Category Archives: Sword & Sandal

Ursus, the Rebel Gladiator (1962)

Made back in 1962, Ursus, the Rebel Gladiator most likely was lumped in with all the other musclehead movies coming out of Italy at the time. Audiences then can be forgiven if they thought this one was interchangeable with the latest entry in the Hercules, Goliath, Maciste, Samson, Atlas, Ursus and Ulysses film series.

It is also precisely because of this glut of pretenders that I’m going to cut the Academy a little slack for failing to recognize Ursus, the Rebel Gladiator with the Oscar for Best Picture that year. And lest you think this some artless attempt at being obtusely droll, all I’m saying is that if they can give this movie five Oscars when it came out again in 2000, then it was a shame that the participants in the first one languish in obscurity. Continue reading

Duel of Champions (1961)

Here’s a movie that’s going to satisfy that contingent of gladiator fans that like watching old, short guys near the end of their life strapping on the Roman soldier outfit and battling a bunch of guys half his age and still come out on top. Sure, in the end both of his brothers are killed in the battle, his sister commits suicide, and his father has been accusing him of being a coward and a traitor for most of the movie, but other than that, he came out on top. Continue reading

Hercules Unchained (1959)

Truly then, the gods have smiled upon us this day when they sent forth this second adventure of Hercules. Fresh from whatever it was that Herc accomplished in his first epic film, this movie opens with him saying his goodbyes to his buddies from the Argos and preparing to journey to his hometown of Thebes with his new wife Iole and his buddy Ulysses. Continue reading

Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World (1961)

Samson7MiraclesPosterEnglishThis is another one of those muscleman epics that seems alternately obsessed with displaying the rippling back muscles of star Gordon Scott (Hercules Vs. The Moloch) and with the palace intrigue in old time China.

The fact that the version I saw only ran 77 minutes was both a blessing and a curse. Cursed because everything happened in a rather hasty manner with entire sequences that could have explained exactly how characters went from doing one thing to the next mysteriously missing. Blessed though since it was still 77 minutes of Gordon perpetually greased up and standing around posing like an adult baby in a red diaper whose next appearance would be on Sean Connery in Zardoz. Continue reading

Revenge of the Gladiators (1964)

RevengeOfTheGladiatorsPosterSurprisingly grim, Revenge of the Gladiators starts off like any number of rather lunkheaded sword and sandal flicks with its gladiator heroes, deranged emperor, silly-looking barbarians, convoluted schemes to betray whomever happened to have his back turned at a given moment, and Mickey Hargitay, but then gets progressively darker until our heroes are reduced to joining a group of religious refugees fleeing the disintegrating Roman Empire.

Truly a sobering experience, though Hargitay couldn’t resist tapping into that natural goofiness that was so much in evidence in Bloody Pit of Horror by telling the barbarians while they were torturing him that their women smelled like sheep! Continue reading

Zorro contro Maciste (1963)

Zorro Contro Maciste Spanish PosterThe gimmick in Zorro contro Maciste (aka Samson and the Slave Queen) of course makes zero sense. Zorro is a crime fighting super hero who hassles corrupt fat government officials usually named something along the lines of Don Diego way back in the pre-United States California of the 16th Century. He’s a sly devil who delights in carving the letter “Z” all over the countryside, including the occasional ass of some unsuspecting evil doer. He is also a snazzy dresser, favoring an all black ensemble including hat, mask, and cape. Continue reading

Messalina (1960)

MessalinaCoverOne of history’s greatest sluts is given a very tasteful treatment in Vittorio Cottafavi’s early sword and sandal epic, Messalina. Sure, Messalina is shown coming onto everything with a bulge in his mini-skirt tunic and she’s not above being pawed by a sweaty goon solely to achieve the assassination of her emperor husband.

There’s also that time a guy sneaked into her palace bedroom to kill her, but she ended up screwing him instead. Really though, anyone would agree that was purely self defense.

And just because the only guy in Rome able to put all the pieces together to finally end her reign of horny terror is obviously a homosexual doesn’t mean that some straight guy might not finally tire of succumbing to her royal hotness and eventually halt her power grab. Like maybe when she was sixty and was forced to wear an unattractive support toga. Continue reading

Goliath and the Barbarians (1959)

Goliath and the Barbarians PosterMade very early in the sword and sandal cycle of the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s, Goliath and the Barbarians attempts to get by solely on the fact that the biggest name in the genre, Steve Reeves, is the featured player. The movie fails to rise above “forgettable strongman epic” but the fault in no way lies with big Steve.

Steve and his Goliath-sized guns grunt and groan mightily in an effort to heave this movie into something approaching interesting, but even his mammoth chest, no matter how much it’s glistening with hunk-sweat, can’t overcome the dull story of barbarians harassing Steve’s lower class village. Continue reading