Director: Mario Caiano

Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!

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Our epic begins with a gladiator tournament. Maciste of Sparta (pronounced MA-CHEESE-TAY -- for all you phonetic enthusiasts out there), a renowned It's all about courage, steel, and red mini-skirtswarrior, has been pitted in a handicap match against four other combatants. Before the battle even begins, the outcome is quite obvious, due to Maciste’s smug countenance while summing up his opponents. After his victory, the emperor, Caesar Victavius, throws a banquet in Maciste’s honor.

At the party, Sevacious, the Captain of Victavius’ elite Praetorian Guard, confesses his love to Olympia, the Palace Trollop. At least that's what I presumed her title to be. She lived in the palace, flirted with the majority of the characters, and apparently assumed no offi"Ok, how about Maciste verses da Bears?" "Da Bears!"cial duties and/or responsibilities. Yeah, I guess Palace Trollop will suffice. Anyway, Olympia rejects Sevacious’ amorous declaration, and sets her sights on the mighty Maciste (much to Sevacious’ jealous dismay, naturally).

One too many drinks are had, some careless words are spoken, and before they know it, Maciste and Sevacious are pitted against one another in a grudge match. Sevacious, realizing that Maciste is twice the warrior than he, makes a stipulation that both combatants are to be blindfolded. (I, honestly, have no idea how that was supposed to even the odds, but I digress.) So, they fight – well, they don’t actually "fight," per sI can't see where they're going with this...get it? "Can't see..." Oh, forget it..e, they more just wander about, bandanas over their eyes, swords in hand, feeling around hopelessly for one another until Sevacious, inadvertently, kills one of his own guards. They then forfeit the match, and their bitter rivalry, for the time being, goes unresolved.

The next morning, while gallivanting about town in his chariot, Maciste comes across a woman fleeing across a field, screaming for help, with two Praetorian Guards hot on her trail. Maciste, being the hero that he is, quickly disposes of the guards, and then asks what they were chasing her for. Now, for all he knows, she could have been some deranged murderess, and he just took out two of the good guys – BUT, since she’s beautiful, it’s obvious that she muThis picture cames straight out of one of those Bible Storybooks you read in the dentist's lobbyst be the damsel in distress. Another digression, I apologize.

So, she introduces herself as Silvia, her plight being that she is a Christian - thus making her an enemy of the state. She then thanks the big lug, and says she must return to her people, who are in hiding in the forest. Maciste, a staunch advocate for love at first sight, says he must meet her again – tonight, even! Silvia, not knowing him from Dick and Jane, tells Maciste the exact location of her hideout, and invites him for dinner that evening. Hospitable or idiotic, you make the call!

ThaThe 2nd earliest recorded evidence of someone "Gettin' Jiggy Wit' It"t evening, at Trollop Headquarters, Olympia attempts to seduce Maciste with the ancient Rome version of "The Forbidden Dance." But Maciste’s attention is not on Olympia, and when she questions him about it, he is quick to admit of his newfound love. Olympia, heartbroken but understanding, let’s him leave for his rendezvous with the Christians without altercation.

The next day, after a successful evening of meeting Silvia’s folks, a glowing Maciste returns to the palace only to find that he stands accused of murdering the two aforementioned Praetorian Guards. Victavius, being a big Maciste fan, gives him the benefit of a doubt, and a sporting chance to redeem himself - in the arena, naturally. Maciste, being a quick-witted gladiator, adds the stipulation that if he wins, Silvia will be free of Roman persecution. Caesar agrees. So, they then pit Maciste against the most fearsome of competitors – a man in an gorilla suit! Oh, I mean a vicious, man-eating gorilla(suit)! Maciste, with relatively little difficulty, disposes of the poorly costumed man…er, I mean gorilla...and finds himself once again in Caesar’s favor.

Elated from his victory, Maciste returns to the Christian refuge to tell "Woo! Packers!"Silvia of his victory, and of her new freedom. But immediately upon his arrival, Praetorian Guards appear, and begin to arrest all the Christians. Maciste, dumbfounded, demands an explanation; to which the smug Sevacious informs him that he did, indeed, win Silvia’s freedom, but he did not win the freedom of her family and friends. Silvia, being the noble heroine that she is, says she will enjoy no freedom without her family, and follows them into captivity.

Maciste then returns to the palace, his poker face in effect, and tells Caesar that he no longer cares for the Christian girl, and is quite happy now with Olympia. Caesar tells him that’s good, because tomorrow he’s going to feed the Christians to the lions. They then proceed to ha"Tee hee!"ve a big feast, and after massive indulgence, the partygoers pass out in the main hall. All, except Maciste, that is. Quickly, he runs to the dungeon, and with a few mighty yanks on the window bars, the Christians are freed. Maciste then returns to the party, assumes his position on the couch, and feigns sleep. A half-second later, guards burst through the door, announcing the Christians' escape. Maciste, who, seemingly, was asleep at the party, is absolved of all suspicion, and they launch a full-scale manhunt for the escapees. But even though Caesar believes in Maciste, Sevacious has his doubts.

Secretly, Maciste then meets with the Christians at their rendezvous point, and sharesCome on, you wuss! You gotta want it! his plan for their escape to Iberia (which was really nice, that time of year). But, pardon the anachronism, there is a monkey wrench in the works, as the Christians cannot leave without their precious Bishop Marcellus, who is still held prisoner in the dungeon of the arena.

Maciste, who, as I mentioned before, is a mighty hero, returns to save the Bishop – alone, of course. Once down in the bowels of the arena, after single-handedly disposing of several guards, he runs into a group of captive gladiators, wrongfully accused of…something or other. I forget, sorry. Maciste frees them, and they, in turn, swear their allegiance to him. They then venture deeper into the dungeons and find Marcellus, haggard, worn, and begging for a drink of water. They free the good Bishop, and are immediately attacked by more Praetorian Guards. I'm still trying to figure out which spends more time on their hairBeing that Maciste has taken out over a few dozen guards by himself, it doesn’t take long for him and his new comrades to dispose of the cavalry, and then escape into the country.

Reunited with Silvia, Maciste sets his escape plan into motion, and begins the mobilization of the Christians towards beautiful, sunny Iberia. But once again, there is trouble. One of the recently freed gladiators, Asfielte, doesn’t like Maciste, and only cares about saving his own hide. Tortilla (at least that’s what the name sounded like to me), the leader of the gladiators, chastises and embarrasses him for his grievances. Asfielte, burning with anger, leaves the group and returns to Rome. There, he sells out Maciste, Tortilla, and the Christians to Sevacious, who immediately calls forth his army for a final showdown between Rome and the Maciste-led Christians - not to mention the inevitable mano-y-mano between himself and his bitter enemy.

Have you ever had that book that you start, put down for a while, but can never get yourself to bother picking it up again? Not that the material is necessarily"Hey! Do you realize how much it costs to get this skirt laundered?!" horrible, or anything, but there just isn’t anything that particularly gripping about it? That’s how I felt about this film. I remember turning it off during the closing credits and thinking, "So what?" I really didn’t feel passionate about it either way, which is odd for me, because usually my resentment towards most movies runs pretty deep. But this film didn’t move me one way or another.

The acting, for the most part, is passable. The same goes for the story, action, dialogue, etc. The gorilla, on the other hand, was not passable. And Caesar’s acting was fairly atrocious, as well. And someone should really smack the permanent smugness off Maciste’s face. That guy was hopelessly in love, alright, but it wasn’t with any Christian girl.

So, bottom-line, I could take or leave it.

By the way, the only Hercules mentioned in this film is in the title.

I'm assuming it's easier with a chariot...

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These are the times of which to cherish...

- The flipping guys. During the first party scene, one of the night’s main attractions were a couple fellas who do nothing but flip one another. Kind of a cheap acrobatic act, if you will. As I said before, those Romans sure knew how to par-tay.

Insert "Monkey On My Back" joke here

The gorilla fight, of course. I swear it was wearing shoes....

- The death of Tortilla. During the grand finale battle, the heroic Tortilla is mortally wounded. But upon his dying breath, he has the strength to muster up one last shot with his bow, and proceeds to take out the treacherous Asfielte, who was observing the festivities from a nearby hill. A stirring score in the background adds to the heart-wretchedness.

I don't think you could scrub that look of joy from his face!

The most coveted job in ancient Rome -- Torch Boy.

- The Bruce Lee factor. Luckily, whenever Maciste is severely outnumbered, his foes are nice enough to attack one-at-a-time -- just like in most kung-fu flicks. Heaven forbid they utilize the advantage of numbers and attack all at once. Heck, they might win, or something.

Alive with pleasure!

The joyous frolicking scene!.

- Olympia’s forbidden dance. From my astute observation, the foundations of the modern Riverdance might be interpreted from her funky gyrations. That, and perhaps the world-renowned "Tush Push."

 

 

Doesn't appear to be available at Amazon.com. Sorry.

 

-- Copyright 2000 by J. Bannerman

 

 

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