Some Pretty Bad Sword & Sandal Epics
Kirk Morris plays muscular Antar adventuring in Arabic lands, the outdoor scenes of Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules (1964; Anthar l'invincibile, 1962) having been shot in Armenia.
The film proper does not actually liken Antar a son of Hercules, the title being imposed on the film when it was re-edited for syndication in the Sons of Hercules syndicated series of televised sword & sandal epics, in the mid-1960s. The fact that the character was never intended to be related to Hercules may account for the film seeming more medieval than ancient world, set in the Islamic world.
Antar is nowhere in evidence for the first fifteen minutes, which curiously is the best part of the film. This section is intensely action-packed with wondrous Arabic costuming & scimitar swordplay, & so little dialogue it comes very close to being a silent film.
The overthrown king's daughter (Michele Girardon) is threatened by a tyrannical usurper who must force her to marry him to legitimize his rule. She escapes the first of a couple attempted rapes by leaping out a window into the sea, but is soon after captured by bedouins & sold into slavery.
When the central character of Antar is at long last introduced to us, he's more like a beach blanket bingo dude than an ancient world hero, frolicking on the beach with a teenage boy (Jose Jaspe). This constant companion does not look at all likely to be a platonic relationship, but the lad being mute isn't apt to let us know.
The film never really regains momentum after the semi-impressive opening sequence, coming to a stiff halt with the pastoral introduction of Antar & his underaged boyfriend. Morris is one of the least charismatic muscle men stars, & the script is not rich enough in incident to make up for his lack.
There are few actually herculean incidents. A fight in a pit with a rhinocerous almost did the trick, but the cuts between the rhino puppet-head & the zoo specimen were just too funny, especially as the zoo specimen kept opening its mouth wide obviously being offered treats.
Essentially Antar & his lad have to save the princess from the evil slavers, & will destroy the slavers' fortress in the process. It's terminally dull until it's time to storm the fortress & then it's very busy & action-packed again, like the first fifteen minutes of the film, & not too badly staged considering the lack of budget.
SEE Hercules toss big sytrofoam boulders. WATCH Hercules wield a huge four ounce club. OBSERVE big beefcake cudgelling match between Herc & a half-dozen weightlifting wrestlers. HEAR the cool cudgels go "Boink! Boink!" no matter what part of a body gets wacked. WALK WITH HERCULES in underground cave scenes de rigour for sword & sandal movies.
Peter Lupus, the strong & quite properly silent type from Mission Impossible, credited here under the name Rock Stevens, is physically quite impressive as Hercules, though he's unmanned by his inability to act & by one of the lamest of lame sword & sandal scripts.
Heracles wanders about the hinterlands of Babylonia accomplishing nothing, having been stranded far from his native Helles after Babylonian forces captured a royal fleet of Greeks, enslaving everyone, including the queen of the Helles who they Babylonians never realized was the queen.
The script does not explain why the delay, but in time Hercules stops wandering about at random & sets out to rescue the captive Greeks. He makes it clear he in particular wants to save the the women, most especially the queen. He has no plan beyond showing up.
The idiot Babylonians may not know she's a queen, but the Assyrians somehow found out she was among the slaves, & make an offer to purchase all the slaves the Babylon, which makes the Three Tyrants of Babylon suspicous.
Babylon is ruled by two borhters & a sister, who are busy conspiring against one another. Babylon the capital city was on top of a device designed by Daedalus of Crete. If this device is activated by one hundred slaves (or one Hercules), the entire city will crumble into ruins. Why do tyrants make it so easy?
It's up to Heracles Moses-likes to lead the slaves through the desert away from the destroyed city. The miniature work for the crumbling city ain't bad. The fact that thousands of innocent people would've been killed along with the tyrants when the whole city collapses doesn't seem to bother Hercules.
Once a viewer has adjusted expectation to the low, low, low quality of the majority if not quite all dubbed Italian Hercules style films, you would think there could be few if any disappointments, as it wouldn't be possible to be even lower in quality.
A comedic take on the Sword & Sandal epic is provided by Colossus & the Amazon Queen (La Regina delle Amazzoni, 1960). Instead of Hercules the hero is named Glauco, a gladiator & veteran of the Trojan War, played by blond bodybuilder Ed Fury (Edmund Holovchik, already beyond his 1950s prime) who made several beefcake movies & also did nudie modeling for gay-boy calendars & magazines before vanishing into deserved obscurity. Although, as the 1950s star of the first openly gay 8 mm porn Day of Fury, it could be that he sabotaged his career by not remaining sufficiently closeted.
Glauco hangs out with a vastly less muscular gladiator who provides comic relief in a comedy, Rod Taylor as Pirro, so we have absurd & more absurd.
The comedy team of Gladiator & Gladiator along with numerous other Greeks are drugged & left on a secret island of slutty Amazon warriors who give lap dances & have medieval tourneys. Although the majority of these scrawny bathing beauties, including their queen (Gianna Maria Canale) & High Priestess (Adriana Facchetti), piss & moan about not having husbands, the culture demands a constant supply of temporary paramours who after one night of love are tossed in a mining pit guarded by bears.
Semi-hunky Glauco with adoring Antiope (the curiously named pin-up girl Dorian Gray) & jestful Pirro seducing angrily tempted Melitta (Daniela Rocca) look likely to score. The boys would seem more likely to appeal to fag-hags than bathing beauties, but these bathing beauties have been pretending to be amazons long enough that they've become vulnerable even to the wiles of sissy manliness.
Love undoes the entire culture & by the end the amazons are begging for it, defeated by endless teasing. By then it's easy to understand why the Amazon culture has no children, not even girl children, given their cultural fetish for boys only apt to be capable of Greek love.
Badly acted with poor cinematography & lousy costumes & continuously misfiring humor, Colussus & the Amazon Queen can be approached in three ways. If you're the sort of dope who just loves sword & sandal films & take them seriously, then suffering through this allegedly comic take on the genre will be hell. But if high camp gone awry is the only reason you'd watch even a "good" sword & sandal film, this one is at least self-aware about how truly stupid the genre tends to be & eagerly out-stupids the worst. The third & best option is to just not bother with this one at all.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl