Goliath and the Vampires (1961)

Goliath and the Vampires PosterObligatory full disclosure: there isn’t anyone in this movie named Goliath. There is Gordon Scott (Hercules Vs. The Moloch, Samson And The 7 Miracles Of The World) cinching up the leather girdle as some dude named Maciste. Not to worry though because Maciste is pretty much the same in the muscle movie biz as Hercules, having nearly as many crazy adventures under nearly as many aliases as the daring demi-god himself!

Sometimes even their adventures overlap a bit, with Goliath and the Vampire being similar in both tone and subject matter to one of the more entertaining Hercules flicks, the Mario Bava-lensed Hercules in the Haunted World.

Like Bava’s better film, there is an emphasis on the supernatural in this one over the dull political machinations that afflict a surprising number of these films like some form of tedious dialogue-laden jock itch. There isn’t as much going on though compared to Hercules in the Haunted World which careened from one crazy scene to another and served up Christopher Lee in the process.

Goliath And The Vampires also suffers because we know next to nothing about Maciste, he has very few lines, and exhibits absolutely zero personality.

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In his favor, he does bust up a whole lot of stuff and fights the villain’s minions any chance he gets. In a movie like this, the way a Maciste, Hercules, or Samson carries himself in battle is the measuring stick for whether he’s a good character. All that “humanity” type stuff like feelings, beliefs, and speaking convincingly are secondary to that most important quality – is he able to heft around a fake rock so that it doesn’t look like a giant sponge?

One day Maciste notices his village on fire and hurries home to find that in addition to a raging inferno engulfing his hometown, it’s in the midst of a pirate invasion!

These pirates are killing and kidnapping townspeople, generally conforming to all the stereotypes we have about pirates dumb enough to raid the village of the strongest guy in the world. They even go the extra mile by killing Maciste’s mother and kidnapping his girlfriend. (A similarly dimwitted stunt resulted in a hellacious butt kicking in Hercules vs. the Hydra.)

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Maciste tracks the pirates to their enclave and finds that it is populated by a people enslaved by the unseen Korbrak. This has the byproduct of making for a very eventful town marketplace.

There’s prisoners to auction off and the wife of the Sultan (who is under Korbrak’s thumb), purchases Maciste’s girlfriend. There’s also what passes for entertainment/capital punishment. A big pole sits on a platform and a guy has to climb up the pole. Guys climbing on poles doesn’t sound like it would be too far out of place in thinly disguised gay muscle porn, but this platform also has spikes built into it. The impaling that inevitably results isn’t probably what any of us had in mind when we heard guys in this movie would be all over poles.

Maciste can only take so much pole climbing though before he has to unload and he proceeds to put on a display that would impress even the most veteran of urban rioters. He’s jumping off buildings. He’s standing around whirling his arms into people. He’s tearing up rickety marketplace structures (you know the type – awnings held up by spindly poles, and dusty clay pots that seem to break whenever Maciste merely wills it). He was even overturning carts! Did he think his team had just won the Super Bowl or something?

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We learn that Korbrak is taking Maciste’s people and making them faceless soldiers in an effort to dominate the world. I don’t know if I would exactly be stomping the panic button since he seems to be barely able to control a port city, but I think we know that it’s usually best to nip these “army of the undead” schemes in the bud.

Maciste eventually figures out he needs to invade Korbrak’s lair to beat him up, get some magic potion, and cure all the dudes that Korbrak has turned into his slaves. Lots more ripped action ensues, including Maciste being tortured inside a large bell, Maciste battling his evil twin who turns out to be Korbrak, and Korbrak’s unmasking!

While the story doesn’t make a lot of sense, since the film doesn’t dawdle on any of the confusing details, it isn’t as irritating as it normally would be. Also in its favor, the film has its fair share of muscle moments where Maciste tears down stone columns and the like. A girl is also menaced by a rubber spider which is always welcome.

Yes, Maciste himself is a fairly bland individual, but Goliath and the Vampires is pretty much what you hope for when you see these sword and sandal flicks, the fantasy elements (including an underground race of blue men) and frequent violence making you feel like you’re getting a decent buffed up bang for your beefcake buck.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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