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Author Topic: Italian Peplum & Fusto Movies: The Good, the Bad & the Epic  (Read 35718 times)
Arizona Colt
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« on: April 27, 2008, 09:38:26 PM »

Here's a bunch of Sword & Sandal and Italian Adventure movie reviews I've done over the past couple years. The further to the bottom represent the most recent...

SANDOKAN THE GREAT 1963 aka LA TIGRE DI MOMPRACEM

Steve Reeves (Sandokan), Andrea Bosic (Yanez), Leo Anchoriz (Lord Guillonk)

Sandokan, the pirate of the Eastern seas does battle with British colonialists who have kidnapped his father. In retaliation, Sandokan kidnaps the niece of the villainous Lord Guillonk  in an effort to trade for his fathers freedom. All doesn't go as planned and a major siege in the British fortress brings the film to a close.

Definitely one of Reeve's best movies I've seen. I enjoyed this much better than HERCULES (1957). Reeves isn't that great of an actor, but he is most imposing as Sandokan. He even duels with a tiger early in the film. The fist fights may be a little slow, but for the time, they pass as decent enough. The action scenes are few and far between causing the film to seriously drag in spots but the island photography is very nice. Lenzi shot the film in India and was able to capture some nice shots of the jungles and wildlife there. That's not to say the film doesn't have lots of action, it's just not spread out evenly throughout.

While the film isn't action packed, especially at 111 minutes, the movie picks up considerably during the final 15 minutes with a massive assault on the fort. Sandokan and his men are to be executed but they manage to escape with the help of a monkey whom Yanez befriended earlier in the film. After the battle has begun, Sandokan and his men are cornered in a tower and out of ammunition. Help arrives with the Indian tribes joining the fight as well as the remainder of Sandokan's ship mates. Reeve's gets to man a gatling gun and mow down a bunch of the British soldiers.

This scene is quite violent for its time. Sergio Leone is often quoted as having first shown people being shot with both the gun and the victim in the same frame but it is here in abundance during the finale and this was a full year before FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. Participants are shown shot with rifles then shot again once they're down with some impaled with spears in one take. Others are run through with swords or blown up with dynamite.

Reeves of course, was a natural at appearing in these kinds of movies and this was a slight departure from his usual sword and sandal movies like THE LAST GLORY OF TROY (1962;with SW regular Gianni Garko), THE GIANT OF MARATHON (1959) and THE TROJAN HORSE (1961). However, Reeves did play a similar character to Sandokan in the rare THE WHITE WARRIOR (1959) where he played a Turkish warrior fighting against Russian invaders. Reeves also did one spaghetti western, which he also wrote, the interesting THE LONG RIDE FROM HELL (1968). He retired from movies after that reportedly from injuries sustained during his career.

Andrea Bosic can also be seen in THE WITCH'S CURSE (1961), a fusto movie starring Kirk Morris and also Corbucci's peplum ROMULUS & REMUS (1961) also starring Reeves as well as Gordon Scott. He appeared in later SW's such as the Gemma movies DAY OF ANGER (1967), FORT YUMA GOLD (1966) and ARIZONA COLT (1966) among many others as well as appearing in some of Lenzi's later war epics.

Anchoriz, who also plays the villain in the sequel to SANDOKAN, SANDOKAN & THE PIRATES OF MALAYSIA (1964) also appeared in the fusto favorite, PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE (1961) starring Richard Harrison. He, like so many others, carried over into westerns appearing in the lively and adventurous big budget Italian oaters 7 GUNS FOR THE MACGREGORS (1966) and the first sequel 7 WOMEN FOR THE MACGREGORS (1967) and also in the downbeat classic A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL (1969).

Umberto Lenzi is probably the single most underrated director in Italian cinema considering the man dabbled in every genre proving his diversity and versatility as a director. He proves himself capable of handling big action scenes such as the siege at the end which is probably what led to him directing the later war pictures. Lenzi also foreshadows his cannibal movies briefly when Sandokan and his cohorts encounter tribes of headhunters whom turn out to be loyal to Sandokan's father. One of my favorite directors of all time, the man is unjustly called a hack and this tag is based only on his most notorious films, his violent jungle movies and his more extreme horror works.

Sadly, these few films will probably be all he will ever be remembered for outside of Italy. The man is justly saddened and irritated in interviews when it appears the only subject warranting discussion is CANNIBAL FEROX (1981) when so many more better and respectable films fill out his exhaustive filmography. Without a doubt his cop and adventure movies are his best works and are all sorely in need of some attention to give the man the recognition he so vehemently deserves.

Lenzi also returned for the sequel which I have yet to see but will watch very soon. Lenzi also directed the peplums MESSALINA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1964) aka THE LAST GLADIATOR and TEMPLE OF THE WHITE ELEPHANT (1964).

This new DVD of SANDOKAN THE GREAT has a 12 minute sequence that is obviously not remastered and the quality is not as good as the rest of the film. I assume judging by the opening disclaimer that this piece was not in the original release but it quite good and contains an action scene in which Sandokan and his men are ambushed trying to escape the island and must retreat and journey deeper into the jungles. Aside from that, the remastering is gorgeous on this. The label has also released a number of other similar pirate films starring others like Gordon Scott and Robert Woods. If you are a true fan of Lenzi, you should definitely check out some of his other works unrelated to his more widely known horror and gore output.

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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2008, 09:39:36 PM »

HERCULES & THE MASKED RIDER 1964 aka GOLIA E IL MASCHERATO

Mimmo Palmara (Don Juan Phillippe), Alan Steel (Hercules), Arturo Dominici (Don Romero)

When Don Juan opposes his Uncle, Don Francisco who wants peace between his enemies, he is banished from the kingdom. Don Juan takes up with a band of gypsies who also have Hercules among their group. Juan Phillippe is pitted against Hercules in a knife fight with the duel ending in a draw. Juan joins their ranks and becomes the Masked Rider. Don Romero assassinates Juan's uncle and takes over his kingdom prompting Juan, Hercules and the gypsies to avenge for Don Francisco and the people in the surrounding countryside.

An unusual entry in the peplum genre. For the English release, the character of Goliath is changed to Hercules which makes for a jarring experience especially the fact that "Hercules" takes up with a band of gypsies not to mention the time period. The title is also misleading in that the Masked Rider character gets a bit more screen time than Hercules. Herc is more his sidekick than anything else. Again, this is due to the mangling of the title by AIP for its US release.

Palmara I've seen before in some other films although he isn't overly memorable, he is a presence and imposing in the fight scenes. He wears a silly red mask similar to the black Zorro mask which covers his eyes. He uses only a couple of times before seemingly doing away with it for the remainder of the film. He has a nice rapier duel with Dominici at the end.

Steel (Sergio Ciani) is his usual stone faced self and gets to show off in numerous fight scenes although never taking the film away from Palmara who has a hard time competing against Dominici who really owns the film. Steel is the only real connection to fusto cinema this film has which was probably the intention by the producers anyway. Steel also starred in the classic fusto HERCULES VS THE MOON MEN (1964), HERCULES AGAINST ROME (1964) and HERCULES & THE BLACK PIRATES (1964). He also starred in the serious western FAST HAND IS STILL MY NAME (1972).

Arturo Dominici who fans will no doubt remember as the evil Asa's brother Javutich in Bava's MASK OF SATAN (1959). He dominates the film delivering a suitably villainous portrayal as Don Romero who assassinates Don Francisco rather easily taking over his lands and even threatening to force Dona Blanca, Francisco's daughter, into marriage with him. He also threatens to burn a woman alive and hang another. The scene that really shows off his nastiness is one in which captives are forced into a duel to the death with whips, the winner going free. Although the fight scene is kind of haphazardly pulled off, it nonetheless shows Romero's penchant for blood and death. His right hand man, Captain Blasco watches as Romero laughs seemingly enjoying the men dying in front of him. Dominici also featured in HERCULES VS THE MOLLOCH (1963) and PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE (1963) among others.

Frequent spaghetti western and action film character actors Nello Pazzafini and Sal Borgese feature as members of the gypsies.

This film was one of a few hybrid films melding swashbuckling adventure with traditional Italian peplum antics. Spurred from the apparent success of Umberto Lenzi's ZORRO CONTRA MACISTE (1963) other hybrids followed like SAMSON IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1964) starring Reg Park, SAMSON & THE SEA BEASTS (1964) starring Kirk Morris, HERCULES & THE BLACK PIRATES (1964) and HERCULES & THE TREASURE OF THE INCAS (1964) starring Alan Steel and also directed by Piero Pierotti.

Pierotti handles the action scenes really well and sprinkles them consistently throughout the picture. Although it's nothing overly special, it is a good time waster with lots of action and adventure bolstered by a damn fine and bombastic score by Angelo Lavagnino which grabs your attention from the start. An unusually strong score for a year populated by dozens of similar films being cranked out in Italy at the time. Definitely an enjoyable curiousity piece, the film also has some gorgeous women thrown into the mix which is usually the case with these movies. A bit of romance is balanced out nicely with the action.

One of the best scenes has the gypsy women having infiltrated Romero's fort as dancers paying their respects to him, perform a dance in which the finale involves them tossing their daggers into the air landing in front of a person who will come to a bad end. Naturally, the daggers all fall at Romero's feet which prompts him to demand the execution of the women. At 82 minutes, I can't help but wonder if the film isn't missing something but as is the story comes across just fine and there's more than enough action to keep you occupied as well as the great antagonist turn from Dominici and the wonderful score.

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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2008, 09:41:02 PM »

SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS 1964 aka GLI INVINCIBILI DIECI GLADIATORI

Dan Vadis (Roccia), Helga Line (Dania), Sal Borgese, Milton Reid (Chimbro)

The rebel slave Spartacus leads the ten gladiators against an evil Roman ruler in an effort to put a stop to his tyranny and the brutal gladiatorial games.

The second entry in the popular TEN GLADIATORS trilogy is a non-stop barrage of action mixed with a smattering of light comedy. There's quite a few major setpieces scattered throughout the films 98 minute running time. The opening gladiatorial combat scene starts things off on a rather serious and somewhat violent note. The evil ruler in the film appears modeled after Emperor Nero and gets up to similar villainy (although far less vicious) as his historical counterpart.

The plot is a good one and with ten main characters (well, only one gets the most screen time) there is ample opportunities for lots of action. The antagonist tries to use Roccia and his men to kill Spartacus and his followers but when this fails resulting in Roccia and Spartacus joining forces, Farro the devious ruler must come up with a new plan. The remainder of the film is a series of captures and rescues leading up to a massive battle at the end. Bits of this sequence may be stock footage but I'm not sure. One of the best scenes has Roccia and some slaves being hung from a large tree by one arm for a long time. After a while, soldiers shoot them with arrows. The heroes arrive in time just before Roccia is killed, though. After the big battle, Farro is run over by a chariot by his own henchman, Chimbro who escapes kidnapping Dania (Line) in the process. Roccia and his friends pursue on horses until Chimbro is stopped and he and Roccia engage in a final fight beside a river.

Dan Vadis plays Roccia and although he isn't as huge as some of the other actors like Steve Reeves or Mark Forest, he is very athletic for his size and isn't shy in the action scenes. Vadis was part of the Mae West Revue and a good friend of fellow peplum star Gordon Mitchell. Vadis starred in THE THEN GLADIATORS (1963), SON OF HERCULES IN THE LAND OF DARKNESS (1963), THE REBEL GLADIATORS (1963), TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS (1964), and THE TRIUMPH OF HERCULES (1964) among others. Vadis was one of the lucky few who made the transition into other genres and had one of the most successful careers of the peplum actors. e played convincing bad guys in the spaghetti westerns FORT YUMA GOLD (1966) and THE STRANGER RETURNS (1967). This may have helped him in landing recurring roles in movies directed by Clint Eastwood whom he would star in a series of films from early 70s into the early 80s. Vadis would briefly return to peplums with a lead bad guy role in Mattei's THE SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS (1983) before being found dead in his car in the late 80s of an apparent drug overdose.

Helga Line is on hand to provide some eye candy but unfortunately, she doesn't get to wear any outfits to show off her body. She is dressed in a gown through most of the movie, though. She spends the last half of the film filthy as she is forced into hard labor along with other slaves and captives.

Character actor Milton Reid stands out as the memorable henchman Chimbro. He looks like a Mongolian warrior in this film and although he is an imposing presence, he is a bit short and Vadis towers over him in their fight scenes. Reid played a number of bit roles in his career but he has a meaty role in this one. Another memorable role for Reid was in THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977) as the nasty Sabbala, the leader of the Naga's. Reid looks like something out of a Robert E. Howard novel. He also appeared in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972) and as a nemesis for 007 in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977).

I had only ever seen the third film in this series, TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS (1964) as a kid and I have yet to watch the first film. Hopefully it will be as good as the two sequels. It doesn't really matter the order in which you watch them as the films are not connected and are separate adventures. Exploitation fans should get a kick out of the fact that Bruno Mattei was the editor for this movie. The music is serviceable if nothing overly spectacular. Nick Nostro handles the direction well and seems to be comfortable juggling the comedy with the action bits but never allowing the comedy to overpower the finl itself. A recommended peplum romp peppered with all the ingredients that makes these movies fun to watch especially on a late Saturday night.

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« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2008, 09:42:21 PM »

SANDOKAN, THE PIRATE OF MALAYSIA 1964 aka I PIRATI DELLA MALESIA

Steeve Reeves, Andrea Bosic, Mimmo Palmara, Leo Anchoriz, Jacqueline Sassard, Dakkar

Directed by (the great and vastly underrated) Umberto Lenzi

Sandokan finds an injured man (Palmara) adrift in the sea. He tells of the British Lord Burke who has enslaved the Majaraja Hassim and made slaves of Malay and Indian natives using them in the seized gold mines in Sarawak. Sandokan goes undercover as the Rodger of Samaputra and infiltrates the house of Lord Burke in an effort to stop the evil of Lord Burke.

Reeves returns in the sequel to SANDOKAN, THE GREAT (1962) and is a rare instance of the sequel being better than the original. The action is far more plentiful and Lenzi shows an even more assured hand at handling multiple action scenes this time out. Although it's hard to tell being dubbed, Reeves comes off very well in this one displaying a bit more range than his previous outing as the famed pirate. Only his final duel with Anchoriz is a little disappointing coming off rushed as if the production may have been going over shedule.

Anchoriz shaves off the mustache here and his character is essentially the same from the other film but he is far more evil than his role as Lord Guillonk from the first SANDOKAN. He also gets a bit more screen time and one of the best sequences is Sandokan (under the guise of the Rodger of Samaputra) becoming a suspected guest of the house of Burke.

Bosic who returns as Yanez doesn't get to do as much but curiously, the guy dubbing his voice switches from his Brit accent to a more American sounding voice. This happens frequently so it's odd that the dubber would forget the character he was dubbing. I've seen this happen on some HK movies but this mistake happens for (usually) only one scene. Here, it's nearly the duration of the movie although it wasn't uncommon for a dubber to handle multiple voices.

Peplum and Fusto performer Palmara doesn't get a great deal to do here but during the latter half of the film he is involved in the many action scenes alongside Reeves. Palmara can be seen in HERCULES & THE MASKED RIDER (1964), a film I believe was shot in 1961 but was released here in 1964.

Dakkar, the black assistant to Richard Johnson in ZOMBIE (1979) gets a bigger role here than previous and participates in several fight scenes including the finale.

The set pieces are varied and include an attack on a ship early in the film, a prison rescue and the heroes are captured on a couple of occasions throughout giving way to some nice cliffhanger situations.

Like the first film, this sequel was shot on location; this time in Singapore. A brief encounter with a tribe of headhunters would be a warm up for Lenzi when he would later begin his violent jungle/cannibal romp MAN FROM DEEP RIVER (1972) also shot in Asia. There is one glaring mistake however. During one of the escape scenes, this one inside a mine, Sandokan affixes a gatling gun to a mining car and fires on the soldiers as he and his men make their escape. The bullets never move through the chamber in wide shots when you see Reeves firing it but in close ups of just the barrel, you see cartridges being discharged.

An extremely entertaining and highly enjoyable sequel that would greatly benefit from a remastered DVD release. The more Lenzi movies I see outside of his horror output, the more respect I gain for the man and his work. Outside of his more known and lesser films, his body of work is seriously in need of re-appraisal and wrongfully ignored. Lenzi is/was an amazingly versatile director of repute and any comments he may make about his attributes are warranted should any fans happen to see some of his non-horror works. Hopefully, a book or in-depth interview with the man will surface with the focus being on his movies outside the horror genre.

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« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2008, 09:43:18 PM »

THE TRIUMPH OF HERCULES 1964 aka TRIONFO DI ERCOLE aka HERCULES VS THE GIANT WARRIORS

Dan Vadis (Hercules), Marilu Tolo (Ati), Pierre Cressoy (Milo), Moira Orfei (Pasiphae), Piero Lulli (Gordio), Enzo Fiermonte (Aristeo)

Directed by Alberto De Martino; Music by Francesco De Masi

The King, Panteone, is assassinated by his nephew, Milo. With the help of an evil sorceress, Pasiphae, Milo takes the throne. Hercules is alerted and battles against Milo and his seven invincible golden warriors who are summoned by a magical dagger given to him by Pasiphae. Realizing his threat, Pasiphae and Milo devise an insidious plan utilizing Hercules who later has his strength taken away from him. An exciting finale ends the film.

De Martino really knows how to deliver a good actioner and he piles on the peplum thrills in this fast paced fusto film. There are so many set pieces in the films tight 90 minute running time. Just in the first 30 minutes alone, you have the opening death of the King, the sorceress attempting to kill a friend of Hercules before he can reach him, the first appearance by the magical Gold Warriors fighting off some rebels and gladiatorial combat in a tournament deviously set up by Milo to aid in his ascension to power.

Vadis is great in the role and although he is built, what he lacks in the massiveness of Reeves or Mark Forest, he makes up for in agility. He has charisma as well. Vadis is given quite an action filled role and he appeared to have fun in all his fusto movies at least in the ones I've seen him in. He also did most of his own stunts.

He duels a man riding a chariot aligned with swirling blades similar to the scene in Cozzi's HERCULES (1983) starring Lou Ferrigno. Numerous traps are set for him after he wins the hand of the beautiful Ati (Tolo). His first encounter with the Golden Warriors known as "The 100 Hands" is a humorous one. He is later entranced by both Milo and Pasiphae destroying a village and even accidentally killing his friend, Aristeo. This results in him having his strength taken away by his father, Jove. During the finale, Ate is about to be killed in a spiked trap and Hercules is helpless to do anything. He prays to his father to restore his strength. He does and after dealing with the evil Milo, Ate ends up dangling from a cliff ledge. The sorceress assumes the form of Ate and she, too, hangs from the cliff resulting in a difficult decision for Herc.

Tolo is suitably beautiful here as the love interest of Hercules. She isn't given much to do aside from look good and be placed in life threatening situations. She has appeared in all manner of Italo genre cinema including numerous fusto's, westerns, spy thrillers and giallo's.

Cressoy is wonderfully evil. He kills his Uncle, the King without hesitation and sets up a devious and crafty plot to usurp the throne. He also, along with help from the sorceress, devises a plan to have Hercules's strength taken away. Then finally eliminating Ati, his only remaining obstacle. This cliffhanger moment is expertly handled by De Martino. Ati is affixed to a spiked platform. Hercules, now a mortal, is forced to hold up a metal basket. Milo's men drop large bricks into the basket. If Hercules cannot hold up the increasingly weighted basket, Ati will be impaled by dozens of spears and at the moment of her death, Hercules will be killed as well.

Frequent Spaghetti western baddie Fiermonte gets to play a hero here as Hercules' friend Aristeo. He can be seen in the great THE FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO (1969), LONG RIDE FROM HELL (1968) starring Steve Reeves and CHUCK MOOL (1970) among others.

More action takes place as Hercules is given his strength back to save the innocent Ati as dozens of rebels swarm the palace. Milo escapes with Ati as his prisoner and Hercules pursues them into the cave where Pasiphae, his mother, resides. Inside the cave, a final battle with the 100 Hands ensues just before Pasiphae tries to avenge her son by giving Herc a difficult choice of which damsel to rescue when two Ati's hang over a cliff above the ocean. Of course, you know how it all ends and the last scene is a comical one involving two thieves who figured into the plot earlier in the picture.

I first saw this film on TNT back in the early 90s. On New Year's Eve they used to have an annual Torch and Toga marathon comprised of various Hercules films that ran all night. Other films that often got played were HERCULES VS MOLOCH (1963), MEDUSA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1963), HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES (1963) and HERCULES & THE SEA MONSTER (1965), the aborted pilot for the planned HERCULES TV show from the 60s.

An excellent entry in the genre that's over flowing with action and although it has a couple of silly parts, the plentiful fights and cliffhangers make it well worth the 90 minutes of entertainment the film provides.

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« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2008, 09:44:17 PM »

THE MEDUSA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES 1963 aka PERSEO L'INVINCIBILE aka PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE

Richard Harrison (Perseus), Arturo Dominici (Acrisius), Leo Anchoriz (Galanore), Anna Rannali (Andromeda)

Directed by Alberto De Martino; writers-Alberto De Martino, Ernesto Gastaldi, Luciano Martino; Effects by Carlo Rambaldi

In an attempt to overthrow the people of Seriphos, Acrisius, the King of Argos utilizes the Medusa as well as an aquatic dragon to hamper a safe trade route for exports by their rivals. A marriage is agreed between Galonore, the son of Acrisius and Andromeda, the daughter of the King of Seriphos. But this is a ruse to launch an attack on the King. Shortly before, Acrisius's wife, Danae, whose previous husband was murdered by Acrisius, places a curse on Galanore that her real son, Perseus, is still alive and that when he returns to avenge his father and reclaim his throne, it will be Galanore's doomsday.

Again, like TRIUMPH OF HERCULES (1964), De Martino turns in an awesome action spectacle that is ripe with sword battles, monsters and some surprising violence as well. The technical crew yields an interesting pedigree. Rambaldi creates some hydraulically controlled monsters that for their time, are most impressive. The water dragon's head, legs and mouth move and looks better than numerous other similar creations. The Medusa is also striking. It looks a bit like a huge tree with tentacles, snakes and a large glowing eye in the center, the weapon it uses to turn its victims into stone. De Martino makes good use of these creations utilizing them on several occasions throughout the film. The numerous matte paintings seen in the valley sequences are well done, too.

Harrison, as I made mention before elsewhere, is very good in his peplum adventures. He seems far more energetic and emotive in these movies than any other genre he has appeared in. This is without doubt, one of his best films. An action highlight features a tournament which includes men taking turns firing arrows at one another with the other participant holding a shield. The final duel ends up being Perseus against Galanore in which he realizes just who Perseus is and what he means for his future.

Both Andromeda and Perseus had met earlier in the film only Perseus was unaware she was royalty. When Galanore catches the two in each others arms, his rage is fueled leading to the scene where Acrisius and his son wrestle Seriphos away from their King. Also realizing the prophecy will no doubt come true, Galanore must eliminate Perseus at any cost. Perseus barely manages to escape with his life and even less so when he encounters the aquatic monster. Believing him dead, Acrisius and Galanore return to their newly captured kingdom.

Dominici and Anchoriz look like they could be father and son in real life and both really know how to play a villain. Both have the natural looks for it with their devilish features. Anchoriz really steals the show however, as Galanore. He was already a memorable force in the two SANDOKAN films he appeared in as well as the first two MACGREGOR spaghetti western movies. Both characters only care about each other and do not care who it is they murder to ensure their positions of despotic rule.

At one point in the film you feel Acrisius may have some good in him after all when he chastises his son for being afraid to duel with Perseus a final time. At this time, Perseus and his real mother, Danae, are finally brought together. Immediately after informing him of the treachery of Acrisius, the vile father and son murder Danae and her servant. Perseus escapes to rally his people. The battle leads to the lake where the dragon resides. Perseus takes to the water where neither he nor the monster surface. It is believed he has perished. With the dragon vanquished, Perseus assembles the people of Seriphos for a final battle with the Argosian villains. But first he must deal with the Medusa. Only by destroying it will the numerous warriors be returned to normal.

This was another in a line of Italian muscleman movies which were re-edited and used as part of the syndicated SONS OF HERCULES television show which played in America in the mid 60s. A song entitled 'The Mighty Sons of Hercules' played over the credits for the films. It would be interesting to know how much, if anything was removed or shuffled around for these acquisitions.

This film also treds mythological waters dabbled in by the classic and hugely enjoyable 1981 fantasy movie spectacular, CLASH OF THE TITANS. A film that would be Ray Harryhausen's final film utilizing his groundbreaking stop motion animation. Another fantasy film even more ambitious than CLASH was begun but was abandoned when studios suddenly lost interest in these kind of adventure pictures. The film was to be called THE FORCE OF THE TROJANS and storyboards of the elaborate monsters are all that remain.

With a show stealing performance by Anchoriz, some interesting creatures and abundant action, this is another wonderfully fun entry in the peplum genre and another fine adventure film for De Martino.

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« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2008, 09:45:01 PM »

ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS 1961 aka MACISTE NELLA TERRA DEI CICLOPI aka MACISTE IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS

Gordon Mitchell, Chelo Alonso

The ancestors of the evil Circe (pronounced 'Sirsee') and the flesh eating cyclops under their control place a brutal revenge on the family of Ulysses for their defeat. The evil queen Capys targets the new king of Sadok, still an infant, as the next meal of the cyclops. Maciste comes the aid of the people of Sadok.

For a film with quite a bit of action, this movie moves at a snails pace. Often times dull, even the massive chest of Chelo Alonso can't save this one. Gordon Mitchell's first peplum isn't without some good moments just not enough to recommend this one to anyone other than Mitchell fans and fusto completists. I doubt even a decent looking print would make a difference. The action scenes are sloppily handled rendering them hilarious and ripe for MST3K treatment. Oddly enough, this being a retitled Maciste movie, the dubbing refers to Mitchell's character as such as opposed to the name of the title, Atlas.

The cyclops, which for the time, is fairly impressive. Although you only see him twice. Once at the beginning (and you only see his back) and again during the finale. The filmmakers did do a fine job of depicting the monster as enormous and the fight between the cyclops and Maciste is a bit longer than many monster fights in these movies. The violence is unusually high as well. There are numerous impalements with spears and the like as well as the cyclops ripping a guy in half at the end (off screen, but you know what's happening) as well as one of the villains preparing to feed the infant boy king to the beast.

Another scene that's pretty decent is when Maciste is drugged and tortured by being suspended over a pit filled with lions. He stands on two thin boards and men on both sides of him play tug-of-war with his arms in an attempt to jerk him into the pit of lions. An earlier scene near the beginning has Maciste battle a lion who is attempting to kill the infant boy king. Mitchell is very naive in the role and the bulk of the middle portion of the film is stopped dead by a change of character for Capys as she falls in love with Maciste and the two spend a chunk of the running time professing their love for one another. Sadly, you get far more flexing and bare chestedness from Mitchell than you do from Alonso.

The film is a showcase for Mitchell though, the camera lingering on his muscles during scenes involving him throwing huge boulders, ripping iron bars apart or rowing a ship by himself. This bit is especially amusing as it's obvious Mitchell is flexing for the camera as he's rowing and the lustful look on Alonso's face gives one the impression she is far more interested in a sweaty romp than saving the child. The film was obviously successful because Mitchell went on to do more films in the genre (I think this was his only super hero entry) including the sci-fi tinged peplum, THE GIANT OF METROPOLIS (1961), the awful VULCAN, GOD OF FIRE (1961), FURY OF ACHILLES (1962) and SINBAD AGAINST THE 7 SARACENS (1964).

Alonso, a drop dead gorgeous Cuban actress with an incredible rack, made an impression in a handful of these movies including GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959) and MACISTE THE MIGHTY (1960). She featured as the hot tempered Chiquita opposite Tomas Milian in RUN, MAN, RUN (1968).

Future Euro crime director Stelvio Massi worked on this film as a cameraman.

A below average fusto adventure that could have done with more interesting and lively action scenes as well as some more skin from Alonso. Fans will probably still want to see it, but the print on this Mill Creek edition is badly washed out and the sound is weak also. I think the Retromedia release may fare a little better but not by much and even that won't make this one any more enjoyable.

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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2008, 09:45:38 PM »

FIRE MONSTERS AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES 1962 aka MACISTE CONTRO I MOSTRI aka MACISTE AGAINST THE MONSTERS

Reg Lewis, Margaret Lee

Two prehistoric tribes, the Sun Tribe and the evil Moon tribe, are at war with one another. Into the middle of this tribal war comes Maciste who tries to stop the sacrifice of the virginal women captured by the villainous cave dwellers in between battles with prehistoric monsters.

An oddball entry in the fusto genre, this one taking place during the ice age(!) The setting is unusual and adds something different to the usual temples and valleys seen in these films. The one hilarious aspect of this movie that guarantees this on every bad film buffs list is Reg Lewis. The only fusto movie he did and he makes quite an impression but for all the wrong reasons. He looks for all the world like he just walked off the set of the next Frankie & Annette BEACH PARTY movie. His Elvis hairdo is a riot, also. Everytime he appears it's such an attention grabber. This ridiculous hairstyle looks incredibly awkward and jarring amidst all the dirty cave people and their rather scraggly appearance.

The fights are lively even though the choreography consists of the 'swing your club left, swing your club right' variety. And a couple of them get repetitive after awhile looking interchangeable as some of the fights take place on the same sets. I can't help but wonder if Hammer or Harryhausen hadn't seen this one before embarking on ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966). The scene near the beginning with the water monster is pretty good. The creature effects are quite notable and it appears this hydraulically controlled beast may be a refurbished version of the dragon seen in PERSEUS, THE INVINCIBLE (1962).

One fight scene is reminiscent of KING KONG as Maciste lifts a huge fallen tree stretched across a gorge as a number of the bad guys try to cross. Maciste is then overcome by even more of the villains. He is then buried up to his neck in the dirt,'food for the worms' as one of them puts it. Margaret Lee tries to save him and she, too is buried along with him. The bad guys take turns tossing spears at their heads until a volcano erupts causing an earthquake which frees them. This is where the films one striking scene takes place; We see Maciste and Moah ascend a precipice against the backdrop of a breathtaking series of waterfalls.

The US title is a little misleading as there aren't any actual Fire Monsters but there are a huge water dragon, a brief shot of a macro lens enlarged lizard, a big, toothy creature in a cave and some underwater snake creatures. Also, this is another in a series of retitled Maciste movies. Here, the dubbing refers to Maciste as Maxus, one of the sons of Hercules. This was part of the US syndicated television series THE SONS OF HERCULES which were a series of Italian fusto's repackaged for American viewers.

Director Guido Malatesta also directed the Kirk Morris adventures DEVIL OF THE DESERT AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1964), SAMSON & THE SEA BEAST (1963; Samson fights pirates on the high seas) and COLOSSUS & THE HEADHUNTERS (1960). He also directed the pretty good Spaghetti Western, A COFFIN FOR THE SHERIFF (1965) starring Anthony Steffen.

There's nothing overly special about this one other than the plentiful girls on display who partake in numerous cave people dancing. And there's also the beautiful Margaret Lee, too! Reg Lewis pops in at regular intervals to break the monotony granting the viewer a chuckle at the expense of his hairdo. A huge howler moment occurs when Maciste and Moah are awakened in the night by an intruding giant monster. The sight of Maciste and his rockabilly hairstyle in death combat against a prehistoric beast is priceless. One minute his hair is slicked back, the next minute it isn't. Another funny moment comes when the bad tribe leader proclaims to their God that the time has come to sacrifice virgins regardless that the first woman to lose her head looks all of 50 or more. But then this is the dubbed version so who knows what's really being said? I doubt it could be any funnier than this, though.

I would recommend this movie to anyone in need of a good laugh, as the film is seldom boring. Lewis's Elvis 'do being the major highlight. I'll have to post a pic of this as it's extremely hilarious and is worth taking a look at the film for that alone. But if you're looking for some serious peplum thrills, your best bet is to look elsewhere.

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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2008, 09:46:58 PM »

HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL 1964 aka URSUS, IL TERRORE DEI KIRGHISI aka URSUS, THE TERROR OF THE KIRGHIZ

Reg Park, Ettori Manni, Maria Orsini

Directed by Anthony Dawson (Antonio Margheriti)

A werewolf-like monster slaughters gypsies and men from a rival tribe who are near all out war with Hercules and his people of Maleeva. An evil sorceress is behind it all turning men into monsters with a magical potion.

British born Reg Park plays Hercules, or actually Ursus in the Italian original. One of nine Ursus films to be produced during the peplum and muscleman craze between 1957-1965. One of many to have its title changed by American International Pictures for a more digestive US consumption. Despite having an interesting premise and Margheriti directing, this is one of the least exciting movies in the genre.

It's hard to believe that Margheriti had anything to do with this as there is literally nothing of interest aside from a fairly exciting opening and a special effects shot of Hercules pushing a huge boulder off a cliff to break a dam to put out a massive fire. This brief miniature scene was probably the work of Margheriti since he enjoyed doing special effects sequences and he was very good at it having done all the miniature work on Leone's DUCK YOU SUCKER! (1971) involving the train sequence which, save for a couple of close up shots of the wheels, was all miniature work.

Sporting what has to be one of the worst werewolves ever on screen even more laughable than the one featured in Rino Di Silvestro's WEREWOLF WOMAN (1976). Here, the actor wears some fright make up and has small patches of hair placed on his body. He also wears a cape which I guess conceals the lack of hair needed for his back considering the budget obviously didn't allow for a full make up job for the "monster". On several ocassions the hair appears and disappears from shot to shot.

Also, Hercules (or Ursus) is out of the picture for a good chunk of film after he is injured in a fight with the werewolf. The sets are very sparse and the bulk of the film takes place in the woods. To add insult to injury the audio on this Retromedia disc is out of sync at approximately 16 minutes in and remains that way the remainder of the film.

Keeping with the US title, Hercules is turned into a monster during the last 10 minutes in what seems to be a last minute script addition. It would have made for a slightly more interesting movie had this conceit been introduced earlier in the film. Also, the time period is unclear in the film as it doesn't take place in Rome or even in Italy for that matter but possibly another European country.

Reg Park only did five peplum/fusto movies two of which he did in fact play Hercules. Of the three I've seen of his so far, the Bava film HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (1961) is easily the best. Christopher Lee also stars in this one as the main villain.

When I first heard about this film when I was a kid it was one I wanted to see for a long time. Peplum thrills mixed with werewolf horror! How could it miss? Seeing it now, it's a major disappointment. A sad, missed opportunity.

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« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2008, 09:47:43 PM »

GLADIATORS SEVEN 1962 aka I SETTE GLADIATORI

Richard Harrison

Directed by Pedro Lazaga; screenplay by Bruno Corbucci, Alberto De Martino (along with two other contributors)

Darius, the first son of the Emperor of Sparta, is imprisoned for helping five Spartan gladiators escape their prison. Darius is promised his freedom if he can defeat a gauntlet of gladiators atop a deadly platform aligned with sharp stakes. He wins his freedom and upon returning home to Sparta, he learns his father has been murdered; the scene made to look like a suicide. Hiarba, evil ruler of Rome, then tries to arrest Darius again this time framing him for the murder of his betrothals father. He escapes once more and recruits a number of other Spartan gladiators each skilled in various arts to topple the treacherous and evil Emperor.

Richard Harrison is really good here as he is in all the other peplums I've seen him in. He's not great, but considering his catatonic performances in future movies, his peplum roles are Oscar worthy. He's very lively in the fight scenes participating with a zeal not present in much of his later work in various genres. Harrison has starred in a great number of movies over the years appearing in mostly Italian movies but did show up in about a dozen "ninja" movies, the result of cut-and-paste jobs taken from unfinished or unreleased movies with the new footage of Harrison and other Australian or British actors added in. Harrison also appeared in two Shaw Brothers movies, THE BOXER REBELLION and MARCO POLO (both 1975).

GLADIATORS SEVEN is obviously a take off of SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) which had already been remade as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960). There would be at least one more peplum to be modeled after the Kurosawa film, Mattei's THE SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS (1983) starring Lou Ferrigno, Dan Vadis and Brad Harris.

An unusually large budget was apparently utilized here as MGM had a hand in the production. The action scenes are very well staged and the film gets off to a rousing start with Darius's death duel in the arena to earn his freedom. One exciting scene has Vargas, another slave (about to become the seventh gladiator) placed into a confined arena with a raging bull. Darius and his band show up and toss him a spear to which he fatally gores the bull (it appears real and not staged). Then a fight ensues. A lion is then let loose in the small battleground but the gladiator escapes in the nick of time with the help of Darius. The effects are also well handled especially the scenes of people being thrown or falling from cliffs. Usually it's obvious a mannequin is tossed over but here the effect is handled with a bit more care.

The actor playing Hiarba, Gerard Tichy, is quite vicious in the role of the despicable Roman ruler. His total disregard for his subordinates and his attempts to make Darius's woman, Aglaia, believe he is a killer only because he lusts after her himself inevitably brings about his downfall during the conclusion.

The gladiators split up, four of them attack the encampment below the fortress utilizing a stampede of bulls and Darius and two others sneak in by ascending a steep and dangerous mountain to get inside using stealth. Here, they dress in Roman regalia to get inside Hiarba's room for the chance to kill him. Things don't quite work out to plan though and the last fight is held atop a gigantic stone tower affixed to the mountain.

The score is nothing overly special and doesn't quite match the overall feel of the movie. It's not a bad score but many of the cues seem to have the same monotone throughout and never really elevate the already good action sequences to the next level. There are two versions of this film on DVD. One in widescreen and another in washed out fullscreen.

A really good peplum adventure movie with a steady helping of action laced with a bit of humor. The action is very serious but the humor is very light and doesn't get in the way of the action scenes. This print is quite nice and is widescreen and bears the MGM lion at the beginning. I'm not sure where this was taken from but TCM is a possibility. A remastered version on DVD would be welcome however highly unlikely. Recommended.

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« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2008, 09:48:36 PM »

GOLIATH AGAINST THE VAMPIRES 1961 aka MACISTE CONTRO IL VAMPIRO

Gordon Scott (Goliath), Leonora Ruffo (Julia), Guido Celano (Kobrak), Jacques Sernas (Kurtik), Gianna Maria Canale (Astra), Mario Feliciani (Sultan Abdul)

Directed by Giacomo Gentilomo & Sergio Corbucci; written by Sergio Corbucci & Ducio Tessari; Executive Produced by Dino De Laurentiis; Score by Angelo Lavagnino

Kobrak, a vampire who wishes to rule the world with an army of faceless zombies created from captured slaves must deal with Goliath as well as a mysterious man named Kurtik who leads an army of Blue Men. Together, Goliath and Kurtik plan to put an end to Kobrak's reign of terror.

One of the strangest and most violent fusto adventures ever to come out of Italy. A successful melding of both horror and muscleman thrills with both getting equal screen time. There are a number of memorable scenes including the opening raid, a fight between Goliath and the Sultan's men in a marketplace, the first appearance of Kobrak aboard a pirate ship and an attack in a swamp on Goliath and the Blue Men by Kobrak's faceless, zombie horde.

Former TARZAN, Gordon Scott asserts himself perfectly as Goliath (Maciste in the Italian original) delivering a performance fueled by revenge as opposed to simply overthrowing a despotic ruler. Scoot also played Hercules in the pilot for the aborted HERCULES tv show entitled HERCULES & THE PRINCESS OF TROY (1965). He also appeared in a large number of fusto movies like TYRANT OF LYDIA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1963), HERCULES VS MOLLOCH (1963) and opposite Steve Reeves in DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961). Scott passed away earlier this year.

While the film is credited to Giacomo Gentilomo, it is known that Corbucci had a hand in the direction as well. It's not known the extent of his involvement but considering the high level of violence and blood on display including the death of a little boy, I'd say he might have had more to do with the production than a writing credit which he shares with future Spaghetti Western director Ducio Tessari. Gentilomo also directed another outrageous fusto flick, the fan favorite HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN (1964).

The opening village massacre features a man shot in the eye with an arrow in addition to the women being kidnapped and the remaining men strung up and burned. Once on board the vessel, the old women are thrown to the sharks. For added effect, you see shots of sharks swarming around the ship. The women in the cargo hold have their arms cut and blood poured into a chalice. As the ships Captain brings the blood filled goblet to Kobrak, a clawed, hairy arm reaches through a red curtain followed by a massive gust of wind. Terrified, the Captain quickly exits the hellish cabin. Another violent scene has a man forced to climb a pole with sharp spikes placed around it. As he climbs, an executioner lashes him with a whip until he falls impaling himself on the spikes.

About the only somewhat negative thing I can say about the movie is the plethora of characters on display. Many of them are killed off almost as quickly as they are introduced. The beautiful actress playing Magda is summarily killed when she discovers the truth behind the kidnappings of women. Kobrak appears in spirit form and slashes her throat with his clawed hand. The Blue Men, while a nice addition to the numerously quirky elements of the film, feel like an afterthought almost. Also, the Sultan isn't really needed as his participation adds nothing to the film other than being a pawn in the hands of the monster Kobrak who is the real ruler of Salmanak. During the final minutes, it's learned that Kurtik is the Sultan's brother but this, too seems a late addition to the script as it means nothing.

The action scenes are pulled off admirably especially the fight in the marketplace. During the finale, Kobrak assumes the appearance of Goliath and tries to poison Kurtik and his remaining army but the real Goliath shows up and has a fight with himself! Kobrak's real face is revealed for a few seconds before he is destroyed by a magic potion created by Kurtik who is also an alchemist. And this wouldn't be a fusto movie without feats of strength and this film has enough for a couple more movies. The paper mache artist was kept busy on this one. The sets are quite lavish with an interesting mix of opulence and the macabre.

The number of gorgeous girls on display is also a plus. Particularly the conniving and sensual allure of Astra played by Gianna Canale. Her character is the subordinate of Kobrak and she gets the women needed to satiate his appetite for blood. She briefly switches sides towards the end when it seems she falls in love with Goliath but then captures his love interest only to revert back to good again before Kobrak punishes her for her betrayal. She was also in the original HERCULES (1957).

Jacques Sernas, who plays Kurtik can also be seen in Ferdinando Baldi's DUEL OF CHAMPIONS (1961) as well as Corbucci's DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961).

Composer Angelo Lavagnino is quickly becoming a favorite of mine with his scores for these movies. Some of his other scores include THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES (1961), DUEL OF CHAMPIONS (1961) and the action packed HERCULES & THE MASKED RIDER (1964).

An unusual but fun horror/hero hybrid that delivers lots of thrills and a curious amount of bloodletting. A great Saturday night popcorn movie for those interested in something a bit different. A very much recommended entry in the peplum/fusto sweepstakes.

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« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2008, 09:49:10 PM »

GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS 1959 IL TERRORE DEI BARBARI aka THE TERROR OF THE BARBARIANS

Steve Reeves (Emiliano/Goliath), Chelo Alonso (Landa), Livio Lorenzon (Igor), Arturo Dominici (Seyvo), Andrea Checci (Delfo), Bruce Cabot (Arboina)

Directed by Carlo Campogalliani

In 568 AD bloodthirsty barbarians invade Barona slaughtering everyone in their path. A band of survivors, led by Emiliano flee into the forests. There, Emiliano swears vengeance for the brutal death of his father at the hands of the barbarians. Proving himself to be an almost invincible adversary, the barbarian hordes name him the Goliath. A brutal struggle ensues to drive the invaders from the lands of Barona and the surrounding provinces.

One of the best peplum/fusto movies as well as being the best Steve Reeves picture I've yet seen. A stunning adventure filled with action, intrigue, blood, violence and gorgeous women. Reeves name here is Emiliano but is called Goliath on occasion as well as THE Goliath by the brutes. He does perform a number of super human feats of strength throughout that are probably symbolic of his burning desire to kill the barbarians as opposed to portraying a God or demi-god of some kind. Possibly the Italian dub would reveal more.

Reeves isn't the best actor obviously, but he's intimidating and possesses a lot of charisma and this is the best film performance I've seen him in aside from his wonderful portrayal of the pirate Sandokan in two of the SANDOKAN movies. When Reeves swears to kill the invaders, he does so initially dressed up wearing some fur claws and a sort of furry tiger mask. He watches the neighboring villages and when the savages come, he attacks them saving the innocent people. The word spreads among the hordes that a Goliath is loose who "roars like a lion" killing many with great strength. Emiliano soon does away with this costume and is later captured in the wilderness whilst chopping up logs. Reeves gets ample opportunity to show off his muscular attributes which will please female fans of these films. It's a shame the women couldn't reveal as much skin as the men in the peplums but in many cases you get to see just enough to make you desire to see more. Reeves also has a good chemistry with his co-star mentioned below.

The striking beauty Chelo Alonso plays the fiery Landa, the daughter of Delfo, the leader of the hordes under the command of Alboina. She is lusted after by Igor, the leader of the barbarians who wishes to eliminate Delfo and take his daughter without reprisal. Landa will have nothing to do with him but after being thrown from her horse, Emiliano saves her and of course, you know what happens next. He doesn't want anything to do with her because of her relation to the enemy and even threatens to kill her should she return. Emiliano eventually falls for her, too and this adds another element to the storyline concurrent with the revenge theme. Alonso has a dynamite body and she gets to show it off, albeit teasingly in two VERY suggestive dance scenes. Even if you're not a peplum fan, just seeing her sexy figure promenade about is enough reason to tune in.

Arturo Dominici plays a supporting role as Seyvo, one of Igor's subordinates. He gets to display a good amount of villainy before his exit during the final moments although I would have preferred he met a more dramatic fate than the one he gets. Dominici was made for villain roles with his devilish features and put them to good use in HERCULES (1957), PERSEUS, THE INVINCIBLE (1963), HERCULES AGAINST MOLOCH (1963), HERCULES & THE MASKED RIDER (1964) and one of the most famous Italo horrors ever, Bava's MASK OF SATAN (1959).

After Emiliano is captured by Seyvo, he is accused of being the Goliath and is to be put to death. Landa intervenes and her father agrees to free him per their rules that if he can survive two torturous tests, he will be free. Of course, releasing the threat to the barbarians success of conquest enrages Seyvo further giving weight to the notion that Delfo won't make it to the final credit crawl. The tests involve spears thrown into a wooden board. Emiliano is then pulled with ropes by other men to try and impale him onto the spearheads. When it seems two men can't do it, about a dozen of them try at the same time. After passing this test, his arms are tied to two horses which are supposed to rip his arms from their sockets. Emiliano passes this one, too. He is freed much to the chagrin of Seyvo and Igor. This leads to an interesting plot point which isn't explored for very long.

After he earns his freedom, Emiliano's people begin to suspect him since he is in love with the daughter of their enemy. He now seems reluctant to wage war against them. One of his people points this out to him and when Landa meets him in the woods one day he tells her he doesn't want to see her anymore but this is only temporary. Perhaps if the film were longer than 83 minutes this bit could have earned some more dramatic miles. Possibly the Italian cut is longer.

The level of violence in this film is very high for a movie of this type in 1959. There are some brief bits of brutality throughout but the scenes of vehemence hits a high note during the last 15 minutes just after Emiliano and his men ambush an escort of the sacred crown of Arboina led by Seyvo. The good guys kill most of the barbarians and steal the crown but seyvo escapes. In retaliation, Igor orders seyvo and his brutes to burn and kill everyone in the subjugated villages until the crown is returned. Here, you see a man trampled by a horse; it's a dummy but you see the act which is followed by an axe to the face, children killed, people tied to stakes and impaled with spears affixed to wagons, a guy burned in the face with a hot branding iron, a guy burned alive tied to a cross, people herded together and shot down with arrows and victims tied to the ground and passing horsemen throw spears into their bodies. It's not Fulci level violence but it is shocking to see such things in movies like this.

After this ferocious village massacre, Emiliano goes to the barbarian fort to give conditions on the return of the sacred crown. The release and freedom of the villagers in exchange for the crown. The plan doesn't go quite as expected and the stage is set for a huge battle inside the fort resulting in a violent revenge on the barbarians by Emiliano when he suddenly learns that Igor is the man who killed his father as he wears his father's necklace. The manner in which Reeves kills Igor is a bit of an eye opener as it is as savage as a number of the brutish acts committed by the barbarians.

Directed with an assured hand by Carlo Campogalliani, he also directed SON OF SAMSON (1960) starring fusto favorite Mark Forest as well as Chelo Alonso and a young Terence Hill. He also directed URSUS (1961), the first film in a series of at least nine entries this one starring Ed Fury who would appear in at least two more URSUS films.

A classy peplum/fusto actioner with some very nice studio sets as well as some beautiful shots of the countryside. It's a shame that there aren't more quality releases of these movies but there's hope for the future. This is the Wild East release paired with GOLIATH AGAINST THE VAMPIRES (1961). This release is a port of the Spanish Warner Bros. release which has English options. A very good and frequently exciting Italian muscleman movie that's an awful lot of fun and is one of the best I've ever seen and is highly recommended for any Reeves fan and that gorgeous Chiquita, Chelo Alonso.

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« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2008, 09:50:09 PM »

GOLIATH & THE SINS OF BABYLON 1963 aka MACISTE, L'EROE PIU GRANDE DEL MONDO aka MACISTE, THE WORLD'S GREATEST HERO

Mark Forest (Goliath/Maciste), Guiliano Gemma (Xandros), Mimmo Palmara (Alceas), Susan Paget (Rezzia), Erno Crisa (Morakeb), Piero Lulli (Pergasos), Livio Lorenzon (Evandro), Arnaldo Fabrizio (Ninetto), Paul Muller (King Calphus) Nello Pazzafini

Directed by Michele Lupo; Music by Les Baxter (US version)

After the city of Nephir is conquered by the might of Babylon, a heavy tribute must be paid once a year in order to maintain the truce; thirty of their most beautiful virgins must be handed over to the Babylonian guard for delivery to the evil King Calphus where they are to be sacrificed for the amusement of the Babylonians. However, Princess Rezzia, the daughter of the dead King of Nephir cannot assume the throne of her land unless she first takes a husband. A group of conspirators, anxious for action, plot to overthrow King Calphus and rescue the virgins. They meet up with Goliath and convince him to help in their cause to free Nephir from the clutches of Babylon and bring an end to the cruel sacrificial tributes forever.

Lupo directs one of the best peplums ever armed with an obviously bigger budget than usual. An ambitious, lavish production with several major set pieces including an impressive ship battle at sea as the rebels ambush the heavily armed Babylonian vessel, the sacred Tryhrim, at least that's what the characters proclaim it as. Many critics who enjoy badmouthing these movies with such remarks as 'low budget' and 'shoddy' would do well to pay attention to this sequence as it rivals anything seen in any US swashbuckler. But then, that's the attitude generally given to any film that isn't 'Made In The USA'.

Another extraordinary scene is the finale in which the people of Nephir unite with the rebels to burn down Babylon. Some nice miniature work found in this sequence. Another major highlight is the fast paced chariot race. Forest appears to do the scene himself although it's possible a stuntman may have taken his place somewhere but clearly it's him in a number of shots which adds more realism to an already exciting scene. Another nice bit is a brief scene right after the revolt resulting in Pergasos's death where the Babylonians release the lions and leopards into the dungeons to slaughter the resistance.

Mark Forest as Goliath (Maciste in the Italian original) was one of the most popular of the fusto actors to come from America to star in the films. Oddly enough, only three actors (that I'm aware of) outside of America got starring roles in these movies; two Italians and one Hungarian. Forest starred in at least a dozen of these films including GOLIATH & THE DRAGON (1960), HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963), HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS (1964), KINDAR, THE INVULNERABLE (1964) and THE LION OF THEBES (1964) among them. Forest retired from acting to pursue a musical career in opera as well as being a fitness trainer. One of the least stiff looking peplum performers in action scenes even with his massive frame, Forest was also a bit more emotive than many of his contemporaries.

In order to fulfill their plan to eliminate King Calphus and Morakeb, the rebels must pretend to give themselves over to the Babylonians. One man must give up his life to make the scheme believable. Goliath steps forward and is fingered as the man behind the revolt. Morakeb orders that Goliath is to be put to death and that his friends, the ones who have handed him over as part of their plan, must carry out the execution. This striking, suspenseful scene has Goliath bolted to a table below a metallic roof with about a dozen holes above. Inside the holes are massive spears attached to ropes. Some of the spears are designed to miss, some to hit the victim and at least one to kill. The purpose is to instill fear of death before the execution is carried out. It's probably the best scene in the whole movie and Lupo handles it masterfully.

About the only thing negative I can say about the film is that Goliath, or Maciste, doesn't get to perform much in the way of superhuman feats. A minor quibble but you expect those kinds of things in the movies featuring the mythological characters such as this. Either way, it's also not Forest's movie solely. He shares equal screen time with his co-stars, Gemma, Palmara and even the midget actor, Fabrizio who is the comic relief in the film.

In fact, the film has a good amount of humor; not so much that it takes away from the film, but much of it is pretty funny. I don't quite understand all the flack given to films that feature midget actors. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw a little person in a film but Fabrizio is hilarious, and if you dig midget humor, you'll get a lot of it here. Midgets were also employed in the awful VULCAN, GOD OF FIRE (1961), the TEN GLADIATORS trilogy and SAMSON'S MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964), a  film that also featured other Italian fusto faves Hercules, Maciste and Ursus.

Considering the initial plot of the virgins being sacrificed, you might think there's an abundance of beautiful women on display. Not so and Susan Paget is the sole female of attention who loves Xandros and she races in the chariot challenge with the winner getting her hand in marriage, but a ruthless scheme keeps Xandros from taking part in the race. Paget is lovely but she's no Chelo Alonso or Rosalba Neri who also frequently appeared in these movies.

Guiliano Gemma needs no intro to Euro film fans as he made his name predominantly in westerns especially the classics A PISTOL FOR RINGO (1965) and THE RETURN OF RINGO (1965). Gemma worked with Lupo again on the Spaghetti westerns ARIZONA COLT (1966) and CALIFORNIA (1977). His other peplum credits include TWO GLADIATORS (1964) and HERCULES VS. THE SONS OF THE SUN (1964) also starring Mark Forest. Here, Gemma is as athletic and spry as he is in his westerns. Gemma was one of a few actors who successfully made the transition to all manner of Italian cinema appearing in numerous action, crime, drama and horror films in addition to his peplums and westerns.

Mimmo Palmara was a regular peplum/fusto star and appeared in at least 20 torch and toga movies throughout his career appearing alongside most of the other main muscleman stars mostly as a supporting player. Palmara did get to headline HERCULES AND THE MASKED RIDER (1964) which also featured Alan Steel as Goliath in the original Italian print.

Lorenzon was an ace as the lead heavy in the Reeves vehicle, GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959) as well as a fair number of other peplums, but here he gets to play a hero as he did in the Richard Harrison gladiator film GLADIATORS SEVEN (1962).

Also on hand are two actors who will be most identified with Spaghetti Western fans, Nello Pazzafini and Piero Lulli. Nello plays one of the heroic gladiators. He lives, amazingly, but he gets no lines of dialog. Lulli, as usual, plays the villainous Pergasos here. However, in THE TRIUMPH OF HERCULES (1964) Lulli got to play a heroic role for a change.

Another fine peplum adventure that benefits from a large budget and some spectacular set pieces as well as assured direction from the underrated Michele Lupo. Any fan of the genre or even the spaghetti westerns would do well to check this one out. There is much to recommend here.

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« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2008, 09:51:11 PM »

TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS 1964 IL TRIONFO DEI DIECI GLADIATORI

Dan Vadis (Roccia), Helga Line (Queen Maluya), Gianni Rizzo (Sestus), Enzo Fiermonte (Rettzius), Stelio Candelli (Glauco), Ivano Staccioli (Alamandro), Halina Zalewska (Myrta), Leontine May (Saleema), Jeff Cameron, Sal Borgese (Menos), Aldo Canti

Directed by Nick Nostro; Music by Carlo Savino

For their impressive skills and loyalty to Rome, the famous ten gladiators are hired by Prubius, a council member for the Emperor of Syria to travel to Arbela, a neutral kingdom between Rome and Parthia. With war inevitable between Rome and Parthia, the mission is to learn of the Parthians true intentions involving a pact between Queen Maluya and the Parthian Prime Minister in allowing them passage through the free lands of Arbela. However, the real mission is to kidnap Queen Maluya, the ambitious leader of the Parthians and smuggle her into Syria as a hostage for Rome.

The third and final entry in the popular TEN GLADIATORS trilogy is a more light hearted and comical romp with a bit of violence and torture towards the end. Vadis again essays the role of Roccia, the leader of the band of brawlers. Although he isn't playing a HERCULES-like character, he does perform some Herculean style actions from time to time. Vadis appeared in a fair handful of the peplum/fusto movies near the end of the cycle. He was one of the more action oriented of the stable of muscle stars and emoted far more than other actors in the genre. He would easily make the transition to westerns and from there he would apparently become good friends with Clint Eastwood as he would appear in a number of Clint's movies such as HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973), EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE (1978) and ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN (1980). Vadis would return to peplums alongside Lou Ferrigno and Brad Harris in the terrible SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS (1983) as the main villain. Sybil Danning also starred in this one.

All of the ten fighters appear to be having a great time in this one. Quite a bit of the running time is not taken very seriously but near the end, the film gets a bit violent. I have yet to see the first film but unlike the previous entry, the other gladiators get a lot of screen time on their own. Vadis is still the main star, but the others get to shine as well. Sal Borgese especially, as the mute Menos, is primarily comic relief for the other fighters when they all aren't involved in comic shenanigans. Spaghetti Western fans will recognize Nello Pazzafini as a gladiator during the beginning and also Aldo Canti is one of the ten main gladiators. Canti was featured in the SABATA trilogy (he played the acrobatic Indian in the first film) and also the war film FIVE FOR HELL (1969).

Helga Line is gorgeous as usual playing Queen Maluya who may or may not be an enemy of the Roman Empire. She has some brief scenes of romantic chemistry with Vadis. Line also stars in the previous movie as well. She gets to wear some nice dresses that tease with her assets.

Leontine May plays the villainess of the piece and in one of the best scenes, she attempts to cut the ropes suspending Myrta (Zalewska) over a pit containing a big constrictor as the ten gladiators fight their way to free her. In the most disturbing scene of the film, Myrta is captured and tortured with whips and a branding iron by Saleema and Alamandro in an attempt to get her to reveal the whereabouts of the gladiators.

Fans of the series tend to prefer the second film, SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS (1964), but I like them both about the same. TRIUMPH was the first one I saw as a kid and was more than likely the first peplum I was exposed to. This film has all the elements that make the genre so enjoyable to watch-lots of action, larger than life heroes, beautiful women in often times revealing attire, elaborate plots and devilish villains. Not to mention the comedy which adds an air of fun to the proceedings and the film is serious when it needs to be.

The action is plentiful and well done most of the time. A couple of the fight scenes seem lazily done but aside from that, the choreography is good. Some of the stand out scenes are the opening scene which introduces the ten men. Vadis runs at the screen as if he is fighting the camera. Followed by the other participants who do likewise. Borgese appears with his back to the camera until an off screen voice yells, "Hey, Menos..." then Borgese turns and fights at the camera. The scene in which the ten gladiators are tricked in the arena by Maluya's warriors only to repay the supposed treachery by tossing their spears at her feet in defiance is another and the finale is also well done with a good fight between Roccia and Alamandro.

Some of the torture devices are intriguing such as a stone coffin cut with the shape of a victim. Another huge stone with a cut out of the individual is lowered down on top of the screaming captive burying them alive within the stone tomb. Another highlight, even thought it's a bit silly, has the ten gladiators dressing up as women to gain access back into the city to rescue Myrta.

Considering this film was at the end of the torch and toga cycle of Italian adventures, the budget must have been smaller than usual. It appears some stock footage from earlier movies has been inserted to depict an attack on Parthian forces by the Roman army. It doesn't matter though as the action is near constant and you don't have a lot of time to ponder the films deficiencies. The score from Savino is memorable and the film as a whole is a great deal of fun and recommended if you like these kinds of films. There is a German widescreen DVD of this movie but it has no English options.

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« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2008, 09:51:49 PM »

HERCULES THE AVENGER 1965 aka LA SFIDA DEI GIGANTE (DEFIANCE OF THE TITAN)

Reg Park (Hercules), Gia Sandri (Queen Leeda), Giovanni Cianfriglia (Antius), Adriana Ambesi (Dianera), Franco Ressel (Aetiaclese)

Directed by Maurizio Lucidi

Out of revenge for his slaying the Hydra, the Earth Goddess Gia steals the soul of Hercules's son, Xanthus whilst on a lion hunt. Hercules must then journey to the Cenerean Marsh, an underworld hell to save him. Meanwhile, Gia sends her own wicked son, Antius, masquerading as Hercules to oppress the people of Syracuse by enslaving, torturing and killing those who disobey.

A fairly routine and somewhat dismal entry in the sword & sandal sweepstakes. There's no shortage of action but much of it is footage lifted from HERCULES AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1961) aka HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS (1961) aka HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN. The story has lots of potential but it's foretelling of the genres impending extinction by the obvious lack of budget resulting from the recycled footage.

Once Hercules returns home from his journey, he learns what has happened in Syracuse and sets about carrying out his prophesied vengeance by activating a volcano to annihilate Antius and his followers. This scene is well done and I imagine the bulk of the budget went into this minor bit as people are engulfed in flames and the temple of Jove collapses on Queen Leeda who had inadvertently sided with Antius. Antius pleads with his mother, Gia to save him from the fury of Jove so she opens up a crack in the Earth by which he jumps in and is met by Hercules and the two engage in a so-so wrestling match. As long as Antius keeps his feet on the ground, he cannot die.

The actual plot that sets the subsequent events into motion involves Queen Leeda whose husband, King Cadmius, has died and six suitors have come to marry her. However, she wishes to rule alone and consults a female seer to learn what the future holds for her should she not remarry. A prophecy states that Hercules will come and take revenge on the son of the Earth and kill the enemies of Syracuse. Queen Leeda believes her suitors to be her enemies as she doesn't know who the son of the Earth is and when he does arrive, he pretends to be Hercules but having never seen him before, she doesn't realize his identity until it's too late. She is warned by the seer that the word of the Gods are never clear and could possess different meanings but she doesn't heed this advice which ultimately brings about her downfall.

The violence level in this movie is high as well. The scene where a group of men on chariots chase a small pride of rampaging lions is well done but the spearing of one of the animals is a bit uncomfortable. Numerous female cast members are speared or stabbed and one poor girl is suspended by her hair until her father reveals the location of his gold.

British born Reg Park stars in his fifth and last of his fusto adventures. Park was one of the best remembered of the muscleman actors and was a close friend and mentor to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Two of his films, the aforementioned HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (directed by Mario Bava) and HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (both 1961) are two of the best loved entries in the genre. Sadly, On November 22nd Reg Park would pass away from Melanoma after battling skin cancer for a number of years. Schwarzenegger hosted the memorial service in Los Angeles. Park died in Johannesburg, South Africa where he'd lived since the 1960s with his wife and two children. One of his films, MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1964) was shot there. He was a highly successful businessman whose cinematic contributions were a minor footnote to a life filled with numerous accomplishments and prosperous endeavors.

Prosperous Italian actor Cianfriglia plays one of the most vicious villains I've seen in these movies. He would make a career out of portraying bad guys in spaghetti westerns and Euro crime movies. This is the biggest role I've seen him in and later films had him playing minor baddies or simple thugs. Some of his later films are BEN & CHARLIE (1972), W DJANGO! (1972), HIGH CRIME (1973), KILLER COP (1974), VIOLENT ROME (1975) and VIOLENT NAPLES (1976) among many others. Cianfriglia had a good face and could probably play good guys equally as well. Cianfriglia can also be seen brawling with Alan Steel in the anachronistic peplum HERCULES & THE BLACK PIRATE (1964).

Franco Ressel has a supporting role as one of the six suitors and the most determined to win the hand of Queen Leeda. He usually played villains and is probably best remembered for his lead heavy role in SABATA (1969). Ressel also features in the horrible KID TERROR OF THE WEST (1973).

A middling fusto flick with a few decent spots but nothing particularly memorable and it's a shame as the plot offers some intriguing possibilities that are mired by the plethora of footage from better movies. However, if you are a fan of Reg Park you'll probably want to see it.

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