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CONQUEST

This 1983 production is one of the last worthy films made by Lucio Fulci, and undoubtedly the strangest of the many sword-and-sorcery programmers that littered the early 1980s. CONQUEST, mind you, is not a “good” movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it does contain many mind-blowing moments.

The Package
     CONQUEST (a.k.a. EL BARBARO & LA CONQUISTA DE LA TIERRA PERDIDA), an Italian-Mexican co-production, turned up amid the likes of SORCERESS, ATOR THE FIGHTING EAGLE, SHE, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, FIRE AND ICE, ATOR THE FIGHTING EAGLE, THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS and DEATHSTALKER. It was one of Lucio Fulci’s less personal projects, although it did emerge from his most fertile period--the early 1980s--which also saw the releases of Fulci classics like CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE BEYOND and HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, and his level of inspiration was evidently quite high.

The Story
     Mace is a heroic fighter in a prehistoric fantasy world. Dominating this Hell-scape is the evil queen Ocron, a mask-wearing hottie who lounges around naked, canoodling with snakes and eating her enemies’ brains. She also suffers from visions of a faceless warrior killing her with an arrow.
     Mace meets up with the young warrior Ilias, who helps him fight off an enemy tribe. Mace takes Ilias back to his family’s cave, where it seems all is well--until Ocron’s goons attack and drag Ilias away. Mace wastes no time tracking down and fighting off the goons.
     Mace and Ilias set off once again, but are waylaid by a volley of poisonous arrows. Ilias is hit by one of the arrows, which causes his body to become covered in sores that break open and disgorge bloody pus. Mace resolves to cure the wounds with a magic plant, which grows in a swamp packed with more fighting creatures. Mace makes fast work of the creatures, but upon arriving back at Ilias’ side has to battle himself--or, rather, a shape-shifting monster in the form of himself. He succeeds in fighting off the critter and, as promised, uses the magic plant to cure Ilias’ wounds.
     At this point Ilias elects to head back to his home tribe. Yet as soon as he leaves Mace is attacked by rock monsters who tie him up. This time it’s Ilias to the rescue, who uses a magic laser-shooting bow to kill the monsters. In the melee Mace is dunked in the ocean and nearly drowned, but is saved by some friendly dolphins who chew through the ropes binding his hands.
     In a final assault by Ocron’s goons Ilias is killed and his head taken to Ocron. Mace burns Ilias’ corpse and smears the ashes on his body (so as to imbibe Ilias’ life force), and then hits the revenge trail.

The Direction
     The word for this film is smoky. Smoke-heavy visuals were of course extremely popular in eighties cinema, being a signature of hotshot directors like Ridley Scott and Adrian Lyne, but no other film took the practice as far Lucio Fulci does in CONQUEST, whose every shot is diffused with smoke, mist or haze, presumably to enhance the fantasy atmosphere. The gambit, surprisingly enough, actually works: this film, silly and derivative though it is, feels genuinely otherworldly.
     The unfocused narrative is complete nonsense, being an unruly composite of EXCALIBUR, CONAN THE BARBARIAN and QUEST FOR FIRE, yet Fulci’s gift for surreal imagery is undeniable. The innumerable monsters on display are extremely evocative creations, even if the animation and make-up effects aren’t always top-notch (with cartoon arrows and laser beams that look like exactly what they are).
     CONQUEST also contains many of Fulci’s trademarked fetishistic depictions of gore and slime, some of which are quite startling. These include an early depiction of a woman literally ripped apart (giving us a view of her intestines popping out of her stomach), the erupting pustules that appear on Ilias’ body, and the protracted burning of his corpse, which like all of Fulci’s most famous gore scenes is depicted in extreme close-up.
     Another standout element is the crazed, quintessentially eighties synthesizer score by Claudio Simonetti, which fits right in with a film that may be terrible in nearly every respect, but excels in bizarre imagery.

 
Vital Statistics

CONQUEST (EL BARBARO; LA CONQUISTA DE LA TIERRA PERDIDA)
Clemi Cinematographica

Director: Lucio Fulci
Producer: Giovanni di Clemente
Screenplay: Gino Capone, Jose A. de La Loma Sr., Carlos Vasallo
Cinematography: Alejandro Alonso Garcia
Editing: Emilio Rodriguez Oses
Cast: Jorge Rivero, Andrea Occhipinti, Conrad San Martin, Violeta Cela, Jose Gras Palau, Maria Scola, Sabrina Sellers
 

     

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