Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Goliath and the Vampires (1961) review
GOLIATH AND 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 vampiric creature who wishes to rule the world with an army of faceless zombies created from captured slaves must deal with the mighty Goliath. Aiding the heroic strongman is a mysterious individual named Kurtik who leads an army of Blue Men. Together, Goliath and Kurtik plan to put an end to Kobrak's reign of terror and free the people of Salmanak from his hellish grip forever.
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. It's just a shame that the print used for this release from Wild East is underwhelming to say the least.
GOLIATH AGAINST THE VAMPIRES (1961) was just one of a number of sword & sandal fantasies that were built around a horror scenario. The coming years saw the release of possibly the most popular of these horror themed muscle movies, HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (1962) from director Mario Bava. 1962 also saw the release of THE WITCH'S CURSE (1962) starring Kirk Morris. This film was basically a reworking of the Bava fusto favorite. ROME AGAINST ROME (1964) aka WAR OF THE ZOMBIES was another and Reg Park starred in the terrible HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL (1964).
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. Scott also played Hercules in the pilot for the aborted HERCULES tv show entitled HERCULES & THE PRINCESS OF TROY (1965) aka HERCULES VS THE SEA MONSTER. 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) aka ROMULUS & REMUS directed by Sergio Corbucci. Scott passed away on April 30th of 2007 from complications post heart surgery. He was 80 years old.
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. If nothing else, he honed his penchant for violent scenes on his earlier collaborative works. Gentilomo also directed another outrageous fusto flick, the fan favorite HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN (1964).
The opening village massacre features a fellow 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 actually 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, 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 aside from being a last minute plot device.
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. This wouldn't be a fusto movie without feats of strength and this film has enough for a couple more movies combined. 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 she falls in love with Goliath and later suffers the wrath of Kobrak who punishes her for her betrayal. She was also in the original HERCULES (1957).
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 afternoon (or night) popcorn movie for those interested in the genre or those looking for an old fashioned adventure film. A very much recommended entry in the peplum/fusto sweepstakes. It's not perfect, but an action packed diversion filled with superhuman feats, monsters and beautiful women. A release that deserves a better treatment on DVD.
This review is representative of the Wild East double feature DVD paired with GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS also reviewed on this site.