Hercules, Samson and Ulysses [Ercole sfida Sansone] DVD Review: Sea Monsters! Lion Strangling! Hamstrings!

The last major peplum flick from the director of the original Hercules.
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Though filmed in 1963, Pietro Francisci's final contribution to the peplum (sword and sandal) genre — a little ditty called Hercules, Samson and Ulysses (aka Ercole sfida Sansone) — didn't make it to screens in the U.S. until 1965, by which time the macho muscleman movie craze had all but ended all over the globe. I suppose it's not such a bad thing, though, since this offering probably seemed just as routine to audiences then as it does to me today. Of course, that's not a bad thing, as we only watch these movies for one reason alone: prime Italian beef and cheese.

And, in the case of Hercules, Samson and Ulysses, our lead performer actually is Italian for a change — with an anglicized name, naturally. Kirk Morris (born Adriano Bellini) is our hulking un-emotive hero, Hercules, who heads out to sea with his skinny academic colleague (hey, every brawny guy needs a brainy guy, right?), Ulysses (Enzo Cerusico), and company to kill a deadly (and goofy) sea monster. Sadly, they get a little sidetracked when their fight with the beast results in a breached hull -- to wit they are left adrift, only to wash ashore on an unknown land inhabited by people who only worship one god, and who are besieged by murderous Philistines.

Somewhere along the way, the mighty Samson (Richard Lloyd) — who is wanted by the Philistine king (Aldo Giuffrè) — enters the picture. After Herc strangles a lion with his bare hands, everyone believes him to be Samson, and things go from bad to worse for those fine young Greek fellows. Eventually, both of our meaty titans meet up and form an alliance (after fighting each other, of course!), but the true highlight here are the alluring womany charms of actress Liana Orfei, who plays the Philistine king's nefarious spouse, Delilah — the perfect compliment to all the sweaty beefcake this cheesefest so aptly provides. Toss in some familiar music cues and the regular gang of (uncredited) American International Pictures voice actors to provide the bad dubbing, et voila: beef and cheese galore!

Once again, I bow down before the mighty Warner Archive Collection gods for bestowing titles like Hercules, Samson and Ulysses and Damon and Pythias (both of which were released at the same time) — two titles that would have had to wait to be leased by another company for release in an overly-priced box set had the Manufactured-on-Demand craze not began — upon us. The beautiful 16x9 transfer here is a colorful one indeed, and presents all the occasional, loverly bit of grain and scratching that a foolish flexing flick like this should definitely have. Additionally, this b-movie goodie also includes the film's original theatrical trailer as a bonus.

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