Sinewy Selections 3 – A Brawny Batch

Another week of hulking men, lumbering monsters and groovy gladiators…some great finds this time around thanks to the Warriors box set and the two Image released packages of Retromedia discs, WAR GODS and HERCULES COLLECTION.

Ursus in the Land of Fire features Ed Fury (in his best performance I’m aware of) as a simple man that ends up being the fall guy for an evil general and the wicked niece of a kindly king that wants to promote peace between the military and the shepherds of the area. They put him through tests of strength, including a great bit of pushing a mammoth grinding stone that shows off how jacked up Ed Fury was-and he even gets to do the classic “torn between two chariots” business, but with a twist. I love that particular test, even though it is probably over used, but this time the good daughter/love interest has the distinct displeasure of being tied between the two chariots Ursus is straining against. As many times as you can see a sequence repeated, this was a standout. Also watch for a great tournament battle with an undercover Ursus calling out the bad guy, this very well done.
I did not mention story because it is Mighty Standardly if you know what I mean, and the pace is sporadic-lots of good stuff, lots of talk…then more good stuff. The good outweighs the bad and chucks an uprooted tree at the viewer though, making this a recommended film.

Son of Hercules against Fire Monsters is a decent enough Maciste film (originally titled Maciste Against the Monsters) and features Reg Lewis as our temporally challenged hero. Lewis doesn’t really impress me here, but he is game enough to pull a rubber tentacle and struggle with it mightily-so he gets the job done. This time Maciste goes Ice Age as he finds himself torn between the Sun and Moon tribes. Lucky for us, they dress in black and white so we know who is good and bad around here. Some big club battles and caveman fights keep the pace going-and better yet, there are monsters-including one groovy ghoulie that gets an eyeful of Maciste’s spear. The real draw for me is the presence of Margaret Lee as Moah. She is beautiful, at the early part of her career and willing to be a hot cavegirl with no shame at all! Eurotrash fans may want to check in on this film just to catch her in action. Look for the scene with Maciste and Moah playing the rail to a game of horseshoes played with spears. YIKES! Not a classic, but nice primer for a heavy duty Peplum.

Son of Samson is one of, if not the, first “new” Maciste film, and has Mark Forest looking HUGE as our time and place hopping hero ends up in Egypt bumping headlong in to a scheming woman taking over for a Pharaoh that caught her selling her own people as slaves. What is cool about this film is that Chelo Alonso really steals the show, and is every bit as chiseled and deadly as the men in Peplum films are massive and mighty. We get some of that Amazing Alonso dancing and even a bit where she jumps in to a pit of Crocodiles. Also, for a film released in 1960 there are a few jaw dropping bits of violence and a brutal feel that had the edges dulled as the genre became more popular. When Maciste saves a group of slaves, he isn’t entirely successful and leaves a bloody pile of workers crushed by falling debris. Not as light or breezy as expected, it isn’t as fast paced as these films come, but satisfying and a nice entry in to the legend of Maciste!
The DVD has a good solid anamorphic print of this film, and it is particularly welcome thanks to it’s age and place in the Maciste filmography, starting a revitalization of the character.

Gordon Scott shows off his badass side in this grim film that passes up any supernatural elements and instead has lots of intrigue and hand to (metal) hand battles. I love films that feature metal hands, and I loved Hero of Rome. I liked that this film is set in the early days of Rome and has the young republic battling against the Etruscans. Muzio (Scott) is obviously the tough guy of Rome and is ready to go assassinate the Etruscan king on his own-just wanting to get things done if you will. Well, it doesn’t go well-and he finds that his target may not be the monster he imagined. Of course, he learns this AFTER committing the action depicted above. When threatened with torture, Muzio is so badass he tortures himself by burning his hand until his captors can’t stand to watch.
The Etruscan king is mislead by his crafty General, Tarquino (Massimo Serato who is perfectly MWAHHHharhar!) and even after Muzio and King Porsenna agree on a truce he manipulates the situation to cause the most trouble. And then the ass kickings really begin.
With good sets, a great cast, a groovy score by Angelo Francesco Lavignino and the sure hand of Girgio Ferroni (of Night of the Devils) directing, this is an excellent action film!

Medusa vs. The Son of Hercules is a jazzier title than Perseus The Invincible, but either way this Alberto de Martino film features one of the coolest monsters in Peplum history. Carlo Rambaldi provides a repugnant and ridiculous version of a Medusa-a rubbery cyclops that is just fun to look at and imagine someone running around in, with their legs tied together. But I really love the design, it takes something simple and makes it monstrous and far more obscene than the original idea-you can’t argue that. However, the film starts and (almost) ends with this mythological element-and a water beast that lives nearby pops up as well, but by and large this Peplum is straight forward with intrigue and fisticuffs. Richard Harrison is great as Perseus, a hero that ends up dealing with a corrupt king and his even bigger skunk of a son. He is tough and brave, but never supernatural-which lets Harrison show off his acting skills as much as his muscles. Sure, he may have worn that Ninja headband for a few years, but I’m a BIG fan of the guy in Peplum movies (well, ninja flicks as well)-he just has something I enjoy. Look for an excellent tournament between Perseus and Galenore, there is an excellent scene with an archery contest gone horribly wrong.
If you want monsters, you do get some great ones bookending a fun Peplum that satisfies both in the one on one action as well as the grand battles.

The headliner for the nice Something Weird DVD that also includes the groovy Conqueror of Atlantis, Goliath and the Dragon is a perfectly entertaining Peplum that skimps on nothing. Huge heroics meets mighty monsters in a head on collision of brawn and beastly behavior! Add in an over the top villain turn from Broderick Crawford as Illus the totally ill king that first goes after Goliaths brother and then his wife. He just doesn’t know when to quit! Goliath has to battle bat monsters and other mythic creatures to save the day-and not even a centaur with a grudge is going to slow him down.
This film has a very weird and bizarre sensibility that sets it high on the list of mythological muscle movies-and this is greatly helped by the fact that we can watch a nice print of the film that retains the strange otherworldly colors and compositions. Also, can you beat a film that not only has Wandisa Guida in period costume, but lowers our hero in to a CAVE OF HORRORS right at the start? I’m also a big fan of Peplum that has fun with the characters, and the relationship of Goliath and his jealous brother is a welcome change from the hero/goofy sidekick routine. Only Goliath, Professional Family Therapist, would find a way to help his brother by tying him to a tree to keep him from doing the “wrong” thing. Mark Forest nails just the right mix of sly smiles and swinging fists to make me a Goliath fan for life.
I love it. This is a must for your Peplum collection!

Hercules and the Princess of Troy was a total surprise, this 48 minute TV pilot, which sadly did not lead to hundreds of episodes, was directed by Albert Band and featured a screenplay co-written by Ugo Liberatore (of the notorious Survivors of the Bounty infamy)-and it would have been EXACTLY the kind of show that would have kept a nine year old version of myself in a coma on Saturday afternoons. A gleeful coma. And actually, this put adult me in a gleeful coma as well. Hercules and his crew, sailing along the high seas in a boat marked H, run across some pirates and kick ass. Amusingly, Gordon Mitchell is leading the pirates! Now we know the merry men of ‘cles are tough and can meet any situation head on. As they come ashore they are embroiled in the city of Troy’s woes of a giant sea monster living off shore. The city dwellers have been sacrificing virgins to the big beast and Herc is here to save the day. Even better, he has a super scientist pal that creates underwater fire to help! A little politicking, a little love play and a GREAT Carlo Rambaldi monster make this a perfect sub one hour adventure.
Hercules is played by Gordon Scott, who would have been perfect for the series, and he is joined by not only George Ardisson but the super cool Roger Browne is also on hand.
Well, televisions Peplum theater’s loss was Eurospy’s gain.
Great fun, I would recommend this to anyone that likes Peplum films, or better yet, a nice appetizer for those not yet in to this particularly beefy sub genre.

You tell me there is a big cyclops and Gordon Mitchell in a movie, any movie, and I’m there in a heartbeat. Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops delivers on just that and is a lot of fun along the way.
Chelo Alonso is stunning as the evil, yet willing to reform after Gordon Mitchell flashes a few big smiles at her, and indeed the Cyclops does appear and he is a groovy monster to say the least. For a film made in 1961, this Maciste entry is surprising for the level of cool special effects as well as the surprisingly violent battle with the Cyclops that finishes the film out. A baby up for sacrifice, a spear and one big eye…you guess what happens next!
This is fun, but the prints I’ve found so far are drained of most of the color and scope that would really make this more enjoyable…I’d love to see it get the image quality it deserves. This is a warm up for the awesome Giant of Metropolis for Gordon Mitchell, but he shows off not only the brawn, but a sense of humor that classic would not exploit. And just wait until you see him rowing that galley ship all by himself, a task worthy of Maciste and his legendary might!

This Son of Hercules is Argoles, played by Dan Vadis. I am not the biggest Vadis fan, but he is good here and has plenty to do as he battles not only a dragon but also has to wrestle a bear while standing on a log being used as a bridge over a pit of lava. Alright, that scene alone makes the entire film worthwhile, it is really memorable and there are plenty of other feats of strength to go with it. He saves a beautiful woman from having her eyes plucked out by a wicked queen! He battles subterranean marauders! He unleashes lava!!
Hard to really knock on the film at all, it is very fast paced and I was very pleased to take in the version on the Mill Creek set WARRIORS, because it features the film in two parts as episodes of The Sons of Hercules-complete with intro / outro music and highlights. This alone probably added a lot to my enjoyment, I felt even more like a stunned and glued to the television young version of myself…I missed a lot of these as a kid, so this was really nice.
Plus, another EuroSpy star to be, Ken Clark (listed as Ken Klark) appears!

Euro-Obscuro fans might pick up on the inclusion of Metheus Film as a production company. I did a triple take because this company released such Mario Siciliano films as ROLF, SEVEN RED BERETS and ORGASMO NON-STOP! Bizarre connections my specialty!

More to come including THOR AND THE AMAZON WOMEN, ERIK THE CONQUEROR and…whatever I watch tonight!! Viva Musclemen, hurrah beautiful and evil Queens and Maximus Mayhem with the Monsters….I’m loving the Peplum!


3 thoughts on “Sinewy Selections 3 – A Brawny Batch

  1. I've been looking forward to the latest Sinewy Selection and it sure is worth the wait! Excellent!

    I still say that you're the man for the task of writing the definitive Peplum book!


  2. Thanks Mike, the darn thing took days to put up due to holiday fun… and I cut it down a lot. More soon!

    I doubt that the definitive Peplum book would be easily tackled by someone that does not speak Italian, but I am thinking something like The Eurospy Guide would be more workable 😉


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