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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goliath Against the Giants (1961) review


Brad Harris (Goliath), Gloria Milland (Princess Elea), Fernando Rey (Bokahn), Barbara Carroll (Daiena), Fernando Sancho (Namath), Nello Pazzafini (Jagoran), Mimmo Palmara

Screenwriters: Gianfranco Parolini, Sergio Sollima; AD: Romolo Girolami; 2nd Unit director: Jorg Grau; Music by Carlo Innocenzi

Directed by Guido Malatesta & Gianfranco Parolini

Away fighting in a war for five years, Goliath plans to return to his homeland after learning King Argastese of Beyrath has been dethroned with the evil Bokan taking his place. After rescuing a mysterious and beautiful maiden on the island of Ayallus, Goliath and his crew are attacked by a sea monster. His ship destroyed, they end up on the beaches of Veyrath where more dangers ensue including a motley of giant men whom Goliath banished to the valley of Janafar. On his quest to restore his homeland, Goliath must battle assorted monsters and armies of soldiers to eradicate the treacherous Bokhan.

Original director Malatesta was replaced by Parolini after he lost control of the production. Parolini was able to get the film back on track and the resulting film proved to be a hit both domestically and internationally. While the bulk of the film is of a higher quality than the usual Malatesta movie, the chaotic nature of the film shows that enough of Malatesta's scenes remain in the final product. There are enough monsters and action for several fusto movies combined. The finale seems to go on interminably. Goliath manages to liberate the city of Beyrath then goes after Jagoran before dueling with the giants of the title when out of nowhere, another dragon shows up(!)

Earlier in the film, Goliath's ship is destroyed by a sea monster which in some shots is a real lizard inside a tank of some sort. A rather detailed upper torso of the lizard is also utilized for the action shots with the actors. Aside from the fakeness of the bits using the real lizard, the sequence is well handled. Irregardless of what many reviewers may say, I find the hydraulically controlled monstrosities in Italian muscleman movies to be quite well designed some of the time.

They're clearly fake, but a lot of care went into their creation and most should remember that this was in Italy in the 1960's. They couldn't match most US productions in the budget department and had to make do with creativity and ingenuity. In addition to two dragons (probably the same creation refurbished to look different), there's also an army of Amazons, a huge ape creature, an attack by some lions and the giants of the title. The character of Goliath definitely gets a workout in this movie in addition to the gorgeous women he interacts with throughout the films 90 minute running time.

Brad Harris is perfect for these kinds of movies and is one of the better actors to play the muscleman roles. He has a ruggedness that gives him an almost comic book appearance that adds another layer to the films he participated in. He was an American performer who also appeared in SAMSON (1961) and THE FURY OF HERCULES (1962) among his sword & sandal credits. Harris was also a stunt man as well as a producer. He also dabbled in a few obscure spaghetti westerns before returning to the peplum arena in the awful Bruno Mattei cheese fest, THE SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS (1983) co-starring alongside Lou Ferrigno.

Fernando Sancho is almost unrecognizable as Namath, the faithful compatriot to Goliath. He is a bit smaller in weight, his hair is curly and he is without his bushy mustache seen in his countless spaghetti westerns. An unusual role for Sancho, he exits the picture rather early. It's a shame he didn't make it a bit further into the film as he was definitely an unusual presence in a production such as this. Sancho carved an indelible niche for himself as an actor portraying bandits in the later western productions that took over after the peplums finished their run.

The gorgeous Gloria Milland is a stand out beauty with some very fine curves. Like most all other peplum actresses, she's put into harms way on multiple occasions allowing several glimpses of her heaving chest bound within tight dresses. She also features in THE REBEL GLADIATORS (1963) starring Dan Vadis and Alan Steel and HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS (1964) starring Mark Forest.

Fernando Rey brings a classiness to his role as the evil usurper Bokhan. He attacks his role with conviction unlike most actors playing sadistic rulers in these movies. Rey is one of many bright spots found here. Nello Pazzafini rules a number of scenes as Bokhan's main heavy. He's more of a presence here than in a fair number of other peplums he featured in. In this genre, Pazzafini fluctuated from playing good and bad guys later confortably migrating in much the same capacity in the Italian westerns that followed.

Again, there are some strong scenes of violence one featuring the villains tossing some men and an old woman from a cliff. We see the body (a dummy obviously, but still effective) as it rolls and tumbles bones breaking as it crashes to the craggy bottom below. An arrow delivered to the injured winner of a bloody game of gladiatorial death matches and a vicious sword to a bad guys face round out the brief bits of startling violence not normally seen in the US import versions of the Torch & Toga flicks.

GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS (1961) is a very silly movie. Some of the fights seem almost like rehearsals but there's so much energy and near nonstop action that any shortcomings are easily forgiven. The film delivers lots of popcorn thrills for viewers who simply want to be entertained for 90 minutes. The film was popular enough that it led to bigger things for Parolini. Sadly, things didn't work out so well for Malatesta whose resume is made up of lackluster and easily forgettable movies that are fun in their own right, but aren't of the same quality as this picture.

It's also obvious a bit of money was lavished on this production. Not quite as big a budget as say GOLIATH & THE SINS OF BABYLON (1963) but more than was usually afforded movies of this type. There are some huge sets created for the numerous battle sequences and the cinematography by Alejandro Ulloa is often quite stunning especially some visually impressive location shots; some of which possess an awe inspiring sense of grandeur. Ulloa also performed photographic duties on such pictures as HORROR EXPRESS (1972) and THE STRANGER & THE GUNFIGHTER (1974) in addition to a large number of Italian westerns and other genres of European cinema.

Also of curious note are the various behind the scenes technicians such as master director Sergio Sollima who had a hand in this films script. Romolo Girolami/Gurierri who became a famous director in his own right and Jorg Grau who helmed the famous Euro horror film THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE round out the most notable and famous of this films behind the scenes participants. The musical score from Innocenzi is noteworthy especially the main theme.

GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS (1961) is well worth the purchase and a good time for watching with the kids. Save for a few strong moments, the various monsters provide a fun distraction for the young as well as the young at heart. Sword & Sandal fans should enjoy this film quite a lot since it contains so much of what makes the genre a memorable childhood favorite.

This review is representative of the Italian RHV DVD which has an English dubbed soundtrack in addition to the Italian original.

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