Review Date: August 13, 2004
Released by: Blue Underground
Release date: 7/27/2004
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Although Lucio Fulci enjoyed a prolific career throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, it wasn’t until his international success with Zombie
in 1979 that he would reach the zenith of his creativity. Zombie
marked off the beginning of a slew of successive horror triumphs for Fulci in a three year span: City of the Living Dead
in 1980, The Beyond
and House by the Cemetery
in 1981, and The New York Ripper
in 1982. Determined not to let his horror success pigeonhole him, the journeyman Fulci sought to break away from the horror genre with the ambitious sword and sorcery adventure, Conquest
. Lavishly shot with expensive effects, costumes and locations, the film ended up being a costly flop, enjoying only a small portion of the distribution of Fulci’s previous horror films. After the failure of Conquest
, Fulci never quite recovered to the level of creative and commercial success he experienced in the early ‘80s. Failure or not though, Blue Underground has revived this Fulci obscurity to coincide with all the Zombie
hoopla. Is it like Crom, or like Crap? Let’s find out.
For Lucio Fulci, it isn’t the story that is important, it is how it is told. In most of his films, plot is neglected instead to create a nightmarish assault of graphic visuals. Conquest
is no exception. The film begins on a surreal beach canvas, where gods and goddesses are superimposed upon. A great elder tells a story of Kronos, and how his bow was guided by the sun. When Kronos ran out of arrows, the sun lent its rays to him, allowing him to defeat the most vile of adversary. The story of Kronos is legend, and it is now time for young Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti
) to follow in his mythological footsteps. Armed in bow and arrows, Ilias sets off on his quest.
The parameters of his quest are never actually explained. Instead, Fulci relies on the viewer’s knowledge of basic mythological conventions to fill in the gaps. Ilias must be the hero, and the weird writhing nudist lady with the gold plated head, Ocron (Sabrina Siani
) must be the villainess. Ocron, draped in the Biblical symbol of sin and temptation, snakes, dreams of a seductive Ilias. Just as she is tempted by his heavenly veneer, Ilias shoots her with the rays of the sun. Determined to not let the dream become a reality, she orders her furry henchmen to dispose of Ilias before he does the same to her.
As Ilias journeys to defeat the evil(?) Ocron, he meets up with Mace (Jorge Rivero
), the Ace Ventura of yesteryear. Able to summon the strength of the animals and heal them with his modest touch, Mace is able to help guide Ilias to his destiny. As the two battle beasts we’ve never heard of, on a quest never explained, they finally arrive at their destination, of which we know nothing. Ilias draws his bow, and using the powers of the earth, takes aim at Ocron.
is a truly bizarre film, one that only Lucio Fulci could have made. Although on the surface a fantasy film in the same vein as Conan the Barbarian
, it ultimately bares more resemblance to the horror films Fulci had been making at the time. For one, Conquest
probably holds the title of goriest sword and sorcery movie ever made, as it seems every villain is dispatched with an axe to the face. All it takes is one whack to the noggin to completely scalp a victim in complete graphical excess. The standout scene of needless violence however, is when a random female victim is literally ripped in half from the legs through her torso. Fulci leaves nothing to the imagination, and in many ways the gore on display in Conquest
rivals the work Fulci had done in his zombie opuses.
The villains in the film also possess a zombie-like quality, as they say nothing, slowly roam in packs, and hunt with a primal lust. Perhaps what remains most distinctly Fulci about the whole film is the surreal opening sequence. As gods are superimposed upon a painted canvas, the opening shot very much echoes Fulci’s signature final shot in his masterpiece, The Beyond
. In that film, the ending suggests a collapse of time, as the protagonists are trapped in an ageless art piece. The nightmare continues, but the protagonists remain trapped. While The Beyond
ends on a shot of an art piece, Conquest
begins on such, suggesting that both films are linked in their dismissal of time and acceptance of a dream-like reality.
this collapse of time is also of utmost importance. Many cite The Beyond
as borderline incoherent, but Conquest
’s plot is so threadbare, that every piece could be rearranged and the story would still present itself as complete. There really is no linear progression in plot developments in Conquest
. It is more just a collage of mythic scenes of bravery, violence, and landscapes. Even Ocron is seemingly killed many times in the film, as if to suggest that there is no aspect of time, and that everything exists as a repetitious dream.
In speaking of The Beyond
, Fulci was quoted as saying “life is often a terrible nightmare, and our only refuge is to remain in this world, but outside of time.” This quote very much applies to Conquest
, as well as the rest of films in Fulci’s canon. Obviously outside of the constraints of time, the universe of Conquest
possesses a surreal haze throughout. Shot entirely in soft focus, with lens flares and white mists abound, Conquest
presents itself visually as one large dream. Indeed, there are even literal dreams peppered through the entire film, such as when Ocron dreams of Ilias, or when Ilias dreams of a woman in silver. The split between dream and reality is never concrete however, as both tend to seep in with each other. The collapse of time and the fusion of dream and reality are the two central motifs of surrealism, which is a movement Fulci very much operates within. It is fitting that the introduction to surrealism was Salvador Dali’s painting, “Persistence of Memory”
, which featured a construed clocks no longer able to tell time. Dali’s painting was of utmost importance to the movement, just like the paintings in The Beyond
are the central elements to both films.
As a filmmaker, there is no doubt that Lucio Fulci was blessed with a unique and unwavering surrealist vision. Even his lesser exploitation pictures, like Conquest
are brooding with the themes of a true auteur. The soft focus photography is very much overused, Claudio Simonetti’s score is much more repetitious and annoying that usual, and the acting about as bland as a film can get. However, despite all these reservations, Conquest
is notable at least for eschewing a tired genre with a visceral intensity and surrealistic inexplicability. While Conquest
may have been justly responsible for the fall of one of Italian’s greatest horror visionaries, it remains just as wild and gorific as his best work.
Blue Underground presents Conquest
in a new anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer for the first time ever on DVD. The results however, are a little underwhelming. There is grain throughout the film, but it inconsistently fluctuates between low and high volumes. Most of the time the grain is manageable, but at times, like some of the desert scenes, it is almost out of control. Admittedly, the film was shot in grain prone soft focus, but still looks more intense than it should. Despite looking overly soft, the rest of the transfer is well done. Color reproduction is accurate, with skin saturation looking very lifelike. Blacks are fairly dark, even if looking a little flat. The real plus is just having this film on DVD and in its original aspect ratio. Conquest
could look better, but it no doubt has looked much worse.
A first for Fulci, Conquest
was shot in expensive Dolby Stereo. Blue Underground preserves the stereo with an acceptable Dolby Surround 2.0 track. The audio sounds a bit deeper than is usual with Fulci, although Simonetti’s jarring score and the loud stock sound effects at times make the dialogue a little tough to make out. Luckily Conquest
, like Conan
, is a film with very little spoken phrases. It is a decent mix, but holds nothing to the benchmark of all surround restorations, Grindhouse’s 5.1 remix of Fulci’s The Beyond
Like the other Blue Underground Fulci films, the extras are sparse and limited to trailers, galleries and a Fulci bio. The trailers are fairly humorous, with the international trailer being much more explicit than the U.S. version. The galleries are broken into poster, video, lobby cards, and promo booklet sections. The best extra is the informative Fulci bio, which is full of quotes by the director, and serves as a good summation of his lengthy career.
Although one of Fulci’s lesser works, Conquest
is still ripe with graphic intensity, surreal imagery and illogical plotting. The video transfer is acceptable, if a little too grainy, and the audio track is a little on the abrasive side. Extras are thin but still worth checking out. Fulci fans should enjoy it, as it makes a good companion piece to Blue Underground’s recently released Zombie
disc. All others looking for a sword and sand fix should stick with Conan
Movie – C
Image Quality – B-
Sound – B
Supplements – C
- Running Time - 1 hour 33 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Surround 2.0
- Theatrical trailers
- Poster and still gallery
- Lucio Fulci bio