The Conqueror (1956)

The Conqueror (1956)
 
 

Genghis Khan, The Duke Can't

While I live, while my blood burns hot, your daughter is not safe in her tent - Temujin

John Wayne as Temujin (Genghis Khan) in The Conqueror (1956)

"The Conqueror" could quite possibly be one of the most expensive movies ever made, not financially but physically. The movie was shot at a location near to where there had been nuclear weapons testing and for studio shots tons of the soil was shipped to Hollywood. Over the next 20 years many of the cast and crew involved with "The Conqueror" developed cancer and just fewer than 50 of them had died including stars John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, John Hoyt and director Dick Powell. As such if "The Conqueror" was to blame for the death of so many stars that makes it one very expensive movie.

"The Conqueror" is also known for something else and that is being one of the worst big screen movies ever made and I have to agree it is bad. From a dull story, over worked dialogue, boring camera work and plenty of poor casting it is a movie which I am sure if you are in the right mood it would be funny for being so bad.

Susan Hayward as Bortai in The Conqueror (1956)

Leader of the Mongol's Temujin (John Wayne - Blood Alley) decides to kidnap Bortai (Susan Hayward - The Snows of Kilimanjaro) from Targutai (Leslie Bradley), a rival leader, to take as his own woman whether she agrees or not. This act of kidnapping not only starts a war but seems futile as Bortai refuses to succumb to the Mongol Jackal despite enjoying his touch. As war commences between tribes Bortai is taken back by her own people but Temujin is also captured and much to his surprise Bortai helps him escape. In amongst war and treachery Temujin discovers that Bortai does love him after all.

So "The Conqueror" is a movie which has more things wrong with it than right and the most obvious of those is the casting. Now there is no hiding from the fact, John Wayne is genuinely terrible as Temujin, his Texan brawl and the moustache it just is simply wrong. But then Wayne is not the only one and the look of disgust on Susan Hayward's face as Bortai seems more that she is in the movie than being in character. Both Hayward and Wayne were poorly cast and as they are the leads it doesn't bode well.

But in fairness you can't just blame Wayne and Hayward for all the issues because the script they have to work with is poor. The overworked, thespian style dialogue is awful and I doubt even an actor from the RSA could have made it work although in fairness Wayne doesn't even try. It's simply painful on your ears and I am sure at times the disjointed and back to front dialogue must have inspired Yoda.

Those two issues done with you then have the cinematography and whilst the look is good it never feels like the epic it should be. Wide angled shots don't have that majestic, large scale feel they deserve and the close up work feels lifeless. Even the occasional battle and to be honest there isn't enough action feels under whelming.

And that leaves the storyline which is last and least because it is least. This has to be one of the most boring storylines I have ever come across especially when you consider this is the story of Genghis Khan. The whole romantic plot combined with treachery is mind numbingly boring and when combined with everything else it makes "The Conqueror" a joke.

What this all boils down to is that "The Conqueror" is well known for being a bad movie and I won't disagree because it is one of the worst big screen movies I have watched. There is little which is right about it and so whilst you can easily say that John Wayne's casting was a big problem it was not the only one.

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