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Thursday, November 17, 2016

ERCOLE SFIDA SANSONE / HERCULES, SAMSON AND ULYSSES (1963)

Having gained a Stateside fan base for Italian ‘Sword & Sandal’ pics in 1958 with Steve Reeves as HERCULES, director Pietro Francisci wound up the cycle with this relentlessly silly, unexpectedly fun triple-threat Greco-Judaic nonsense. A tasty storyline has Hercules & Co. shipwrecked by a sea monster, then washing ashore in Judea. The beefcake boys just want to sail home, but when Hercules bests a lion with only his bare hands, the evil occupying Philistines mistake him for their shadowy archenemy Samson. Now, Hercules’ only hope to prove his innocence and get back to Ithaca is to catch the real Samson for the King. Tough going, especially since the real Samson thinks this oddly dressed hunk o’ flesh is a Philistine spy hiding in Greek clothing! So much more becoming than his Hebraic loin rags! All this, plus the fleshly temptation of a deceitful, bathing Delilah!! The action is cleanly handled; effects (pasteboard rocks for throwing, scale model temples awaiting destruction) amusing if not exactly convincing, the musclemen yeasty; narrative structure remarkably assured; dubbing no worse than expected. As Hercules, Kirk Morris, though beardless, has the physique & expression of the Greek God of Lightning in Disney’s FANTASIA/’40; Iloosh Khoshabe (going by the name Richard Lloyd) makes Samson something of a lug, while Enzo Cerusico’s Ulysses is delicate & a little fey compared to the rest of the crew. Hey, it’s a long voyage.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: If Hercules really needed to prove he wasn’t Samson, a quick peek ‘below deck’ would reveal the uncircumcised evidence, no?

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