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Treasure OF THE PETRIFIED FOREST (Emimmo Salvi, 1965) **
Technically, its dealing with the Nibelungen myth (even if the title would imply an improbable continuation of the 1936 Leslie Howard/Bette Davis/Humphrey Bogart gangster classic!) should have made of this obscure Italian peplum an ideal candidate to spice up my planned Fritz Lang retrospective; however, having found my only previous encounter with its director's work, ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS (1964) – incidentally, also starring the American beefcake star of this one, Gordon Mitchell – as one of the poorest of its kind, I thought better of not tainting that studious task with inferior material and get to the film immediately given that I was going through a whole bunch of similarly modest fare (several of which featured Mitchell anyway!). As it turned out, while the end result was nothing particularly special, I enjoyed it well enough to venture forth with another Salvi-Mitchell combo at my disposal: VULCAN, SON OF JUPITER (1962)!
Having said this, the film does not follow Lang's storyline because none of the characters he depicted (Siegfried, Krimheld, Attila The Hun, etc.) appear here: instead we have Hunding (Mitchell), Sigmund, his sister Brunhilde (a Valkyrie – cue Wagner's famous theme but I was actually reminded of the classic Looney Tunes spoof "What's Opera, Doc?"!) and his lover Siglinde, and Erika (the latter's jealous sister). In any case, the tale of Siegfried and the dragon had already seen service within the peplum genre via Giacomo Gentilomo's eponymous 1957 film. Despite his being a Viking, the naturally-blond Mitchell oddly sports dark hair in this one while the first appearance of Gunnar, the hero's lieutenant (actually, a Viking defector himself!), made me burst out into uncontrollable laughter that did not subside for a full minute because of his incredibly scruffy hair-do! Another unintentional source of amusement is provided for non-discriminating viewers by the scenes depicting Hunding seeking the counsel of a witch whose visions are, unfortunately, hilariously over-animated!
While Sigmund and Siglinde are together enjoying a romantic tryst in the forest, his camp is attacked and decimated by the enemy; upon learning of this, the hero takes out his anger upon the survivors (and even his girl!) but, when eventually silenced by a stronger pony-tailed acolyte, I could swear the actor portraying him was smiling while carrying Sigmund away like a sack! The action is virtually uninterrupted throughout the film but, frankly, little of it is actually all that engaging with only Sigmund's elaborate escape from Hunding's camp – swinging from ropes, supplied by the usual comic-relief dwarf sidekick, over the heads of his oblivious captors – although even this sequence is marred by being all-too-obviously shot day-for-night!
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