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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Colossus & the Headhunters (1963) Dis List review #3

This column is reserved for terrible movies with little, to no redeeming qualities that are woefully disappointing, at least to me. These are movies that could, or should have had potential, but fail on nearly every level; movies that aren't good enough to be bad cheese. This is...



Kirk Morris (Maciste), Demeter Bitenc (Ariel), Laura Brown (Queen Amoa), Ines Holder (Asmin), Frank Leroy (Kermes), Nello Pazzafini (Guna)

Directed by Guido Malatesta

Taking refuge on an island, Maciste and a group of survivors find the remnants of the Urias tribe whose city was demolished by a band of vicious headhunters. After the Urias are attacked yet again, Maciste and Ariel travel to the ruined city of gold which had been taken by force from the Urias people. There, they try to locate the captured King Olibana. Blinded by the traitorous Kermes, King Olibana is forced to give his daughter, Amoa to him. Maciste must put an end to the savage headhunters and free the Urias and Queen Amoa from the clutches of the cruel Kermes.

This pitiful peplum/fusto film begins with an island about to explode from a raging volcano. This is stock footage from Malatesta's earlier outing, FIRE MONSTERS AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1962). The scenes of people dressed in cave man attire are at odds with the subsequent shots of the toga dressed participants. Not a good sign to start your movie with stock footage from a lower tier fusto movie (you even see a shot of Reg Lewis carrying Margaret Lee away in his arms!) and things don't improve much from here. Even if you're not familiar with the other movie, the sudden change in wardrobe from the participants should clue you in that something is amiss.

Not long after arriving on the island, Maciste gets shot by an arrow while the villains take his friends hostage (Morris seems to get shot in the shoulder with arrows in a lot of his movies). Maciste then finds out that this tribe of people are not the villains after all. Instead, a group of headhunters are the real brutes of the story and they deliver on the moniker, too. Their camp is riddled with heads on large poles and they frequently chop off the noggins of their captives.

There's a lot of potential to make a seriously violent fusto movie here but Malatesta sleepwalks through the whole thing delivering a substandard picture. Malatesta also directed the above mentioned and better (but not by much) FIRE MONSTERS AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1962) aka MACISTE AGAINST THE MONSTERS and the amazingly fun, yet perpetually silly, GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS (1961). However, Malatesta was removed from the last film after losing control of the production and replaced by Giancarlo Parolini. Virtually none of that movie looks anything like Malatesta's other pictures and that's a good thing.

Morris doesn't really do much here as Maciste. He pops in from time to time to show off the requisite strong man skills inherent in these films and saves most of his superstrength deeds for the finale. The movie is already a brisk 78 minutes (approx.) long. Kirk Morris (Adriano Bellini) has never been a favorite of mine in this genre. He isn't the most imposing of the muscleman stars and he comes off more as a sidekick than he does a lead. He's one of the more wooden performers and his acting style does this film no favors. No one else is particularly memorable but the film thankfully goes by fairly fast and the action scenes are decent for the most part. The island setting offers a nice change of scenery from the usual coliseum's and marble pillars.

Morris was apparently popular back then as he did a fair number of these movies including HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES (1963; in which Morris sports a beard), SAMSON & THE SEA BEAST (1963; where he battles pirates) and THE CONQUEROR OF ATLANTIS (1965). Morris seemed to always be sucking his gut in for whatever reason possibly to poke his chest out more. Even still, if ever one of the sword & sandal actors had the look of the 'Son of Hercules', it's Kirk Morris.

Easily one of the worst in the genre but it is good for a few laughs for bad movie buffs. One of the funniest scenes takes place during the wedding sequence. A dancer (Moana) is brought out to perform and the lady doing the routine looks totally disinterested and probably isn't a real dancer anyways. This one scene will invoke some serious laughter and is a prime candidate for an MST3K ribbing.

However, the violence level is quite high in places with people being shot in the eye and throat with arrows and lead henchman Pazzafini putting one poor fellow into a full nelson before burying his face in a pit of fire! There are also the shots of the decapitated heads adorning the grounded spears throughout the headhunters camp so it isn't a total loss.

For peplum and fusto completists only. A casual fan would be seriously disappointed by this one as the violent scenes aren't nearly enough to recommend it. A terribly directed and often miserable movie, the lead performance by Kirk Morris does nothing but bring it down even further into the pit of boredom. Definitely a head scratcher that this redundant musclebound quickie ever got a legit DVD release when so many far better movies in the genre go unreleased. Truly a damn shame.

This review is representative of the Spanish Filmax DVD. It has both English and Spanish language options.


Samuel Wilson said...

This seems to be a disrespected genre as a whole, which may explain why titles are released indiscriminately. A lot of them are hard to endure, but it'd be a worthwhile project to identify the better films.

Mykal Banta said...

CAC: No one does this stuff like the Italians. Come to think of it, no one has ever tried but the Italians. This sounds absolutely stupendous. The wedding scene, as you describe it, sounds totally worth the price of admission: A completely disinterested actress (I presume with ample cleavage) who is not a real dancer - called upon for an erotic dance sequence? I am so there! Great review. -- Mykal

venoms5 said...

Samuel Wilson: You are so right about this genre being sadly overlooked and maligned. The reviews I've posted here represent some of the truly great and some of the most enjoyable the genre has to offer. Like all genres, there's a lot of lesser entries and IMO, this film is one of them. There are some fans that did enjoy this one, however. I just wasn't one of them.

venoms5 said...

Radiation Cinema!: Possibly if you go into this one expecting a raucously bad "good" time, then you will enjoy yourself. The dance scene is pretty damn hilarious and it did make me laugh quite a bit. I could definitely see this being on MST3K. still has the film available for $18.

Bunche (pop culture ronin) said...

Actually this film did make it to MST3K in an edited version during the show's sixth season, and the results are far better than it deserves.

venoms5 said...

LOL, it did? Well, it definitely is suited for that show. They were pretty hit and miss for me. I think the funniest shows I saw of those were CAVE DWELLERS (ATOR, THE BLADE MASTER) and TEENAGE STRANGLER. Both of those were riots.

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