5 April 2007 | Bunuel1976
GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON (Vittorio Cottafavi, 1960) **
I had previously watched this in Italian during a pretty disastrous screening at the B-movie retrospective at the 2004 Venice Film Festival where the whole audience howled with laughter; in hindsight, I have to say that watching it on the big screen certainly magnifies its inherent faults tenfold. Actually, now that I've given it another look, it's not worse than most other peplums - though certainly not up to Cottafavi's best work, THE 100 HORSEMEN (1964) but his offbeat framing and vivid sense of color enlivens several sequences to be sure. For the record, Cottafavi also made that which is arguably the best Hercules film of all, HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961), whose shortened US version (alas) has just been released on R1 DVD.
Anyway, the plot kicks into action immediately as Mark Forest (playing the titular he-man, named Hercules in the original Italian-language version) goes to recover a diamond from a monster-infested cave which includes a hilarious large cat creature with bat wings which I clearly recall sending the Venice Film Festival audience in hysterics! The villain of the piece is Broderick Crawford who naturally chews up the scenery and approaches the role as if he were playing a gangster; at one point he even puts down his equally crooked, if actually brighter, henchman by calling him a "moron"...after which Crawford is apparently revitalized and inspired into devising newer and more ingenious traps to spring for Hercules...er...Goliath! The busy plot line, of course, involves several action set-pieces, court intrigues, much invoking of the Greek gods, women threatened with torture...and more laughable monsters (the dragon of the English title is so cheap that only its head ever makes any significant appearance). There is the usual coterie of maidens in these mythological epics who, thankfully, are very easy on the eyes here especially Leonora Ruffo (as Goliath's wife; she went on to repeat the role in Mario Bava's HERCLUES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD ) and Gaby Andre' (as a duplicitous slave who also falls for Goliath).
The version I watched this time around, via Alpha's DVD, was the AIP English-dubbed and rescored one (by the ubiquitous Les Baxter); surprisingly, it was a widescreen print - but the colors were way too much on the red side so that I had to tone down the colors on my TV set to make the whole thing viewable!
P.S. Amusingly, my father and I attended a multi-part course on film appreciation some 10 years ago and when the lecturer mentioned such peplums in a positive light, my father, knowing the man to be a University professor, exclaimed loudly: "Don't tell me you appreciate that stuff?"