(1962, Fantasy-Sword & Sandal, color)
In a nutshell:
A shirtless do-gooder rescues various island tribes in distress.
An island mountain explodes, showering the local tribe with volcanic Styrofoam. Their king dies beneath the rubble, and his permanently worried son Ariel (one of the only fully dressed men in the film) leads the survivors in an aimless charge away from the destruction. They soon run into our bare-chested hero, Maciste (pronounced “My Cheese Steak”), who had just arrived from somewhere over the sea. He takes them back to his oversized raft and sails off with a dozen or so survivors just before the whole island disintegrates.
They sail many implied days over the water to a new island, where Maciste dumps his passengers on the beach and wanders into the jungle looking for food and water. While he’s gone, a tribe of drape-headed warriors captures the volcano survivors and force-marches them to their secret encampment. Maciste runs into a Drape-head patrol. One of them shoots him without provocation. They presume his mild shoulder wound to be fatal, and leave him for dead. Maciste pulls out the arrow and limps away through stock jungle footage. He runs into a beautiful warrior maiden and takes her captive. The Drape-heads come to rescue her, taking him captive instead.
He wakes up in the warrior maiden’s tent. Her name is Amoa, and she’s the Drape-heads’ exiled queen. She assumes him to be a great hero (despite the fact that he’s done nothing more impressive than pilot a raft, get shot, and faint during capture) and begs for his assistance in defeating their headhunter enemies. Apparently, her tribe used to live in a city of gold…etc., etc., etc…corrupt royal advisor betrayed her father the king to the enemy tribe of…blah, blah, blah…forced to hide in the woods for fear of…rapeta, rapeta. The noble and sensitive Maciste asks a lot of nosy questions and then refuses to help, citing a previous responsibility to see the volcano survivors to safety. He starts to lead his charges back to the raft. While he’s gone, the headhunters attack the secret encampment, slaughter most of Drape-heads, and carry the rest away captive. Maciste sends the volcano survivors to the raft by themselves while he runs back with Ariel to check on the commotion.
At this point, Maciste takes charge of the situation, running around with Ariel to the golden city’s ruins to find the blinded and imprisoned king, sneaking through the obvious and unguarded back entrance to Amoa’s prison, and organizing the volcano survivors and the remaining Drape-heads into an army. The evil former royal advisor forces the king to let him marry Amoa, and then makes him promise to abdicate the Drape-head throne in his favor. At Maciste’s instructions, Amoa drags out the wedding as long as possible, throwing fits about the presence of her father, and the lack of dancing girls. A dancing girl is provided; she has a lengthy and arbitrary wiggle fit.
Amoa finally depletes her excuses for delay and the marriage ceremony is about to be performed (apparently headhunters solemnize their weddings by ritually slitting the bride’s wrists) when the combined armies of the Drape-heads and the volcano survivors arrive. Footage of the ensuing carnage is interspersed with shots of Maciste, miles away, running aimlessly through the woods for no apparent reason. He arrives several minutes later to toss a makeshift tower onto an already ruined building. This turns the tide somehow, and the headhunters are quickly defeated.
But not entirely, for the evil former advisor has kidnapped Amoa and run off into the woods. Maciste and his pals give chase and corner him in the ruined Drape-head palace. Maciste frees Amoa and locks himself into a room with the advisor. The advisor tries to lock our hero into an even smaller room, but our muscular hero frees himself fairly easily. They tussle for a bit, and the advisor accidentally impales himself on his own sword.
The blinded king resumes his throne…blah, blah, blah…plans to rebuild the city of gold…etc., etc., etc.…volcano survivors are welcome to begin a new life with them…rapeta, rapeta… Maciste takes off on his oversized raft. Amoa abandons her people to swim after him. We’re supposed to assume that they live happily ever after, but I’m looking at a list of at least fifteen Maciste sequels, so I’m guessing after a brief, euphoric relationship, she’ll probably suffer an early and tragic death to clear the decks for the new love interest.
Accountant Tom is preparing tax returns for Mike and Crow. Crow owes $37,000.00 in back taxes for $12.00 of income. Mike, on the other hand, will receive a $20,000.00 refund.
Host Segment One:
Crow goes over Tom’s calculations, noting such things as, “Eight times seven isn’t two hundred,” and “Six times three isn’t two hundred, either!” Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester has created Nummy-Muffin-Coocol-Butter, the world’s cutest pet. Unleashed on the world, it will lull the general population into placid tranquility, allowing Dr. Forrester to seize control. He seizes his furry pink creation away from the adoring Frank so that he can send it up to the Satellite of Love. Frank throws a tantrum.
Host Segment Two:
Mike adores Nummy-Muffin-Coocol-Butter and grooms it obsessively. Down in Deep 13, Frank sings (badly) of his love for NMCB, and his overwhelming feeling of loss.
Host Segment Three:
NMCB has shed all over the satellite, coating Crow’s lollipop with pink hair, filling Tom’s head with fuzz, and provoking a severe allergic reaction from Gypsy.
Host Segment Four:
NMCB is very ill. Down in Deep 13, TV’s Frank has fallen ill as well. NMCB and Frank exchange looks of desperate longing, and Mike reluctantly sends NMCB back down to Deep 13.
Host Segment Five:
Mike wonders if sending NMCB back to Frank was the right thing to do, but Crow has a much more pressing question. He wants to know what it feels like to have your head cut off. After some brief discussion the ‘Bots conclude that you would still have a few seconds to think and look around, and they ask Mike to help them test their theory. Mike declines and reads some letters. Down in Deep 13, both TV’s Frank and Dr. Forrester have fallen victim to NMCB’s cuteness.
An elderly volcano survivor takes an arrow in the chest.
The Spanish word machiste literally means “studly.” I don’t speak Italian, but since they’re both romance languages based largely on Latin, I assume that maciste is a cognate. Watching a Maciste film is like going down to the store with a prescription for a well-known brand of Greek demigod, and asking the mythologist on duty fill it with the cheaper, generic version. If you look carefully, you’ll see “Compare to Hercules™ Brand Entertainment” written on the box, next to the part that lists the active ingredient as “Large, Oily Pectorals.” Since American audiences are mostly unfamiliar with Maciste’s generic sword-and-sandal flicks, the films often dub the hero with such familiar names as Sampson, Colossus, Goliath, and the original hunk himself, Hercules. (Hercules Against The Moon Men is an altered Maciste film, which explains the total lack of Greek mythology in that picture.) In this case, the name has been changed in the film’s title, but not in the dubbing.
This is, perhaps, not the best example of a Maciste film. It says something about your hero if he wears a sword all the time, but never, ever draws it. One indicative scene happens shortly after our hero has been shot, while he wanders limping through the woods. It goes like this: A lion sees him from afar and begins to stalk. Maciste does not notice. The lion loses interest and wanders away. The whole film is like this, setting up expectations of our hero’s prowess, but never delivering. Like the gigantic boulder that he puts great effort into moving over the cave opening to cover his escape, only to have the guards move it right back out of the way as soon as he leaves. Or the rickety rope bridge that, when broken, drops his pursuers all of two feet into a nice clean creek. What about the climactic battle (which, now that I think about it, begs the question, if there were so many Drape-heads in the forest, how did their secret encampment get overrun in the first place? Also, the number of volcano survivors seems to expand from a dozen or so people on a raft into a couple hundred seasoned warriors for the convenience of the final battle…)
Where was I? Oh yes. What about the climactic battle, where he arrives late for no apparent reason, and then just knocks over buildings that are already on fire when he gets there? And of course there’s the ending, when the villain has to accidentally stab himself to die. I’m not saying that there isn’t any action. It’s just that action we get is brief and unsatisfying.
Most of the host segments are, of course, all about Nummy-Muffin-Coocol-Butter, which is kind of a fuzzy pink dog/rat/bunny/kitty/hand puppet creature. It’s not that cute, but I guess this does not preclude the secretion of some sort of “cute pheromone” deviously concocted by Dr. Forrester to help ensnare the thing’s caretakers into a life of soulless pet servitude. The whole NMCB thing is a serviceable storyline, but not among their best. My favorite segments were the “Tom as accountant” sketch and the decapitation discussion. Frank’s tender song in segment two is some of the worst singing I have ever heard in my life. I think that’s what he was trying for.
Like most sword-and-sandal epics, the movie gives quite a few opportunities for mockery. When the oddly dressed Drape-heads capture the newly arrived volcano survivors, Tom says, “They’ve washed up in a Klingon language camp.” When the headhunters return to their village with a whole platoon of captured Drape-head women, Crow calls it, “Seven hundred brides for seven hundred brothers.” While Maciste creeps through the hall, studiously avoiding contact with the guards, Mike says, “Must…avoid…action…at… all…costs…” It’s also amusing to hear the satellite crew make chicken noises during some of the more poultry-inspired segments of the dancing girl’s performance. Ultimately, the movie is dragged down anyway by its lack of interesting action and its incomprehensible story. It’s worth at least one viewing, though.
(1962, Fantasy-Sword & Sandal, color)