Friday, February 25, 2011

La Vendetta Di Ercole (Goliath and the Dragon or The Revenge of Hercules) (1960)
--- fantasy

Dir: Vittorio Cottafavi

It's back to the peplum genre. To the time of ancient Greece where we find yet another adventure of our resident hero Hercules. This time, however, he's been rechristened Goliath and recasted to a new American bodybuilder named Mark Forest (real name Lou Degni) in his debut performance. Producer Joe Levine (Hercules/Godzilla) owned the rights to the name "Hercules", so this film's hero is now "Goliath". In addition to this, AIP even shot additional material with the help of the Italian crew. To prepare you or save you time, this film drops in the quality department about, oh, 25-30%. Those familiar with this genre should know this is nothing new. These films are replete with cheesy entries, assuring the MSTK and Something Weird Video folks stay in business for a few more years. This review ends up being more about the dubbed versions, as apparently the original negatives of the film were lost.

In this outing, Emilius the mighty (nicknamed the Goliath of Thebes or Pheobes but I will stick with Thebes) must find the blood diamond, which was stolen by King Eurysthesus a man bent on usurping Thebes for himself and killing Goliath. To accomplish this, Eurysthesus (played by Hollywood heavy Broderick Crawford) hid the blood diamond in the cave of horrors. The film opens with a rock cimbing scene, where we find Goliath has found the cave and no sooner battles what appears to be a fire-breathing Cerebus. If you haven't stopped watching after this laughable scene, we are introduced to the scar-faced Eurysthesus, who gloats like a Batman villian about his impregnable trap for Goliath. His counselor and allies want proof of Goliath's death before they take Thebes. Meanwhile, Goliath treks deeper within the cave to finds the skeleton of a man and the dragon who most likely did him in. Commanding him to continue on for the blood diamond, Goliath obeys the word of the pagan goddess.

Illus, Goliath's younger brother, secretly goes to meet with Thea who stays in the courts of Eurysthesus. He plans to return to meet her, but the soliders have another plan for him. Meanwhile, Goliath battles a Maurice Sendak looking Man-bat creature (i.e. expendable stuntman in a costume), just as he finds and secures the blood diamond. Back at the Eurysthesus' court, his shady counselor Tindaro (who strongly favors a 60's era Star Trek Romulan) plots to invade Thebes and soldiers capture Illus on his way out from sneaking kisses from Thea.

When Goliath returns home, he is disturbed to learn of his brother's intentions with Thea, as it was her father who killed his parents. Before long, Eurysthesus finds that this development can be used for his own plans to take over. He plots to have Illus poison Goliath, but the slave girl, Alcinoe, who he sent to do the job betrays him. Eurysthesus even goes so far as to wed Thea for himself. Eventually, Goliath's brother is abducted and snet to die under the foot of an elephant, that is until Goliath comes to the rescue. Things only worsen when they get a prophecy about his Illus ruling and a centaur kidnaps Goliath's wife Dejanira. He takes her to Eurysthesus, where he holds her captive in the cave of horrors. Ultimately, this typical peplum's convulted plot ends up making less and less sense the more you think about it. In addition to the bad special effects and laugh out loud scenes such as Goliath wrestling some dude in an unconvincing bear suit, this is still surprisingly entertaining.

There you have it. Another Velveeta-flavored peplum yarn. Well other than renaming the titular hero after a biblical Philistine villian, and having plotholes as big as the caves in this film, this film is something slightly enjoyable to watch. The cinematography is just bad, though you can tell they were trying to emulate Bava's style in select scenes. The low budget special effects have to be seen to be believed, and that's about it. "La Vendetta Di Ercole" is simply another Saturday afternoon matinee flick. Enjoy.