually passed on to films like Conquest that utterly squandered the power of the myth-rituals these scenarios represented.

Col. Kurtz in his temple.

Thulsa doom in his throne room.

Sadly, Conquest gets absolutely nothing right. Aside from its tenuous grasp of mythology and its complete lack of moral focus it strives to be a "adult" in all the wrong ways. Lacking the brutal gravitas of Conan, Fulci's film is instead stuffed with gratuitous violence and artless nudity with nothing else worthy of a viewer's thoughts or attention. There are no human stakes and no human drama, just nasty, unconvincing gore and adolescent silliness. It's adorned with some threadbare trappings of the rich, satisfying fantasy world Howard and Milius presented, but it's an otherwise empty shell, bereft of substance, a mere echo of the infinitely superior films it strives to emulate.

Milius based much of his film's iconic imagery on the work of Frank Frazetta, who is widely considered 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 bargain matinee kiddie-fare, completely unworthy of mature consideration, but when we consider the era and the entertainment culture in which Conan the Barbarian was made it stands out as a truly remarkable cinematic achievement.

Conquest? Not so much.

Final Observations:

--Conquest is one of the two or three 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 they sense any weakness or wavering they'll come straight to your house and force you to drink dangerously doctored Kool-Aid out of Idiot Water Girl's clay pot.

--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. Think of the children.

As always cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December 2018.

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