The elders of his people send Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti) into the world with the bow of Chronos. The bow, when he finds his courage, will be able to fire arrows of light. When Ilias tries to stop the beast men followers of the evil, topless, snake loving sorceress Ocron (Sabrina Siani aka Sabrina Sellers, Black Cobra), from attacking a young girl, his bow, an unheard of piece of technology in this barbaric land, temporarily gives the beasts pause, but Ilias is quickly overwhelmed. Only the timely intervention of Mace (Jorge Rivero aka George Rivero, Rio Lobo), a loner who claims to have no friends but the animals, saves Ilias’s life, although his real goal is saving Ilias’s bow. Mace is as amazed by the bow as Ocron’s men are, and allows Ilias to tag along with him on the condition that Ilias will teach him to use it. The two become friends and episodically fight the minions of Ocron. Orcon forsees her death at Ilias’s hands in a vision and will stop at nothing, including recruiting the “god” Zora (Conrado San Martín, Fistful of Dynamite) to kill Ilias. Will Ilias find the courage to defeat Ocron?
Lucio Fulci is, after perhaps Sergio Leone, Mario Bava, and Dario Argento, the Italian genre film maker with the largest cult following. While Leone’s films have long passed into the realm of respectability, Mario Bava seems to be respected/loved within genre film circles where his work is defensible and Argento has a reputation for early promise squandered (not at all helped by cranking out ever cheaper and more disappointing films), Fulci’s fans seem to love his films regardless of their quality. To a certain degree the failing of logic and coherence and reliance on fantastic set-pieces in Italian genre film making is always excused by fans with suggestions that the films are deconstructing the genre, dabbling in surrealism or are simply “fucking awesome man”, but Fulci’s fans take this habit to insane heights. His films, no matter what the setting or genre, are almost always more incoherent than those of his contemporaries (the possible exceptions of the ones I’ve seen being his early Giallo films like Don’t Torture a Duckling and Woman in a Lizard’s Skin) but the defense is the same: he’s deliberately being surreal, usually because “reality is breaking down around the characters”. While this kind of excuse might hold some water in a supernatural horror film like The Beyond, when he’s directing an equally incoherent Escape from New York/Rollerball or Conan the Barbarian rip-off, Fulci’s fans’ defense doesn’t hold water. The man simply either didn’t care to, couldn’t afford to, or didn’t want to do any better, and his resulting films are, at best, “so-bad-it’s-good” collections of WTF moments and at their worst are simply rambling, hard to follow junk.
Conquest falls between these two extremes. On the (so-bad-it’s) good side, there is some choice idiot dialogue (Mace’s explanation of why he doesn’t eat meat, unless he kills the guy who killed the animal or steals it from a hunter, for example), goofy special effects (with just enough moderately fun/inventive ones), bad acting and unexpected moments. These are balanced by moments where it’s impossible to see what’s going on, the general cheapness of the film, and an energy draining, episodic “story” that alternates between scenes of the leads philosophizing in the shallowest way possible; repetitive, hard to follow and poorly choreographed fights with mostly unnamed and uninteresting opponents; and scenes of Orcon writhing around topless with snakes. Occhipinti and Rivero aren’t terrible in their respective parts, but the fact that almost no one else gets any lines (indeed, nearly every other speaking character wears a face mask of one kind or another) is very telling. At points the film feels like a very strange attempt to do a combined rip-off of Quest for Fire and Conan. Perhaps if the cultural and technological differences between Mace and Ilias’s lands was more developed, the film might be better, but as it is there are just hints. The main novelty is the resolution of Mace and Ilias’s respective hero’s journeys, as it takes a different path than most.
Technically, the film is marred by many difficult to make out night-time scenes and poorly lit scenes taking place in caverns. There don’t seem to be any sets used, just fields, swamps, rocky hills and caves. The gore is of the queasy fake looking kind that looks incredibly fake the but the unnatural, plastic look turns the stomach anyhow. The fights are repetitively choreographed, the monsters and thugs being fought are barely established, if they’re established at all, and in most fights there are no stakes.
I take it back, Lucio Fulci was a genius, provided his intention was to replicate the feel of a Dungeons and Dragons game run by 13 year olds.
The NSFW trailer: