The Conqueror at the IMDb
Some people may say that John Wayne lacked range, but whether he’s a pirate captain a gun fighter or, in this case, Genghis Khan he does a convincing job - well as long as the character needs an American drawl and a portly actor in the role.
Wayne plays Temujin, a Mongol chief who one day becomes Genghis. He'd better get a move on as he’s already 50 odd when the film starts! We learn that Wayne became chief after his Dad was poisoned and he’s out for revenge. He chances upon a caravan of travellers and, after eyeing up the sexy lady they are transporting, decides to go back and claim her for his wife. The lovely, played by Susan Heyward, is reluctant to get jiggy with Wayne, with his thin moustache the most likely reason.
After basically raping her Wayne sets out on various missions of revenge. The local warlords are a bunch of camp men with my favourite being Wang Khan who has a terrible soothsayer at his side. Wayne agrees an alliance to overthrow the resident bad guys who turn out to be the family of the woman Wayne is raping - the swine! Wayne catches a couple of arrows and is captured with his ‘wife’ running off, slagging him as she goes.
Big John suffers five minutes of torture and is due to be put to death, but who is that coming to him in the night with a big knife? Oh good it’s the wife no doubt ready to claim her revenge. But wait! She totally loves John and helps him escape - female emancipation this is not!
The film rumbles on with various betrayals from the tribesmen including Wayne’s brother. Eventually a big battle looms - will Wayne fulfil his destiny and escape the claw and will his wife break the Stockholm Syndrome and escape?
This is a real laugh fest that totally deserves its 3.2/10 on IMDb. It was produced by Howard Hughes but he’d have been better off trying to sell his bottled pee than this guff. For a start Wayne is totally miscast. He wears a variety of ridiculous outfits while reading off some cringeworthy dialogue. He must have been told that foreign folk talk like Yoda and he therefore does every scene like he’s reading his lines off the back of his hand.
He is a total dick of a character who lacks any empathy or charisma. This is the guy who is meant to take over most of the world but on this form he’d be lucky to get Old Kent Road at Monopoly. The sets are poor too with ‘The Gobi Desert’ looking a lot like the same valley where he shot most of his westerns.
The film runs a long two hours and there are large sequences of dances and sing-alongs. It may have been meant to give us an idea of Mongol culture but I’d be surprised if they had sequined bras back in the olden days. Susan Heyward does OK in a shamefully written role but she was looking the most of her 39 years at the time of filming and I doubt nations would battle over this fading beauty.
All in all there was enough to qualify this as a ‘so bad its good’ with well known stars such as Lee Van Cleef showing up and raiding the dressing up box with no visible shame.
THE Tag Line : Genghis Can’t 40%