Monday, December 16, 2013


After a narrator explains that in "olden days," strong, heroic men were often honored by being called "sons of Hercules," we meet Maciste, one of these men, exercising his considerable brawn at dawn one day by tugging a whale on to shore. A group of men on horseback are attacked by another group of men on horseback dressed in white capes and furry white masks, and Maciste tries to help. When the sun begins to rise, the furry men scurry away except for one unlucky guy who, caught by the sun, collapses and dies. We eventually discover that the White Furries are actually Mole People who must live underground and who dissolve into skeletons if exposed directly to the sun. Maciste finds a nearby village which has been destroyed by them and he promises to bring back the villages taken captive. Along the way, he finds Bangor, a muscular black guy, tied up and being tortured by some Mole Men. Maciste rescues him—in a highlight of the movie, he spears four of the Mole Men at once with four spears—and Bangor offers to be his slave. Maciste gives him a speech worthy of a 60s liberal about how no one is born to be slave to another, but agrees to take him on as a sidekick to go whoop some Mole Men ass. And they do.

There are more plotlines, of course: 1) the Mole People kidnap above-grounders and make them work as slaves, so Maciste gets involved in their liberation attempts; 2) there's a Wicked Queen who yearns to see the sun and plans to take the captured Maciste as her husband so she can have children who can live above ground. However, 3) the Queen's advisor knows a secret—the Queen is actually an above-grounder, so he wants his son to marry her and have "normal" children; 4) Bangor gets involved with a slave from his village. The best scene in the movie is a torture scene: Bangor and a captured rebel are placed on slabs with Maciste standing between them, his arms up, holding a huge stone slab with swords sticking out of it facing down. More and more weight is added as Maciste struggles to keep the slabs up so he and the two men aren't killed by the swords (not to mention the weight of the stones). The Queen is clearly aroused by Maciste's sweating and straining, but if we know these movies, we know he’ll prevail and she will perish. Mark Forest (pictured) isn't bad as Maciste (referred to in the bad English dub as Macistus); fellow body builder Paul Wynter (Bangor) hasn't much to do except act helpless until inspired into action by Maciste. Most of the exterior scenes are supposed to take place at night, but it never looks dark at all. The Retromedia print of this peplum is not widescreen but pan-and-scan, and the colors are washed out, but I still had fun watching. Oh, yeah, and there’s the theme song, sung like a Kingston Trio folk song: "The mighty sons of Hercules/Were men as men should be!" [DVD]

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