Saturday, September 09, 2006

XIX. ERCOLE CONTRO I FIGLI DEL SOLE (HERCULES VS. THE SONS OF THE SUN (1964)




Ercole contro i figli del sole (Hercules vs.The Sons of the Sun)

Year; 1964

Director & Writer; Osvaldo Civirani / Franco Tannozzini
Country; Italy & Spain.
Duration; 84 mins
Original Ratio; (2:35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Trimark DVD release.
DVD Aspects; Colour * Fullscreen *English Dub*

Alternative;
Hércules contra los hijos del Sol (Spain) Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun (USA) Hercules Vs.The Sons of the Son (USA DVD)

The Players; Mark Forest (Hercules), Giuliano Gemma (Mytha), Anna Maria Pace (Princess Hamara), Giulio Donnini (King Atahualpa), Franco Fantasia, Angela Rhu, German Grechi and Carlo Latimer.



A true oddball entry, this film kicks off in Peru. The rationale for the time/geographical jump is daft as it is slightly audacious, but this is a pure slice of high camp fantasy that really is down to individual preference whether you love it or you hate it.

Mark Forest appears as the more ‘clean shaven’ of the Hercules incarnations and does a standard job.

The movie is routine in formula but is, at times, high in visual impact. There are some vividly extravagant rite dances and director Civiriani’s swap from toga and tassel to feather and jewels works well and provides the viewer with just as much dayglo ‘spectacle’ as it’s Greco-roman stylized predecessors.

The kitschiest of the recent batch of Hercules films I have seen, it does try it’s best to achieve lavish exotica in the Peruvian interior shots and on the whole this does save the film from sinking to z-grade status.

The costume details are quite intricate (probably pinched from another up-market production?) and the camerawork seemingly ignites the turquoise hues and scarlet depths, highlighting such beauty evermore.

Another episode of decent sequencing, are the dance routines. Some, despite the borderline cheese, are most visually striking. Dancers gyrate and jump through the air; their garish plumage reminiscent of courting birds of paradise or carnival finery at Notting Hill. The sequences are executed just as well in respect of raw energy and expressive celebration.

On the whole Hercules vs. the Sons of the Son is not a must have but a pleasant stumble upon, never the less. It’s so interesting to note how far the Hercules legend could be stretched in this instance making him some sort of time lord with muscles.

Not all these ‘time travel’ escapades are that great as I found out recently with ‘The Witch’s Curse’- more on that later.

I believe this to be one of the better romps, don’t anticipate any monsters or ‘torture dungeon’ sequences with this film, it is much more 'lighter' than anything I have seen before of its ilk.

Tijuanaca, 16th Century Peru, Hercules ends up in this time period and place, shipwrecked after being blown over land and time.

Due to a negative piece of etiquette by one of Hercules' crew, causing major offence to the gods, it seems Neptune not only has taught the adventurers a lesson but killed all in the process- bar Hercules.

He teams up with Mytha, an Incan prince after he saves Hercule’s life from all the kings’ xenophobic men.

Hercules learns that Mytha’s father has been imprisoned and his throne taken over by his evil brother Atahualpa.

It transpires that Mytha’s sister has been kidnapped by the evil king where she is being held captive until she is ready for sacrifice to one of the Inca deities.

Hercules and Mytha manage to break up the frenzied sacrifice and saves Princess Harmara from the flaming arrows from a golden masked archer.

So ostentatious are the visuals in this scene, even the altar holding the tethered sacrifice is apparently made from what seems is bright candy pink stone!

As legions are formed Hercules leads the populace into battle against the tyranny of the King and to restore things back to their harmonious state.

This film is part of the Adventures of Hercules Tri-Star box set which can be procured on this link.

Despite the standard 4:3 full screen, once again I really can see how this ratio interferes with the visual action scene and character dynamics, the print quality is decent if not a tad blurry and due to its rarity is pleasantly surprising. Region 1 only.







Sunday, September 03, 2006

XVIII. MACISTE E LA REGINA DI SAMAR (HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN) 1964



Maciste e la Regina di Samar (Hercules Against The Moon Men)
Year; 1964

Director & Writer; Giacomo Gentilomo
Country; Italy & France
Duration; 90 minutes [Italy]
Original Ratio; (2:35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Something Weird Video DVD release.
Colour * Widescreen * English Dub * In glorious 'Cromoscope' *



Alternative;
Hercules Against the Moon Men (USA)Hercules and the Queen of Samar (International: English title) (informal literal title)Hercules vs. the Moon Men (International: English title)Maciste contre les hommes de pierre (France)Maciste et la reine de Samar (France)Maciste vs. the Moon Men (International: English title)Maciste vs. the Stone Men (International: English title)

The Players;Sergio Ciani [Maciste (Hercules) (as Alan Steel)] Jany Clair [Queen Samara ]Anna Maria Polani [Agar] Nando Tamberlani [Claudis] Delia D'Alberti [Billis] Jean-Pierre Honoré [Derax] Stefano Carletti [Mogol] Roberto Ceccacci [Redolphis]Anna Maria Dionisi [Tavernkeeper's Wife] Attilio Dottesio [Remar] Franco Morici [Timor] Paola Piretti [Taris] Giuliano Raffaelli [Tavernkeeper] Goffredo Unger [Tarin]




I am going to seem very ungrateful. Nearly every movie of peplum orientation I have lamented how most, if not all, need widescreen ‘decent’ treatment, this version under review has such. The film itself is a different kettle of fish; I found this a weak entry despite the promising title and the odd sci-fi orientated plot.

My first nag is that it’s almost an hour into the movie do we get our monies worth. The build up before has the odd ‘action’ sequence but relies heavily too much on prolonged cave chases and chit-chat. My second moan is that for some reason I found the dub annoying, the voice-overs seem too ‘contemporary’, the level dominates over the film score and the acoustic effects and seems in desperate need of a better ‘mix’.

Although the narrative plods along at a fair pace the movie just seems to ‘lack something’. All the ‘staple’ peplum motif is apparent and up to this point in time had been tried and tested, the production values seem polished enough but there is an inescapable ‘dullness’ throughout that smothers the directive intention.

What is pleasing are the effective vista shots, using exceptional attention to the unusual terrain and a homage to Bava in the pilgrimage of Hercules et al to the mountain of death. Gentilomo seems to know he is doing well as these sequences are milked for all that they are worth and seem to go on for a bloody long time.

Alan Steel plays the demi-god this time and despite achieving Herculean feats is quite uninteresting and lacks character dynamics that could make the role his very own. There’s not much substance there at all as Steel just carries out his role and offers very little else.

The tyrant Queen Samara is another let down, she too lacks the general allure and witchery of her cinematic forebears and where the other characters commanded respect and fear, Samara seems to be a neurotic fat faced owl most of the time.

Giacomo Gentilomo does try to achieve some effort with a little budget but seems terribly ‘over’ ambitious and visually, little funding is clearly evident. Due to the lack of finances or sheer lacklustre the ending comprises of a series of stock footage disasters. These have seen better days and despite the tender loving care being evidential on the whole to other frames these are scratchy, sore-thumb prints that do stick out from the rest regarding quality.

The creatures range from the inventive, hokum bred ‘Rock Monsters’ to an embarrassing ape creature with two huge jaw fangs. Unfortunately the Rock Monsters are foolishly underused and really only demonstrate their full destructive potential at the end of the film.

In the ‘aliens’ domain Gentilomo films through an iridescent green filter. Although this doesn’t sound all that inspiring it does add to the memorability and ethereal feel in such sequences. At least the director achieved something commendable out of the slapdash.

Over-ambitious, overlong but otherworldly ‘Hercules vs. The Moon Men’ is relatively unique in plot and adventure but unfortunately these do not save the film from venturing into the ‘bland cash-in’ status. It has potential but on the whole is a take or leave, hit and miss affair.

A meteorite crashes into the ancient place of Sumar. The inhabitants ‘The Moon Men’ set up home in ‘The Mountain of Death’, from there they tuck into the local population for sacrificial offerings.

This behaviour is condoned by Queen Samara who has struck a deal with the ‘Moon Men’, they offer her the position of the most powerful woman in the world once their inanimate queen returns to life causing an apocalypse destroying most life on the planet.

The Moon Queen is the spitting image of Princess Billis, Samara’s step sister. Billis is pure in heart and good to the core so therefore is a highly prized want of the Moon Men as her uncanny resemblance would prove be the ultimate life force their Queen needs in order for her to regenerate.


Billis will be drained of blood distributing all the nutrients needed to the cadaver and with the energies from Uranus will return to life once more.

Hercules is mortified by all of this and journeys to Queen Samara but is victim to several ‘traps’ and a moth eaten ape creature. He takes on the rock creatures and the powers of the moon men and appears to be victorious until the scheming Queen laces his wine with a powerful aphrodisiac which will turn Hercules into her love slave.

Whilst Hercules falls under the Queen’s seduction technique, Samar and it’s innocent inhabitants brace themselves for the end of the world…………..

Available in a pristine print from Something Weird Video DVD (Buy from this link). Region 1 only. There is also a bonus feature film extra ‘The Witch’s Curse’, reviewed later.

Personally I would shell out on Something Weird Video’s ‘Goliath and the Dragon’ for much of the same but a lot less disappointing.

Praise indeed to SWV for releasing this movie in such a decent quality, it’s a shame they did not choose more wisely when it came to the feature.

This was the directors last film project and he pursued a career as a painter, let’s hope he was more successful at that.


XVII. IL TRIONFO DI ERCOLE ( THE TRIUMPH OF HERCULES) 1964



Il Trionfo di Ercole (The Triumph of Hercules)
Year; 1964

Director & Writer; Alberto De Martino
Country; Italy & France
Duration; 94 mins [Italy]
Original Ratio; (2:35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Trimark DVD release.
Colour *Fullscreen*English Dub*

Alternative;
Hercules and the Ten Avengers (USA) (TV title) Hercules vs. the Giant Warrior (USA) The Triumph of Hercules (USA) (TV title) Triomphe d'Hercule, Le (France)

The Players; Dan Vadis [Hercules] Marilu Tolo [Princess Ate] Pierre Cressoy [Milo] Pierro Lulli [Gordio] Moira Orfei [Pasiphae, The Sorceress] with: Pietro Capanna / Franco Daddi / Enzo Fiermonte / Nino Marchetti / Aldo Cecconi / Annamaria Mustari / Howard Ross / Gaetano Quatararo / Nazzareno Zamperla / Jacques Stany.



Despite this film emerging from the realms of peplum as the genre was on its way out you could expect a dull, well worn and anaemic rehash of previous adventures that form the plot and overall running time. Fortunately this is a far cry from what the audience is treated to in ‘Il Trionfo de Ercole’.

The director Alberto de Martino returns from his previous outing, Perseus L’invicibile, and brings us much of the same bringing to life an action packed optical supernova of sword, sweat, skulduggery and sorcery.


Hercules this time is played by chisel faced beefcake Dan Vadis. Vadis was more frequent in the Gladiator movies and with his chum Cameron Mitchell was previously part of an all male muscle troupe that used to tour with Mae West. Vadis brings a new ‘fiery’ edge to Hercules unlike his predecessors and as well as brawn, has brains too.

His incarnation is superb and his fighting technique outshines the cumbersome style of other incarnations. Vadis’ is also a lot more ‘fist-happy’ and it is this un-restrain that causes his power loss when he kills his friend in the movie; reminding us of Hercules’ strength also being his weakness.

The film begins in Mycenae where the beloved King Panteone is assassinated by a corrupt Roman soldier called Gordio. Gordio is a human puppet controlled by Milo, a sorceress’s son, who has his eye on the throne.

King Panteone was also a good friend of Hercules and utters the dieing words of ‘Hercules….send...for...Hercules!’, and that is exactly what his faithful comrade achieves…

By killing the King his weak daughter Ate becomes Queen giving Milo a better home run to usurp, with little effort. Ate is an innocent creature and due to this is also extremely gullible and appears to hang on to Milo’s every word.

Milo also possesses a magic dagger that when removed from its’ sheath conjures up a small posse of golden metal men. The gilded leviathans are known as ‘the 100 hands’ due to their quick speed moves and unstoppable brute strength.

Hercules is tricked by Milo into believing his friend is responsible for kidnapping Ate and murdering her father. In a hissy fit Hercules destroys a neighbouring village and kills his friend; killing an innocent man enrages Jove (Zeus/Jupiter) his father, who removes his super strength. Hercules is now a mortal.

He is captured by Milo who introduces a wonderful piece of Machiavellian cruelty to Hercules. To prove he is no impostor Hercules will have to hold up a heavy piece of timber, attached to this is a boulder collecting device. As the stone cascades and thumps into the collector so the weight increases, the heavier the wood becomes the more a spiked iron door is lowered, beneath it – Ate!



Hercules without his special powers nearly kills his beloved and in a gallant act of self-sacrifice, his life over Ate’s innocence, compels his father to return his powers in the nick of time.

This is where further mayhem begins, now Hercules is back in the league of demi-god status, he has to combat the 100 hands alone, take on the sorceress and son, rescue his beloved Ate, who has been kidnapped again, and save the kingdom.

The action does not let up and delightfully flits from one mis-en-scene to another until the, by now, predictable climax.

There really are quite a few outstanding moments in this cash-in which gives it an individual identity. Memorable sequences such as a genuinely awesome bladed wheel chariot/chain fight, the fantasy genius of the 100 handed men and de Martinos cracking pace makes the adventure a bracing slice of pure peplum entertainment.

Another treat from the Trimark ‘Adventures of Hercules’ box-set. Ashamedly full framed and possibly panned and scanned, but despite this annoying ratio cock up the print is scratch and jump free overall, and sports solid colours. Would love to see this in a decent version as I feel the ratio problem reduces some of the impact and athletic creativity, which makes one only witnesses the action choreography, partially.

The movie is currently available on Region 1 DVD only (click on this link).