17 August 2003 | django-1
exciting Italian 60s swashbuckler w/ Peter Lupus (Rock Stevens)
After achieving fame in the film MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, actor-bodybuilder Peter Lupus, then using the stage name of Rock Stevens, made four sword-and-sandal/adventure films in Italy during 1964-65, all of which are worthwhile. I've always felt Lupus, during this period at least, resembled the young Sylvester Stallone, and he is very comfortable on-screen and a convincing actor, which no doubt landed him the role soon after this on TV's classic MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. GIANT OF THE EVIL ISLAND, as the English-dubbed AIP-TV version of this film is called (which is panned-and-scanned), is NOT a sword-and-sandal film, but a costume swashbuckler where Lupus/Stevens plays Pedro, who becomes Captain of a ship when its older Captain retires and who is devoted to breaking up a lair of criminals led by one Maloch on a place called Evil Island. Pedro has TWO lovely ladies with whom he becomes intertwined: the shifty and scheming Alma and the good and true Bianca. The battles between ships are very well done for what must have been a moderate-budgeted film, and the sets and visuals are rich and colorful throughout. There's a lot of exciting swordplay (which Lupus handles convincingly!), and overall it's an exciting film and wonderful escapist entertainment. Director Piero Pierotti wrote and/or directed a few dozen films in the post WWII era, including such genre classics with American stars as PIRATE AND THE SLAVE GIRL and KNIGHT OF 100 FACES (both with Lex Barker), MARCO POLO (Rory Calhoun), the western HEADS OR TAILS (John Ericson--I'll need to dig out my copy of that and review it) the amazing NIGHTSTAR: GODDESS OF ELECTRA/WAR OF THE ZOMBIES (great performance by John Drew Barrymore), and THE AVENGER OF VENICE (Brett Halsey). I noticed in the credits that this was shot in totalscope, so perhaps some future DVD release will be in widescreen as such a visually striking film as this should be appreciated in its original form. Still, the pan-and-scan VHS/DVD version floating around is worth watching, and all four of Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens' Italian films are worth finding. The other three films are GOLIATH AT THE CONQUEST OF DAMASCUS, CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATOR, and HERCULES AGAINST THE TYRANTS OF BABYLON.