Goliath’s home village is attacked and burnt to the ground by the minions of supernatural sorcerer, Kobrak. All the young women are carried away, including the muscIeman’s betrothed, so he sets out in pursuit on a mission of rescue and vengeance.
The international success of ‘Hercules’ (1958), with Steve Reeves, kick-started a huge wave of Italian muscleman pictures, which only began to lose its momentum toward the middle of the 1960s. The character of mythical strongman ‘Maciste’ had first appeared in silent Italian film ‘Cabiria’ (1914), which told the tale of a slave with superhuman strength who rescues a princess from human sacrifice. Apparently, it was loosely based on a novel by Gustave Flaubert, who’s somewhat more notable work was his debut novel ‘Madame Bovary’ published in 1857.
After taking his ﬁrst bow, Maciste went from strength to strength, starring in 26 more silent pictures, the last of which came out in 1926. A revival followed in 1960 with ‘Maciste In The Valley Of The Kings’ (1960), which led to another 24 films, of which this example was the second. When these films were released stateside, the character was always renamed; variously as Samson, Goliath, Atlas, Ursus, Ulysses, Colossus, and even Hercules himself (just to confuse things a little more!)
The plot this time around (and on most other occasions if we’re brutally honest) sees our musclebound hero (Gordon Scott) pitching his deltoids against an evil ruler (in this case, one of supernatural origin) who has assumed control of a kingdom and its throne. He must rescue a virtuous, too-trusting blonde (this time it’s Leonora Ruffo) whilst going up against a dark-haired femme fatale with too much eye makeup (usually a Queen of some sort, but in this case the villain‘s right-hand woman Gianna Maria Canale). Of course, she falls for the big lug and his biceps, and makes the ultimate sacrifice to prove her love for him.
Cue Scott fighting with lots of guards in the vi|lain’s zombie army, using only his bare hands and large rocks/pieces of wood, which could probably be more accurately described as polystyrene. Some of these action scenes are borderline inept, with Scott seemingly needing assistance from a bystander to lift a large table during one fight in a tavern. I’m not sure about the trooper’s uniforms either; all those large spikes look to be in definite contravention of applicable Health and Safety regulations. We also get the inevitable dancing girls at court (all gauzy veils and genteel swaying), our heroes getting lost in a sandstorm, and a plucky kid (Pacco Vidouzzi) who can’t stay out of trouble. Pretty much no cliché is left unturned.
Scott was an American who had taken over as ‘Tarzan’ in the MGM series in the early 1950s, but his tenure as ‘King of the Jungle’ had expired with ‘Tarzan the Magnificent’ (1960), so a move to Italian muscleman flicks was almost inevitable. Heroine Ruffo starred in several similar projects, including Mario Bava’s ‘Hercules In The Haunted World'(1961), and was also very fetching in sci-fi ‘guilty pleasure’ train-wreck ‘2+5: Missione Hydra’ (1966). Canale had actually appeared as the Queen of the Amazons in Reeves‘ ‘Hercules’ (1958) and top-lined Riccardo Freda’s ‘I Vampiri’ (1957), the first horror movie made in Italy since before the Second World War.
But spare a thought for Jacques Sernas as the King of the Blue Men (no percussion instruments involved). The year before he’d appeared in Felini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ (1960) and had been one of the main players in Robert Wise’s historical epic ‘Helen of Troy’ (1955), where he co-starred with Stanley Baker, Brigitte Bardot and Sir Cedric Hardwicke!
Co-director Sergio Corbucci is far better known for spaghetti westerns, particularly Franco Nero’s first appearance as ‘Django’ (1966). He also delivered another well-regarded example of that genre with ‘The Big Silence/The Great Silence’ (1969). Amazingly, this was a ‘Dino De Laurentiis Production’ long before the Italian mogul got his name above the titles of such major international hits as ‘Serpico’ (1973), ‘Death Wish’ (1974), ‘King Kong’ (1976), ‘Flash Gordon’ (1980) and ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1982), among many, many others.
This is production line sword and sandal nonsense with the added gimmick of sorcery and a little touch of bloodless horror.