Here’s a telling fact about ZolarCzakl: He admits that he doesn’t own the film he considers to be the greatest of all time (Pete’s Dragon, for those of you not paying attention), but he does own what might possibly be the worst film of all time. I know that’s a heavy charge to lay against a film, but I can assure you that this does live up (or down) to the title. Allow me to tell you a little about Conquest: a film by Lucio Fulci
Lucio Fulci is perhaps best know for his follow-up to the European version of the 1978 Dawn of the Dead, Zombi 2 (and the cleverly named sequel Zombi 3: Dead and Lovin’ It.) With over 55 notches in his big buckled Director’s Belt, Fulci was bound to have a couple of stinkers in there, but I have no doubt that Conquest is at the bottom of his list.
First up: The Story.
Ileas (the Hugh Jackman-esque Andrea Occhipinti) has set off from his peaceful lands to wander some mystical prehistoric lands armed with a leather skirt and a bow. (Yes, a bow. We’ll come back to that.) During his travels he encounters Mace (the Fabio-esque Georgio Rivero), a bone-nunchuk (WTF?) wielding barbarian with a soft spot for animals and killing random strangers. Fascinated by Ileas high-tech weaponry (yes, the bow) and tight calves, they join forces. While traveling together they decide they must rid the lands of the evil Ocron (the uneven boobness of Sabrina Sellers), a sorceress who’s only visible power seems to be going topless and having prehistoric cocaine blown up her nose by wolf-men. (I’m not sure, but I bet casting this part was super easy. It was 1983, after all)
So what went wrong?
Everything, as far as I can tell. Obviously this film was made to capitalize on the success of Conan the Barbarian, but what makes Conquest so exceptionally bad? For one thing the film was a joint Italian, Spanish, and Mexican production. This is reflected in the film’s massive budget of almost 17 dollars. And let me tell you, every peso of it is up there on the screen mostly in the form of fog, black-light paint, and fur-suits. Sadly, in his haste to get Conquest on the screens less than 11 months after the infinitely superior Conan, Lucio Fulci and crew left out some of the finer details. You know: plot, coherence, lighting, acting. Little stuff.
This film is mind-bogglingly cheap. For some reason they could afford to have a real falcon on the set, but used the world’s crappiest puppets on strings to show birds in flight. Could it really be that the combined cinematic archives of Spain, Italy, and Mexico didn’t contain a single stock footage scene of birds in flight? In another scene, one of the wolf-men is put on table of burning stone to atone for his lack of hero-catching skills, but in the very next scene that same table is used as the evil stripper lady’s masturbation station. (Apparently the burning flames of Hell can be held back with a table cloth.)
Furthermore this film has the lighting and sound quality of a colonoscopy camera. The lighting is near non-existant (as evidenced in one scene where Mace is covered in reflective blue make-up so that he shows up against the black walls of a cave.), and nearly every scene is so drenched in machine generated fog that it looks like the cameras were just dipped in Vaseline. When special effects are used, they just recycle the same shots over and over. For example: when our soon-to-be beheaded hero finally whips out the Laser Bow action, he fire multiple lasers at once which seek out his target. A couple of scenes later Mace gets in on the Laser Bow action and fires the EXACT SAME pattern of mulitple lasers. How fortuitous for the special effects crew, huh?
Plotwise, this film is a complete trainwreck. From the film’s haze filled flashback opening (where Ileas receives his bow and the most vague rambling mission speech of all time), to the final credits, Conquest is 87 minutes of pure mescaline-fueled Dungeons & Dragons gibberish. For most of the film our heroes just wander from place to place aimlessly while incomprehensible stuff happens to them while the Masked Stripper Queen tries to kill them via wolf-people, zombies, doppelgangers, dust-bunny creatures, and (best of all) a man made out of gold credit cards. (Oh yeah, and he turns into a dog, too.) Along the way we’re treated to a very graphic scalping, a naked gal ripped in half by wolf-people, 4 dead goats, fake birds, a couple of beheadings, and the world’s worst case of shingles. I’m pretty sure Fulci had a rider in his contract that every film he made must have a couple of gross-out scenes, zombies, and some severed heads. That’s the only possible explanation I can think of to explain the gross-out makeup effects and gore shots.
But allow me to hone in on some of the finer points of Conquest:
For one, our co-hero Mace is supposed to be a prehistoric barbarian who is amazed at the futuristic technology of a bow and arrow, yet he knows how to make a boat, and as I stated before carries nunchuka made out of bone. Wrap you mind around that for a second. Prehistoric bone nunchuks. That could ALMOST be cool if not for the fact that Mace’s skills are comprised of twirling them around like a slightly heavier ribbon streamer, or just holding them together and bashing the bad guys’ faces in. I’m pretty certain Napoleon Dynamite would be considered a ninja master by comparison. Mace makes a big speech about how much he loves animals, but he’ll drop a caveman hobo with a well placed arrow just to see the look on the guy’s face while he steals some dead goat for dinner. Mace is completely non-plussed by wolf-men and bushes that shoot poisonous quills, but he almost has a mental breakdown when confronted with zombies. Strong enough to take a pole-ax to the face and launch a couple of S&M baddies in the next breath, Mace is taken out by a fish net thrown by some guys that look like they fell into the cotton candy machine. And he’s the TOUGH one.
The whining Robin to our grunting Batman, Ileas could only be considered tough were you putting him up against the Erasure fan club. Armed with luxurious curls and a leather ensemble you wouldn’t see on Halloween night in the Castro district, Ileas is all wide eyed bumbling and bad long-term planning skills. For instance: Wandering alone in a hostile land, our boy was wise enough to arm himself with a bow. (A weapon completely mind-blowingly advanced to this un-named land’s denizens) However, Ileas only thought to bring 4 arrows with him, which inevitably leads him to blowing his entire wad in the first 15 minutes of the film. Sadly he fails to realize his weapon’s awesome Laser Arrow potential until the last 15 minutes of the film, making him a little less than useless for the majority of his cinematic journey. This is proved by his finally figuring out how to use the Laser Bow, but still managing to get beheaded.
Conquest is the kind of film where you’d like to imagine the cast and crew sitting around at the end of each day saying, “Man, is this gonna suck. Oh well, at least I can get an Iroc-Z out of it.”, but in reality I think Fulci finished each day’s worth of filming with an “This is gonna be so fucking AWESOME! In your face, John Milus!”. According to the DVD jacket, “Lucio Fulci attacked the genre like no filmaker had ever done before”. Okay, I can agree with that one, but that’s only because no other filmaker actually tried to forcibly rape the Sword and Sorcery genre with the gusto that Fulci put into it. All in all, this is an ‘avoid at all costs’ movie. It’s so incomprehensible and awful that gratuitous nudity and splatter film effects aren’t even a selling point. In fact had this film had a Bollywood musical ending that took place in space, I still think it might have made more sense. Conquest makes Alien vs. Predator look like Casablanca, for crying out loud.
So in conclusion I think it’s safe to say that yes, Conquest is indeed one of the worst films of all time. And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go scrub this cinematic filth from my eyeballs.