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Monday, January 30, 2012

20 of the Worst Sword & Sandal Adventures


20 OF THE WORST SWORD & SANDAL ADVENTURES

This is a selection of what I consider the worst examples of the Sword & Sandal genre. Granted, there's most likely a handful of other movies one could place here (just about anything with Kirk Morris or bearing a directing credit for Guido Malatesta would fit comfortably on this list), but these are among the cream of the crappy crop when it comes to muscleman movie madness; that's not to say some of these films listed here don't have a 'Beef for Brains' level of entertainment value because of their insurmountable awfulness. Some of these budget deprived adventures of mythological mayhem are just plain difficult to sit through. Others have pulpy, adventurous storylines, but obvious limitations both in front of and behind the cameras keep those examples from attaining anything but a place at the bottom of the beefcake barrel.

1. THE PIRATE & THE SLAVE GIRL 1959 aka LA SCIMITARRA DEL SARACENO

Directed by Piero Pierotti

THE PLOT! The dread pirate Drakut seizes secret military documents on their way to Rhodes unknowingly carried by Bianca, the daughter of the Rhodes governor. The jailed adventurer, Captain Diego offers his service to take Drakut's ship, recover the stolen plans and free the governor's daughter. With no other options, the governor accepts this proposal. Pretending to become a hand aboard Drakut's vessel, Diego has plans of his own including stealing Drakut's woman, Miriam, right out from under him.

Visually colorful, lavishly costumed, intricately plotted, but hopelessly anemic non action opus set on the high seas holds great promise in its storyline but can't even be bothered to deliver the required action sequences that's the life blood of these kinds of movies. The only stroke of genius (or mind boggling scripting snafu) is seeing Lex Barker as the villain (especially after playing Tarzan in the earlier part of the 1950s) and Massimo Serato as the hero! Chelo Alonso, in her second such role, sizzles without doing much at all and helps to make this pitiful pirate picture moderately bearable. Future peplum pirate participant, Daniela Vargas is also on hand as one of the bad guys. When the finale mercifully arrives, the whimpering excuse of buckle swashing takes place on what looks like a hurriedly scraped together set from a traveling drama troupe. It's not even realistic on an operatic level--the type of studio bound set you know is fake, but there's a dream-like quality about it. Coming during a time when this genre was thriving and enjoying a great number of quality productions, it's sad that this one is such a lackluster affair especially considering the cast. We don't even get any half baked battles at sea. It's all very tedious and possibly the most boring film on this list.



2. THE LOVES OF HERCULES 1960 aka HERCULES VS. THE HYDRA aka GLI AMORI DI ERCOLE

Directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia

THE PLOT! Hercules seeks revenge against those who killed his wife and people, but finds and falls in love with Jayne Mansfield instead. Throne usurping, a three headed monster and an evil amazonian sorceress figure into this camp classic.

Mickey Hargitay stars alongside his wife, Jayne "the massive" Mansfield, who tackles a dual role here. More accurately, Jayne's breasts have a dual role here vying for screen supremacy, so it's four times the Jayne for your buck. SEE! boobs versus biceps as a dumbfounded Hercules gets hypnotized by the magical allure of Mansfield's mammaries in this camp classic that also features a giant Macy's Day Parade three headed Hydra. SEE! a cave dwelling apeman and a forest of "wooden men" who bleed when you cut their (tree) limbs off. Hargitay is one of the least interesting men to ever appear in one of these movies and he surely looks lost the duration of the picture possibly mesmerized by the Herculean frame of his wife, the real star of the show.


3. COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN 1960 aka LA REGINA DELLE AMAZZONI

Directed by Vittorio Sala

THE PLOT! Strong arm Glauco and his sidekick Pirro embark on a seafaring journey and end up in a kingdom of amazons where they engage in a lot of goofy adventures including a search for a sacred girdle.

Rod Taylor's co-starring credit may be the "best" thing about this occasionally hilarious, but still atrocious Herculean battle of the sexes from 1960. The familiar genre tropes are inverted here with the women dominating the men--they make both love and war and duel in the arena and pick the men of their choosing for the night. There's even a dance number of male dandies! Speaking of queer behavior, the men inhabiting the kingdom of the amazons have taken on effeminate traits which Taylor's character displays intermittently throughout. One minute he's slobbering over the lovely frame of Daniella Rocca and in another he possesses the mannerisms of a sissy. The film loses much of its steam about an hour in and the English dubbing is one of the worst ever applied to a foreign production. Still, the dubbing does have its moments such as a line from a slave with a southern accent--"Let's be off, my baybiz. Ya'll is my women now." Then there's the bastardized pronouncement of the "Queendom of the Amazons" and a talking parrot. Gianna Maria Canale is incredibly sexy here as the lustful ruler in the "Queendom" who protests she will die a virgin. The jazzy musical score is a total misfire, yet the picture seems to have inspired a series of similar movies in the coming years from both Italian and Chinese movie producers. The last sequence is gorgeously captured amidst a backdrop of majestic waterfalls.

4. ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS 1961 aka MACISTE NELLA TERRA DEI CICLOPI (MACISTE IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS)

Directed by Antonio Leonviola

THE PLOT! The cruel Queen Capys kidnaps women and children of Sadok to appease the flesh hungry appetite of the giant cave dwelling cyclops, Polifemo. Maciste steps in to rescue a young heir from the beast.

Yet another Italian He-Man movie that crushes itself under its own weight and squandered potential. Possibly the lackluster presentation is due to the handicapped direction of Antonio Leonviola, the "specialist" behind such endearingly awful films such as MOLE MEN AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1961), TAUR, THE MIGHTY (1963) and THOR & THE AMAZON WOMEN (1963). Gordon Mitchell's first interpretation of an ancient strongman hero is naive in execution and would thankfully end here. Mitchell, while vastly more impressive as an antagonist, appears totally out of place as the hero. He would rectify this with an amazing performance in THE FURY OF ACHILLES (1962) and would perfect the sinister bad guy laugh that became part and peplum parcel in this genre. The action scenes are poor, although Mitchell is anxious to get in their and rough everybody up. The stunt crew appear shy or scared of him. This is also one of many times Gordon Mitchell is billed as 'Mitchell Gordon'. Aside from an impressive showing by a flesh eating giant cyclops, there's a scant few sequences that arouse interest. Speaking of arousal, Cuban moneymaker shaker, Chelo Alonso plays the stock evil queen who ends up falling for granite faced Maciste.


5. MOLE MEN AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES 1961 aka MACISTE, L'UOMO PIU' FORTE DEL MONDO (MACISTE, THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD)

Directed by Antonio Leonviola

THE PLOT! Maciste and his sidekick enter the lair of the mole men and the Queen that rules them. There they turn a massive wheel that seems to operate a bunch of conveyor belts with an unexplained function. Eventually, they mastermind an uprising to free the slaves of the mole men and their Queen.

Mark Forest puts his head in the dirt starring in this beyond ridiculous, though moderately entertaining fluff wherein Ma-cheese-ta and his equally 'roided out black companion do battle with the "mole men", a race of shoddily made up albino skinny guys decked out in white feathers and bed sheets. I defy any viewer to look at these flamboyantly dressed, bizarro villains and not raise an eyebrow and say "Are you serious?" Moira Orfei (as the evil Queen whose name sounds like somebody talking with their mouth full of food) escapes with her dignity intact. She lords over the malcontent mole men and keeps that old peplum stand by, a shaggy gorilla, locked up in a cage which ends up butting heads with Maciste when little else is happening onscreen. Spaghetti Western cult favorite, Gianni (WAR OF THE TROJANS) Garko, who went on to play magician gunslinger Sartana and the even more gimmicky Holy Ghost plays one of the head mole men. The mole men must have had some measure of cult appeal in Europe as they would return in an entertaining sub plot in the lively, late blooming gladiator serio-comedy, SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS (1965). Watch that one instead. It's intentionally funny and far more entertaining.


6. FIRE MONSTERS AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES 1962 aka MACISTE CONTRO I MOSTRI (MACISTE & THE MONSTERS)

Directed by Guido Malatesta

THE PLOT! Maciste, that worldy, super heroic Italian traveler, finds himself in prehistoric times right in the middle of a war between the Sun and Moon tribes. The Moon men revel in that old peplum standby, the virgin sacrifice; these women being the members of the Sun tribe. Clean shaven Ma-cheese-ta lends a hand in between bouts with assorted lizard monsters.

This bone headed, stone age grunt-and-groaner stars Mae West protege and former Mr. America, Reg Lewis. Looking like he stepped out of a modern day BEACH PARTY movie with his slicked back, rockabilly hairstyle, Maciste battles various neolithic adversaries and several reptilian monsters. This riotously bad caveman era example in prehistoric filmmaking loses more points by making the pouty allure of Margaret Lee terribly unattractive. It's inadvertently funnier than CAVEMAN (1980), though. Lewis had minor roles in the star studded DON'T MAKE WAVES (1967) and fleetingly in the unintentionally hilarious Mae West flick, SEXTETTE (1978). Lewis's brief film career has largely been forgotten, but his years as a professional bodybuilder maintains a following. Note the accompanying poster lists Alan Steel among the credits although he is nowhere to be found here. Not only that, but he's top billed over the real star of the show and his name is spelled wrong as Red Lewis!


7. VULCAN, GOD OF FIRE 1962 aka VULCANO, FIGLIO DI GIOVE

Directed by Emimmo Salvi

THE PLOT! Vulcan is a blacksmith at Mt. Olympus. The lovely, sex hungry Venus vies for his affection, but he isn't interested. He prefers the even more bodacious form of the mortal frame of Bella Cortez. As in the real world, Venus can't take rejection and a lot of subterfuge, jealousy, pony riding midgets, guys in lousy monster costumes and bad optical effects ensue.

Seldom do movies get much more torturously awful than this one and this list here is a veritable maelstrom of mediocrity. This Olympian sized bowel movement won't relieve you of the upset stomach you'll receive enduring the high school level of set design that passes for Mt. Olympus, nor the atrocious costumes and action scenes. But bad movie aficionados will get well more than their money's worth here. This is arguably the single worst movie on this list, but is likely the most "enjoyable" for its overwhelming level of rancidness. This one is highly unusual as it deals predominantly with the gods and their battle, and or banishment over the lovely Venus. Two beefy contestants on the ancient Grecian version of Love Connection duke it out with fists and bad optical effects to make Venus the love slave of one lucky winner. In between that is a surprisingly thick air of subterfuge and treachery and some hilariously ridiculous looking "monsters". There's also a lot of midget action here. The little guy even gets a pony this time! Rod Flash(?), a moniker better suited for a porn star, took the stage name of Richard Lloyd by the following year. Under that name, he co-starred with box office poison, Kirk Morris in the goof-tacular HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES (1963) released here in 1965. Roger Browne co-stars and Gordon Mitchell is on hand to look sinister and laugh a lot. Bella Cortez is the real showstopper here in an unusually sexy dance number giving La Caliente Cubana Chelo Alonso a run for her tamales.


8. COLOSSUS & THE HEADHUNTERS 1963 aka THE FURY OF THE HEADHUNTERS aka MACISTE CONTRO I CACCIATORI DI TESTE (MACISTE AGAINST THE HEADHUNTERS)

Directed by Guido Malatesta

THE PLOT! Maciste and some shipwreck survivors end up on an island ruled by a clan of headhunters and the remnants of the Urias tribe who are terrorized by them. Maciste must endure paper mache sets and bad dancing when not engaged in lame battles with the neolithic noggin removers.

This is one of the worst movies on this list and one of the funniest. Guido Malatesta apparently thought he hadn't done enough damage with the comedic frivolity of MACISTE & THE MONSTERS (there's stock footage here from that film briefly showing Reg Lewis carrying off a cavegirl during a volcanic eruption). He returns to deliver double damage with his second Ma-cheese-sta adventure in this no budget clunker that stars one of the genres least emotive, least interesting "actors"--Kirk Morris, alias Adriano Bellini. The offscreen decapitations and one fellows face pushed into a fire pit can't prepare you for the belly buster that is the absolute worst dancing girl sequence ever captured on film. You get that plus Kirk Morris pretending to look strained by hurling and knocking over balsa wood objects. These are the only times he ever shows any emotional response is when he contorts his facial muscles. If one could win an award for that, he'd be in the running. Seeing Morris in the lead role, it's pretty much a safe bet the movie is going to be either lousy, or one helluva rib-tickler. This film is both. You can read the review HERE.


9. SAMSON & THE SEA BEASTS 1963/1964 aka SANSONE CONTRO I PIRATI (SAMSON AGAINST THE PIRATES)

Directed by Tanio Boccia

THE PLOT! Murad the pirate raids the Antilles sinking ships and stealing their resources as well as kidnapping women to sell as slaves. One of his female captives manages to escape to seek the help of Samson, who also happens to be sailing the high seas.

More brawn and brainless shenanigans with Kirk Morris leading the high seas pack in one of numerous cross pollinations of strongman movies with pirate swashbucklers. Tanio Boccia's movie fails at both but at least there's the fetching Margaret Lee to look at--her eyes and full lip smirk doing far more to maintain viewer interest than any of the half baked hero theatrics of Morris. The one "feat of strength" sequence is exciting for the first few minutes, but then it keeps going and going...Morris the Mighty also tangles with an immobile, plush alligator. HERCULES & THE BLACK PIRATE (1964) is much more successful at buckling swashes and He-Man bravado. Your tolerance for bad movies will weigh heavily on whether or not you wish to salvage the booty from this sinking ship. Tanio Boccia also guided the bland, but handsome Morris in the mildly entertaining TRIUMPH OF MACISTE (1961) aka TRIUMPH OF THE SON OF HERCULES. You can read the review for SAMSON & THE SEA BEASTS HERE.


10. HERCULES AGAINST MOLOCH 1963 aka THE CONQUEST OF MYCENAE

Directed by Giorgio Ferroni

THE PLOT! The cruel city of Mycenae is lorded over by a vicious and disfigured ruler thought to be the living embodiment of the god Moloch. Oppressing the surrounding provinces, Moloch and the Mycenians force tributes in the form of sacrifices to satisfy his bloodlust.

While it's terribly difficult putting a Gordon Scott peplum movie on a 'Worst Of' list, this one is arguably the single most disappointing movie he did during his tenure in Italian genre cinema. The lack of action hinders the film, but the abundance of court intrigue also fails to be an adequate substitute. Scott does his best with this material and his charisma makes this at least watchable. However, during the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA style cave/dungeon sequences, there's a Bavian air about them even if these scant few scenes merely tease the audience with some bonafide horror thrills. Rosalba Neri plays the evil queen and cult favorite Arturo Dominici is the equally evil Penthius, leader of the Mycenian forces. The lovely Alessandro Panara offers some added distraction. Despite having the director of both the intriguing MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (1960) and the classic epic THE TROJAN HORSE (1961) at the helm, this Giorgio Ferroni flick fails as a Sword & Sandal adventure tinted with horror movie overtones.


11. THOR & THE AMAZON WOMEN 1963 aka LE GLADIATRICI (LADY GLADIATORS)

Directed by Antonio Leonviola

THE PLOT! It's a battle of the sexes as Thor and his sidekick Ubaratutu Barada Nikto attempt to overthrow Queen Nera and her army of amazons beneath some Yugoslavian caverns.

The typical throne usurping plot is used here again, only now there's no recognizable actors or actresses to make this sexist tedium of even mild interest. You will however recognize stock footage of Maciste battling the caged gorilla from Leonviola's MOLE MEN AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES. The women are attractive and this is yet another battling bitches flick akin to the similarly titled and much more enjoyable COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960). In a change of pace, the evil queen is a black woman. Thor isn't even in this mess all that much and shows what a wimp he is when he's introduced. He's attacked by a group of Nera's amazons and with a slingshot, Thor is sent tumbling over a cliff. He spends the next thirty minutes (it seems like 30 minutes) or so in a cave being nursed back to health by his newfound friend, Ubaratutu. However, Ubaratutu (what the hell kind of a name is that?) is later captured and becomes the love slave of Queen Tera...until such time as she grows weary of him. This is a perpetually stupid movie rife with cheap sets, bad acting and even worse dialog. The action scenes (yeah, right) are horrible and the women have this ridiculous "battle cry" that sounds like the word "Elk" being shouted several times. The limp duels to the death even manage to make impalements and painful sword stabbings boring. There were a number of these ancient times/barbarian age women's lib movies and most others are far better than this one. For a more tolerable Italian variant, check out Brescia's (What? Brescia made a "good" movie?) BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS from 1974 or the wackiest example of all, Ou Yang Chun's COUNTRY OF BEAUTIES from 1984.


12. HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL 1964 aka URSUS, IL TERRORE DI KIRGHISI (URSUS, THE TERROR OF THE KIRGHIZ)

Directed by Antonio Margheriti

THE PLOT! A wicked sorceress turns men into werewolves with a magical potion and sets them against a rival tribe of traveling gypsies. Hercules is among them and must fight against the witch and keep from becoming a monster himself.

This woefully disappointing misanthropic movie with a Lycanthropic slant from Antonio Margheriti (with assist from Ruggero Deodato) possesses a pulpy storyline with an incredible amount of potential, but fails miserably to realize any of it. This adventure/horror non event has a beardless Reg Park essaying Ursus, another Euro hero creation that began with URSUS (1961) starring Ed Fury. Of the five he starred in, Reg Park's first two fusto films were highly enjoyable, well made productions. From there, Park lost his footing and stumbled clumsily down the great Olympian staircase--the three films after being progressively worse. The "werewolves" here look more like muscular guys with a bad skin condition than the typical Lycanthrope. The spotty patches of hair (they couldn't afford a full hairy suit at least?) appear and disappear from one scene to the next. Think WEREWOLF WOMAN from 1976 and you'll have some idea of what to expect here. This is all the more disappointing in that Margheriti was behind it. Bad movie buffs will likely find a lot to make them howl here, but genre fans will want to pack some silver and wolf bane if tempted to indulge in a viewing of this mons-turd movie.


13. TRIUMPH OF HERCULES 1964 aka IL TRIONFO DI ERCOLE aka HERCULES VERSUS THE GIANT WARRIORS

Directed by Alberto De Martino

THE PLOT! The king is assassinated by his nephew and an evil sorceress. Hercules is asked to aid in eradicating yet another throne usurper, but must also battle the beautiful witch's seven golden automatons. But what's Herc to do when Zeus takes his strength away after going insane in the membrane prior to destroying a small village over a woman?

This movie might be bad, but it's an awful lot of fun. Dan Vadis was one of the most agile and acrobatic of the slew of muscleman movie actors that flexed their pecs in European adventure movies in the 1960s. His debut in the Mark Forest gladiator picture, COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA (1962) no doubt opened a few producers eyes with his role as one of the main villains. For this Alberto De Martino Hercules beef jerky, the movie really shows you where its brain is during the opening few minutes when Hercules attempts to save his friend from quicksand. Instead of throwing the poor man a rope, Hercules decides to toss it over a tree limb and swing like a monkey back and forth across the pit while the fellow sinks further and further into the muck while screaming for help! Still, the picture does manage to weave in some of the actual Hercules mythology into its script and a fair number of cliffhanger moments. There's also the mesmerizing Moira Orfei as the evil sorceress, Piero Lulli as a good guy, an army of bronze automatons and the lovely Marilu Tolo in much distress.


14. SAMSON & HIS MIGHTY CHALLENGE 1964 aka ERCOLE, SANSONE, MACISTE E URSUS GLI INVINCIBILI (HERCULES, SAMSON, MACISTE & URSUS THE INVINCIBLE)

Directed by Giorgio Capitani

THE PLOT! Plot? What plot?

How could a film with such a title be so childishly atrocious? This peplum parody is anything but funny. Alan Steel (Sergio Ciani) is Hercules, Howard Ross (Renato Rossini) tackles the role of Maciste and two unknowns essay Samson and Ursus. That's four times the grunts and four times the groans--sadly, those are coming from the audience watching this wretched mess. However, the stunning Helene Chanel (as an oracle in a skimpy outfit) and the bewitching Moira Orfei (as Samson's wife) are the best special effects in this no budget intentional comedy with an unintentional lack of laughs. This mix and match mythological mayhem rallies all the major movie characters and does little with them aside from weak THREE STOOGES interplay that would be adopted by a handful of westerns till Enzo Barboni took such shenanigans to new levels. Only one gag is genuinely funny (a jealous Delilah cutting a promiscuous Samson's hair) and there's absolutely zero plot. Livio Lorenzon plays a late entry villain and that lovable and very busy midget, Arnaldo Fabrizio also has a supporting role.


15. SAMSON IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES 1964 aka MACISTE NELLE MINIERE DI RE SALOMONE (MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES)

Directed by Piero Regnoli

THE PLOT! Maciste, now living in Africa, must save the people of Zimba from the vicious Queen Fazira who has enslaved the populace forcing them to dig gold from the fabled King Solomon's Mines.

By 1964 the legs of the genre were getting wobbly and especially tired considering how often the same story was being told. Now, the scriptwriters were scouring the globe for exotic locales. This time the setting is Africa and yet again we're dealing with another throne usurper, only this time, it's a conspiracy between a military legionnaire and a battling vixen that leads a tribe of barbarians. Maciste doesn't even enter the film till 30 minutes into the flick. It's not explained (at least in the English dubbed version), but that globetrotting people's champion, Maciste has been living with a passive African tribe. Shooting in Africa no doubt pleased Reg Park considering he made Johannesburg his home. This movie isn't horrible by any means, it's just that Reg Park, who was so energetic in his first two fusto movies, appears to be under a spell here and not the one Fazira puts him under with her magical ankle bracelet. Park had a massive physique and gets ample opportunities to flex his pecs and toss heavy things around, but by this point, he seems thoroughly disinterested; not only that, but the script gives him little to do aside from moving, carrying, tossing the required enormous objects. He barely gets any dialog, too, in what amounts to the peplum version of a Hammer Dracula movie. This is more Dan Harrison's movie than Park's. Wandisa Guida as the barbarian Queen Fazira comes off as far more interesting. When you're an evil Queen in a muscleman movie, two things are going to happen--you're gonna fall for the hunky hero and be dead by the end. Guida's Fazira is one of the most memorable bitches in the whole genre. She commands a slew of tortures such as whippings, impalements, the rack and a gruesome fate for Eleonora Bianchi. This one is worth watching, just that Dan Harrison usurps the movie away from Reg Park.


16. HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN 1964 aka ERCOLE CONTRO I FIGLI DEL SOLE

Directed by Osvaldo Civirani

THE PLOT! Hercules washes ashore in South America and helps the Incas topple an evil ruler who sacrifices victims to the sun god, Viracocha.

Arguably the sole highlight of this slowly paced Italian adventure is seeing future mega star, Giuliano Gemma dressed up (or barely dressed depending on your point of view) in Incan garb alongside Mark Forest. Yes, it's throne usurping and gods galore as Hercules is washed ashore in South America after a shipwreck. Gemma is prince Mytha who quickly befriends Hercules and asks his help in rescuing his captured sister. Whereas Forest mingled with albinos decked out in white, fluffy feathered outfits for MACISTE AGAINST THE MOLE MEN (1961), he finds himself siding with tanned tribes of Incas decked out in multi-colored, extra feathered attire in this one. Hercules, like his frequently title altered cinematic colleague Maciste, was apparently a worldly individual who was likewise exposed to numerous fashion statements in global cultures. While the costumes are diverse, this is the same old Sword & Sandal tropes just with the traditional Rome locales swapped with South American ones. The direction and action is fairly static so there's really nothing to make it stand out. By 1965, Gemma was a household name after starring in a series of Euro westerns like ADIOS, GRINGO (1965) and the box office hits A PISTOL FOR RINGO (1965) and its loose sequel RETURN OF RINGO (1966). It's also interesting to note how the advertising for this movie advertised Gemma as the main star in some territories.


17. SINBAD AGAINST THE SEVEN SARACENS 1964 aka ALI BABA & THE SEVEN SARACENS aka SINBAD CONTRO I SETTE SARACENI

Directed by Emimmo Salvi

THE PLOT! More throne theft ensues as a seemingly teenaged Sinbad attempts to bring down a maniacally cackling bad guy named Omar played by Gordon Mitchell. Gorgeous women and midget action also included. Plot is not.

Emimmo Salvi, one of the most reliable directors of bad movies, dabbled in Sword & Sandal cinema with a few quick flicks like the indescribably bad VULCAN, SON OF JOVE aka VULCAN, GOD OF FIRE (1962). One of his other pulpy pieces of pap include this low grade, kindergarten level adventure movie. The reasons to watch are for Gordon Mitchell as the lead bad guy and the bosomy Bella Cortez, a Cuban hot tamale modeled on the undeniably sexy charms and physique of the irreplaceable Chelo Alonso. This is an unusually stupid movie that manages to be terribly entertaining in the most childish fashion even managing to showcase what has to be the weakest big screen Sinbad of all time (even though Patrick Wayne made a concentrated effort to take the title in SINBAD & THE EYE OF THE TIGER from 1977). The set design, while cheap, is vibrantly colorful. Salvi would also direct some lower tier westerns and would apparently forget he wasn't in Rome anymore as his oaters resembled his pitiful attempts at mythological movies in tone and plot devices. As for this particular picture, it's a SIN that it's this BAD.


18. THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR 1965 aka IL MAGNIFICO GLADIATORE

Directed by Alfonso Brescia

THE PLOT! Attalus is captured by Roman soldiers and becomes the people's hero battling within the gladiatorial arena and also gains favor with the emperor. Attalus falls in love with the emperor's daughter, but a jealous suitor orchestrates a plot to get rid of both Attalus and the emperor. Much court intrigue and stock footage ensues.

At the bottom of the barrel and nowhere to go, this obscure last gasp of the genre features Mark Forest in his last sword and sandal role. What's so peplumatic about this movie is the over abundance of stock footage from another Forest flick, the superior THE TERROR OF ROME AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES. This (mis)use of recycled scenes works in the films favor in that much of the principal cast from TERROR OF ROME are on hand for the new footage seen here. A bizarre, 'booga booga' jazz style score is terribly out of place. When it came to pocket change for a budget, Alfonso Brescia could be counted on to turn in a torturous stew of cinematic junk. There's nothing any genre fan hasn't seen before and if you've seen TERROR OF ROME, than you've already seen a huge chunk of THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR. What's left isn't worth traveling to ancient Greece over.


19. HERCULES, THE AVENGER 1965 aka LA SFIDA DEI GIGANTE (DEFIANCE OF THE GIANTS)

Directed by Maurizio Lucidi

THE PLOT! Hercules must save his son after Gia, the Earth Goddess steals his soul. While Herc is in the Cenerean Marsh to rescue him, Gia sends her own evil offspring, Antius, masquerading as Hercules, to enslave, torture and kill the people of Syracuse.

Just like in the ancient myth, Hercules had lost his strength by 1965. That is clearly in evidence in this limp Reg Park feature. Giovanni Cianfriglia (as Antius) at least got a couple lead roles after appearing in this dreck. The entertaining opulence of HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN is on hand here, but only in a strong-arm full of stock footage that sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the desolate cave settings of the original footage. Watch one of those two instead. The plot is unusually good here, but unfortunately, it's hindered amidst all the stock footage that's employed from the result of what must have been a miniscule budget. The brutality level is high, though, such as animal violence (a chariot chase involving a pride of lions ends with one of the beasts being fatally speared) and assorted misogyny including a woman tortured by being suspended by her hair. With so much recycled footage, this Hercu-sleaze was a last gasp that signaled the death knell for the genre.


20. KINDAR, THE INVULNERABLE 1965 aka KINDAR IL INVULNERABILE

Directed by Osvaldo Civirani

THE PLOT! An ancient prophecy foretells of an invincible man born of lightning who will one day save the people of Euthor. Only a fabled red rose can harm him. Kidnapped by a marauding bandit at birth, Kindar grows up to learn the truth of his family and the fate of his home village.

KINDAR, THE UNBEARABLE is a more apt title. Even with an intriguing superhero storyline, this clumsy Mark Forest flick comes to you from the director of the tepid HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN (1964) and the action scenes, particularly those that take place on horseback, are even more lazily accomplished. Mimmo Palmara consumes what scenery there is among the desert locations and Rosalba Neri provides some added eye candy as the scheming villains. The few decent ones appear to be undercranked. The late blooming peplum actor, Renato Rossini has a throwaway role here as Kindar's brother, but he's almost unrecognizable without facial hair of any kind. The filmmakers have transposed the usual fusto trappings to the sand swept dunes of the desert, but the script quickly becomes dehydrated whenever the lackluster action is onscreen. For a far better Forest film, check out MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS (1961) or GOLIATH & THE SINS OF BABYLON (1963).

***ALL IMAGES: GOOGLE IMAGES***

14 comments:

Samuel Wilson said...

A devastating survey. Of these, I can recall seeing only Colossus and the Amazon Women, which entertained me unintentionally, and Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens, a worse film than which in this genre is hard to imagine. But thanks for the warnings, just the same.

Max Evel said...

Jeez!
I think I might have seen half of these when I was a kid.

venoms5 said...

@ Sam: I had actually written this about mid 2011, I just needed to beef it up a bit, pardon the pun, lol! COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON WOMEN is actually pretty funny in places and dismal in others. I've thought more than once about purchasing the Italian dvd just for the good quality despite the lack of English options. I have the Spanish disc for SINBAD/SARACENS and the gorgeous widescreen picture makes the colors truly stand out, but doesn't make the film any better, lol.

@ Max: You, too?! These used to come on TV on a regular basis when I was a kid and I loved watching them. It was like watching ancient Greek versions of SUPERMAN every weekend.

Kaijinu said...

I never seen any of it, sadly. But I do notice most of it's from Italy. If you got the time, you should try seeing some of our fantasy epics from my country. It's kinda like watching films in the same budget.

Nebular said...

Thankfully, I haven't seen any of these. I don't intend to either.
Great (and massive) post as usual! :)

venoms5 said...

@ Kaijinu: I have a few old Filipino horror films, but I don't think I've seen any of the fantasy genre from there. No doubt they are interesting! Some of these Italian strongman epics were quite extravagant, but there were many that weren't but even some of the worst ones are a lot of fun!

@ George: There are a few on here that are a good deal of bad movie fun if you like that sort of thing. There was a brief resurgence of these in the 80s led by a few Lou Ferrigno movies that epitomized 'so bad it's good'.

PEPLUM cinema said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PEPLUM cinema said...

Too many good titles on that list

Kindar, Herc vs Moloch, Triumph of Hercules, Samson and the Mighty Challenge, Colossus and the Amazon Queen, etc.

Maciste against the Mole Men is a great over-the-top S&S and Loves of Hercules is campy fun.

Hercules the Avenger should be no 1 on the list as it's just a patchwork of other films. The fight scene is a classic but the rest not so.

Where are the S&S of the 1980s? Like, you know, masterpieces like HERCULES starring Lou Ferrigno and HAWK THE SLAYER starring Jack Palance. In fact the top 20 would be filled with these and not the classic titles from the 60s.

Also where's ATLAS the Roger Corman super cheapie? Many of the titles that don't deserve to be on the list are a 1000 times more entertaining than ATLAS, which is terribly inept from beginning to end.

venoms5 said...

These are in no particular order, but by year of release. I did specify that some of these provide entertainment value and mention that in the capsule reviews that apply, but none of them would I call a particularly good movie.

MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES comes the closest, but Park doesn't seem at all interested. Dan Harrison seemed more alive in that one.

MOLOCH is just ponderous and my favorite fusto actor Scott has scarcely little to do to save the film. It's possibly the most disappointing for me considering Scott is so mesmerizing onscreen.

TRIUMPH OF HERCULES is one of my favorites from childhood, but it's awfully stupid despite all the great action and cliffhanger moments. It's pure escapism, but not what I'd call a good example of the genre.

venoms5 said...

For starters, HAWK THE SLAYER isn't a Sword and Sandal movie. It's a Sword and Sorcery picture. It has more in common with STAR WARS than HERCULES.

I can't cram but so many on the list at one time. But rest assured another is forthcoming as is another list of addition 'Best Of'.

Bear in mind this is MY OPINION. If you so wish, please do your own list as I have specified my reasons for including the titles that I have in the paragraphs provided; if you read them, of course. From the very first paragraph in fact.

I thought of including all of the Ferrigno farces, but chose not to. Again, there's too many to cram in at one time.

But in all honesty, there's no way in hell any serious fan of the genre is going to consider any of these movies on this list as a bonafide classic of the genre. A camp classic for some, perhaps, but that doesn't make those "good" movies. A fun movie, yes; but good movie, no.

PEPLUM cinema said...

I beg to disagree about HAWK THE SLAYER not being a Sword & Sandal. It's the same genre: action that takes place in Antiquity or Medieval times.

Oh btw STAR WARS is a Sword & Sandal set in space. See link:

http://peplums.blogspot.com/2011/08/star-wars-peplum-in-space.html

venoms5 said...

Are sword and sandal and sword and sorcery related? Yes, but they are not the same genre. One is based on Greek or biblical myth and the other takes its cue from pulpy novels/comics. By YOUR description, you may as well consider chambara, kung fu/swordplay and westerns as 'sword and sandal' movies, too.

And you can't cram just a few fusto movies from the 80s into a top 20 worst of list when all there was were those two crappy Ferrigno Hercules movies and that even worse 7 MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS from 1983. The horrendous Ferrigno Sinbad movie barely scrapes by as much as the pirate adventures do here.

And you have contradicted yourself by claiming STAR WARS to be a peplum(?) Those movies take place in a galaxy far, far away. Nothing antiquated or medieval about them. And Lucas' influences were anything but Hercules, Samson and Ulysses. It was Flash Gordon serials and Japanese samurai pictures.

When you do YOUR list, don't forget to include HAWK THE SLAYER and STAR WARS among your selection.

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

An absorbing and interesting summary Brian, and one which is particularly illuminating to one such as I, who can claim to have little or no knowledge of the 'Sword & Sandal' cycle. It's the one grey area in my knowledge of popular Italian cycles.

I notice you have a little debate going with PEPLUM Cinema about the fluidity of the genre. I guess with a name like PEPLUM Cinema, he must be the expert? I'm not an expert and even with my brief dalliance in 'Sword & Sandal' movies and 'Sword & Sorcery' movies, I can tell the difference.

To the best of my knowledge George Lucas has never cited 'Sword & Sandal' films as an influence on STAR WARS. The influence of Kurosawa's THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is notable (an influence Lucas has readily stated), as you note FLASH GORDON serials, but also the traditional American Western. It depends what generic approach you take, I don't wish to get too theoretical here, but I can't think of any approach which would conclude STAR WARS is a peplum. Perhaps this fellow who argues such ought to change his name? May I suggest NOT SURE WHAT A PEPLUM IS cinema?

I bid you adieu buddy!

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