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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Goliath & the Barbarians (1959) review


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 nearby 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. Eventually, Emiliano learns that Igor, the leader of the brutes, is the man responsible for murdering his father. The 'Goliath' dispenses merciless retribution to all those who would harm him and his people.

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 the first two SANDOKAN movies. When Reeves swears to kill the invaders, he carries out his vengeance 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. Reeves also has a good chemistry with his stunningly sensual 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.

Aturo 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 set 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.

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. This 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. Emiliano 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 and Chelo Alonso again. A young Terence Hill also stars. Campogalliani 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.

DVD availability: Warner Home Video (R2); Wild East (R1)


Sean M said...

I believe this is my first encounter with Steve Reeve in the handful of peplums i've seen so far.His acting is a little wooden(probably one of these bodybuilders drafted into these blockbusters for mainly their physique) but nonetheless he is an imposing figure and yeah quite charismatic.He's excellent in all the action/fight scenes and i really enjoyed the intense torture trials of strength he underwent.
I love Chelo Alonso(another newbie to me) and if this had been made in the seventies and not 1959 no doubt we'd have seen a bit more of her!
All in all this really is a fantastic(admirably violent in places)epic and i'm hoping to catch some more as good.

venoms5 said...

I absolutely love this one, Sean. This is one of my favorites of the genre and is must see entertainment for anyone mildly interested in the genre. Alonso lends a TON of sex appeal in this one! She also burns up the screen with Reeves in MORGAN THE PIRATE the following year. It's not as good as GOLIATH, but it's still a fun picture.

Tom sciacca comicsverse said...

The Italian version does have some brief nudity in the massacre scenes....again you can see it on YouTube..

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