‘I think you are the strongest and most unselfish man in the world.’
The opposing armies of Alexander the Great and his Persian enemies are camped on the frontiers of Lydia. The kingdom’s ruler plans to abscond with the contents of the royal treasury, so he sends emissaries to both camps as a distraction. The one chosen to visit Alexander is Lydian general and man of the people, the strongman Goliath…
More Peplum antics from Italy chasing the money wagon launched by Steve Reeves as ‘Hercules’ (1957). This film is the third in the short-lived ‘Goliath’ series, and here it’s former Tarzan Gordon Scott treading in the sandal prints of Reeves, who was in the first entry and Brad Harris, who’d appeared in the sequel.
The world is closing in on the city of Sardis. King Marcius (Massimo Serato) is already planning to jump ship while his generals and advisors have shouting matches in the throne room. Muscleman Goliath (Scott) is all for extending the olive branch to the noble Alexander (Gabriele Antonini), while his rival Artafernes (Mimmo Palmara) favours the Persians. It’s not a plot spoiler to reveal that Palmara, his Lady Macbeth, Zoé (Gloria Milland) and slimy politico Barbuk (Giuseppe Sortis) have already sold out everyone down the river to the Persians anyway.
Scott embarks on his quest while Serato busies himself rifling the royal coffers and placing the booty in a secret tunnel that leads out of the city. On the way to Alexander’s camp, Scott rescues blonde, blue-eyed Princess Corri (Ombretta Colli) by catching a team of runaway horses and stopping her stagecoach. OK, he actually fights off a gang of bandits that attack her caravan, but it’s the same difference—the two fall in love in the blink of a false eyelash and the twitch of a deltoid.
When he reaches the Macedonian tents, Scott finds that Antonini is indeed an honourable man and strikes a deal on behalf of his sovereign. However, he doesn’t know that Colli has reached Sardis in safety, and Serato likes what he sees, selling her on the idea of marriage to help protect the people. His wedding plans go south after a cup of poisoned wine, and Colli is accused of murder. It’s all a plot concocted by our villainous triumvirate, of course, and before you can shake a ceremonial spear, Palamara and Milland are firmly ensconced on neighbouring thrones, and Colli is on the execution list.
Director Mario Caiano’s film is a slightly unusual entry in the Peplum genre in that he chooses to emphasise character and plot over action in the first two acts of the film. This would be a welcome change of pace were it not for the fact that the audience is unlikely to care. All the story developments are signposted well in advance, and the characters are nothing more than the usual hero/villain archetypes. The love story between Scott and Corri is soppy and dull, and the entire cast struggles to make anything out of Gian Paolo Callegari and Albert Valentin’s lifeless script. Serato does seem to be having fun, but he’s gone too soon.
Scott usually infused his heroes with some humour and humanity, but here he just seems to be sleepwalking through his dialogue, although he perks up a bit for the action when it arrives. If you’re thinking that Scott had already tackled the role of Goliath twice before in ‘Goliath and the Vampires’ (1961) and ‘Goliath – King of the Slaves’ (1963), then that’s understandable but you’d be wrong. In the first film, he played legendary hero Maciste, and in the second, a character called Nippur, the original title of the film translating as ‘The Hero of Babylon’. In a similar free translation, the ‘Goliath’ in this film became a ‘Son of Hercules’ when the movie hit American shores.
Also appearing in the film are the Lost Kingdom Dancing Girls ticking off a gig at the Royal Court of Sardis in their never-ending tour and some long shots of big battles scenes, appearing courtesy of another movie. But perhaps this film’s finest moments occur after the escape of Corri and her handmaiden, played by Lea Lander. The two swap dresses to throw off the soldiers that pursue them, and the patrol duly picks up Lander and takes her back to the palace, leaving Corri free. This would be a plausible development if Corri were not a blonde in a white dress and Lander a jet-black brunette in blue, and the soldiers hadn’t had a clear view of them before they swapped outfits.
A sadly lacklustre Peplum adventure. Perhaps it’s not too much of a surprise that the next film in the series reduced Goliath to almost a bystander in his own movie.
Eye in the Labyrinth/L’occhio nel labirinto (1972) – Mark David Welsh