Contrary to the critics in general and the reviewers here in
particular, The Conqueror is actually a pretty good film, if you're
a John Wayne fan, or just enjoy Hollywood spectaculars as they
were made back in the '50s. Wayne was not as miscast as one
might think. He certainly had the strength of character and screen
presence to play Temujin/Genghis Khan and he looked good in the
oriental mustache and the Mongol warrior garb. The dialog here is
no dumber than in any other Hollywood historical saga of that
time (or of this time, either, for that matter. Remember Russell
Crowe in Gladiator: "At my signal, unleash Hell!"?)
Movie lore has it that The Conqueror was filmed on location in
Utah either on or near an atomic test site, and that many of the cast
and crew later died from radiation-induced cancers. It may be
true, or it may be just mythology. There were no nuclear test sites
in Utah, but the shooting location could have been near the
Nevada test site. Director Powell and cast members Wayne,
Hayward, Moorehead, and John Hoyt did die from cancer, but of
different types and years apart. Many others died from other
causes. Pedro Armendariz committed suicide. Thomas Gomez
died from an auto accident. Lee Van Cleef died of a heart attack.
And some lived to a ripe old age. Leo Gordon, for instance,
passed away just last year, at the age of78, after a brief illness.
Gordon was a scriptwriter as well as an actor, and wrote two
classic Roger Corman movies: The Terror, and The Wasp
The Conqueror also had the distinction of having a Playboy
Playmate, Pat Lawler (Miss August 1955) in a bit part. Ms.
Lawler appeared in the sci-fi comedy Invasion of the Saucer Men
in 1957, and that seems to be the extent of her film career..
To sum up: The Conqueror is not as bad as reported. It's not
nearly as bad as, say, Big Jim McLain, The Fighting
Kentuckian, or Jet Pilot. And it's not nearly as good as, say, The
Quiet Man, Sands of lwo Jima, or True Grit. It's in the middle.
like, say, Hatari, Circus World, or The Shootist.
This DVD edition offers just the movie, a scene index, and
subtitles. The image quality is good, but the sound varies a
bit--some of the dialog seems rather distant and tinny. But at this
price it's a bargain, so don't miss out!