‘I don’t like bullies even if they are the children of Zeus.’
Hercules saves a young woman from drowning and immediately falls in love with her. Unfortunately, she is the daughter of the Queen of Lydia, and her heart already belongs to another. Hercules is tricked into performing various labours while palace soldiers fetch Samson to fight him…
Good-natured action spoof on the Peplum genre with the legendary demi-god ending up not just matched against the Biblical strongman but also facing musclemen Maciste and Ursus. The fact that the results are more dull than funny is down to a padded script that fails to demonstrate much in the way of wit or invention.
Slacking between jobs, Hercules (Alan Steel) pulls his horse up at a crossroads when the disembodied voice of Zeus gives him a choice. Take the left-hand path to virtue or the right-hand path to pleasure. Despite his daddy’s suggestion (accompanied by a lightning bolt!), Steel goes right, heading for the kingdom of Lydia which is supposed to be filled with beautiful women. On the way, he stops to perv over some of them who are swimming in the sea but intervenes to save Princess Omphale (Elisa Montés) when she gets trapped in a net. Rather than be grateful the sulky little brat seems a bit put out, especially when Steel declares his love for her to mum Queen Nemea (Lia Zoppelli). It turns out she’s already in a secret Romeo and Juliet relationship with Inor (Luciano Marin) who is the son of troublesome hill chieftain, Lico (Livio Lorenzon).
Right away, Zoppelli and her chief advisor Nino Dal Fabbro encourage Steel’s amorous attentions, hoping to use him to rid the kingdom of Lorenzon and his violent tribe. Meanwhile, dwarf Arnaldo Fabrizio helps the young lovers by taking the place of oracle Astra (Hélène Chanel) during an important ceremony and making his own proclamation: that Steel must find the strongest man in the world before he can tie the knot.
When the four strongmen finally come together for the melee at the finish, it’s likely that most of the audience will not be too engaged. It’s an amiable enough adventure and Steel (real name Sergio Ciani) gives us a Hercules far more in the easy-going vein of Reg Park than the usual wooden mythological hero. The other legendary heroes comic banter mainly consists of Ross and Lavor bullying the now-weakened Moretti while he whines and waits for his hair to grow back. It’s not particularly pleasing even if director Giorgio Capitani thankfully resists the urge to turn the physical humour into crude slapstick. The fact that the film was re-titled as ‘Samson’s Mighty Challenge’ in the English-speaking world is a bit of a puzzle, considering that the character spends most of the time without his superhuman strength and only really engages in the action via a poorly-choreographed brawl with Ciani at the climax.
Ciani played almost exclusively in Peplum from 1959 to 1964, portraying Samson and Maciste in various films, which were often re-dubbed and re-titled as ‘Hercules’ vehicles in the United States. However, he had already played the demi-god officially earlier that year in ‘Hercules Against Rome’ (1964). After the Peplum cycle ended, he appeared in early Giallo ‘A… For Assassin’ (1966), and appeared sporadically throughout the 1970s, mostly in Westerns, before retiring at the end of the decade.
Of the other strongmen, both Moretti or Larvor only had brief film careers, but Ross was far more successful. After working with horror maestro Mario Bava on Western ‘Savage Gringo’ (1966), the director went on to cast him in his later Giallo ‘Five Dolls For An August Moon’ (1970). Throughout the rest of the decade, Ross appeared in other examples of that genre such as ‘Naked Girl Murdered In The Park’ (1973) and ‘The Killer Reserved Nine Seats’ (1974). He also had roles in mob movies such as Fernando Di Leo’s well-regarded ‘Il Boss/Murder Inferno’ (1973), was the male lead in ‘Werewolf Woman’ (1976) and in the following decade linked up with director Lucio Fulci for the controversial ‘The New York Ripper’ (1982) and ‘Rome 2033: The Fighter Centurions’ (1983).
This is an amiable romp that parodies the Peplum genre at the end of its life. However, neither the production nor the comedy displays a great deal of quality.
Ursus, the Terror of the Kirghiz/Ursus, il terrore dei kirghisi/Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (1964) – Mark David Welsh
Samson/Sansone (1961) – Mark David Welsh
Samson Against the Black Pirate/Sansone contro il corsaro nero/Hercules and the Black Pirate (1964) – Mark David Welsh