Maciste in King Solomon's Mines (1964)

Country: Italy
Director: Piero Regnoli
Starring: Reg Park, Wandisa Guida, Eleonora Bianchi, Bruno Piergentili, Elio Jotta, and ‘Little’ Loris Loddi
Music: Francesco De Masi
Original Title: Maciste nelle miniere di re Salomone

Welcome to the ‘Big Muscle Tussle’. During February, the members of the Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit are celebrating musclemen – and muscle women. Fittingly, I have stepped once more into my time machine and traveled back to 1964, and to Italy where muscular men were running rampant – throwing boulders, ripping out trees, fighting monsters, fighting tyrants, and fighting whole armies. In general, they were fighting a lot.

Today’s fighting feature is Maciste in King Solomon’s Mine – which I believe is also known as Samson in King Solomon’s Mine. It just goes to show that a lot of these mythological heroes are interchangeable. This time Maciste (or Samson) is played by world champion bodybuilder Reg Park.

A the film opens the viewer is informed by a narrator who is not James Mason, but should be, that in the heart of Africa, there was a city called Zimba, which was surrounded by a high wall, and a dense jungle. At the centre of the city was a palace, from which secret underground passages lead to the fabled King Solomon’s Mines. But wise King Nammar was prohibited anybody from removing the gold from the mine – and the city has had twenty years of peace. Nammar has a young son, Vazmar (‘Little’ Loris Loddi) who is destined, in time, to take over the thrown. As he grows to manhood, he is kept in seclusion under the tutelage of a young woman named Samara (Eleonora Bianchi). The whereabouts (or fate) of Vazmar’s mother is never mentioned.

On the twentieth anniversary of Nammar’s peaceful reign, his Chief General, Riad (Ellio Jotta – billed as Leonard G. Elliot) decides he has had enough peace, and sneaks into the palatial grand hall, and beneath a giant Sphinx’s head (which conceals the entrance to the passageways to the mine), he pushes the marble lid off an alter. Inside is a wooden chest. He removes the chest and opens it revealing a ‘top secret’ map, which outlines all the secret passages underneath the palace – and most importantly to the mine. Riad presumably has a photographic memory, because he briefly scans the map, and then returns it, placing everything back exactly as he found it. He then heads off into the tunnels. But, despite what you may think, he chooses not to go immediately to the rich deposits of gold, but through a passage that leads him secretly out of the city and into the jungle.

Riad makes contact with a woman named Fazira (Wandisa Guida), who is the leader of fierce tribe of warriors. Riad offers her a third of the treasure from the mine, if she’ll help him overthrow Nammar. She agrees – but for half the treasure. Entering into an uneasy alliance, Riad agrees, then he leads her and her men back to Zimba and through the hidden passage. Once inside the city walls they do what any invading force would do – kill, rape, loot, set things on fire.

Meanwhile Riad heads off to the Royal bedchamber and kills King Nammar. While he is doing that, one of the King’s loyal subjects, Abucar (Bruno Piergentili – billed as Dan Harrison – who you may remember from Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens) rushes to the aid of Samara and Prince Vazmar (or is that King Vazmar now?) Abucar leads them to another secret passage that will lead them out of the palace and into the jungle. There they should seek the assistance of Maciste. Once they have escaped, Abucar rejoins the battle but is knocked out and captured.

In the jungle, Samara and Vazma are all alone, and anybody who has seen a Tarzan movie knows that the jungle is full of wild creatures, and no place for a woman and child. But more of that later. Firstly, Vazmar sees a lion cub and wanders off chasing it, because it looks soft, fluffy and fun. He catches up with it and befriends it. Befriend is actually a bad word – because this kid is clearly tormenting the clearly drugged, mini beast. I was half wishing it would claw him, and teach him a lesson – but that would be mean spirited.

Anyway, Samara has lost Vazma, and is wandering around trying to find him. Of course she crosses the path of the fully grown killer lion. But before the ravenous feline can attack, Maciste (Reg Park), who is clad in a loincloth, leaps from a tree and wrestles the lion into submission. Actually to death. Samara passes out.

Vazmar is now in his own little world, and falls into a pit designed to catch the rogue killer lion. He is found by natives, but luckily these natives are pretty good fellas, and they take Vazmar in and look after him.

Miles away, Maciste has his hands full, quite literally, with Samara who is still unconcious. He takes her to another village. Once in the village, delirious, she repeats Abucar’s words about finding Maciste. He realises his old friend Abucar must then be in trouble, so the big clod leaves her to the natives and plods off to Zimba to rescue his friend.

Back in Zimba, things have changed. Nammar’s subjects are now slaves and they are forced to work in the mines. Abucan is lashed and tortured by Riad, who is trying to find Vazmar. But Abucar wont speak, so Riad orders him to be put to death on the following morning. Of course, Maciste arrives in the nick of time and rescues his friend, but in the process, manages to get captured in a net.

Now Maciste is to be put to death in a ‘blood thirsty and breath taking spectacle’. This spectacle happens to be placing Maciste in a cage, which has spikes pointing in at his body. Then maciste is tied by ropes to horses on the outside. These horses are whipped and run off in different directions, pulling Maciste every which way – presumably into the sharp spikes. But Maciste, as you know, is super strong, and he holds the rope tight, waring out the horses, until they collapse.

As the story plays out, there are more plot twists and turns as the story writhes its way through the secret passages and into the Royal court. There’s betrayal, heroism, and the threat of Samara being doused in molten gold, and turned into a statue. And of course, more feats of incredible strength, from Maciste.

Reg Park was okay as Hercules in Mario Bava’s Hercules and the Haunted World is quite ineffectual here. Sure he looks the part, but beyond that he is wooden and lifeless. It doesn’t help that his character isn’t introduced until 25 minutes into the film. The real stars are the villains, Elio Jotta as Riad, and Wandisa Guida as Fazira, who have a high old time sneering and being evil. This film is most alive when they are on the screen being dastardly.

Maciste in King Solomon’s Mines is not an A-Grade peplum by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t a turkey either. Generally it is fast paced, and there are not too many extended talking head scenes, which seem to populate the most dreary of this kind of film. The sets are okay too, and the majority of the location footage, shot in South Africa, looks authentic – rather than using stock footage.

Wandisa Guida appeared in a few Eurospy productions such as Antonio Margheriti’s Lightning Bolt with Anthony Eisley, Killers are Challenged and Secret Agent Fireball, both with Richard Harrison. Eleonora Bianchi also made an incursion into Eurospy territory starring alongside Lang Jefferies in Agente X 1-7 operacion Oceano (X1-7 Top Secret).

That’s it for Maciste in King Solomon’s Mine, but I can tell by that look in your eye that you want more! I give you:

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules is a bit different to many of the other Hercules, or Sons Of Hercules films. It doesn’t take place in ancient Greece or Italy. It takes place in the Ice Age. However, it is still pretty average. If it didn’t feature Margaret Lee, one of my favourite leading ladies from the sixties, I would have switched off half way. Reg Lewis is wooden as the hero.

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How can you go past a title like Hercules vs the Moon Men? I couldn’t. This is a film that had to be watched, but admittedly with low expectations. And for three-quarters of this films running time I was highly entertained. However, the sandstorm towards the end of the movie drags on and drags the movie down with it.

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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.

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Gladiators 7, featuring Richard Harrison, is familiar territory for those who have watched any vintage swashbucklers, but the film handles it all with a great sense of style and fun. This is enjoyable if somewhat predictable entertainment.

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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.

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One of the highlights of Goliath and the Sins of Babylon 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?

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The title, Hercules and the Masked Rider is a trifle misleading. This is not much of a Hercules film. In fact, Hercules (Alan Steel) is not the star of this movie at all. He is simply a strongman from a troupe of Gypsies, who are drawn into the story at a later stage. And even then, he is very much in the background. It’s almost as if Steel walked onto the wrong set and decided to throw around a few objects in the background.

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Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens is pretty silly in parts but it is fairly fast paced, which is a big plus. My main problem with the film is the character of Alia Baba. Nothing against Dan Harrison’s performance, he looks the part, but the character is simply not very convincing. He falls into nearly every trap set for him.

Maciste in King Solomon's Mines (1964)

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962)

Director: Guido Malatesta
Starring: Reg Lewis, Margaret Lee, Luciano Marin, Andrea Aureli
Music: Guido Robuschi, Gian Stellari

The version of Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules that I viewed for this review appears to be an American repackaging of another English version of the film. It features a toe-tapping theme song, “The Mighty Sons Of Hercules” which appears to have been tacked onto a few Sons Of Hercules Adventures – for example Mole Men Against The Son Of Hercules starring Mark Forest. In this film Reg Lewis plays Maciste, but the very weird thing is that whenever he says his name, he has been re-dubbed (by another voice that sounds nothing like the original dub). He says “My name is MAXIS – SON OF HERCULES”

This film is a bit different to many of the other Hercules, or Sons Of Hercules films. It doesn’t take place in ancient Greece or Italy. It takes place in the Ice Age. Which brings us to a very interesting question. How could the Son Of Hercules being wandering around the planet, when his father wasn’t born till several thousand years later? Maybe it’s best that we ignore that.

The films opens with the Sun Tribe venturing out of the ice, trying to find a new home where they can set up camp. These are the good guys. You can tell, because they wear white fur skins as clothing. Amongst the Sun Tribe are Idar (Luciano Marin) and Fuwan (Andrea Aureli). They are set to be married. As they stroll along the foreshore of a lake, a giant rubber water dragon attacks them. It looks like it is curtains for our young lovers, but from a cliff top over-looking the lake, up jumps Maxis (Reg Lewis). Lewis, who is suitably beefy for the role, looks like a blonde Elvis on steroids. His slicked back, rockabilly haircut seems a little bit out of place during the Ice Age, but that is just another thing that it is best that we ignore. Maxis tosses a spear at the dragon which hits it in the eye. The dragon dies and Maxis walks off, having completed his good deed for the day.

Later, Idar and Fuwan are married. As the ceremony finishes, the Sun Tribe’s camp is attacked by the Moon Tribe. You can tell the Moon Tribe is bad because they wear black fur skins. The Moon Tribe kill most of the men, and take the women prisoner. They march the women back to their camp, which is hidden in a cave.

Idar is now leader of the surviving Sun people, and naturally wants Fuwan (and the other girls) back. He sends out search parties for Maxis, who is undoubtedly wandering around in a forest nearby awaiting some kind of calamity, where his strength and services will be required. He responds to the call, and tracks the Moon Tribe to the underground lair.

Inside the cave, Maxis meets and teams up with Moa (Margaret Lee), and that folks is possibly the main reason to watch this film. There is something special about watching Margaret Lee scantily clad in animal skins.

Despite the title, Maxis doesn’t really have to battle a giant Fire Monster in this film. There are two dragons and a few snake like water monsters, but this film isn’t really a rubber monster flick. It is about the two warring tribes.

There are some decent set pieces throughout the film, mostly fights with bloody great clubs, and of course, Maxis gets to throw around a few paper mache rocks and trees. The cheesiest moment happens when Maxis and Moa have been captured by the Moon Tribe and are buried up to their neck in sand. How the couple escape form this dire predicament is laughable.

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules is pretty average. If it didn’t feature Margaret Lee, one of my favourite leading ladies from the sixties, I would have switched off half way. Reg Lewis is wooden and very low-key as the hero. As a screen presence, I’d say he was over shadowed by Luciano Marin as Idar. And I am not too convinced about the Stone Age backdrop to this film either. I miss seeing the grand palaces with their evil Kings and Queens, the staple of so many peplum films. All in all, I think this film is a bit of a failure.

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962)

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)

Gladiators 7 (1962)

Director: Pedro Lazaga
Starring: Richard Harrison, Loredana Nusciak, Livio Lorenzon, Gérard Tichy, Edoardo Toniolo, José Marco, Barta Barri, Franca Badeschi, Enrique Avila
Music: Marcello

I don’t know a whole lot about Richard Harrison (I haven’t seen any of the ‘Master Ninja’ films – however many hundred were made!). I first discovered him when I bought the Retromedia Terminal Force / Ring Around The World Double Feature DVD. Terminal Force is almost unwatchable, but Ring Around the World has quickly become one of my Eurospy favourites.

Gladiators 7 is an earlier role for Harrison, and the film, despite there being ‘Seven’ gladiators is very much in the style and tradition of The Three Musketeers.

Darius (Richard Harrison) is a Spartan Prince who has been captured by the Romans. However the Romans do not know he is a Prince, and have him locked up with all the other Spartan prisoners, who are forced into service as Gladiators. The film opens with five of the Spartan Gladiators climbing the walls and escaping. We later learn that Darius was responsible for their escape and is to be punished. He is lead out into the Coliseum, where the Caesar and the crowd are baying for blood. Eight Gladiators are waiting in the arena to fight Darius, and they begin a relentless attack upon him. Darius fights like a lion (sorry, I had to put that cliché in), and even though he is outnumbered, he slowly cuts down the numbers against him.

Somehow he manages to survive the onslaught, but that does not mean he is allowed to live. Caesar orders the Legionnaires surrounding the arena to kill Darius. The legionnaires surround Darius and throw their lances, but each deliberately miss. The Legionnaires respect Darius’ fighting ability and tenacity, and they request clemency for the brave warrior. The Caesar reluctantly agrees. Darius is freed but must return to Sparta.

Much has happened in Sparta since Darius has been gone. His father has committed suicide and Yarva is now the ruler. Those who have watched a few Peplum will know that Rulers of Ancient Kingdoms do not commit suicide. There is always a treacherous deed that leads to their downfall. And so is the case here. In fact Yarva killed the King, and one of the town’s respected elders, Melong, cover it up, proclaiming that it was suicide.

To complicate matters even further, Yarva wants to marry Melong’s beautiful daughter, Aglaia (Loredana Nusciak). But she is in love with Darius. Hmmm, nice little love triangle.

Darius returns home and finds his whole world turned upside down. He visits his home, and finds his family gone. The old housekeeper hands over his Father’s sword and tells him to seek vengeance. Which he does, with the help of the housekeeper’s son, Livius (Enrique Avila).

It’s not long before the two are in trouble, when they are set upon by Yarva’s men. The duo fight like tigers (sorry) and vanquish there foes, but in the skirmish, Darius drops his sword.

The sword is found by Yarva, who kills Melong with it. As it’s Darius’ sword he gets the blame. And more importantly for Yarva, now Aglaia hates Darius. She believes he murdered her father.

Yarva’s men once again try to capture Darius, but he escapes. He decides he needs a little help. With Livius, he heads into the country to find the five Gladiators he helped free from the Romans. Naturally each of these men is a great warrior and agrees to help Darius regain his rightful position.

Gladiators 7, storywise is familiar territory for those who have watched any vintage swashbucklers, but it handles it all with a great sense of style and fun. This is enjoyable if somewhat predictable entertainment.

Gladiators 7 (1962)

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)

Hercules Vs The Moon Men (1964)

AKA: Hercules Against the Moon Men, Hercules and the Queen of Samar, Maciste vs. the Moon Men, Maciste vs. the Stone Men
Director: Giacomo Gentilomo
Starring: Alan Steel (Sergio Ciani), Jany Clair, Anna Maria Polani, Delia D’Alberti Jean-Pierre Honoré
Music: Carlo Franci

How can you go past a title like Hercules Vs The Moon Men? I couldn’t. This is a film that had to be watched, but admittedly with low expectations. And for three-quarters of this films running time I was highly entertained.

The film opens with an asteroid crashing into the earth’s surface. Many years later (I guess), we see the children of the kingdom of Samar being lead to a mountain where the asteroid fell. A giant maw opens and the children are forced inside. The children are sacrificed to the mountain.

The citizens of the kingdom are upset that Queen Samara (Jany Clair) allows their offspring to be sacrificed this way and behind her back organise for Hercules (Alan Steel) to come to their city and hopefully change things.

The Queen finds out about the plan and sends soldiers to intercept and kill Hercules. Needless to say, they are no match for the world’s strongest man. It must be said that Alan Steel is a light hearted Hercules. He grins a lot of the time and truly seems to be enjoying himself. I prefer Steel to the dour Mark Forest, who in his films, spend most of the time looking like he has painful blisters on his ankles (forgive me, a little bit of sandal humour there). Let’s face it, Hercules films are not high art. They are meant to be fun, and Steel’s performance hits the button.

What is really happening in Samar is that the queen has made a pact with the aliens who live inside the mountain. They want to take over the world, and she is to be their number one human, making her the most powerful ‘person’ on earth. The aliens are a weird bunch. There is a leader, who looks a bit like a robot. And the so called ‘Moon Men’ are walking rocks…er, yeah. Now, what the moon men have to do to take over the world is revive their Moon Princess, who is in suspended animation. She conveniently looks like Queen Samara’s younger sister Billis (Delia D’Alberti). And as you’ve probably already guessed, Billis is to be sacrificed to bring the Moon Princess back to life.It’s Mighty Hercules job to save Billis and the children of Samar from the alien threat. Is he up to the task. You bet!

How does Herc do it? Well, he pushes over a lot of things. He pushes down walls, trees (even though he could walk around them), and statues. And he throws things. He throws the Queens evil soldiers into beer barrels, and even throws around one of the rock monsters into a group of other rock monsters. It’s fun stuff.

There’s a few good setpieces throughout the film. The brawl in the tavern raises a chuckle, and there is a good scene where Herc is chained between two spiked boards that are squeezing in on him (like an Iron Maiden). However, the sandstorm towards the end of the movie is not one of the great setpieces. It might have been good, had it not been so long and downright boring. It is one of the most infuriating pieces of film-making ever, and is guaranteed to have you shouting ‘Get on with it’ at your television set.

If it weren’t for the ending I would rate this film a lot more highly and recommend it as a good example of the genre, but as it stands, I cannot. It is better than many, but the final quarter really drags it down.

Hercules Vs The Moon Men (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)

Hercules And The Masked Rider (1964)

Director: by Piero Pierotti
Starring: Mimmo Palmara, Alan Steel, José Greci, Pilar Cansino, Arturo Dominici
Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino

The title to this feature is a trifle misleading. Hercules And The Masked Rider is not much of a Hercules film. In fact, Hercules (Alan Steel) is not the star of this movie at all. He is simply a strongman from a troupe of Gypsies, who are drawn into the story at a later stage. And even then, he is very much in the background. It’s almost as if Steel walked onto the wrong set and decided to throw around a few objects in the background. The star of the film is The Masked Rider (Mimmo Palmara), who is very much in your Zorro tradition. Despite the misleading title, Hercules And The Masked Rider is actually an enjoyable film.

A river divides the lands of the elderly Prince of Val Verde, Don Francesco, and the malevolent Duke of Madina. The Duke has sold half his population as soldiers and only has a few overworked men and women working the land for food and clothing. These overworked peasants, revolt against the Duke and try to flee over the border to Don Franceso’s lands. One couple, Phillippé and Delores make it across the border, but Duke follows after them anyway. Luckily Don Francesco intervenes and gives them sanctuary. The Duke isn’t happy and intends to take the couple by force, but changes his mind when Francesco’s daughter, Donna Blanca (the gorgeous as always, José Greci) arrives on the scene. The Duke is infatuated with Donna Blanca and backs down, offering the two peasants as a gift.

Meanwhile Don Juan (Mimmo Palmara) after a successful stint as a soldier in Flanders is returning home to Val Verde, and his sweetheart, Donna Blanca. But Don Francesco throws a spanner in the works, and the reunion doesn’t go quite to plan. Francesco realises the Duke of Madina is a cruel man, and a man of war. But Francesco is elderly and won’t be around to protect his people forever. His people are peaceful and would be crushed if a civil war broke out between Val Verde and Madina. In an attempt to broker a peace, Francesco wishes to marry off his Donna Blanca to Madina. She is not happy about it, but it is for the good of the people.

When Don Juan returns home, and hears of the Don’s plan, he objects quite vehemently. Don Francesco sees Don Juan’s objection as a lack of respect and casts Don Juan out of Val Verde. In fact Don Juan is banished as an outlaw.

With Don Juan out of the way, the Duke’s plans don’t stop at gaining a beautiful wife. No, he wants the lot! He wants to control both lands, so goads Don Francesco into a sword fight. Naturally, the elder Francesco is no match for his younger and more vicious opponent. Francesco is killed, and the Duke gains control of Val Verde.

Don Juan leaves the city, but in the country side adopts a new, secret identity as the Masked Rider. The Masked Rider wears a red mask, and is an amalgam of Zorro and Robin Hood. He joins a troupe of Gypsies, but before being accepted he has to prove himself worthy. This involves a fight with the Gypsie strongman, Hercules (Alan Steel). Surprisingly, Hercules loses – I told ya it was a Masked Rider movie. Once accepted by the Gypsies, Don Juan (or Masked Rider as he is now called) leads them against the Duke.

Hercules And The Masked Rider is a good little adventure movie. All the clichés are in place, but in these types of films, you expect that. In fact, you tend to notice the clichés more when they are missing. I’d love to see a pristine widescreen print of this film, as this print is pretty washed out. All in all, not a bad way to spend one and a half hours.

Hercules And The Masked Rider (1964)

Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens (1964)

AKA: Hawk of Bagdad, Sinbad Against the 7 Saracens
Director: Emimmo Salvi
Starring: Gordon Mitchell, Bella Cortez, Dan Harrison (Bruno Piergentili), Carla Calo, Tony Di Mitri

There seems to be a few versions of this EuroSword flick floating around and depending on which version you find, the hero is either Ali Baba (sans forty thieves), or Sinbad (sans sailing). The most common version available appears to be Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens. The film itself is a middling affair. Some of the sets are rather fake and the dubbing into English is quite wooden. All the actors shout at each other, vowing acts of vengeance and the like. The best thing about this movie is voluptuous actress Bella Cortez, who plays Fatima. She fills her costume in a way that very few of our modern actresses could do.

The film opens in an unnamed Kingdom in the Middle East. It appears that the Kingdom is without a king, and Omar (Gordon Mitchell) is filling in as care-taker. He is answerable to the unseen Magi (wise men, I guess), and the leaders of the Seven Saracens (or districts, if you will) that make up the Kingdom. But acting as care-taker is not enough for Omar. He is an evil tyrant-type who wants nothing but total control over the Kingdom, and to sit on the Golden Throne without interference.

The Magi decree, that to find the new King, a tournament will be held. Each of the Saracens will send their leader to fight in a battle to the death. Whoever is alive at the end will be the new King. Omar, with a massive strength advantage, is the odds on favourite to claim the crown.

One of the Saracens, the ‘Mahariti’ have been without a leader for some time. Ali Baba (who may be a Prince, but it is never really explained?) has been in exile. He returns to lead the Mahariti. Omar isn’t happy about this and sends some guards to capture Alia Baba. They fail, and Ali Baba escapes, only to be found by Fatima (Bella Cortez). In, what has possibly got to be the shortest romance of all time, Ali Baba and Fatima fall in love. No sooner than they have confessed their love for each other, than they are captured by Omar’s troops, and sent to the dungeon.

In the dungeon, Ali befriends a midget named Dookie (Tony Di Mitri). Dookie, who is small enough to crawl around the air vents and secret passages in the castle, has formulated a plan to free all the prisoners in the dungeon.

Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens is pretty silly in parts but it is fairly fast paced, which is a big plus. My main problem with the film is the character of Alia Baba. Nothing against Dan Harrison’s performance, he looks the part, but the character is simply not very convincing. He falls into nearly every trap set for him. SPOILER AHEAD: And even at the tournament at the end of the film, where he represents the Mahariti’s for the crown, his victory (yes, he wins, but you knew that, didn’t you?) is really hollow. He seems to win, more from good luck rather than outsmarting his physically stronger opponent. Personally I think he a bit of a loser, but he does get the girl in the end – so what more can I say?

Ali Baba And The Seven Saracens (1964)