For folks who have no lives and avoid deep thinking, the sweaty Italian beefcake films of the late '50s/early '60s rank right up there with the Japanese "Godzilla" series and Mexican masked-wrestler epics as the ultimate in brainless entertainment. I'm not alone in this conclusion: Studies from Bulgaria in the 1970s provide the proof. They've got the data; let's not argue.
If you hanker for bad dubbing, rotten special effects, and ridiculous plot lines, this genre is your meat. Universally, they feature poorly staged action scenes - always a bad sign in action movies - and richly saturated color that jumps off the screen and toys sadistically with human eyeballs.
"Vulcan, Son of Jupiter" is a better-than-usual entry for one simple reason: There are a lot of half-naked women running around, too. Set in Bronze Age Greece, it details a war among the gods of Olympus over who's gonna snag the tail of Venus. Or Aphrodite - can't remember exactly; she's the Goddess of Love, anyway. There's fighting, infighting, scheming and a very brave midget. Chariots... yelling. Y'know.
It stars a guy named Rod Flash. Of course, that's his real name... And I'm Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Doesn't matter. He's got a bod that could sell a whooole lotta Blueboy subscriptions. In fact, I wonder how these guys manage stay so oily. Was there a pec-lubrication specialist on the set?
One bright spot is a beguiling showgirl-style dance by the astoundingly sexy Bella Cortez. Could any other woman so mesmerize with the gemstone jiggling in her navel? Whatever happened to this beautiful Cuban actress? At the end of her dance, the god Mercury shows up and tugs playfully at a jewel on her scanty costume; the quick gesture leaves a strangely potent erotic jolt.
Interestingly, most of the over-the-hill bodybuilders in peplum were Americans who hung out at Gold's Gym in Santa Monica. Gordon Scott actually had a brief Hollywood career - as the first Technicolor Tarzan. Steve Reeves was... well... he was in a Ed Wood film in the mid-'50s. Gordon Mitchell, who's in "Vulcan" and was a kind of poor man's Charlton Heston, was the best actor of the lot, with a career mostly in Italy lasting until the early 2000s (He played the catamite-hungry gladiator in Fellini's "Satyricon").
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