Hercules Against The Mongols (1963)

Director: Domenico Paolella
Starring: Mark Forest, José Greci, Ken Clark, Howard Ross, Nadir Moretti, Maria Grazia Spina
Music: Carlo Savina

A little while ago, I reviewed Hercules Against The Barbarians, which I didn’t think too highly of. Those who have visited this blog before may have noticed that I had attached an incorrect poster image for that film. How many Hercules films starring Mark Forest, Ken Clark, and José Greci; and directed by Domenico Paolella could there be? How many times could Hercules take on the Mongol hordes? Well, two! In fact this film came before Hercules Against The Barbarians, and thankfully this film is slightly better than it ‘unofficial’ sequel.

In Hercules Against The Barbarians, Ken Clark played one of Genghis Khan’s sons (Kubilai), but this time he plays Sayan. But in both films he had to sport a silly hairpiece and a droopy moustache. And Mark Forest, while still pretty dour, plays Hercules slightly lighter than some of his other performances. As I have mentioned in other reviews, I am not the biggest fan of Forest’s Hercules. At best the Hercules films are the progeny of the swashbuckling films of the thirties and the forties. Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power always had a cheeky smile. Not so Forest. He is workman like in his approach.

Onto the movie: The film opens with Hercules pushing over a tree, to make a bridge for a family to cross a river. As thanks, the mother, who has powers of divination, looks into the future. She sees Hercules fighting a mighty dragon – the dragon being a clumsy metaphor for the Mongolian army.

It’s 1227 and Genghis Khan has died. His dying wish was for peace with the West, but his three sons have other ideas. Each of the sons is a fierce warrior. The sons are: Kin Kahn (Nadir Moretti) who has incredible strength; Sayan (Ken Clark) whose arrows never miss their mark; and Susdal (Howard Ross) who uses a whip with incomparable skill.

So at the behest of the Sons of Khan, the Mongols go to war. The first city they attack is Tudela. The Mongols ride in on their horses waving their spears around. This footage is recycled in the opening to Hercules Against The Barbarians. This footage is intercut with footage of Sayan firing his arrows at the townsfolk. With each kill he laughs maniacally. He is such an evil fellow, and we cannot wait for him to get his comeuppance.

The Mongols kill the king and take control of the city. But there are two heirs to the throne. The first is Bianca of Tudela, played by the beautiful José Greci. Greci also appeared in Hercules Against The Barbarians (as Arminia). She can also be seen in Hercules Vs The Masked Rider, Seven Rebel Gladiators, Sword of the Empire, and Goliath and the Sins of Babylon. For Eurospy fans she also appeared in Espionage in Tangiers and Operazione Poker. She was a very busy girl in the sixties.

The other heir to the throne of Tudela is an adolescent boy, Alexander (who appears to be dubbed by a woman). Alexander has escaped the city with some of the townsfolk and is trying to elude the pursuing Mongol horde.

Naturally Alexander crosses paths with mighty Hercules. Lucky too, because at that moment, the Mongols attack on horseback. Hercules steps into the fray, picks up a giant tree trunk and takes on the soldiers. The soldiers are a pretty stupid bunch. Due to the size of the tree trunk, Hercules doesn’t do much swinging. He more or less, jabs at the soldiers. Despite Hercules immobility, the soldiers continually ride into the trunk and fall off their horses. It’s all rather silly, but it is, after all, a Hercules film.

Hercules Against The Mongols
isn’t the worst peplum you’ll see, but it isn’t inspired either. However it is a step up from the dreary Hercules Against The Barbarians, and it always intrigues me to see another chapter in the strange career of Ken Clark: Cowboy, Gentleman Spy, and Mongol.

Then again, didn’t John Wayne play a Barbarian? Well, if it is good enough for the Duke…

Hercules Against The Mongols (1963)

Hercules Against The Mongols (1963)

Director: Domenico Paolella
Starring: Mark Forest, José Greci, Ken Clark, Howard Ross, Nadir Moretti, Maria Grazia Spina
Music: Carlo Savina

A little while ago, I reviewed Hercules Against The Barbarians, which I didn’t think too highly of. Those who have visited this blog before may have noticed that I had attached an incorrect poster image for that film. How many Hercules films starring Mark Forest, Ken Clark, and José Greci; and directed by Domenico Paolella could there be? How many times could Hercules take on the Mongol hordes? Well, two! In fact this film came before Hercules Against The Barbarians, and thankfully this film is slightly better than it ‘unofficial’ sequel.

In Hercules Against The Barbarians, Ken Clark played one of Genghis Khan’s sons (Kubilai), but this time he plays Sayan. But in both films he had to sport a silly hairpiece and a droopy moustache. And Mark Forest, while still pretty dour, plays Hercules slightly lighter than some of his other performances. As I have mentioned in other reviews, I am not the biggest fan of Forest’s Hercules. At best the Hercules films are the progeny of the swashbuckling films of the thirties and the forties. Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power always had a cheeky smile. Not so Forest. He is workman like in his approach.

Onto the movie: The film opens with Hercules pushing over a tree, to make a bridge for a family to cross a river. As thanks, the mother, who has powers of divination, looks into the future. She sees Hercules fighting a mighty dragon – the dragon being a clumsy metaphor for the Mongolian army.

It’s 1227 and Genghis Khan has died. His dying wish was for peace with the West, but his three sons have other ideas. Each of the sons is a fierce warrior. The sons are: Kin Kahn (Nadir Moretti) who has incredible strength; Sayan (Ken Clark) whose arrows never miss their mark; and Susdal (Howard Ross) who uses a whip with incomparable skill.

So at the behest of the Sons of Khan, the Mongols go to war. The first city they attack is Tudela. The Mongols ride in on their horses waving their spears around. This footage is recycled in the opening to Hercules Against The Barbarians. This footage is intercut with footage of Sayan firing his arrows at the townsfolk. With each kill he laughs maniacally. He is such an evil fellow, and we cannot wait for him to get his comeuppance.

The Mongols kill the king and take control of the city. But there are two heirs to the throne. The first is Bianca of Tudela, played by the beautiful José Greci. Greci also appeared in Hercules Against The Barbarians (as Arminia). She can also be seen in Hercules Vs The Masked Rider, Seven Rebel Gladiators, Sword of the Empire, and Goliath and the Sins of Babylon. For Eurospy fans she also appeared in Espionage in Tangiers and Operazione Poker. She was a very busy girl in the sixties.

The other heir to the throne of Tudela is an adolescent boy, Alexander (who appears to be dubbed by a woman). Alexander has escaped the city with some of the townsfolk and is trying to elude the pursuing Mongol horde.

Naturally Alexander crosses paths with mighty Hercules. Lucky too, because at that moment, the Mongols attack on horseback. Hercules steps into the fray, picks up a giant tree trunk and takes on the soldiers. The soldiers are a pretty stupid bunch. Due to the size of the tree trunk, Hercules doesn’t do much swinging. He more or less, jabs at the soldiers. Despite Hercules immobility, the soldiers continually ride into the trunk and fall off their horses. It’s all rather silly, but it is, after all, a Hercules film.

Hercules Against The Mongols
isn’t the worst peplum you’ll see, but it isn’t inspired either. However it is a step up from the dreary Hercules Against The Barbarians, and it always intrigues me to see another chapter in the strange career of Ken Clark: Cowboy, Gentleman Spy, and Mongol.

Then again, didn’t John Wayne play a Barbarian? Well, if it is good enough for the Duke…

Hercules Against The Mongols (1963)

Hercules Against The Barbarians (1964)

AKA: Masciste In the Hell Of Genghis Khan
Director: Domenico Paolella
Starring: Mark Forest, José Greci, Ken Clark, Gloria Milland, Roldano Lupi
Music: Giuseppe Piccillo, Carlo Savina

As with most of the Peplum films that are out there, there appears to be many versions of this film, varying in running time from about 90 minutes to 120 minutes. As well as differing running times, the films hero seems to change from either Hercules or Masciste, the son of Hercules. But that shouldn’t matter too much. The version I am reviewing here is the shortened American version, Hercules Against The Barbarians, which features Mark Forest as the titular Hercules.

The movie starts off with Genghis Khan and his Mongol army invading Poland. Actually we don’t see the invasion, only lots of Mongols, waving spears of horseback. The narrator tells us the Mongols have suffered their first defeat. We are also told that Hercules has fought alongside the Polish, like a ‘tornado’. And when we finally clap eyes on Hercules, he is being thanked, slapped on the back and sent on his way. The opening seems like a bit of a ripoff to me. We hear of a great battle but don’t see it.

Hercules is heading back to Arminia (José Greci), his fiancé, but before he arrives, strange things are happening in her village. Firstly a woman, Arias (Gloria Milland) is being chased by an angry mob. They accuse her of being a witch and want to burn her at the stake. She finds refuge in Arminia and her father’s cottage. However, he protection doesn’t last too long, as a band of Mongols arrive and kidnap Arminia, and kill her father. Arias is left arrive, and blamed for the atrocity. The mob quickly pick up their flaming torches once more and tie Arias to a stake. But just before going up in flames, she is rescued once more, this time by Hercules.

It is determined that the Mongols have taken Arminia to the city of Tornapol, where she is being held captive by Genghis Khan (Roldano Lupi). Naturally enough, Hercules and his new lady friend, Arias, set off in a bid to rescue Arminia.

The real villain in this movie is Kubilai, played by an almost unrecognizable Ken Clark (weird hair, silly moustache). Kubilai is a vicious piece of work, prepared to kill anyone who hinders his ascension to power, including his father and his brother. His malevolence is shown when he stabs one of his lovers in the heart after she has learnt too much about Kubilai’s plans.

At this time, Hercules Against The Barbarians veers into Tarzan territory. Hercules battles various rubber creatures during his travels including a giant python, and a crocodile. Forest makes an admirable attempt at making the croc fight seem real, but cannot overcome the glaringly fake rubber reptile.

For me, Hercules Against The Barbarians is a weak entry in the Sword and Sandal series. Forest is not my favourite Hercules. He takes the role far too seriously and always looks to be in pain. On top of that this movie is fairly slowed paced and drags between action sequences. There is one sequence that is worth mentioning though. It is in the palace of Genghis Khan, and we are treated to an array of ‘regal’ entertainment, including oriental dancers spinning plates on sticks, and acrobats spinning and tumbling over giant flags as they are swirled around the room. The entertainment culminates with Hercules and one of Genghis Khan’s warriors fighting to the death in a gauntlet of (rubber tipped) spears.

Hercules Against The Barbarians (1964)

Goliath and the Sins of Babylon (1963)

AKA: Maciste, the World’s Greatest Hero
Director: Michele Lupo
Starring: Mark Forest, José Greci, Giuliano Gemma, Mimmo Palmara, Erno Crisa
Music: Francesco De Masi

Goliath and the Sins of Babylon
is one of the better peplum films I have watched recently. This is due to two reasons. The first is the cast, and the second is that it seems to have had more money thrown at it than most.

The film opens in the town of Methra, which is under the control of the Babylonians. Each year, as a tribute to their rulers, the Methranites send thirty young virgins to Babylon. As the girls are being rounded up, one of them tries to escape. Three soldiers capture her and man-handle her roughly. This doesn’t go over too well with Goliath (Mark Forest). He steps in and makes short work of the soldiers.

A midget (or a little person, if you prefer) who is hiding in a barrel strapped to a pack horse warns Goliath that more soldiers are on their way. I don’t know why Sword & Sandal epics have this fascination for ‘little people’ – they just do. And now, I must admit, if I see a S&S film and it doesn’t have a comic relief midget, I don’t feel I have got my money’s worth.

But back to the story. Goliath doesn’t seem too perturbed that more soldiers will come after him. The ‘little guy’ on the other hand, is worried, and runs off to tell two burly pals that Goliath is in trouble. The two guys happen to be Xandros (Giuliano Gemma) and Alceas (Mimmo Palmara). The three men team up and plan to overthrow the Babylonians.

At the top I talked about the budget and the cast. Expanding upon that, the money was put to good use, firstly on a ocean battle, where two ship engage in a bit of pirate style warfare, and secondly on a chariot race. The race isn’t up to the standard, or provide the level of excitement as the race in Ben Hur, but then again, what would? As for the cast, the main actors are all pretty good. In other reviews I have been farely scathing in my assesment of Mark Forest’s acting ability, but have to admit that he is pretty good in this. He is ably assisted by Giuliano Gemma and Mimmo Palmara. All three get a fair amount of screen time, and each has individual battles and opponents to overcome. Gemma comes off particularly well, displaying a degree of acrobatics that was never showcased in the Spaghetti Westerns that he is so famous for. With three male leads, unfortunately the female lead, José Greci doesn’t get much screen time. Of course, she still looks great though.

One of the highlights of the film is when the villain of the piece has captured Goliath and is about to torture him. Goliath is tied to a table which sits under a roof with holes in it. Housed in each hole is a spear, which is attached to a length of rope. When the connecting rope is cut, one of the spears drops down from it’s hole above. When the villain forces Xandros and Alceas to cut the ropes, it’s a waiting game as each spear falls. Which rope will release the spear that will kill Goliath?

I am far from an expert on peplum films. With each film I see I learn new things. Some of the ones I have seen so far, have had me wondering why the genre was so successful – but then I stumble on a film like this one, which was obviously made at the peak of the genre’s popularity, and it all becomes clear. At there best, peplum movies are damn good fun. They aren’t boring. And they don’t have to have poor visual effects and rubber monsters to entertain. This is one of the good ones.

Goliath and the Sins of Babylon (1963)