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The Conqueror
Released: 1956
Running Time: 111 minutes
Rated: G
Directed By: Dick Powell
Produced By: Howard Hughes
Written By: Oscar Millard

Filmed in 1954 outside St. George, Utah, The Conqueror is one of John Wayne's worst movies ever. Set in the Gobi Desert, the movie follows the exploits of Jenghis Khan (John Wayne), Mongol conqueror, as he conquered.

The Prologue: "In the 12th century the Gobi Desert seethed with unrest... Petty chieftains pursued their small ambitions with cunning and wanton cruelty. Plunder and rape were a way of life and no man trusted his brother. Out of this welter of treachery and violence there arose one of the greatest warriors the world has ever known, a conqueror whose coming changed the face of the world..."

(note: The Mongols aren't actually from the Gobi Desert. Oh well.)

'But how can John Wayne, a very white guy, protray a Central Asian warlord?' you ask. Well, with a bit of makeup, and some rubber bands around the forehead covered up by fake skin and spirit gum. It looks hideous. The extras were mostly Native Americans from the area surrounding the filming location, and they looked a bit better than John Wayne.

So a young boy, born with the omen of a warrior (blood clot clenched in fist at birth), grows up, steals some horses, and becomes a great warlord, leading his people out of darkness and the like. Standard prophecy fulfilled stuff. The details aren't important, but if they are, you should go ahead and watch the movie. But I would recommend against it (because it's bad. Really really bad.)

Historical Note: Jenghiz Khan was the person who said; "The greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him. To ride their horses and take away their possessions, To see the faces of those who were dear to them bedewed with tears, and to clasp their wives and daughters in his arms."

This isn't all that important, unless you're a fan of the movie Conan the Barbarian, in which Conan, under the tutelage of some Mongol-esque warroirs responds to the question, 'What is good in life?' with 'To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women.' A famous quote from that movie, derived in part from real history.

This is probably the movie that killed John Wayne (and many of the people on the crew). It was filmed in Utah, very very close to a nuclear test site. Dozens of 'old-style/dirty' fission bombs were detonated at the site just a few years before filming. From the 220 people who were on the crew of The Conqueror, over 90 had developed serious cancer by 1984, and many (including John Wayne, the director and producer, and co-star Agnes Moorehead) succumbed to it. To put it in perspective, the normal cancer rate for that population in 1984 would have been under 30.

You can read in more detail about that incident in the book, Killing Our Own.

Anyways, it's out on special edition DVD, so if you really feel the need... don't say you weren't warned!

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