Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Samson & the Sea Beasts (1964) review


Kirk Morris (Samson), Margaret Lee (Amanda), Daniele Vargas (Murad), Aldo Bufi Landi (Manuel), Tullio Altamura (Montez), Nello Pazzafini (Sandor), Calisto Calisti (slave trader)

Directed by Amerigo Anton (Tanio Boccia)

The Short Version: With the names Kirk Morris and Guido Malatesta among the credits, that's an SOS to sail away from this sinking ship. Good for a few laughs, but little else. It's another Italian pirate adventure mixing muscleman theatrics with a shirtless and brainless Kirk Morris as Samson battling bad guy brigand Daniele Vargas. The "muscles" of Margaret Lee are the true highlight.

In 1630, Murad, a marauding pirate, sails the coastal waters of the Antilles attacking ships, taking their resources and kidnapping the women to be sold as slaves from his headquarters on Devil's Island. A beautiful woman manages to escape his clutches and seeks the aid of Samson to aid in freeing the many captured women.

Kirk Morris tries to act in peril against this lifeless alligator that pretends to menace Margaret Lee

One of numerous Italian swashbucklers with shades of the strongman films that were about to give way to dozens upon dozens of westerns. This is one of the least spectacular of the period adventure fantasies and isn't helped much by the star, Adriano Bellini (Kirk Morris). Nothing against Morris, but he's one of the least emotive of the well built performers slinging paper mache objects at the antagonists. The script has some potential for braindead thrills, but under the direction of Tanio Boccia, the flick is lost at sea.

In all these movies with scenes like this, it's only a matter of seconds before the hero and the damsel suddenly find their faces attached to one another

Guido Malatesta, a hack director in his own right, wrote the script with little imagination and hardly any sense of adventure. You have the hunky hero, a gorgeous female compatriot, a dangerous sequence involving a test of strength and the requisite big finale. The director pretty much fails on on all of these save for one area. It's two words and that's Margaret Lee. A stunning beauty, her mesmerizing face helps get the viewer through the numerous rough spots. She plays Amanda who isn't very feisty, but does rescue Samson and doesn't mind getting into the thick of things.

Kirk Morris has a good physique, but he often induces laughter. while not as big as many other actors in these movies, he's well built, yet he feels the need to suck in his stomach to make his chest poke out more. He does this in all his movies and I often wondered if he didn't have trouble breathing while filming. I imagine he found great relief between takes. Not only that, but, 'Ahoy, Matey! Stock footage off the port bow!!!' Some of the battle scenes also turn up in the much more fun HERCULES & THE BLACK PIRATE (1964; actually a Samson adventure in the Italian version), one of several other pirate themed peplum hybrids. The scene where Morris must avoid a death by spears from all directions by pulling a ship with a dozen men rowing against him is a pseudo highlight, but it goes on for too long.

Getting back to Margaret Lee, this sexy actress has appeared in her fair share of crap cinema. The hilarity of FIRE MONSTERS AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1962) immediately comes to mind. Still, seeing her in even the most trying cinematic dreck makes the ordeal much more bearable. Having seen this as a kid, I didn't remember much of it, but now, I would only look at this again to marvel at the mighty form of Margaret Lee.

The Three Evil Amigos: Tullio Altamura (left), Daniele Vargas (middle), Nello Pazzafini (right)

The score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino is quite good; far too good for this movie. The opening theme is especially lively and may have you humming it during the movie to hold your attention. Among the scant few monotonous scenes of action, there's also a laughable "duel" between Samson and an immobile rubber alligator. Even Daniele (THE PIRATE & THE SLAVE GIRL 1959, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD 1961) Vargas looks bored as the dull villain, Murad. There's a lot worse Italian adventures out there, but this is easily one of the least exciting. Recommended for only the most devout sword and sandal/Italian adventure fanatics and fans of Kirk Morris...I know you're out there.

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