Conqueror [1956]

If you're into sword-and-sorcery tales, look no further than this critically underrated big-screen fantasy based on the fiction of Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard. It was a troubled production and the outcome is far different from the more serious and intelligent epic that screenwriter Charles Pogue had originally conceived. Still, this is a giddy, energetic throwback to the Ray Harryhausen movie fantasies of the 1950s and '60s, and it's a perfect vehicle for Kevin Sorbo, the hunky star of TV's Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Sorbo brings an appropriate combination of depth and physical agility to the role of Kull (son of Conan), but he and director John Nicolella know better than to take this stuff too seriously. The movie's humor is nicely integrated into the dialogue without resorting to lame punch lines, and Tia Carrere is enjoyably campy as the evil goddess who lures Kull from his favorite concubine (Karina Lombard) as she plots to overthrow the kingdom of Valusia. Playwright Harvey Fierstein also provides comic relief in a scene-stealing role, and with an abundance of black magic, stunning Slovakian locations, and grand battles of good versus evil, this heroic adventure is more entertaining than you might expect. --Jeff Shannon

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