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Italian peplum comedy for those in a forgiving mood
A refreshing comic take on the sword and sandal era that swept Italy during the period, MACISTE AGAINST HERCULES IN THE VALE OF WOE has a thin plot which is basically an excuse to throw two 20th-century characters into an ancient period setting, giving them ample opportunity to make fun of the peplum clichés and characters we are used to seeing from the time. Once you get over the fact that this film is an out-and-out comedy that doesn't even attempt to be serious, it becomes strangely entertaining. The comedy duo of Franchi and Ingrassia (think a kind of Italian Abbot and Costello) provide lots of quick-witted humour, even if most of it is quite dated and specifically cultural these days; their stupid antics are impossible to dislike too much.
At least the film has plenty going on to keep it watchable. Various characters include the obese usurper of the throne and his wicked aide, complete with a pointy-beard thing going on; lots of silky female beauties filling up the court; bronzed and oiled muscleman Hercules (as played by Frank Gordon, who is particularly wooden AND muscular) going around fighting the Minotaur and Cyclops; a blue-wigged witch by the name of Circes, who can turn men into talking pigs with a single kiss and jealous rival muscleman Maciste (genre regular Kirk Morris, doing his bit but not appearing until an hour in, and even then only used as set decoration) who has a score to settle with Herc. Then there's dwarf wrestling, human candles, and even some 'cha cha cha' dancing!
The special effects are particularly poor, and the time machine itself is simply a table with two chairs and an umbrella sat on it, which disappears in a single puff of smoke! The corny animated credits set the scene well and the film's sheer wealth of plot ingredients - all achieved on an obvious low budget - make it worthwhile stuff. Only the Italians could come up with something as offbeat and weirdly-plotted as this mess of a film, and yet still make it work.
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