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Although it is usually assumed that the somewhat skimpy battle scenes were due to director Roger Corman's legendary cheapness, Corman had actually arranged for the services of 500 soldiers from the local Greek army garrison. On the morning of filming, however, only about 50 showed up, and as the day wore on (and the heat intensified), some of them drifted away. In order to make it look like there were more "soldiers" than there actually were, Corman had them march in formation past the camera, then when out of camera range run around behind the crew and equipment, and march past the camera again. That is also why the battle scenes are filmed in close-up combat between individual soldiers or small groups of soldiers rather than in long shots of masses of battling infantry, as Corman had originally planned. See more »
Sometimes you see a movie and wonder if it was made just so the crew could enjoy a six-week vacation in a nice place. Unspoiled Greece in 1961 was probably a very pleasant locale indeed for Roger Corman and friends to take such a vacation.
The story is a familiar one: Buff, good-hearted but naive hero is tricked by a more worldly man into using his great strength for his benefit until the hero wises up. This is a plot used in the great sagas of Hercules, Sigfred, and Tom Cruise. Here the trusting hero, Atlas, is invited by a city-state tyrant, Praximedes, to be his champion in a fight to the death so that Praximedes can annex some defiant holdout city.
The problem with all of this is: the movie is boring. Very boring. The fight scenes lack drama; the battle scenes look like extras throwing sticks that are supposed to be spears at each other. Michael Forest as Atlas can't act - period. Barboura Morris is the sex interest of changeable loyalties; she isn't bad looking, but she doesn't take off near enough clothes. --Oh, don't tell me it was 1961. "Spartacus" was made a year before, and that had a bathing scene. Plus a reference to homosexuality. "Atlas" was never meant to be a big-budget epic. So no excuses, Roger. This kind of movie, you have to sex up if you don't do anything else.
Frank Wolff's Praximedes seems to be having a good time; but rather than coming across as a figurative tyrant (he makes no secret that he is a -literal- tyrant), he seems more like a glad-handing jerk, and a distinctly American one at that.
I hope the crew enjoyed their vacation. The rest of us, if we want a Greek vacation, should catch "Summer Lovers" or "Venus on Fire".
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