Thursday, August 21, 2014


The hero of this sword-and sandal film set in China, in the original Italian version, is Maciste, though in the English dub, he's just a somewhat random muscleman (Gordon Scott) who has taken the legendary name Samson to strike fear into the hearts of villains. Here, he's battling a Mongol horde led by Garak, who has a Chinese princess under his thumb. Garak tries to get rid of her teenage brother by throwing him in a pit with a tiger, but Samson leaps in and successfully wrestles the tiger (alternately an old and tired live one and a bug-eyed stuffed one), saving the boy. Then he joins forces with some Chinese rebels to free the princess from a forced marriage to Garak. There's some folderol involving Chinese monks and seven miracles that are supposed to happen, the final one being that, when Garak's men entomb Samson in a tiny crawlspace underground, he finds the superhuman strength to break free and in doing so triggers an earthquake that spells an end to the Mongols. Because the muscled Scott played Tarzan in the 50s and because in this movie all he wears is a dangly red loincloth, this felt like a Tarzan-goes-to-China movie for me, which makes as much sense as a faux-Samson (or even an Italian Maciste) in China. The best scene is one in which he stops racing horses from executing a group of men buried up to their necks in the ground. Aside from the novelty of its setting and the presence of Scott, who is a notch above most peplum actors, this is nothing special. The print from Alpha Video is technically letterboxed, but because jarring pan-and-scan cuts remain, I suspect it is not presented at its true original aspect ratio. [DVD]

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