Mark Forest's bare-chested torture scene, in which he's spreadeagled beneath a cluster of dangling, about-to-drop spears, may have inspired two similar scenes. Robert Culp, in the 1967 episode I Spy: A Room with a Rack, and 'Sam J. Jones', in the 1987 movie, Jane and the Lost City, underwent similar ordeals. See more »
SPARTACUS Meets BEN HUR, But Leave the Midget at Home Next Time, Guys
The use of Little People (or "midgets" in hammerhead speak) in these Italian Peplum films always puzzles me. I am sure the diminutive actors were delighted to have the opportunity to work and it looks like most of them enjoyed their experiences. The purpose appears to be comic relief: Watch the little guy run between the legs of the two Pizza-Pizza guards with their plumed helmets, they bend down to grab him, their heads konk together & the mini hero turns, issues a poorly lip synced wise crack, and later ends up reclining on a couch surrounded by fawning harem girls who think he's so cute ... Watch the midget bonk a guy over the head with a club to save the muscle bound hero, Ho Ho Ho. I'll grant that the Midget Role is an important part of the Peplum film formula, but the hyperactive, wise-cracking ball of energy in this one is SO obnoxiously used that it detracts from what otherwise would have been a 10/10 effort. Times have changed over the course of the 43 years (!!) since this film was made and I don't find midgets to be inherently funny. So pardon my raining on the parade here a bit.
All that aside this is a *WAY* superior action/adventure film populated & made by the best from the Italian cult genre school of film-making: Director Michele Lupo, composer Francesco De Masi, and performers Mark Forest, genre legend Giuliano Gemma, José Greci, José Canalejas, Piero Lulli, and the great Paul Muller. The scope of the film is also on a much grander scale than the usual throwaway Peplum shenanigans of Pizza-Pizza guards chasing a Son of Hercules & his damsel in distress over the familiar looking countrysides of Morocco, Spain, France or Italy that would later be featured in the Spaghetti Western craze which came after the Peplum Fad died out: It's like SPARTACUS meets BEN HUR meets HERCULES meets THE SEVEN GLADIATORS -- A group of super noble Adonis types battles an evil tyrant king to free their people from the yoke of oppression, namely a yearly tribute of "The 30 most lovely virgins" as sacrifices to the gods. The whole idea of depleting a people of their most sexually attractive women just to sacrifice them is of course appalling but ultimately counter-productive. Who in their right mind would want to selectively exterminate all of the good lookin' babes??
Again, with all that aside, this movie totally rocks: There is an extended, violent chariot race, duels to the death a-plenty, scenes where the Herculean heroes take on entire squadrons of Pizza-Pizza guards & make them look like buffoons, prisoners being thrown to the lions for kicks, and an eye-popping battle between two full-sized war galleons that were made just for use in the film that is amongst the most spectacular battle scenes from these potboilers that I've ever witnessed. A surprisingly large sum of money & talent was sunk into this project (1963 was perhaps the zenith year for the Peplum Fad) and it shows. Even non-fans of the genre will be impressed & entertained by the film, with gorgeous women, expansive detailed set construction, some genuinely creative camera work, a cast of thousands and a body count to match, dialog that actually sounds like stuff out of classical Roman history, nefarious court intrigue that holds the fates of entire peoples in the balance, and truly committed performances by the leads ... even the midget throws himself into the role with a certain amount of gusto that's admirable if ultimately annoying to the point of detracting from how seriously one can really regard the film during his scenes.
No offense meant mind you, I just don't understand why someone would go through so much effort to create a really superior, epic scale entertainment & then shoot themselves in the foot with extraneous craparoni. But to quote the late Dr. Carl Sagan yet again, "The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with mere human ambition", and if getting to enjoy such a splendid film requires couple dozen stupid midget humor scenes then that is a price I will be happy to pay. This movie RULEZ!
9/10: Leave the midget at home next time guys, they aren't funny anymore, and serve only to demonstrate the insensitivity of the times in which the movie was made. So be it.
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