Full Moon Features: Conquest (1983)

[Note: Inspired by Dobes’s comprehensive list of Werewolves of the 80s and its attendant screencaps repository, I’m going to start covering movies I previously passed over because they don’t feature werewolves, per se. As long as they have wolfish enough beast men, though, I’m considering them fair game. Hence, this month’s entry…]

Okay, so there’s this kid, see, and his name is Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti), and he comes from the only agrarian society at the dawn of civilization, but before he can become a man, he has to don some leather armor, take up a mystical bow that shoots flaming arrows and make his way in the world. Then there are these goat herders with mud smeared on their faces sitting around waiting for their high priestess, a topless beauty in a gold face mask named Ocron (Sabrina Siani, veteran of the first Ator movie), to bring forth the sun. Then Ocron’s beast men attack some cave dwellers, smash their elder’s skull in and tear some random naked girl to pieces, delivering the head to Ocron, who subsequently drinks from it and writhes around on an altar with a large snake. Then she has a vision where she’s shot with a glowing arrow fired by a faceless man wearing Ilias’s armor, which really harshes her buzz. Incidentally, all this happens within the first twelve minutes of Lucio Fulci’s Conquest, so if you haven’t figured out you’re in Conan the Barbarian ripoff land by the first reel change, then you obviously didn’t live through the early ’80s.

Made in 1983, at the crest of the wave of sword-and-sorcery flicks inspired by Conan‘s success, Conquest actually takes place so far back in the past that it’s more of a sticks-and-stones flick, with Ilias’s magic bow being the most sophisticated weapon around. In order to establish the dream-like atmosphere, Fulci kind of overdoes it on the smoke and haze, though. (Just because your story is set way back in the mists of time, that doesn’t mean it has to be misty all the time.) Soon enough, we’re back with Ilias, who saves some random naked girl (Maria Scola) from a snake, is attacked by some random soldiers, and is saved by a passing stranger named Mace (Jorge Rivero) who is friend to all animals, but doesn’t take kindly to the beast men who try to jump him. Mace is only interested in the bow, but lets Ilias tag along with him as long as he shows him how to use it. The two of them get trapped in a cave by Ocron’s forces, but easily escape and Mace takes Ilias home with him to meet the family (well, a family, at least). There Ilias runs into the girl again and they make doe eyes at each other over dinner, but before she can make a man out of him they are ambushed, the women and children are brutally killed, and Ilias and the bow are captured. Mace was inexplicably left alive, though, and after he rescues Ilias, Ocron roasts her head beast man Fado (José Gras) alive for failing her. (His biggest failing, it appears, was not inventing the night watch.)

One of Ocron’s beast men leaps into action.

Realizing she needs to bring in the big guns, Ocron summons forth the all-powerful Zora (Conrado San Martín), a magical dude in thick plate mail, and promises herself to him if he kills Ilias. Zora is down with this and shoots the lad with a poison dart (which Fulci accomplishes by scratching the film) while he’s out hunting with Mace, but luckily Mace knows of a small valley where a magical plant grows and goes to fetch some of its leaves while Ilias lies around oozing pus from nasty-looking wounds that Fulci shows in extreme close-up. On his way back from the valley, Mace is attacked by some swamp mummies, but manages to impale all of them and, upon his return to Ilias’s side, has to fight his own double (Zora in disguise) before he can apply the life-saving vegetation. This is followed by a truly bizarre scene with Zora sitting on a throne and Ocron fondling his metal plating, but I guess it’s no more strange than Mace being captured by some white-haired, cobwebbed Wookiees and, after he’s thrown into the water, being rescued by some dolphins that happen to swim by. (This is more tedious than you could ever imagine.) From there, Ilias and Mace are captured again, this time by cave creatures we can’t see too well in the blue light, and Ilias is beheaded, but that isn’t the end of him, for when Mace burns his body (in a sequence that Fulci lingers over for several minutes) he takes on the fallen warrior’s spirit and fulfills his destiny. The end. And in case you had any lingering doubts about what you’ve just seen, a title card comes up that states, “Any reference to persons or events is purely coincidental.” Thanks for clearing that up, title card.

P.S. – At the climax, when Mace appears to challenge Ocron, she cries out, “Stop him, Zora!” Fulci then pans over to Zora, who sighs heavily and disappears. This is my favorite moment in the entire film.