This is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. The scope of it's storytelling is nothing short of biblical, and I am not referring to the plot but to the size of the film. This movie was bigger than all three of the PETER JACKSON'S JRR TOLKEIN'S THE LORD OF THE RINGS: A FILM BY PETER JACKSON DIRECTED BY PETER JACKSON movies combined, when proportions to era are taken into consideration. It dwarfs pretty much anything you can think of and the only comparison I can make would be maybe cross BIRTH OF A NATION with Hieronymous Bosch's "Garden of Earthy Delights" triptych and throw in ample amounts of that brown acid the Pigman was warning everyone about on the WOODSTOCK soundtrack.
Even then it doesn't do justice to the scale of the film: Individual humans seem puny or insignificant compared to the immense sets, brimming with contorted and writhing forms of the damned, confined to hell for all eternity as if it was some huge mosh pit at a GWAR concert. As one contributor has already stated it has little in common with the "Maciste" muscle-man films of the Italian Peplum rage of 1960 - 1964 or so. Other than our hero goes around righting wrongs, fighting for the freedom of the innocent, and making all the evil, reptilian she-hellions swoon. Here he is a modern man in a vested suit but the effect is no different once the film switches gear at about the twenty minute mark when Maciste is literally thrown into the bowels of Hades, and it is not a pretty place.
Every last cultural form that has been attributed to Lucifer, Mephistopholes, Satan or the Devil finds manifestation in this film, and certain scenes do indeed appear to have been directly inspired by the visual work of classical artists like Bosh, Blake, Goya and Titian. Out of nowhere come dragons, devil men carrying pitchforks, a giant Saturn devouring his children, horned beasts of every shape & description, and a cast of thousands undulating in a sparking, smoking, simmering vision of hell that would even scare Osama Bin Laden out of his cave. Screw dropping bombs on Afganistan, bombard the bastards with videos and DVDs of this movie. They'll surrender inside of a week after seeing what fate awaits them as Legions of the Damned.
As for videos and DVDs, sadly the most common version of this movie currently available is a VHS sourced DVD print of the 65 minute English paneled version, with an arbitrary classical music score tacked on but some genuinely compelling hand tinting to the Hades segments. It is the most frenzied, out of control silent film I have ever seen: HAXAN is dreamily sonorous compared to the brimstone and riotous clamor of this movie. Some of the beginning passages have the kind of over-dramatic acting one usually associates with silent movies -- complete with a squad of mustachioed Mephistopholes' -- but once it shifts underground every scene is depicted with a kind of visual authority that will indeed take modern day viewers by surprise. It is a staggering movie filled with some of the most outrageous visuals ever filmed, and is 81 years old. Holy Moses.
10/10, and that's just for the chopped 65 minute version. Just amazing.
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