DVD. Region Free. Anchor Bay. Unrated.
A long time ago (or some time in the future), in a galaxy far, far removed from any traditional notion of narrative coherence…
As anecdotes of decadent rock star lubriciousness go, there are few fruitier than the one involving Marianne Faithful and a fast-melting Mars bar, though for me even that is topped by the rumour that at the height of Fleetwood Mac mania, Stevie Nicks retained the services of an assistant whose sole duty comprised blowing cocaine through a straw and up her bum (imagine the feverish response, down at your local DWP premises, to the news that Stevie Nicks was handing out blow jobs!)
Both ladies have wearily denied said stories and I bet if you asked Ocron (as portrayed in the film under consideration here by Sabrina Siani) whether she deployed members of her werewolf entourage to blow cocaine through her metal mask and up her nose she’d deny that too, though irrefutable evidence to the contrary is clear for all to see in lucio fulci‘s completely crackers Conquest (1983), where we also find her sucking the brains out of severed heads (“I shall open his temple of secrets”), writhing around ecstatically while wrapped up in her pet python and ordering her minions (those werewolves, augmented by a troupe of Village People rejects) to seek out and destroy the heroic Ilias (the New York Ripper himself, Andrea Occhipinti) who’s on some ill defined quest to clean up her mystical realm.
Flushed by an Indian summer of career success after his ultra-violent horror / giallo collaborations with Fabrizio De Angelis but irked by the latter’s increasingly parsimonious production style, Fulci jumped at a two picture deal being waved by Giovanni Di Clemente, the fruits of which where this picture (co-written by Clemente) and (hardly a novel experience for Fulci) another contractual dispute.
Conquest is an object lesson in how “high concept” drove spaghetti exploitation films of this period and how those concepts themselves were ransacked from whatever movies had recently done well at Italian box offices. John Milius’s Conan The Barbarian (1982) had been a predictable success, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Quest For Fire (1981) a rather less predictable one. Conan… Quest… put ’em together (follow me closely here) and what have you got? Conquest! But what about a story to live up to this toweringly high concept? Well, the film is an Italo-Spanish-Mexican co-production and one could be forgiven for thinking that maybe Fulci, Di Clemente and the other writers chewed a few peyote buttons (second review in a row where I’ve mentioned mescaline) while dreaming up its narrative. God only knows what DP Alejandro Ulloa (who had already lit Perversion Story and on whom Fulci would call again for The Devil’s Honey) was on when he came up with the look of Conquest, i.e. washed out colours viewed through a haze of smoke and a lens liberally daubed in vaseline. Claudio Simonetti’s Techno OST only compounds the confusion of the bewildered audient.
Sorry, where were we? Trying to capture the elusive storyline of Conquest? Well, Ilias is dispatched from the primordial arse end of nowhere on his equally elusive mission by tribal elders who equip him with a magic bow (which seems to shoot sun rays) and pack him off to the opposite arse cheek of this smoky, vaselined dimension, where he hooks up with the extravagantly muscled Mace (Jorge Rivero), who’s built like a brick shithouse, is an early adopter of animal rights consciousness (Conan the Vegetarian?), boasts an Eibon tattoo on his craggy forehead and is a dab hand with stone age nunchuks… good job really, because Occhipinti’s Ilias is a bit of a weed in comparison (I’m lovin’ that heavy Bronx accent, though).
Together they take on those coke-snorting werewolves and their fetish clad mates, mummies, jelly tot like zombies (Fulci hedging his bets, there) who crucify Mace and throw him off a cliff into the sea (don’t worry, he’s rescued by friendly dolphins)… Mace even gets into a nunchuk duel with an evil version of herself, who turns out to be the dreaded Zora (Conrado San Martin), some kind of demon dude in a terracotta warrior outfit who’s been summoned up by Ocron. She also broils her underachieving werewolf lieutenant and other random “highlights” include cave chicks being ripped limb from limb and some of the most nauseating “weeping bubo” make ups in screen history. Much of this was excised by those killjoys at the BBFC for Conquest’s video releases on the Apex and Merlin labels, but this Anchor Bay edition is completely unexpurgated. You have been warned. A closing caption advises us that “any reference to persons of events is purely coincidental”. Yeah, no foolin’…
Considered a disappointment on its release – when none us could have guessed just how bad things were going to get for Fulci – Conquest now looks like one of his last consistently entertaining films. It’s a crowded field, but in the competition for loopy Lucio’s most breath-takingly bonkers offering, I’ve got this one dead heating with A Cat In The Brain. What’s not to like?