Friday, December 31, 2010

Gui da gui (Encounters of the Spooky Kind) (1980)
HONG KONG --- horror

Dir: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo

It's always somewhat of a gamble to mix horror with comedy and have it turn out successful. Both genres of film are very obtrusive. What may scare or get a laugh from one person, could change completely to the next person. So it has always been kinda difficult to walk that tightrope. Hong Kong films have never had a problem throwing their audiences on an emotional roller coaster. One minute they could be in a suspenseful battle scene, the next they could make you laugh.

"Encounters of the Spooky Kind" (aka Spooky Encounters) is a slight foray into the horror genre, while mixing martial arts with a dash of comedy. Legendary comedic kung-fu star and director Sammo Hung plays his familiar lovable sap, this time named Cheung, or as the townsfolk call him 'Courageous Cheung'. He was so named because of his bravery; but he is soon put to the test. In the opening of the film, we get a dubious introduction to Cheung. In a dream sequence, he's being tormented by two ghosts. He wakes up falling out of bed and to the consistent insults of his wife. Cheung goes out a local restaurant with some friends who want to test his bravery. One of them dares him to go through a variation of the bloody mary urban legend, and a meal is on the line.

Cheung goes to a his friends house at midnight with an apple he's supposed to peel completely in front of a mirror. If he succeeds, he'll have good luck and if he fails he'll be cursed. Things don't turn out right, cause his friends set him up for a prank with one of them dressed as a the ghostly woman that's supposed to appear in the mirror. One of Cheung's friends does indeed see the ghost though, and high tails it out of there. His other friend, the one who put him up to it agree's to get Cheung's next meal, that is until the lady in the mirror pulls him in. Alone now, Cheung is confronted by the ghost and stands to meet the same fate, but narrowly escapes with his life as the house crumbles to the ground.

Cheung retains his rep, but soon has much bigger issues to deal with. He appears to be a chauffeur for a wealthy politician named. Master Tam who only comes to Cheung's village for an extra-marital affair. Cheung has lunch with some friends while getting the hint about infidelity from the local merchant, yet must contend with suspicions of his wife. By chance, he comes across two peeping toms at his window staring at a couple in his house. We see that it is Master Tam with Cheung's wife, who flees the scene of the crime before Cheung busts in on them.

Like the biblical King David, Master Tam goes to sinister lengths to cover up his infidelity. With the advice of an assistant, he plots to kill Cheung, but instead of simple murder, they go the supernatural of using black magic against him. They pay a greedy local taoist sorcerer to do the job, but his younger brother Tsui (played by legendary kung fu star Fat Chung), disapproves of his older brothers intentions, and decides to help the unbeknownst victim; Cheung.

Cheung is set-up again to test his bravery, this time by someone working with the sorcerer. A man follows Cheung and wagers him some money if he sleep overnight in a temple. Tsui is onto them, and goes to Cheung's assistance about what to do to survive the night. After surviving a harrowing battle with a jiang shi or hopping vampire (performed by Hung and Chan contemporary Biao Yuen in heavy makeup) Cheung is met with another wager to sleep in the temple. Tsui of course assists with some weaponry to combat his older brother's magic. Night two proves more difficult as Cheung gets into a physical confrontation against the undead.

He does, however survive again, so Master Tam devises a plan to frame him for the murder of his wife. He's jailed and escapes becoming a fugitive to find out who killed his wife. When he teams with Tsui again, they discover he's been framed by Master Tam and is behind the corrupt sorcerer's intention to kill him. It soon leads them both into an all-out battle of supernatural warfare.

"Encounters of the Spooky Kind" features some pretty decent special effects, and the martial arts expertise of Sammo Hung. The film uses a score that lifts bits of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining", but that's hardly even an issue once you get into it. Hung definitely holds the balance of kung-fu and comedy pretty tight, but if you're looking for scary horror, you won't find much here. Keep a lookout for "Kung-fu Hustle"s Sui-Lung Leung as one of the peeping tom's.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) (1951)
UK --- fantasy

Dir: Brian Desmond-Hurst

Charles Dickens' beloved 1843 fantasy story originally titled 'A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas', has stood the test of time. Pretty good, seeing how Dickens didn't really get much money for it. He had to practically self-publish the book, seeing how he had to put up the money. The short story became a very popular and was prone to adaptation around the holidays, first on the stage and then to the screen. The supernatural tale of reflection, merriment, and redemption, had been filmed previously. The earliest filmed adaptation was in 1901 which saw the first British produced silent short film, followed by another American made silent short film in 1908, and yet another effort by Edison's company in 1910. In 1916 we got the first full-length feature called "The Right to Be Happy", but is now lost. The only version available to most was the not so accurate MGM version made in 1938; that is until this version came along.

Ebenezer Scrooge (played here by Alastair Sim) is the very personification of winter. He is symbolic of a time of year where it is often cold, and we reflect on the year and years past. Scrooge is a cynical old man of snow white hair and full of regret, devoid of compassion or love. Though his miserly demeanor shows he has an affection for monetary resources, there is little for humanity's strife and suffering, or the thankfulness of his own wealth.

The story opens at the funeral of Scrooge's business partner Jacob Marley, where he comes upon a debtor begging for more money and promptly dismisses him. Scrooge's best retort to the season of giving is "Bah! Humbug!". In this version we get a slight reference to Aesop's fable of "The Ant and the Grasshopper", which is telling of the character of Scrooge's miserly tendencies, and was a tale that told of the rewards of saving, saving, saving wealth for the winter. Keeping with the tale, we fast forward seven years later, and Scrooge is cruel to his clerk Bob Cratchit, to his nephew Fred, children carolling, and to representatives of the poor. Scrooge, however is still a haunted man. Haunted by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, we soon learn there's more than meets the eye to Scrooge's lack of love. As we have all been shaped and molded by the choices we make, and the circumstances of our decisions. When Scrooge goes home Christmas eve night, he is confronted by the apparition of Jacob Marley who warns him that the lack of compassion in his heart will lead him in an eternity of torment by seeing the needy but never able to help. Marley tells Scrooge three spirits will follow visit him to hopefully help him to repent from his soulless contention.

The first spirit to visit Scrooge in his room, to the toll of clock bells ringign, is the ghost of Christmas past. Angelic and radiant in appearance, this spirit is Scrooge's visual interpretation of yesteryear. As it is for all of us, the best of times always seems behind us. He is lead out the window, and back in time where he sees himself at the age of a young boy. Scrooge delights in seeing his hometown and his younger sister, Fan (or Fannie) as she comes to tell him they're going home for the Christmas holiday. He then is brought a little later in time to a Christmas party held by his old employer, a portly "jolly" fella by the name of Fezziwig. Scrooge also sees himself in love with a girl named Alice (in the story her name is Belle, keeping with the theme of the tale being a carol), whom he's engaged to. We then move ahead to a scene that's not in the story, of Scrooge joining a new firm of corrupt employers, which ultimately sets the stage for Scrooge's fall. This, in addition to the death of his sister Fan during childbirth pushes Scrooge into a slow descent of spirit.

So the bells toll again, Scrooge awakens in his bed as a light emanates outside his door. A jubilant voice beckons him out of his bedroom to the sight of a large bearded man who announces himself as the Spirit of Christmas Present. He appears to be a kingly robed Santa Claus archetype, before Coca-Cola changed his appearance for us. This ghost takes Scrooge to the full home of Bob Crachit as they prepare a Christmas meal. The spirit informs him of the imminent death of the crippled boy "Tiny" Tim. They also visit the festivities of Scrooge's nephew Fred, as Scrooge hears them speak unfavorably of him, while Fred tries to defend him. Next he is brought to see his former love Alice working with the poor. The ghost soon shows Scrooge an omen in two quite gaunt and grossly deformed children under his coat; a boy and a girl which the ghost ascribes as the "ignorance" and "want" of mankind.

Finally, Scrooge faces the final ghostly visitor in the faceless and speechless Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, which in every version is the visual allusion of Death. This is Scrooge's last chance to come to repentance as he sees the Cratchit family mourning the death of their young "Tiny" Tim. He then is brought to his own home as a bunch of vagrants continue to speak ill of Scrooge as they go over his belongings like chintzy consumers at a rummage sale. Scrooge questions the spirit if all this will truly come to pass, or if it is just one possibility of future events. Here he is brought to his own grave, where Scrooge breaks down and pleads his vow of repentance. He falls face first in the pit of his own grave, and while kicking and screaming quickly awakens to a new day - Christmas Day. He has been allowed a reprieve, and arises to see the sun again with a fresh joyous spirit. Scrooge makes amends with his nephew and his clerk Bob Cratchit and becomes a new man.

There are plenty of versions of this tale out there for comparison. This one, however, stands out as a popular favorite for many reasons. The first reason is, this stayed true to the source material more so than the previous MGM version which pretty much rushed the story along, foregoing somewhat essential elements of the tale. The only thing this film lacks is the extinguishing of the spirit of Christmas Past, due to budgetary reasons, the spirit is not so bright. The most important aspect of this version is the radical performance of Alastair Sim, who truly shows the believable transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. It is arguably the most memorable reference point for anyone who has performed the character you've seen from then on.

The story of "A Christmas Carol" has been highly inspirational, having been the influence on films such as "It's A Wonderful Life", "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", and to some degree even the "Back to the Future" trilogy. Yes, there is that time travel element, though the story can not be called one because it is unproven that Scrooge ever really travels through supernatural means as opposed to technological devices. It literally could be as he said, all in his head.

The classic Christmas tale does keep in the true reason for the season. It is not uncommon for good writers to plant hints at the theme within character names. The name Ebenezer comes directly from a story in the Hebrew Bible's old testament. In 1 Samuel 7, the prophet Samuel was instructed to pray for Israel during a battle against their arch enemies the Philistines. The prayer went through and they were victorious, and Samuel set a stone between the Mizpah and Shen, calling it Eben-ezer ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’. Translated, Ebenezer means 'stone of help'. In other words, Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a sort of messiah and only saving grace to the spiritual Jacob (Israel) Marley and other remorseful spirits. Though Charles Dickens wasn't as deep a spiritual writer as CS Lewis or John Bunyan, like most people in earlier centuries they were humble God-fearing Christian folk who believed in morals and values. Dickens' sentimental essay on the spirit of Christmas and redemption will never go out of style, so long as there is belief in goodwill to all men.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Alphaville , une ├ętrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965)
FRANCE --- science fiction

Dir: Jean-Luc Godard

cy·ber·punk (sbr-pnk) n.
Fast-paced science fiction involving futuristic computer-based societies.
cyber·punk adj.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company

Jean-Luc Godard's now classic French new-wave film, "Alphaville", did not coin the phrase cyberpunk, but it certainly influenced the science fiction sub-genre. The film is one of the quintessential examples of science fiction that works as a social commentary of the zeitgeist, yet somehow influences or predicts the future. It's a can't lose proposition. The more things change, the more things stay the same, no matter what year it reads on the calendar.

In true-to-form film noir, a raspy voice narrates our lone gumshoe's black-and-white adventure into the neon drenched night; and yet it doesn't. American actor Eddie Constantine portrays Lemmy Caution, a character Godard appropriates from author Peter Cheyney. Also of note, Constantine is revisiting this character like a pair of old shoes, much like Sean Connery to 007 (as of date he's played the character well over ten times). We find Caution, under the guise of Ivan Johnson, entering a seedy hotel where he hopes to find one his marks, a man named agent X21. X21 seemingly goes into cardiac arrest whilst meeting with a less than enthusiastic prostitute. He tells Caution Alpha 60 will self destruct from tenderness. He soon meets with a Natasha Von Braun (played by Godard ex-wife and director pet Anna Karina).

Natasha escorts Caution through the soulless city that is Alphaville. Under strict control of a super-computer designated Alpha 60, the denizens are devoid of tenderness and take no qualms in executing people with love and compassion. Caution is just in time for a formal gala at an Olympic-sized swimming pool that celebrates the execution of those who resist. Here, Caution sees his next mark, the sunglasses-clad Professor Vonbraun, (possibly a reference to renown rocket scientist Wernher von Braun) Alpha 60's creator. His interest attracts suspicion, and he's subsequently captured by Alpha 60's engineers and interrogated by the super-computer. The interrogation is unsuccessful as Caution dodges its questions with poetic answers that ultimately can not be interpreted by Alpha 60.

Being from the Outlands, Caution despises Alphaville with each passing discovery of its subjugation of basic human feelings. He grows fonder for Natasha as she begins to develop a forbidden relationship with him. Natasha rediscovers that the Bible (which is a name used for the dictionary), has much truth in it. She slowly learns things from the Caution like poetry and words that are outlawed that she once had much affection for. She begs for Caution to get out of Alphaville, and he does, but not before he completes his mission, and destroys the super-computer responsible for the mass repression of Alphaville.

"Alphaville" isn't a masterpiece of sci-fi cinema by any means. The French New Wave aesthetics were strictly flexible enough to invite the filmmakers to experiment outside of their comfort zone. Both Godard and Truffaut (who helmed the great Bradbury adaptation "Fahrenheit 451") tried their hand in the science fiction genre, but Godard didn't feel the pressure to erect expensive sets and production design to get a message across. This reason gives viewers of "Alphaville" a choice, as it can very easily come off as cheap parody. Godard deliberately used contemporary France in his futuristic essay, and concentrated less on the film noir tropes such as chiaroscuro cinematography or fast-paced witty dialogue. Opting for a minimalist style of static close-ups of faces, neon lights, familiar electronic noises, and shifting back-and-forth to a moving camera of human interaction, Godard successfully evokes an unnerving feel throughout the piece. Putting us in Caution's pov as he snaps portraits of emotionless women with serial-number tatoos. On top of this, conveying the central message of the film in showing us Alpha 60's binary logic driven society, and Caution's unpredictable behavior.

The character Lemmy Caution comes out of the hard-boiled pulp fiction novels of the past, but he's investigating a future imperfect. It is often funny to see the futuristic imaginations of fantasists back in the day. Some came shockingly close to accurate predictions, most did not. Robby the Robot is the best example of the latter. For what it's worth, this is an interesting if archaic look into man's fears of technology and the digital age we find ourselves in. Long before the works of William Gibson or films like "The Matrix", there's no denying the ever-changing relationship between man and machine, paper versus plastic, and the constant struggle we confront embracing the future over the past. The film outright message against communism and censorship through the use of machines was only a half truth. No one could have predicted the digital age and its allowance of freedom to be yet another frontier to tame. This film, however, stands as one of the early, silent screams before the storm of technological anxiety.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974)
UK --- horror/ science fiction

Dir: Terence Fisher

It's curtains for the Hammer Frankenstein series. Peter Cushing returns to the titular role in this somber elegiac final episode. If "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed" was this series' "White Album", then this film is definitely their "Abbey Road". The previous entry in the Hammer Frankenstein series was meant to be a reboot of the franchise by starting afresh with a younger Baron Frankenstein. That venture was not successful, and as we see Hammer Studios realized the team of Peter Cushing and Terrence Fisher needed to put closure to the era of true Gothic horror they started.

Our film opens once again in a graveyard, where a robber (played by Patrick Troughton, the second Dr. Who) is stealing a fresh corpse. The unknown bandit is not alone, as a police man is onto him. The grave robber is next seen at the doorstep of a young man (Shane Briant) with the dead body in tow. This is, I think a way of teasing the audience into thinking this film is continuation of "Horror" with perhaps another recast. The young man is outed by his assistant grave robber at a local pub. We see that this man has the same banal hobby as Frankenstein, as he's cutting into the corpse for his collection of eyeballs.

Soon enough, the policeman comes knocking to investigate the young man's home. Upon looking around the young man's laboratory, he proclaims it , and arrests him. The young man is revealed to be Simon Helder, and his next stop is in a court proceeding where he tries to plead his case, but is still found guilty and sentenced to time in a local asylum for the criminally insane. On arrival, Simon demands audience with the director, where he attempts to find information on another patient named Baron Frankenstein. Unfortunately, the bumbling alcoholic director finds out soon enough Simon is only an inmate, and is spirited away by the two guards. They cruelly wash him down with a fire hose in front of the other inmates, but the man in charge comes to the rescue; Baron Frankenstein, back in black with a blond wig and a stovepipe hat. Frankenstein has Simon cleaned up by a mute onlooker named Sarah, and the guards are reprimanded by the hapless director. Simon meets with Frankenstein and reveals to him that he knows exactly who he is and that he has been committed for the same reason as the Baron was. The Baron, in turn, reveals that he now goes under the name Dr. Carl Victor.

The once adventurous yet diligent Baron Frankenstein, has now grown quite gaunt and while still even-tempered has become much more sinister and insane. Now that Frankenstein has found a new assistant in Dr. Helder, and shows him around the vicinities and introduces him to some key patients he is to care for. The Baron then introduces Simon to the inmates in a special wing of the asylum, that houses, of course those he has use of. The first is missing, a vicious patient named Schneider who is missing because he's buried. Another named professor Durendel, who's a genius at arithmetic and can hold a tune on the violin, and has an affinity for Sarah. Yet another inmate in a man named Tarmut, who is a sculptor of wooden figurines, and also has an innocent crush on Sarah.

Simon, however, begins to suspect the Baron isn't being forthcoming with him. In the morning, he sees them burying Tarmut, whom Frankenstein remarked had great hands. Upon investigation of a wailing in the night, Simon finds Sarah tending to a patient in a hidden room; the secret laboratory of Frankenstein and a frightening new monster.

This new monster (played by "Horror"s David Prowse), looks like George "The Animal" Steele with a Halloween mask of Abe Vigoda and walks with a hunchback, but has succeeded in being the most grotesque version of the series. Frankenstein's project this time is a far step down from anything remotely looking human, in a truly hideous, almost neanderthal-esque body. . . and he faults his burnt hands. He asks of Simon his opinion and assistance, and as evidenced from the opening, his specialty is eyes. They deposit a new pair of eyes, and soon after the professor conveniently hangs himself, providing a donation of a brilliant brain.

Simon, realizing the Baron may have murdered an innocent man for his experiment criticizes his methods. Unfortunately, like all of Frankenstein's prior creations, he cannot control the monster. The inherent mental or psychological tendencies of the victims always return. The professor awakens first in the monster, then the homicidal patient, Schneider, is not far behind. The Baron begins to realize his latest creature may be just another bad creation. The monster has failed to exhibit that the body was rejecting the brain. Later, when Simon goes to check on Sarah, who's been watching the creature, he finds her asleep. He awakens her with a peck on the forehead, apologizes and sends her on her way, but the jealous monster saw it. He attacks Simon, but the Baron comes to his rescue (Cushing in full his Van Helsing mode); knocking it out and returning it to its cage, Frankenstein realizes his fears were all too correct. The monster is out of control. Frankenstein then formulates his most horrific idea of the series, when he suggests that he plans to mate the monster with Sarah. Finally coming to the conclusion that Frankenstein has gone mad, Simon tries to put the monster out of its misery.

"Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell" is very much noteworthy for it's final tribute to Gothic horror of the past. It isn't the best of the series, but certainly is in the top three. Like most of the Hammer Horror pieces, they've built a repertory. I have also noticed that somethings carry over from one film to another, either intentionally or not:

- The films often opens with a thief, usually stealing a corpse.

- The actors are one thing as Thorley Walters (Frankenstein Created Woman and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed), Veronica Carlson (Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Horror of Frankenstein) and David Prowse (The Horror of Frankenstein and this film) returned in subsequent films.

- Notice that an asylum figured prominently in both this film and "Destroyed".

- Two films featured a mute girl as an assistant, "Evil of Frankenstein" and this one.

- A dirty old man is interrupted in "Horror" and this film.

- The guillotine figures in the first three films

- Everything usually goes up in flames as in "Evil", "Destroyed",

This version clearly derives its inspiration from the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" and Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" as the creatures love of Sarah is a heartbreaking shadow of those tales. A melancholy swan song of of one of British horror's mainstays, "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell" ties everything up nicely. If you haven't already followed the Frankenstein series, it is worth a try. It made a star of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and David Prowse, who all later on went on to star in George Lucas' Star Wars saga. One bit of dialogue is an interesting commentary on the Frankenstein character, when he refers to an inmate who believes that they are god, Frankenstein comments "He is not the first, nor will be the last". A perfect summation of what the Frankenstein series was all about, one man's quest to be a god in his own right.

Friday, December 3, 2010

La Fatiche di Ercole (Hercules aka The Labours of Hercules) (1958)
ITALY --- fantasy

Dir: Pietro Francisci

Mythological superhero, Hercules (or in Greek known as Heracles), has been around for centuries. Though he's had many contemporaries such as Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and even the Scandanavian Thor, none of their exploits have been as famous as Hercules. The son of Jupiter (or Zeus) and the mortal woman Alcmene, by his very birth, he was an enemy of Hera. Cinema has attempted to capture Hercules' superhuman adventures since the silent film era. He appeared in a 1914 film titled "Cabiria", under the name of Maciste. He also had a completely different appearance, sometimes dressed in contemporary clothing and other times in the typical loin cloth and sandals. Going by Maciste, the character and films slowly but surely began to transform into the sword and sandal Hercules films we know of. In the 60's, to cash in on the success of this very film, Italian filmmakers reused Maciste as well as other characters such as Samson, Goliath, etc. There was really only one Hercules and this film set the standard.

"La Fatiche di Ercole" (aka The Labors of Hercules) stars American bodybuilder beefcake Steve Reeves as the titular demigod in an episodic adventure. When he rescues princess Iole from a runaway chariot, Hercules promises to escort her back to her village of Jolco, if only for her own protection. In a flashback sequence, she retells the events that have turned her village into a place of betrayal and intrigue. Her father, Pelias, and uncle (once King of Jolco) met a platoon on the road including a soldier named Eurysteus, and it is inferred that they know each other. Jolco is home to the golden fleece, which Iole once showed her cousin Jason. Soon the king turns up dead, both Jason and Eurysteus is missing, and her own father claims the throne. Though many believe it was Jason who was responsible since was the direct heir to the throne, some believe differently.

Hercules of Thebes tells her the rumors are that her own father murdered the king to usurp the throne, and that he feels he needs to be with her in Jolco. Meanwhile, an oracle warns king Pelias a stranger with one sandal, just as Hercules enters the scene. Seeing Herc is not the man he was forewarned about, the king invites him in. Hercules offers his help as master-at-arms, and the king needs him to assist and tutor his son, Prince Iphitus.

Eurysteus turns up again in royal clothing talking with King Pelias. We find out they did indeed plot the murder of Pelias' brother for the throne. The bone-headed Prince, however, grows envious and continually rebellious against Hercules as he trains Ulysses and a band of men. Eventually, Iphitus' attitude and stupidity results in his own demise when he's killed by the Nemean Lion. Hercules kills the lion, and when the Jolco soldiers find them, they return to the city to give the king the unfortunate tidings. but the event results in Hercules' banishing by the suggestion of Eurysteus. Hercules then goes off to the oracle and demands the gods he become mortal for the sake of his love for Iole. The gods allow it and soon Hercules goes off on a quest for the Golden Fleece with Jason and the Argonauts as events set into play for Jason to rightfully claim the throne.

This film derives its story on the classic Greek epic poem "Argonautica" by Apollonius Rhodius as well as the myths of Hercules including his infamous twelve labors. Though, it of course, does not stick to the source material much at all due to time constraints. Characters are missing like Hercules' friend Hylas, we see a couple of actual labors, such as the slaying of the Nemean Lion and the capture of the Cretan Bull, and there isn't much emphasis on the Argonauts. It also features some interesting sequences such as a battle with a dinosaur (that sounds all too conspicuously like our Japanese friend Godzilla), a race of vicious monkey men, and a visit with beautiful amazon warrior women.

"Hercules" can make a good companion piece to the '60's Hollywood "Jason and the Argonauts" featuring the sfx work of legendary Ray Harryhausen. Though the perspectives are of course switched out as Hercules takes a back seat as simply a supporting player. It is interesting that many of these Grecian mythological stories seem to have their root in the Hebrew bible. Both Hercules and Jason have their biblical counterparts in Samson and Gideon. It's not so far-fetched, as we well know Jerusalem was under Grecian authority for some time.

"Le Fatiche Di Ercole" was really the first of the 'sword-and-sandal' movies to garner world-wide attention. As for these badly post-dubbed low-budget pepla films, filmmakers like Mario Bava and Sergio Leone cut their teeth on the tales of the brawny oil-soaked heroes of the ancient world. You can almost feel Bava's presence in this film with the staging of the oracle's speech and the Skittle-flavored cinematography. The costuming and art direction is also impressive and looks historically accurate. What's really odd is how much they've lost their appeal these days. I could imagine this genre would be particularly of interest to young ladies, as nearly every film looks like lost footage from a Chippendale club or bachlorette party. Though they are campy fun, I much prefer the Hollywood versions such as "Jason and the Argonauts" if only for Harryhausen's special effects.