Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Conqueror of the Orient

1962 Colour 74 Minutes


The heroic son of a sultan is forced to take up arms against a traitor. A member of his father’s court wishes to have the throne for his own and leads an uprising against the sultan. Our hero must rally his forces against overwhelming odds to see his family’s power restored, the traitors punished, and a beautiful princess rescued.
Star: Rik Battaglia

This synopsis gives away too much of the story. You don’t learn the royal identity of the main character until about 2/3 of the way through the movie!

I’ve forgotten the character name for the evil usurper. We’ll just call him “Bad Guy”. Anyway, the movie opens with our Hero (I’ve forgotten his name, too) fishing in a river. There’s some overtext about crushing tribute requirements and the evil happening in the capital city, but the opening scene is pretty idyllic. Hero comes home with his basket of fish, and his step-father Omar is asked by the local youths to recount tales of his past glories as a soldier in the (legitimate) king’s army.

Next, we see Fatima, a beautiful girl from one of the more remote provinces, presented to Bad Guy as the newest member of his harem. He falls instantly for her, but she is defiant! Her handmaiden confides that she herself is also from that remote province, and is there to help Fatima with this difficult time (that is, the time immediately before her wedding to Bad Guy). Bad Guy’s former favourite concubine is jealous, but there’s not much she can do.

The handmaiden helps Fatima escape, and she takes off down-river in a small boat, which of course Hero discovers and he rescues her from the not-really-dangerous-looking rapids. They spend the next unspecified length of time falling in love, even though he is (so he thinks) just a simple fisherman and she is a princess.

One day, while Hero is out fishing, Bad Guy’s chief slave shows up with some assassins, and they beat up old Omar and kidnap Fatima. Hero, of course, sets out after them with one of his friends. I’m skipping some Bad-Guy-is-really-bad plot development here, but you get the picture.

Hero shows up in the capital city, where of course he is unknown and he can just wander around without arousing suspicion. Hero foolishly tries to break into the palace in broad frickin’ daylight, and is promptly captured, after giving a good showing in a brief fight with the palace guards. Chief Slave provides plenty of threats, then Hero is helped to escape by the handmaiden and his friend from earlier, who has somehow acquired a guard’s uniform. They kick some ass and take off.

When Hero gets back to Omar and his fishing village, Omar lets out the secret of Hero’s birth: he’s a prince, son of the deposed and murdered king, whom Omar secreted away to save him from Bad Guy during the usurping. Hero immediately sets out to gather an army of the people to take back what is rightfully his (Priority A) and stop the depredations of Bad Guy upon the common people of the land (Priority F or G or so; dude’s an aristocrat, of course the whole throne-and-crown thing is much more important than the tax burden on the local weavers).

Several fight scenes ensue, then it’s time for Hero to sneak into the palace to protect his beloved Fatima while Omar leads the main assault on the city. The good guys win, Bad Guy and Hero have a climactic fight with plenty of oathing, and then Hero’s trusty friend hooks up with Jealous Woman from before. THE END

Overall, not a bad movie. Bad Guy overacts a little, but not too much. I was pretty impressed by the costumes and other props (weapons, horses, sets). The story is pretty straightforward, though they probably could have gotten to the big reveal of Hero’s royal heritage a bit quicker. The not-quite-instant love affair between Fatima and Hero was a nice change of pace from the usual love-at-first-sight system.

*** (three out of five stars)


Carlo said...

Your descriptions of these presumably awful movies make them sound like the plot of arcade games circa-1987 (I wonder against what standard you are calibrating your review scale?). Perhaps this allows us to calibrate the state of narrative in different media - It would appear that video games are about 25 years behind cinema in terms of storytelling excellence... Wow.

TheBrummell said...

Hmmm... calibration is definately a problem. I need a known standard to compare to...

On that note, the fact I recently watched (in a 3-hour straight through fest) A Bridge Too Far. I thought I'd already seen that movie, but I had not, and I really enjoyed it. So that movie is five stars, calibrating the upper end of the scale. The potential for non-linearity (or exponential linearity, or logarithmic, or...) means I need calibration points at 3 stars and 1 star, too. Suggestions? Calibration points from other people would be best: can you recommend a clearly-three-stars (out of five) movie? The older the better, too, to help control for noise variables like quality-of-filmstock and sound and special effects budgets etc.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Remember the little gem "King Solomon's Mines"?

While perhaps not as old of a film as you require for "calibration", I'd personally rank it somewhere around a 3.5. This piece of cinematic gold has been on my mind lately, and I tossed out the VCR during the last moving trip. I need to hunt this one down again...

TheBrummell said...

The Plot Keywords for King Solomon's Mines include "Indiana Jones Spoof" and "Giant Spider".

These 50 Warriors movies are not intentionally comedic (actually, the few jokes that show up are really lame. The "comic relief" in Spartacus and the 10 Gladiators was one of the gladiators occassionally accidentally fondling a very old woman... urgh).

The French Connection was probably about a 3. I saw it years ago, after hearing much about this "classic" film. The key scene, with the subway, actually has very little dramatic tension. It's about a 3 or so.

Bullit, the Steve McQueen "classic", also probably qualifies as a 3. Not much happens in it, except for the big car-chase scene (in which the car manages to lose 5 hubcaps, and dodge past a surprising number of green VW beetles). I got the distinct impression the entire movie (plot, characters, theme) was bolted on to a previously-filmed car chase looking for a movie to appear in. Did Steve McQueen just frickin' go out one day with a camera crew, then pitch a movie to a studio?

King Aardvark said...

I definitely agree on Bullit. Absolutely nothing happened. I didn't even think the car chase was that good, just ok. You're probably right about it just being a car chase with a "plot" thrown in around it.