Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sinewy Selections-My Peplum Obsessions

After the Halloween Horrors selections had me spending the month with the horror genre, I was looking for something different. I love horror films, but there is certainly more to my cinematic diet and quite by accident I discovered that Peplum needed some love, and fast. The last thing I watched for Halloween was the always awesome Goliath and the Vampires, and I could not have had a better way to flow into the muscular mayhem of EuroAdventure!
Here is the roster to date of my sinewy selections...

Goliath And The Vampires is right at the top of the pile of happy time flicks for me. I did not see it as a kid, but found it quite by accident when I was just starting to explore the Italian horror scene with a broader eye. And this is truly a great blend of horror and classical style Peplum with Gordon Scott thrust in to a weird world that has a little bit of EVERYTHING, but especially fun is Kobrak the evil Vampire Villain and his weird flying creatures! As with many grand adventures, Goliath is on the case because of a beautiful woman captured by a creepy monster and has to bust a whole lot of heads on the little island of Salminak. Plot goes to the side as Goliath has to tackle soldiers and monsters alike after Kobrak tears up his village in search of blood and young women (yikes, the sharks get the women that are too old!!).
I love this film because it looks weird and plays even stranger. The effects and especially the make up for Kobrak are memorable and if you can't dig this bloody film that hurls more horror fantasy at you than most films ever have-well, you may want to stick to the more earthbound of Maciste flicks. If you are a horror fan that loves the Eurotrash cinema and wants to feel like you are at the greatest Saturday afternoon matinee (or late night drive-in)-this is your film. Go watch it. Now.

Hercules Against The Moloch features one of the best looking villains in the genre and has Giorgio Ferroni directing, so you know you are in for a good time. Ferroni knows horror (Night of the Devils) and action (New York Calling Superdragon), and he could pull together a decent Peplum as well! A top notch cast includes Gordon Scott, Michel Lemoine and Rosalba Neri, who gets to play full on bad woman here, and they elevate any moment that does not include heroic action. The weird twist here, after we have the legend of the deformed Moloch who is really stunning to look at, is that this is not a Hercules movie at all. Gordon Scott plays Glauco, a prince that takes up a mission to bring down the Moloch Cult and falls in love along the way. So, there are not a ton of really superheroic moments, but instead Glauco goes undercover and decides to use the name Hercules to do it. This would be like me going to a porn set and taking the stage name "John C. Holmes" in a lot of ways-but nobody questions Glauco.
Fast paced and very exciting, you do get a bit of recycled shots from The Trojan Horse for the battle sequences, but the story of The Moloch, his sacrifices and Glauco's quest to bring him down make it worth a viewing.

The Giant of Metropolis is another favorite-perhaps the ultimate cross between Serial Sci-Fi and Peplum, it is an amazingly serious bit of goofy cinema. Obro, played by Gordon Mitchell, is sent to the city of Metropolis in order to be the naturally (HUGE) man to warn the city dwellers and the mad king Yotar about the dastardly potential all of their scientific noodling will do against the earth. Yotar doesn't take this well, beating on Obro endlessly, forcing him to do battle with crazed Pygmys and monsters while also being experimented upon. This is all great entertainment, but I find the weird relationship between Yotar, his son Elmos and his own father. For some reason the king wants to transplant his fathers mind in to his sons body, and then make him eternally young. This is certainly a ripe field for the Yotar Family Therapist! Obro continues to get twisted up like a pectorally powerful pretzel until he gets not only his message across, but the earth opens up to drive the point home.
Equal parts pop art and Peplum, this is a joy to watch every time. The use of minimalist beats in a strange version of the typical beautiful woman dancing for the court really excites my inner pulp loving kid brain.
Look for the sequence of Obro strapping on some antler / blade claws and carving up a troupe of evil soldiers, I would be very surprised if stills from this sequence did not inspire the Marvel Comics character Wolverine.
A must.

Rome Against Rome / War Of The Zombies is an interesting film directed by Giuseppe Vari, who was in the "directors" chair of Urban Warriors, one of the death knell flicks from the Italian Post Nuke genre...and it does not feature zombies! Ettore Manni is our hero, sent by Rome to investigate a gold robbery that has everyone in a tizzy. What he finds is that the locals are being manipulated by an evil sorcerer named Adherbad-played under some wacked out make-up by John Drew Barrymore. Adherbad does come packing an army of the undead, but these are really ghosts and not zombies, though we are treated to an interesting little Altered Beast style "Rise From Your Grave!" sequence.
Susy Anderson plays an evil queen and a young Evelyn Steward, who looks STUNNING in this film, is a damsel in distress for Gaius to save-so there is plenty of Peplum Pulchritude on show.
The big battle sequence with the undead soldiers must have been an amazing trippy experience during the theatrical run of this. I could not stop thinking of Ralph Bakshi and his Lord of the Rings, because the crazy strobing and layered ghosts vs. men looked like a nifty bit of Retro Rotoscoping!
Not a top title really, but interesting....

Conqueror Of Atlantis made me come close to actually jumping up and down more than once (the one body pump was adequate), because if you show me the name Alfonso Brescia it just makes me smile. Add that this is a Kirk Morris film AND a Brescia film-I'm super happy. Toss in ATLANTIS and blue men that look a whole lot like some of the characters from the Spaced Out Classics of Al Bradley Bonkersville and I'm elated. Heracles washes ashore after some adventure or another and finds himself in Egypt where he ends up caught between two warring tribes that are convinced the other are trying to destroy them. Heracles spends a little time on each side and realizes that a third party is involved...ATLANTIS! Crazy scientist Ramir (played with zany beard by the perpetual bad guy Piero Lulli) is converting the missing tribesman in to android/zombie hitman in Superhero clothing at the behest of the evil queen and her female guards-until Heracles comes in to break it all down. There is a lot of fighting, a lot of Al Bradley spectacle and a very effective use of color and smoke as special effects as our hero witnesses the dread process of androidization. I loved this bit...
The whole thing is just a blast to watch and Kirk Morris, who I call Eddie Haskell with Muscles, is so comfortable with these roles he brings an almost casual sense of fun to every scene he is in. He even manages to add a sense of gravitas (take that Mr. Senn) to what amounts to pulling two sticks up and down for almost ten minutes of screen time! Go to the 8 minute mark of this clip and watch Morris react to Atlantis for the first time....priceless material that is not only a great moment in the movie, but the perfect reaction to most any Brescia film!

This is the b-feature on the Something Weird DVD of Goliath and the Dragon and is one I'd recommend.

Massacre In The Black Forest is directed by Tough To Kill favorite Ferdinando Baldi and was a very pleasant, if not very Peplum as I know it, experience. A downbeat saga of two Roman Centurions, one of whom is a Germanic Tribesman shunned by the Romans, it is violent and really serious. It is also very very good-even if the entire affair looks cheap. The two main characters are played with intensity by Cameron Mitchell as the Roman that gets mightily annoyed by his friend, yet does not want to kill him and Hans von Borsody as the obsessive Arminius. Baldi knows action films well-and he pulls off a great fort seige sequence that looks like more than a few stuntmen took major risks during the filming of. Nope, you would not see most guys standing under big gobs of flaming oil as they get dropped on them and hope to hit the water below hard enough to put out the flames. Most of the time, it doesn't. Yeesh.
A little romance, but that can't hold a candle to the hard ass action here-there are THREE massacres by my count, so you get triple what you bargained for. I'm going to have to watch the other Baldi film, In The Shadow Of Eagles soon. Bonus points for Beba Loncar making a brief, yet enjoyable, appearance.

Triumph Of The Son of Hercules starts really well with a sacrifice to a big statue, but quickly becomes a very typical Saturday Afternoon matinee film, again with Kirk Morris-though he doesn't have nearly the amount of fun material to work with here as he usually does. Most happily this is the first Sons of Hercules Theme Song appearance for me in a while. I love that track... The final battle with the Uri-Men is good, but the rest of the film won't dazzle you. Well, the bit on the above poster with the test of strength being a "stop the chariots from going Motel Hell" is cool...

So, that is the start of my Peplum month with more to come...I've already dug in to Umberto Lenzi's groovy Maciste cross over Zorro contro Maciste which is great! Stay tuned and HEAVE some Peplum in to your players today.

No comments: