7 Golden Women Against Two 07: Treasure Hunt/7 donne d’oro contro due 07 (1966)

‘Kissing you is not hygienic.’

A clue to the location of Nazi gold has been hidden in a Goya painting. A mysterious American attempts to obtain the canvas but soon finds out that there are multiple forgeries in existence, and many other people are trying to obtain the original…

Eccentric, multi-national comedy adventure from one-man-band Vincenzo Cascino that flirts with the conventions of both the caper movie and the Eurospy genre. The film has nothing to do with either the brief ‘7 Golden Women’ series or the Bond imprint, and it’s tempting to assume the title was imposed to try and salvage box office receipts. However, it could have been just another example of Cascino’s rather odd sense of humour.

A man carrying a painting is pursued through the early morning streets by two thugs on the instructions of a mysterious blonde. He is saved by American Mark Davis (Mickey Hargitay). The latter discovers that the man is an Armenian named Barbikan (played by Cascino) and identifies the blonde as Frenchwoman Marie Dupont (Maria Vincent). They’re both after the Goya painting just sold at auction by Geoffrey Copleston. Strangely enough, this dealer has been selling multiple copies of the artwork to beautiful women from all around the world. The buyers include Miranda, the Italian (Luciana Paoli), the African (Paola Mariani), the Spaniard (Patricia Méndez) and several other gorgeous lovelies identified in the credits only by the colour or length of their hair.

It’s rather fruitless to try and explain the plot any further. The large, multi-national cast have a series of largely pointless interactions going from one place to another with little apparent rhyme or reason. Apparently, the secret of the painting is discovered at some point, so the canvases disappear from the story, only to return late on, but I’ve no idea what the secret was or why they go to the places they do. At one point, everyone visits a ‘haunted’ castle, but I suspect it was just because the location was available for filming for a couple of hours.

The film doesn’t even make an effort to establish the identities of its characters. Some synopses of the story mention that Hargitay is a secret agent, but it’s never mentioned in the film. On several occasions, auctioneer Copleston whispers apparently essential information to several of the principals in turn, but the audience never finds out what he was saying or how it affects the story. Action is limited to the odd bout of poorly choreographed fisticuffs and humour to the listless mugging of the cast, who wander through proceedings as if barely paying attention.

Cascino was an Argentinian industrialist who entered the film business in 1964 and departed three years later, having written, produced and acted in a total of four films. He also served as Production Manager on three of them and directed the final two. He also edited this one, making some very curious and hamfisted choices with his cutting. Similarly, as this was his first time in the director’s chair, perhaps his lack of competence in this department is somewhat forgivable, but it’s hard to work out just what he was trying to achieve with the film. Perhaps he envisaged it as a madcap chase comedy such as Stanley Kramer’s overblown ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’ (1963)? If that were the case, it falls hopelessly flat. Is it a caper movie? Not really. A Eurospy? Well, perhaps.

Additionally, the English dubbing is awful, with Vincent saddled with a ridiculously over the top ‘come to bed’ French tone and an English girl who makes Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in ‘Mary Poppins’ (1964) sound positively restrained. If all this seems like it might make for a deliciously bizarre 1960s free-form experience, then perhaps that was Cascino’s intention. Unfortunately, the lack of jokes and the absence of plot, action, stakes, form and logic leaves a flabby blob of a movie that goes nowhere and takes a very long and tedious time to get there.

An awkward and rather baffling experience. Unbelievably, Cascino’s fourth and final film was apparently a sequel.

Ringo, It’s Massacre Time/Giunse Ringo e… fu tempo di massacro/Ringo arrive le temps du massacre /The Revenge of Ringo/Wanted Ringo’ (1970)

Ringo, It's Massacre Time/Giunse Ringo e… fu tempo di massacro/Ringo arrive le temps du massacre /The Revenge of Ringo/Wanted Ringo' (1970)‘Guess there are just too many things I don’t understand.’

After his brother goes missing in a remote small town, a notorious gunman rides in looking for him. He soon finds out that the missing man had hired out to protect a local rancher and his daughter. There’s been a string of mysterious deaths in the area, and the cattle baron believes that he will be next…

Bizarre cross-pollination of the Spaghetti Western and the Giallo with an added helping of witchcraft thrown into the mix for good measure. If mixing such disparate elements sounds like an intriguing concept, sadly the finished film is a chaotic, incoherent mess, its shortcomings the result of significant production problems.

Gunslinger Mike Wood (Mickey Hargitay) is a man with a price on his head. He’s wanted for murder, bank robbery and stealing a horse. South of Tuscon, he finds work at the ranch of Don Alonso (Omero Gargano). The cattleman needs protection; people in and around the local town have been dropping like flies, foaming at the mouth as they die. No-one can explain it, and everyone is running scared. Hargitay agrees to help, influenced by his growing romance with Gargano’s daughter, Pilar (Lucia Bomez). One morning, when he wakes, he finds a strange clay doll in his room.

Ringo, It's Massacre Time/Giunse Ringo e… fu tempo di massacro/Ringo arrive le temps du massacre /The Revenge of Ringo/Wanted Ringo' (1970)

‘Just seeing if the production could afford any bullets…’

Sheriff Sam Carroll (Giovanni Ivan Scratuglia) arrives on Hargitay’s heels but discovers that the gunman has disappeared without a trace. All he can track down is the gunslinger’s younger brother, Ringo (Jean-Louis) who is also following the family trade. The two reluctantly join forces to find out what has happened to Hargitay and explain the strange and deadly plague that has stricken the town.

Examining the finished film, it’s easy to conclude that this was likely a troubled production in more ways than one. The problem we do know about involves the participation of Hargitay. The film had not been shooting long before he abruptly quit to return to the States. His son Zoltan had been seriously injured by a lion during a photo-opp with his wife, Jayne Mansfield. He did not return, leaving director Mario Pinzauti with about only 20 minutes of footage. Eventually, this ended up forming the film’s first act, accompanied by some fruitless attempts to provide plot coherence by our old friend, VoiceOver Man.

Ringo, It's Massacre Time/Giunse Ringo e… fu tempo di massacro/Ringo arrive le temps du massacre /The Revenge of Ringo/Wanted Ringo' (1970)

‘It’s ok, Jayne doesn’t need to know…’

Casting Jean-Louis as Hargitay’s brother allowed production to continue, but the finished results have all the earmarks of a film that ran out of money. For a start, the director still had access to the rest of the cast, the locations and the sets. Given that, why not reshoot the Hargitay scenes with Jean-Louis instead? Obviously, in the final film, Hargitay just abruptly disappears, and this is only resolved by a passing reference to his probable death. It’s incredibly clumsy and could have easily been avoided if reshoots had been possible. On the other hand, maybe he had some marquee value in Europe, and the producers wanted his name to stay attached. 

But that’s the least of the film’s issues. The narrative is all over the place, skipping from one scene to the next with no sense of natural story development. Jean-Louis meets with Gargano at his ranch in an early scene and asks him about the family coat of arms on the hacienda wall. The camera lingers on it for almost ten seconds. Obviously, it’s going to be important to the story. No, it’s never mentioned again. Similarly, in a later scene, the cattleman promises to come clean and explain everything that’s going on. This explanation? His wife went mad, sees ‘visions’ and ‘some people have died.’ That’s it. That’s everything. Later on, he makes the same promise and, again, doesn’t tell anyone anything. In addition, production values are very low with only a limited number of interiors, including a threadbare saloon that has no windows and is always shot from the same side. 

Ringo, It's Massacre Time/Giunse Ringo e… fu tempo di massacro/Ringo arrive le temps du massacre /The Revenge of Ringo/Wanted Ringo' (1970)

‘If you buy enough drinks, maybe I’ll be able to make a downpayment on the other two walls of this tavern…’

The highlight of the picture is probably a scene in the ranch-house between Jean-Louis and Bomez. The first time he met her was five minutes before when he’d shot a man (I don’t know who!) attempting to climb in her bedroom window. She screamed, and he leapt in with his trusty six-gun to save her. Now she’s come to his room to thank him. They speak for a minute, with Gomez following her father’s lead and providing gloriously vague and non-specific explanations about everything. Another woman screams somewhere close by. ‘Don’t worry, it’s just my mother, she’s mentally sick,’ says Bomez, providing the obvious cue for the couple to start kissing and have sex. Was that the actor’s original dialogue? Somehow, I doubt it. The scene where Jean-Louis and Gargano meet for the first time is also noteworthy. Jean-Louis’ side of the conversation takes place in perfect daylight, but Gargano seems to be speaking at night!

Some obvious conclusions can be drawn here. Firstly, the filmmakers had to use every scrap of footage that they had, whether it informed the story or not. Also, attempting to impose some kind of a plot on these mismatched bits and pieces probably involved assembling scenes in a different order from what was initially intended and dubbing on dialogue not in the original script. This contention is further supported by the facts that the finished feature runs only a scant 73 minutes, with opening credits delivered over a black screen, and a release date five years after the beginning of principal photography.

‘If I understood the script, I’d tell you exactly what was going on…’

Writer-director Pinzauti did not go on to a long career in the Italian film business, but he did co-direct well-regarded Spaghetti Western ‘Let’s Go and Kill Sartana’ (1971). He also delivered unofficial addition to the ‘Emanuelle’ adult film series ‘Emmanuelle Bianca e Nera/Passion Plantation’ (1976). In the same spirit, it’s worth mentioning that this film has nothing to do with the two popular ‘Ringo’ Spaghetti Westerns directed by Duccio Tessari. This film was simply an attempt to cash in on their success.

Given the mixture of genres, there might have been an interesting story to be told here, but production difficulties condemned the finished product to an abysmal fate.

The Loves of Hercules/Gli amori di Ercole/Hercules vs the Hydra (1960)

The Loves of Hercules/Gli amori di Ercole/Hercules vs the Hydra (1960)‘Oracle, you who see truth in shifting sand, in the moving tides of the sea, in the flight of birds across the sky, you to whom the stars reveal their secrets and the fates disclose their mysteries we mortals see only in our admonishing dreams.’

Hercules visits an Oracle for guidance on the will of the Gods. While he is away, his camp is attacked by the forces of the King of Acalia. His wife is killed, and he vows revenge but soon discovers that the King is already dead and his daughter is on the throne….

The fourth in the loose series of Italian films produced in the wake of global hit ‘Hercules’ (1957) starring Steve Reeves. As a legendary hero, the demi-god was (mostly) not subject to copyright infringement, so there was nothing to stop rival Italian producers bringing their own vision to the screen. This entry comes from Alberto Manco who had not surfed the wave of muscleman films but had previous experience in the Peplum arena with ‘Aphrodite, Goddess of Love’ (1958). The major selling point of his film? American star Jayne Mansfield, only four years on from her star-making turn in ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ (1956). She was still under contract to 20th Century Fox, but they were perfectly happy for her to go work for someone else. Her only condition? The title role in the film had to be played by her husband.

Fed up with a life of labours performed at the whim of the Gods, Hercules (Mickey Hargitay) wants nothing more than to settle down to the quiet life with pretty wife Megara (Lidia Alfonsi). Unfortunately, fate has other plans. He’s seeking advice from an Oracle when the army of his greatest enemy, King Eurysteus (Cesare Fantoni), overruns his camp and slaughters almost everyone, including Alfonsi. It’s not a good day for Fantoni either, who ends up on the wrong end of the blade of his trusted lieutenant, snake in the grass Licos (Massimo Serato). Why Kings in ancient times put some much faith in their right-hand men is a bit of a mystery! They were about as trustworthy as a Caliph’s Grand Vizier!

The Loves of Hercules/Gli amori di Ercole/Hercules vs the Hydra (1960)

‘But you said that bread was Gluten-feee…’

Predictably steamed by events, Hargitay storms the gates of Acalia solo, ready to call out Fantoni and unleash a world of hurt. But, of course, it’s daughter Deianira (Mansfield) on the throne, and the big lug has second thoughts at once. Mansfield opts for the ‘Trial of Themis’ to atone for the wrongs done to our hunky hero. This ritual involves Hargitay throwing spears at her much like a nightclub knife-throwing act! She survives and, of course, the two fall in love. The same romantic complications occur for the big man’s sidekick, Timanthes (Andrea Scotti) and Mansfield’s handmaiden, Aleia (Rossella Como) so I guess some time is supposed to have passed? If so, then the film spectacularly fails to make that clear. Perhaps Hargitay didn’t care for his murdered wife that much, after all!

The evil Serato can’t be having all this lovey-dovey stuff, of course, and frames Hargitay for murder. Going on the run to prove his innocence, the big man ends up in a hilarious fight with an almost entirely immobile Hydra and falls under the spell of Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta (Tina Gioriani). She’s able to disguise herself as Mansfield, thanks to the spells of Maga, the witch (Olga Solbelli). Hargitay seems fine with a photocopy of his lady love, though, thus proving that looks are everything and that he’s a complete jerk. What he doesn’t know is that Evil Mansfield turns her discarded lovers into Tree Men who are rooted to the ground in a nearby quarry. They make for quite an impressive visual image, at least until one of them tries to cuddle Evil Mansfield to death!

The Loves of Hercules/Gli amori di Ercole/Hercules vs the Hydra (1960)

Tell me, honestly. Do these look big in Cinemascope?’

Those expecting a ‘so bad, it’s good’ experience based on the film’s somewhat cheesy reputation are likely to be in for a bit of a disappointment. Yes, it’s certainly bad, and there a few laugh out loud moments, but it doesn’t plumb the depths that might be expected. This is mostly because of the technical expertise on display. Some of the sets (presumably at the Cinecitta Studios in Rome) are very impressive in their scale, and the cinematography of Enzo Serafin is pretty good in the location scenes. However, the cheap Eastmancolor process doesn’t help with the interiors.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of weak links in the finished product, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who I mean. Despite being a bodybuilder and former Mr Universe, Hargitay even fails to convince in the action scenes, let alone when he’s called to interact with the rest of the cast. Apparently, in real life, he was extraordinarily strong, but he often seems to be struggling to lift the various props. Tales of his muscular prowess could have been exaggerated, of course, but the props could have possessed genuine weight. Of course, it’s hard to believe that the filmmakers were searching for that kind of realism, but perhaps Hargitay insisted on impressing his wife? Whatever the truth of it, the results are not pretty.

The Loves of Hercules/Gli amori di Ercole/Hercules vs the Hydra (1960)

‘I’m only demonstrating the Heimlich Maneuver. Honestly!’

For her part, Mansfield struggles in both roles with a tendency to overact at crucial moments. Many modern critics point to this film as evidence of her lack of talent, and it is true that light comedy was a far better fit for her style of performance. However, those lacking faith in her ability as a dramatic actress should check her out in Paul Wendkos’ interesting noir ‘The Burglar’ (1957) opposite Dan Duryea. It was actually filmed two years before its release and, in effect, was her first leading role. No, she’s not award-worthy in the film, but she’s perfectly acceptable and, on occasion, quite effective. It’s also worth remembering that it’s highly likely that there was a language barrier when filming this mythological adventure and Mansfield wouldn’t be the first inexperienced actress exposed by a lack of direction.

By this point, her big-screen career was effectively already over anyway. Of her five films that were released immediately after her breakthrough hit, only ‘Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter’ (1957) was successful at the box office. A seeming addiction to public attention led to an endless series of cheap publicity stunts which over-exposed her and fostered the general perception of her as less of an actress and more of a cut-price Marilyn Monroe stand-in. Pregnancies in 1958 and a year later scuppered whatever plans 20th Century Fox might have had for their new starlet and they closed out her contract with a couple of loan-outs for low-budget British thrillers in the early 1960s. A few independent projects followed, including her notorious nude appearance in ‘Promises…..Promises!’ (1963), before she met with a fatal road accident in 1967. And, no, she wasn’t decapitated as urban legend has it; that was one of her wigs on the dashboard.

The Loves of Hercules/Gli amori di Ercole/Hercules vs the Hydra (1960)

‘I love you, but that accent has got to go…’

Hargitay struggled on as an actor for a while after the couple’s Mexican divorce in 1963. There was a starring role in another Italian muscleman picture ‘La vendetta dei gladiatori/Revenge of the Gladiators’ (1964) and a handful of Spaghetti Westerns. His only other real roles of note were in guilty pleasures ‘Bloody Pit of Horror’ (1965) and ‘Lady Frankenstein’ (1971). He left the business in the 1970s but came out of retirement to appear on TV’s ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’; sharing the screen with series regular Mariska Hargitay, his daughter with Mansfield.

Serato was an actor whose career stretched from 1938 to his death in 1989. He never stopped working, running up an impressive 176 credits. These were mostly second leads in Italian films, often historical dramas, swashbucklers and biblical epics, but he moved into the cult arena as tastes changed in the 1960s. Offbeat science fiction projects, such as ‘The Tenth Victim’ (1965) and Antonio Margheriti’s demented ‘The Wild, Wild Planet’ (1966) were followed by Giallo films like ‘Who Killed The Prosecutor and Why?’ (1971) and ‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ (1978). He also had a supporting role in Luigi Cozzi’s ridiculous space opera ‘The Humanoid’ (1979) and the notorious ‘Killer Nun’ (1979) with Anita Ekberg. At the other end of the scale, he also appeared as the Bishop in Nicolas Roeg’s classic ‘Don’t Look Now’ (1973).

The Loves of Hercules (1960)

‘But it said “Strawberry Blonde’ on the box…’

Having defended the film to some extent, it is worth mentioning that there’s more than one version out there. The one I saw featured our golden couple dubbed by other American actors, but apparently, there is a print that features their original voices. This has the distinction of giving the world the only screen Hercules who speaks with a heavy Hungarian accent.

Mostly competent mythological madness derailed by the performances of its imported stars.

 

Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)

Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)‘They desecrated your beauty with their sordidness. The day of the Crimson Executioner has come!’

A publisher takes some models on location to shoot covers for his range of new horror novels. Unfortunately, he picks a creepy old castle; once the hangout of a notorious killer who was tortured and executed centuries earlier. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the psycho still seems to be around…

Cheerfully trashy Euro-horror from the 1960s that sidesteps subtlety and taste and instead delivers a garish and tacky tale of perversion and murder. The film stars Mickey Hargitay, who was best known as a bodybuilder and ex-husband of famous starlet Jayne Mansfield. A no-name cast of tasty Euro-babes and faceless hunks serve as typical slasher fodder.

There isn’t a huge amount of entertainment on offer in this one as mystery and suspense are ditched early on in favour of rather crude and obvious chills. What remains fun is Hargitay’s performance as the retired actor who owns the castle. He lets loose without apology, aided and abetted by some wonderfully eccentric and ridiculous dialogue, mostly focusing on his own physique and general perfection. Sure, it’s a turn that most probably belongs on the pantomime stage but it injects some badly needed life into a listless, formulaic production. The only other real point of interest is a bizarre trap involving lots of arrows and a giant spider that reeks of 1920s silent melodrama, rather than a movie made almost half a century later.

Sadly, factors on the debit side just keep piling up. A flat, predictable storyline, limited and unconvincing SFX and some atrocious dubbing. Our heroes and heroines are just cyphers; they bitch a little and indulge in the usual romantic escapades without becoming anything more than mildly annoying. In fact, I couldn’t wait for old Red Suit to get stuck in!

Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)

Be afraid… be very afraid…

Director Massimo Pupillo didn’t have a long career; helming a few other Euro-horrors and one ‘Django’ western. The writing partnership of Roberto Natale and Romano Migliorini’s most notable other effort was probably Mario Bava’s ‘Lisa and the Devil’ (1973). Hargitay also appeared in ‘The Reincarnation of Isabel’ (1973), which is supposed to be worth a look.

In a way, you could see this film as a precursor to ‘Halloween’ (1978) and its ilk, but you’d probably be stretching the point a bit. The whole business is actually based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade. At least that’s what the credits inform us. It’s reassuring to know that the old bugger was able to help pay the bills by penning cheap 1960s horror films.