Taur the Mighty (1963)

Taur the Mighty Italian PosterThe Italian sword and sandal flicks of the early 1960s got in a lot of reps and built up an impressive quantity of work. It doesn’t take a student of the genre to determine that this quantity didn’t exactly translate into quality of any degree. For the most part, the majority of them were interchangeable variations of some bodybuilder posing and rumbling around rickety sets, busting up extras, poorly costumed monsters, and engaging in laughable feats of strength. In short, these films were terrible. But even so, there was one thing you could say in their favor. At least they weren’t Taurible!

For starters, Taur can’t even get his own name right! The VHS cover refers to him as Tor, the onscreen title of the film calls him Taur, but everyone in the movie including himself, says he is Thor!

Even with that identity crisis though, at least he didn’t have to suffer the indignity of Harry Baird’s character, Ubaratutu! As silly as Ubaratutu is as a name, it was the least offensive part of the character!

You see, Ubaratutu is a black dude. At first glance, it may appear that Thor is a pretty progressive guy, what with having a black sidekick and all. So often in peplum flicks, it’s a lily white world, with the exception of varying shades of natives depending on where a particular adventure was taking place.

A black dude who actually has dialogue and participates in the adventure and saves the hero every now and again surely had both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King saluting director Antonio Leonviola’s efforts at bringing civil rights to muscle stud movies, right?

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Maybe if Ubaratutu didn’t run around calling Thor “master” all the time. Or if Ubaratutu weren’t consistently portrayed as a cowardly dog so scared by the adventure that at one point his teeth were chattering so loudly that it alerted the guards and Thor had to clamp his mouth shut!

Then there was the time that he was caught sleeping under the bed while Thor and his evil queen girlfriend were trying to get it on. Sure, he ended up saving Thor from her kiss of death, but I can’t imagine that Sidney Poitier was giving Harry Baird high fives for his contribution to a new era of minorities in film that attempted to eschew the old wide-eyed shuck and jive stereotypes of the past.

It isn’t just Ubaratutu either that makes the modern viewer squirm uncomfortably either. Thor takes to the master role quite well, ordering Ubaratutu around, making fun of what a pussy he is, and leaving Ubaratutu in tight spots with only a vague explanation that it’s part of his plan.

At one point he frees his (white) foster son Syros from his chains in a cave prison and makes Ubaratutu take his place, telling him that he’ll be fine because the slaves only get whipped!

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He and Thor are also forced to fight one another in the arena for the evil queen’s pleasure and while there are a few times that Ubaratutu throws Thor around, Thor pretty much has his way with and appears to take a good deal of pleasure in letting Ubaratutu’s wimpy punches do nothing before brutally slamming him to the ground and punching him in his gut!

And then Thor fakes getting knocked out, thus letting Ubaratutu win! Couldn’t he have done that about ten minutes of brutal ass whipping ago?

And just to prove that even when Ubaratutu appears to finally achieve something significant (even if wasn’t deserved), it turns out that the winners of these matches end up in giant stew pots so that the nasty Kixos tribe can eat them! And don’t think that Ubaratutu isn’t wailing like a baby about it either!

Even without the cringe worthy racism present in the film, Taur the Mighty would still stink like a slave in a cave with its repetitious plot of Taur, Ubaratutu, and Syros getting captured, escaping, and getting recaptured and scheming to escape some more from the Kixos tribe’s underground kingdom.

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Much of the film consisted of these three sneaking around caverns bonking guards on the head and Thor constantly being threatened with death for whatever latest transgression he committed.

A movie as tediously offensive as Taur though can’t help but contain some entertaining bits, too! Is there any guy who doesn’t want to see a pair of sisters blindfolded and gagged have a sword fight to the death in a ring of fire?

How about when Ubaratutu sneaks out of the bottom of a pig pile of about twenty guards to make his escape after being rescued by Thor from the stew pots?

And when Thor strains against the might of 24 horses who are trying to pull him apart or heaves a gargantuan block of gold on top of a box trapping the evil queen, you realize that even a racially insensitive muscle stud like Thor is a shredded thunder god first and a prejudiced asshole second.

And that’s progress. Or at least if isn’t, it’s all offensively entertaining enough that both Thor and Ubaratutu would team up again to have another adventure with Thor and the Amazon Women! Uh oh! Sounds like lesbians are up next for the Taurible treatment!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

2 thoughts on “Taur the Mighty (1963)

  1. Several shots were lifted from this movie to be used in a posterized opening credits sequence for “Cave Dwellers,” and was the inspiration of a couple of funny “Brian’s Song” jokes by Joel and the ‘Bots on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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