Friday, July 10, 2009

Free Willy

Over at Movie Mis-Treatments, Peter Lupus (Willy in Mission: Impossible and Norberg in Police Squad) stars as the titular strongman in Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon, making, as Jon Stewart might say, a mess o'potamia.
One of the more dubious film genres of the 1950s and 60s was the so-called “sword and sandal” epic. Technically called pepla, these movies were usually (but not always) made in Italy, often on a shoestring (or sandalstring), and starred burly American bodybuilders as heroes from antiquity, the Bible, or Greco-Roman mythology. Often, a single movie could have many different titles (Hercules Unchained was also called Ercole e la regina di Lidia and Hercules and the Queen of Lydia), and movies were occasionally named after heroes that weren’t actually in them (Maciste and the Queen of Samar was also called Hercules Against the Moon Men, for some reason, while Maciste at the Court of the Czar was also known as Samson vs. the Giant King as well as Atlas Against the Czar). I suspect it was all a diabolical plot to crash the Internet Movie Database.

Perhaps the most famous “actor” in these movies was the original Hercules, Steve Reeves, although others included Reg Park, Gordon Scott, Mark Forest, Brad Harris, Dan Vadis, and many others. For some reason, even though everyone else in the cast was Italian, audiences (or at least the producers) preferred leads with American-sounding names. So Sergio Ciani had to be credited as “Alan Steel,” which should have been a bit of a giveaway (his first choice of nom de film was Sidney Applebaum).

The movie was directed by Domenico Paolella, which is also the name of a delicious Italian rice dish.

Anyway, the "plot" concerns an evil trio of Babylonian rulers apparently named Salmon Oscar, Azure, and Tennille (there is even a Captain). Tyranny will keep them together.

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