The Conqueror (1956) Poster


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One of the great ones!
mspedant12 June 2001
I saw this film at age 9 when it was newly released, back in the sunset years of the Technicolor historical spectacular. I knew immediately that it was bad, GLORIOUSLY in-your-face bad! I eagerly taped it about fifteen years ago off a television broadcast and have gleefully lent the tape to friends and acquaintances many times since to spread the word.

The incomprehensible miscasting of John Wayne aside, THE CONQUEROR is bad in so many ways that's it's difficult to focus on the best (or worst) elements. Perhaps most delightfully awful is the dialogue:

"She is woman, Jamuga...much woman. Should her perfidy be less than that of other women?" (John Wayne to Pedro Armendariz)

"Kumlik's daughter! Spawn of the devil! Let your men make sport with her!" "No, mo-ther, I will keep this wo-man for my own plea-sure!" (Exchange between mom Agnes Moorehead and son John Wayne)

"You will love me, will love me of your own will before the sun rises!" "Before that day dawns, Mongol, the vultures will feast upon your heart!" (Love chat between Wayne and Hayward)

These are three of literally dozens of examples of prime dialogue kitsch with which THE CONQUEROR abounds. It is priceless...see it!
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One of the all time unintentionally funny movies.
otter16 April 1999
One of the all-time bad movies, an unintentional joke that actually stays funny for over two hours. John Wayne as Genghis Khan is one of the worst examples of miscasting in the history in Hollywood, but that's not what makes the movie so funny. What makes the movie funny is Wayne attempting to say the ridiculous purple prose of the script, the whole thing is written in this sort of pseudo-Shakesperian English, and John Wayne was always one of those rare actors who had serious trouble with anything like a grammatical sentence. Whenever things start to lag Wayne has to say something like "I ree-gret that Ah am without sufficient spittle to sa-lute you as you dee-serve" or the classic "Yore beautiful in yore wrath".

Also memorable for bad supporting performances by Agnes Moorehead and William Conrad, the sight of Wayne in Asiatic eye-makeup and Fu-Manchu moustace (the only biography of Khan I've read says he was white anyway), Susan Hayward doing a clumsy sword dance, a rape scene that would embarrass the tackiest Bodice-ripper, kitschy sets, and a Las Vegas revue act featuring a female dancer in a white leotard with a patch of fringe right *there*.
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Worst Miscasting Ever
Scott-831 December 1998
John Wayne is the consummate cowboy, only Clint Eastwood comes close to approaching the title. So it's really jarring to the sensibilities to see Wayne standing there in a Mongol costume and a cheesy "fu manchu" moustache spouting barbarian lines in his trademark western drawl. It's like seeing Alec Guinness start acting like Pee-Wee Herman; some serious misalignment of the heavens has happened and maybe that guy on the corner saying "the end of the world is nigh" was right.

That aside, "The Conqueror" plays like an epic Cecil B. DeMille movie, with epic lines, epic scenery, and epic music. Say what you want about modern cinema, recent movies as a whole tend to be better researched, with characters, clothing, and sets that are historically accurate. This movie makes it clear they had no concept what Genghis Khan and his time was like. People, Wayne included, simply say grandiose lines without any inflection, as if they had no idea how to act the part.

Through it all, I kept expecting Susan Hayward to claim she was an alien or had fallen through a time machine. I doubt very many 12th century Mogolian women had red permed hair and wore low cut dresses. "The Conqueror" is either one of the worst movies you ever saw or one of the funniest.
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Vigorous, unusual, funny and spectacular!
Nazi_Fighter_David2 November 2003
In the 1950s, people liked Cinemascope and Technicolor movies...

Epic movies with gigantic battles, huge and fantastic sets and costumes, were massive projects and hugely popular...

One of them is 'The Conqueror' played by legendary actors...

The film deals with Mongols, Merkits, and Tartars struggling for survival in a harsh and arid land.. Plunder and rapine were their way of life and no man trusted his brother...

The Mongols, led by Temujin (John Wayne) and his blood brother Jamuga (Pedro Armendariz), attack a Merkit caravan, capturing the untamed princess Bortai (Susan Hayward), daughter of Kumlek (Ted De Corsia), ruler of the Tartars and slayer of Temujin's father...

Temujin's mother, Hunlun (Agnes Moorehead), fears Kumlek's wrath, and she begs Temujin to set Bortai free, but he refuses... Despite his vow to avenge his father's death, Temujin was fascinated by the girl's beauty and fire..

The Merkits attack in an attempt to rescue the hot-blooded Bortai but are defeated... Bortai escapes but is soon recaptured by Temujin, who declares he will make her his wife... But later, she lets him know how much she despises him: 'Before that day dawns, Mongol, the vultures will have feasted on your heart!'

Temujin waits... The Mongols then go on to Urga—a Chinesea town ruled by the powerful Wang Khan (Thomas Gomez).

The mighty ruler welcomes his guests and entertains them at a banquet... Bortai attends and is seated next to him... She suddenly decides to dance for the Khan and, taking two swords, starts her exotic dance... At the end, having discarded one of the swords, she aims the other one at Temujin...

As Genghis Khan, the 12th Century Mongol warrior whose coming changed the face of the world, John Wayne won't disappoint his ardent followers...

The highlight of the film is the sensational veil and swords dance Susan Hayward performs... Hayward looked radiant in her wrath...

Agnes Moorehead nearly manages to steal the show as her imitation of a talking prune is absolutely extraordinary...

Two of Wayne's sons had bit parts as warriors...
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Historical Significance
artzau1 November 2000
It's easy to slam the Duke miscasted as Chinghis Xaan in this film [He was reportedly embarrassed enough not to mention it often in his lifetime] However, the real significance is great numbers of the cast that died of cancer: Susan Hayward, the Duke, Pedro Armendariz, Dick Powell, Lee Van Cleef, De Corsia, Leo Gordon and others. The film was shot on a site where A bomb testing had been conducted and this fact was hushed up for several years. Yes, the film did not have "legs" and is dated. But, I remember seeing it as a young guy and loved it. Years later after completing a doctorate in anthropology, I still love it...bad as it is.
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One of the best bad movies ever made.
pickwick95 November 2002
Whoever made the decision to cast John Wayne as the young Genghis Khan either had too much imagination or too little. I have rarely laughed so hard at a movie which was trying so hard to be serious. My favourite lines: "My heart tells me this Tartar woman is for me" and "Share the booty" (both of which have become regularly quoted catchlines among the friends who have seen this). Gather some friends, have a few drinks (or more than a few), and watch this film. You'll gasp, you'll groan, you'll wonder if the casting director and scriptwriter were legally sane.
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Don't be so hard on it!
bolsterbulwark10 December 2003
I know this is widely considered to be a great travesty of filmmaking, but its problems can be (and have been) over-stated. The costuming, direction, cinematography and choreography are all quite well done and it is surprisingly true to history. Most people can't get beyond the fact that John Wayne plays the title role of Genghis Khan and I admit that it is difficult, but the greatest problem is his accent, not his acting. He delivers his lines exactly as if he were in one of his Western classics and does not attempt a Mongolian accent. The dialogue is (contrary to the previous comments) not inappropriate, but when delivered by Wayne with his western twang, its does often sound comical. I suggest that the audience try to think of this film as just another cowboy movie and try not to take it so seriously. In the end, it is a thoroughly enjoyable film, and that is what matters. The lack of Asian actors is regrettable, but consistent for the era in which is was made.
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Couldn't stop laughing
Kojo15 September 1999
My friends and I were lounging around watching a boring football game when we chanced onto this 1950's spectacular on TCM. We were astounded, stupefied. I'm not normally one of those people who gets off on really bad films--most bad films are just plain bad. But this was so bad, it was surreal--and hilarious. John Wayne, as usual, plays John Wayne, except this time America's iconic cowboy Real Man is in phony Oriental make-up, prancing around in fuzzy pelt vests, spouting lines in Medieval Mongolian Shakespearian barbarian-speak with a Western twang. (Example: "Ya didn't suckle me ta be slain by Tartars, my mo-ther.") With lavish pretensions toward epic grandeur, the sweeping outdoor vistas of the Central Asian steppe looking suspiciously like southern Utah, where the movie was indeed filmed. You think I'm making this up? I beg you, please rent this film! You won't regret it. Unlike most bad films, this film really is so bad that it's good. It's a bona fide disaster!
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Not that bad folks
qorda13 August 2003
I'd differ strongly from the adverse comments against this film. Coming from a country in neighbourhood of China, I have some knowledge of Oriental customs, so when I compare this movie to the Genghis Khan (Omar Sharif's) I am forced to call this movie outstanding. The script is restricted to the early life of Chengez till his rise to power begins. This is good as by focussing on a limited time span, there is only little mutilation of history. Decent coverage of his full life would have required three hours. Therefore, sensibly the most adventurous part has been covered, thereby avoiding boredom for the audience. Story line is fine and not loose. The movie remains thrilling throughout. Stunts are quite good and battle scenes credible. Although, unfortunately there is no notable oriental actor, yet make up is quite satisfactory as are the costumes. I wish some work had been done on the accent of the actors. John Wayne fits well in his role. He has a good military physique and a commanding presence. Susan Hayward, however, is too tall for an oriental women and lacked suitable makeup and costumes. Dialogues are short and focussed. The music is satisfactory. Shooting location is satisfactory, though some scenes should have been shot in snowy locations to remind people of bitter Mongolian winter. Perhaps some more focuss on Mongolian customs should also have attracted the attention of the public. Overall this is not at all a time waster but still shows that thorough research is needed for producing good historical movies especially when it comes to cultures unfamiliar to the West.
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Best Bad Movie I've Ever Seen
jenmuse27 November 2001
This movie is a train wreck: you are horrified that it happened, but you can't help but look at it.

John Wayne as Genghis Khan. Take a moment and marvel at the thought. It's absurd on it's face and even funnier on film.

My father flipped past this one Saturday, and we all made him go back. We just couldn't believe it. We sat through the whole film, horrified one moment and laughing hysterically the next.

Sadly, though, I don't think anyone involved in the film was in on the joke it would eventually become.

Truly, this is a gem for all MST3K fans. Tom Servo and Crow would indeed love this "classic."
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"I am Temujin, the Conqueror. No prison can hold me, no army defeat me"
ejgreen7728 January 2006
Of course, everyone knows the story of this one. The original plan from the brain trust at RKO was to borrow Marlon Brando from 20th Century Fox and have him star in this one. When Fox refused to cooperate, Howard Hughes apparently remembered that John Wayne still had one more picture left on the RKO contract he signed back in 1939. And so, one of the most dubious casting decisions in Hollywood history was made. It deserved its spot in the "50 Worst Films of All Time" list. This one is for Wayne completests and die-hard bad film junkies only.

This is the one film John Wayne made that is truly terrible. All the others (even the lesser ones) at least have something to recommend them. But the thing that sets The Conqueror apart from all the rest is how extremely pedestrian everything is. Let's start with the script, which is the overriding problem throughout the whole film. It's written in a sort of mock-Shakespearian lingo and is filled with dialogue that anyone on earth would have a hard time saying with a straight face.

Next we have the casting. John Wayne and Susan Hayward, both at their career peak, were cast in this one. Neither one looks the least bit Asian (Hayward doesn't even try to). You get the feeling throughout that both of them know this thing is a joke, and they are both just trying to make it through. Wayne drawls his way through the role of Genghis Khan, while Hayward is alternately dumb/boring as Bortai, his red-headed wife. Even the lower billed actors look uncomfortable in gaudy costumes that look like they were borrowed from a high school play.

Of course, we can't forget the music. Victor Young (The Quiet Man) wrote some of the greatest scores in Hollywood history, but this one certainly ranks as one of his worst. Here he seems to be repeating the same few bars of the melodramatic theme over and over again throughout the film with little to no variation.

Next we come to the cinematography. This was the one thing that could have made the film worthwhile. It didn't. While the on-location battle scenes were well-suited to the CinemaScope photography, too much of the film took place inside tents and palaces (i.e. on soundstages), giving it a cluster phobic look at times. Most of the action takes place in the middle of the frame, the director doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential of the widescreen technology he was working with. Other Wayne films from around the same time (The High and the Mighty, The Sea Chase, Blood Alley) made much better use of CinemaScope photography.

Last we have the direction by Dick Powell. This was just the second film Powell directed (the first was Split Second, a 1953 noir film also for RKO that starred Stephen McNally and Jan Sterling), and it showed. In all fairness, he was saddled with a impossible script and a meddling boss (Hughes). Powell would later go on to direct some good war movies over at Fox with Robert Mitchum (The Enemy Below, The Hunters). I guess Powell learned his lesson with this one and stuck to twentieth-century wars after this, leaving the ancient history alone!

Of course there were other problems during shooting (Sue's erratic and irrational affection for Duke) and the cancer cases that occurred later were an unintentional tragedy of this film. Hughes personally bought back the rights to this film (along with Jet Pilot) when he sold RKO in the late 50's. Legend has it that in his last days, he watched this film over and over while in bed. Maybe his strange behavior before his death was the result of seeing a little too much of the The Conqueror. Viewers, Beware!!!!!
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John Wayne is miscast as Mongol Temujin who becomes the fearless leader Genghis Khan and unites all Mongol tribes and conquers most of Asia
ma-cortes15 August 2015
In the film , there is epic , mammoth spectacle , hokey historical events , a love story , camp dialog to spare , wonderful landscapes and results to be a failed as well a little boring film . At the time , 1956 , surpassed anything ever filmed before , including all-star-cast who were later stricken by cancer . Set during the 13th century in which the brutal warrior Mongol chief Temujin conquers most of Asia , Europe and the Middle-East . As Temujin (John Wayne , considered to be the silliest character of his long career) battles against Tartar armies led by Kumlek and for the love of the Tartar princess Bortai (Susan Hayward) . Temujin was taken prisoner by the rival warlord , a fearless leader called Kumlek (Ted De Corsia) and as punishment was forced to wear a large round wooden stock that severely restricted his movements but with the help of Bortai he manages to getaway . He overcomes all of his hardships to become one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever known and now starts his quest to unify all of the Mongol tribes . Gengis gets big hits , but his old nemesis keeps appearing at various times in his life leader to a final battle between the two . As Genghis Khan, ruthless leader of the Mongols and sovereign over the vastest empire ever ruled by a single man, was both god and devil , not just in the Middle Ages , but for centuries to come . Temujin becomes the emperor of Mongols , the great Gengis Khan .

This expensive epic film in familiar drawling fashion contains clichéd barbarian dialogue , noisy action , great production design , impressive battles and a cast of thousands . It was filmed near a nuclear test site, and the set was contaminated by nuclear fallout , in the Yucca Flats area . Over the next 20 years, many actors and crew members developed cancer . By the time 91 of the 220 cast and crew members had developed cancer . Forty-six had died, including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendáriz , Agnes Moorehead, John Hoyt and director Dick Powell . The count did not include several hundred local Native Americans who played extras , or relatives of the cast and crew who visited the set, including John Wayne's son Michael Wayne . Many of the Mongol extras were played by local Navajo Indians , they did not wear any makeup . Miscasting by John Wayne and the results are unintentionally hilarious . But John Wayne took his role very seriously, went on a crash diet , however he regretted playing Temujin so much that he visibly shuddered whenever anyone mentioned the film's name as he once remarked that the moral of the film was "not to make an ass of yourself trying to play parts you're not suited for" . Colorful cinematography by four of the best Hollywood cameramen : Joseph LaShelle , William E. Snyder , Leo Tover and Harry J. Wild . Although the movie takes place in Asia, photography in Cinemascope was shot in California Snow Canyon, Utah, Hurricane, St. George, Utah, USA Escalante Desert, St. George, Utah .

This sweeping oriental drama was backed by financially eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and regularly directed by former movie star Dick Powell . However ; the box office failure of this movie was believed to be ultimately responsible for the demise of RKO Pictures studios . Dick Powell directed a few films such as : 1953 Split Second , 1956 You Can't Run Away from It , 1958 The hunters and his best film was : ¨The enemy below¨ . This was one of the final theatrically released movies of director Dick Powell who soon after worked exclusively in television such as Woman on the Run (TV ,1959) . Other films dealing with this historical figure are the followings : ¨Genghis Khan¨ (1965) by Henry Levin with Omar Shariff , Stephen Boyd , Telly Savallas , James Mason ; ¨Gengis Khan¨ (2005) by Edward Bazalgette and the best : ¨Mongol¨(2007) by Sergey Bodrov
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The Death of John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Dick Powell
vitaleralphlouis23 July 2007
When I paid top dollar (actually $1.25) to see John Wayne's newest picture first run at Washington DC's fine RKO Keith's Theater, I had no clue I was watching the murder of America's all time favorite actor, as well as the murder of Dick Powell, Susan Hayward and altogether 88 others who worked on this picture. Lurking in a low population area of Utah was enough nuclear radiation to kill all these fine people. The story was well reported much later, and you can search it on Google. The final chapter was when the last survivors --- each dying horrible deaths from terminal cancer --- sued the Feds for damages. Our government decided that by filing a series of delay-motions they could wait it out until the survivors were dead. The nuclear radiation had drifted from the Nevada Nuclear Test Site about 150 to 200 miles west. John Wayne never criticized the US Government for this --- as the threats from Russia and Red China made testing necessary.

It isn't fair, however, to misjudge and besmirch the work of director Dick Powell, or John Wayne, or the other fine people who worked on this movie. THE CONQUERER is definitely NOT one of the worst of all time, or even close to it.

THE CONQUERER was not a serious historic movie, but rather a romantic action drama, combining lots of action scenes with romance scenes wherein much commotion and bloodletting, let alone hand-wringing, about who gets Susan Hayward.

The picture was stunningly photographed, well directed and acted, with a fine and later imitated musical score by Victor Young. There isn't really a dull moment, and if any of the dialog seems silly, who really knows how people talked in 12th Century China? Anyway, it's similar in dialog to any of a hundred movies of this genre.

Having seen the recent Discovery Channel documentary, we rented CONQUERER at Video Vault and watched it again. It stands up well compared to 2007 films; but then it's tough to be worse than Warner's trashing of J K Rowling in HP#5. The Conquerer and Plan 9 from Outer Space have nothing in common. Rent this fine film and respect the memory of the 91 who later died from making it.

I've been to the extreme low population areas of eastern Nevada and nearby Utah over a dozen times, it's beautiful and peaceful and draws a person back to the natural beauty and solitude. Until today, I never gave the radiation a thought, not even in the lunch spot in Alamo Flats, NV. (But they haven't tested here in decades).
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Top Ten Funniest Movies
pauld2b24 August 2002
" I see ya do not care ta feel tha tip of my lance, Jamuga" This incredible line was uttered by John Wayne in one of the most unbelievably funny movies of all time. How could he have done this movie ? This is a movie that must be seen to be believed . There are endless lines like this just read the other reviews to hear others but I could not resist adding my personal my favorite. He's chasing a fellow "Mongolian" around a field on horseback when this beauty pops out.I almost fell down.
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Don't Knock It Till You've Seen It
Christopher Mercurio11 April 2008
I'm probably not part of the majority here, but I think this is a good movie. A lot of people are probably knocking it before they've even seen it because John Wayne plays Temujin.

As the story goes, John Wayne wanted the role and he was very serious about it. He found the script in Dick Powell's office. I'm sure Powell had his reasons for wanting to throw the script out, but it can't be that it was that horrible of a script. The script is actually pretty decent. I can't complain about the make-up either because I think that was very well done too. John Wayne, between the make-up and his hair, really looks Asian in this.

People that criticize this movie keep pointing out the nationalities of everyone involved. If you are going to do that then you are just nitpicking. Yes, John Wayne is a white man playing a Mongol. But you couldn't have expected them to cast a real Mongol in the role. Whites played Orientals and Native Americans all the time back then. Anthony Quinn, who is of Mexican and Irish descent, played Attila the Hun once. Omar Sharif, once played Genghis Khan. Stephen Boyd played Kahn's blood brother Jamuga. That Sharif and Boyd movie was horrible, by the way. The Conqueror is way better than that. The Conqueror is more accurate too. You're probably going to wonder, "Why John Wayne?" I said the same exact thing and I thought the movie was silly at first. But I actually sat down and watched it and I thought it was good.

The Conqueror's opening is great. It opens with Temujin riding through the dessert with his Mongol army. The scenes of the army riding are great. They are shot so well. The action scenes of the Mongols fighting enemy armies were great too. If you want action, this has plenty of it. Another nice touch was the love story between Temujin and Bortai. Bortai is played by Susan Hayward. She was pretty decent in her role. I enjoyed her scenes with John Wayne. I also enjoyed Pedro Armendariz in his scenes with John Wayne. Armendariz was also decent in his role as Jamuga, Temujin's blood brother. A previous reviewer said that John Wayne and Pedro Armendariz are not believable as brothers. Keep in mind, the movie never says they are brothers, but they keep stressing blood brothers.

Overall, I think The Conqueror was a pretty good movie. It pushed all of the right buttons for me. I enjoyed it very much. The Conqueror is a well made movie, with good performances, great directing, great cinematography, decent writing, great costumes and great make-up. I thought the score by Victor Young was great too. I especially loved the Romantic theme that Young uses throughout the movie. That was very memorable.

If you ever get a chance, see this movie. If you are interested in the subject matter, check it out. If you are a fan of the old time classics or those Hollywood epics, check it out. If you are a fan of John Wayne and you want to see him in a different role for a change, check it out. John Wayne won't disappoint you. The Conqueror and John Wayne are not bad at all. Don't knock this movie until you've seen it. People were way too harsh when they placed their votes on IMDb. I'll bet that some people gave this movie a 1 without even seeing it. All they saw was John Wayne's name in the credits.
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How did John Wayne get this part?
paskuniag17 December 2003
Simple. He was sitting in an office at RKO and the script was just laying there. He started reading it and imagined himself in the role. He decided it would be a good part for him, and when Duke Wayne says he wants to make this movie, no one says no, a la Tom Cruise today. The fact that this role was totally not him, no matter how good an actor he was, did not faze him.

The rest is- er- history. Unfortunately, so were many of the actors and crew, who eventually died from radiation poisoning as a result of being on location in Utah not too far from nuclear test sites. When Howard Hughes sold RKO soon after, his only request was that he keep the rights to two movies- "Jet Pilot" and this epic. Legend has it that he kept playing them over and over again in his room. If he got as tetched as they say he did in his later years, you can blame his malady, in part, on the adverse effects of seeing "The Conqueror" one too many times.

For further review, see the Medved Brothers' book, "Golden Turkey Awards," which has a lot of additional information about this movie that is rightfully included within its pages. One of my favorite lines: "We'll pull your fingers out jernt by jernt." Spoken by Ted DeCorsia, Brooklyn-born bad-guy actor.
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New thoughts on The Conqueror seven years later
michaelstep200420 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Back in 2001 I reviewed this kitsch masterpiece here and focused on its sheer badness. I recently acquired a new remastered DVD which allowed me to throw away my junky, ancient, badly cut VHS version. And I also watched it on a 54" TV screen. IS spectacular. The locations are gorgeous, if hardly Mongolian, although the yurts look pretty authentic. Except for the ridiculous dancing girls, the costumes are terrific, if sometimes obviously Greco-Roman rather than Asian. Susan Hayward is very beautiful in her trademark petulant way. And John Wayne actually does have some good moments in an impossible role. The battle scenes are clumsily handled, though, and watching all those tripped-up horses is pretty painful.

My previous review also slightly misquoted the wonderfully awful dialogue, which will never pale for me as the most unforgettable element of this movie. But I kept to its true spirit. However, I left out one shimmering verbal gem, the closing words of the film: "The riches of Cathay he laid at the feet of his Tartar woman. For a hundred years the children of their loins ruled half the world." Just simply, The Conqueror is immortal.
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What A Price
bkoganbing24 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If the rumors are true in fact and the whole cast was stricken with cancer as a result of atomic tests nearby, than The Conqueror in some respects may have been the most expensive bad film in the history of the cinema.

There's a famous story about the differing attitudes of Walter Huston and Thomas Mitchell that Jane Russell tells in her memoirs about that other Howard Hughes epic, The Outlaw. She relates that Mitchell moaned and groaned throughout the shoot that this film would ruin him as an actor and why did he ever sign for it. On the other hand Walter Huston's attitude was to laugh uproariously at the awful dialog he had to spout and said since Howard's check cleared the bank he'd say any words in the script.

Hopefully Howard's check cleared the bank for all concerned, because a decent pay day is the only reason for everyone from John Wayne and Susan Hayward on down to have stuck it out.

What everyone doesn't get about The Conqueror is that it has a very gay subtext. It's obvious that Pedro Armendariz is crushing out big time on the Duke. They may have even gotten a little physical. But that all changes for Wayne the second his Mongol made up eyes set sight of red headed Tartar princess Susan Hayward. It's girls for him now, especially this one.

Viewers might disagree, but I swear it's the only explanation for what happens in the rest of the film. Armendariz alternately betrays Wayne and rescues him for no discernible reason throughout the rest of the story. When Wayne finally takes care of all his enemies, Armendariz who won't share Wayne with Hayward or anybody asks to be put to death.

So help me that's the plot of The Conqueror. Everyone from Wayne on down looks as trapped as Thomas Mitchell was in The Outlaw. But they all must have gotten the money up front.

Fortunately John Ford would rescue Wayne with two back to back classics in succeeding years, The Searchers in 1956 and Wings of Eagles in 1957. Now those are really good John Wayne films.

What more can I say, the acting is terrible, the story is awful, even the technical aspects of this film leave a lot to be desired. It only gets as high a rating as it does because of the quality of the cast, maybe the most shameful waste of talent players in the history of cinema in every sense of the word.
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Good action-adventure movie
Alex John4 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw part of it on TV and saw it mention on a documentary, so of course I got to see the movie eventually, it doesn't contain any sort of historic realism but for me it's a decent, even good, watchable movie.

The movie starts with "This story, though fiction, is based on fact." the only facts is based upon is that Genghis Khan did unite the Mongols and eventually defeated the tartars(which happens during the movie), but don't expect anything else, the actors don't look, dress or talk like real Mongols but I don't have anything with this as I consider it 99.99% fiction and don't expect realism. It does however have that romanticism of the age and from an action-adventure perspective, watching this movie wasn't a waste of time at all, in fact it was quite interesting.

I've seen a lot of other movies who are worse(and still claim to be realistic), this movie doesn't claim to be real ,it's just vaguely inspired from real life and I for one did enjoy it as a classic action-adventure movie(with a touch of comedy here and there, intentionally or not), my vote for the movie overall would be 6/10 towards 7/10(because the story itself was quite fun to watch unfold).

It's low rating is surprising to me, considering it doesn't claim itself to be historic but is fun to watch.
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inadvertently hilarious
Bevita13 August 2003
I must confess that I'd wanted to see this movie for a while, if only for its notoriety in cinematic history. This is one of the movies that just falls under the genre of "infamously terrible," and though the idea of John Wayne as Genghis Khan in and of itself is laughable, I wanted to see for myself why, exactly, it deserved such ignominy. Not two minutes into the movie, it was made clear to me. Still, one thing I can say for this movie is that it was humorous without trying to be. As I watched it, I could not stop laughing upon hearing the Duke utter such lines as, "Dance! Dance for me, Tartar woman!" So, in a sort of way, I do recommend seeing it, but only for hilarity's sake.
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Catastrophic movie in more ways than one
brower830 June 2004
It's hard to believe that this movie had ever been made, hard to believe that the cast could be so badly wasted despite the talent, and even harder to believe that the purest example of detached machismo in Hollywood couldn't pull off the role. John Wayne was a great actor, and not the hollow stereotype that he was often accused of being as his popularity waned. He might not have been one's ideal for delivering a comic line, but if anybody could force a line to have dry humor, it was he.

The script is the first disaster. The mock-Shakespearean lingo is for Shakespeare, who never set any of his plays in Mongolia. Here it is ludicrous (Chaucer would be in tune with the time, but few people understand Chaucerian English)! The costumes fail to convince one. Add to this -- Genghiz Khan was no hero; he initiated the most horrific killing spree of the pre-modern world. It's a big mistake to lionize a killer.

The great lore of this movie is that so many of the cast and crew died of cancer during some A-bomb tests near the location. That is sheer bad luck. Even without the calamity of cancer allegedly contributed to by nearby nukes, this would be a horrible movie, an embarrasment for all involved.
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BEYOND BELIEF... the ultimate cinematic nightmare
bbaldwin711 July 2015
This has to be the worst major Hollywood production of all time. Incredibly miscast throughout with unspeakable dialogue, beyond boring plot, trite art direction, and ridiculous costuming. Even the desert settings are totally wrong. The entire look of the film appears to be that of a Mongolian western. It's so bad that it makes the tepid Yugoslavian-based remake of a decade later (at half the price) look like a good movie. There are simply no words adequate to convey the disaster filmed here. That $6 million dollars could be assigned to this script is simply beyond belief. It's pure torture to sit through, unless perhaps, you're totally drunk and looking for the ultimate comedy of filmic errors.
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I conquer seeing one of John Wayne's worst movie! It was horrible to watch. This movie cause cancer.
ironhorse_iv2 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Media Mongol, Howard Hughes meet his match. It wasn't the Great Wall of China that stop him, but this movie! Indeed, Howard Hughes felt guilty about his decisions regarding the film's production, and how the movie bomb at the box office, that he stop making movies, sold his production company RKO to General Tire and conquer all, by buying every print of the film for $12 million and kept it out of circulation for many years until Universal Pictures purchased the film from his estate in 1979. It was indeed that bad! The Conqueror got the better of the cast & crew that made the film, due to the fact, that most of the film was filmed near a nuclear test site. It's not like they didn't know that. They opening joke about it, and choice to ignore the warnings because they thought they were in a safe area from the nuclear test site. Since, the set was contaminated by nuclear fallout, most of the crew and cast end up dying from later stages of cancer. Some people believe that nuclear fallout was the leading cause of John Wayne's death. Indeed the movie was curse. Many had died to terminal cancer, including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendáriz (who shot himself soon after learning he had terminal cancer), Agnes Moorehead, John Hoyt and director Dick Powell. What a shame. I really don't think this was a movie, 1950's America was going to watch, anyways. The film deals with Mongols, Merkits, and Tartars struggling for survival in a harsh and arid land that most Americans have no clue nor care about. Most Americans at the time, were into European Medieval Epics, Sci-Fiction or Westerns. Honestly, in a deep conservative time in America, a movie about rape and plunder wouldn't get to pack the movie houses. The movie is about Mongol chief Temujin AKA Genghis Khan (John Wayne) who kidnapped, start war and 'rapes' Bortai (Susan Hayward) of the Tartar clan. Yes, that's the hero, everybody. Enjoy that. I hate the tagline for this movie: 'They conquered each other and then the world'. Yeah, that sounds like an epic romantic love story with Bortai trying to decapitate him behind Temujin's back! That's what 1959's Ben Hur was missing. Rape love subplot! Yeah, that would bring people into seeing your film. Forced romance. While the romantic music by Victor Young is beautiful, it seem to not match what is happening on screen with the Stockholm syndrome love affair. The music also repeated way too much. The dialogue is so awful pseudo-Old English wordy and dodgy. Some sentences don't even make any sense. Everybody sounds stiff. Honestly, I give some credit to John Wayne. He took his role very seriously, and even diet to get fit, but gees. He's so miscast. Seriously, Hollywood, if you going to make a movie about an Asian person. You might as well, cast an Asian actor or at less support your character with some oriental actors as supporting characters. There were no notable oriental actor in this film, at all. John Wayne looks and sounds the same as if he was delivery a Western. Instead of a Western movie set, he went to Chinatown, trade in his cowboy hat and gun, for a Fu Manchu moustache and sword. Then he walk into this film. He looks plain silly. At less, the movie wasn't too offended with the Asian stereotypes. John Wayne sounds like he's reading off cue cards at a high school play with a Western twang. I don't think the movie, original choice, Marlon Brando could do this movie any better. Susan Hayward was indeed sexy, but she's clearly not Asian enough. I don't think, I know a lot of ancient Orientals having red hair during that time. Her acting was just as bad as John Wayne. Why the hell is she always looking off-screen with a blank stare? Is she reading cue cards? Is she bored? Is that all she can do to keep herself from laughing at Wayne's horrible acting? I don't know. The supporting cast was such a bored as well. Look for a Lee Van Cleef in a cameo in this film. While the movie is indeed fiction, it did had some historical inaccuracies regarding the people, places, and tribes involved. I don't think the movie needed to have opening text, mentioning it fiction. It kinda ruin the whole epic history feel. The costuming, direction, cinematography and choreography are all quite well done. I do like the battle scenes. I do hate the day for night, editing. The audio track sounds a little bit off, as if some of the actors were speaking on a loud speaker. This indeed is a real Manchurian Candidate for one of the worst movies ever made. Legend has it that in Howard Hughes's last days, he watched this film over and over, when his Obsessive–compulsive disorder was at its worst. Overall: In my opinion, it's not the worst movie. I watch this movie just because of my interest of Genghis Khan and how much I love the Duke's movies. Still, I find it, watchable, but pretty bad. Genghis Khan (2004 TV series) is far greater a film. I think I'll eat Mongolian BBQ now, just to fill my upset stomach after watching this film.
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The worst or not the worst?
Alexander Kislun5 July 2013
"The Conqueror" is often considered as the worst film ever made. That means that we can put it together with "Plan 9 from Outer Space" or "Jack and Jill", for example, can't we? And if we do, we will find plenty defects in it.

On the other hand, we can compare the worst film ever made with the best one (indeed, why not?). For instance, with "The Searchers". These movies have many common details: they were produced in the same year, in the same Utah desert. They have very similar plot (that's why I can define "The Conqueror" as the sub-genre of western - it is eastern) and the leading hero in both movies ... one and the same John Wayne. Just ask yourself, can't Temujin be called the Searcher and can't Ethan Edwards be called the Conqueror? I guess, they sure can. But it does not matter, "The Searchers" is considered as the best movie ever made, "The Conqueror" - as the worst one...

If it is not appropriate to compare "The Conqueror" with western, let's compare it with epic film/peplum. And once again ask yourself, are "The Ten Commandments", "Ben-Hur (1959)", "Spartacus" better than "The Conqueror"? They also have common details: the historical plots with inevitable historical mistakes, the American actors portraying Egyptians, Jews, Romans, Mongolians, including beautiful leading actresses who do not have any Oriental features and famous actors with funny Western accents... But it doesn't matter again: "The Ten Commandments", "Ben-Hur", "Spartacus" are the best movies ever made and "The Conqueror" - ...

One can argue about this movie, one can find positive and negative details in it. But let's be objective: if "The Conqueror" is not the best movie, it is definitely, definitely not the worst one ever made.
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