Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Never in My Life Have I Hated Anyone Like I Hate Him"

"Never in my life have I hated anyone like I hate him." The queen is speaking of Maciste here--or Kirk Morris in Colossus and the Headhunters (1963). What is it about bad movies that, besides the sometimes distracting dubbing, they can't come up with dialogue that sounds like anything a real human being might say? And then there are the pointless scenes of characters wandering ... along beaches, in palace corridors, across a field of fading grass--wandering and then spotting things, followed by way too long crosscuts to what they're looking at, almost never significant. It's as if the producer told the editor, "We shot the fucking footage so it goes in the goddamned movie." Six minutes into a movie not even 90 minutes long, and already the tedium sets in. And whose idea was it to name a minor character "Gaydar"?

This is the story of a seafarer who helps an island people, half of whom look like Cro-Magnons. He helps a boatload of them to escape a volcano and an earthquake that swallows the rest of the population (the Cro-Mags get the worst of it, natch). They land on a beach just as they despair of seeing dry land again. Inhospitably, archers shoot Maciste while he's scouting for signs of civilization, and the archers leave him for dead, incredibly since even I can see he's breathing, and pretty heavily at that. Then he encounters the queen, also an archer, but saves himself another hole in the chest by dropping the name of a mutual friend. Being seafaring, Maciste gets around.

The queen and her people must be saved from a tribe of headhunters, under the control of a traitor to the queen's father, who's missing and long thought to be dead. At first, Maciste refuses to help her, which is why she hates him so much. The traitor pushes the headhunters to attack the queen's party and coerces the unprotected queen into marrying him. Stalling for time, the queen coerces the traitor (and us) into watching the most ludicrous dance number ever recorded on film (and, yes, I have seen Showgirls, six times). There's a big battle, Maciste decides to help the queen and her people, and, after way too short of a tussle with Maciste, the traitor has the longest death scene the actor could come up with, just to extend his screen time in this miserable epic (a 1.6 IMDb rating--do the math).

If the fight scenes had been as long as the wandering scenes and the slow hammy deaths, this wouldn't be a half bad movie. I haven't seen Mystery Science Theater 3000's commentary on this movie, but I can just imagine. Still, I'm writing about this movie for a reason, and that reason is Kirk Morris, perhaps my favorite sword-and-sandal actor of the 1960s (only Steve Reeves and Reg Park are rivals). More than anyone else, Morris, born Adriano Bellini in Venice, is the peplum star I'd most like to wrestle. Not as massive as other actors who played Hercules--Morris played the role in a couple of films, including one of my favorites, Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses, also in 1963--but his Elvis-y pout, with a hint of Ryan Phillippe, his muscular back (11th picture, above), and that proto-JFK-Jr haircut, stole my heart when, at age 11 or 12, I saw him at the movies.

Happily, the filmmakers never once require Morris to wear a tunic or even a cape or anything that would cover that juicy torso. Another saving grace in this movie is some of the extras are quite buff too (center your gaze in picture #4, above). Even some of the headhunters look fuckable (picture 5)--and that's fairly unusual for headhunters, I would think. The fight scenes are not at Tarzan levels, the director studiously avoiding any closeups, for some reason, so none of the fights, not even the attack of the headhunters, are intense. A gratuitous wrestling match with a pal, beside a brook the pair wandered to and then spotted, would have done much to make this movie more bearable. Still, I can look at this Maciste all day long ... and make up my own movie in my head.


  1. Joe, you failed to answer the question on everyone's minds who gets off on Peplum flicks: Does "Colossus and the Headhunters" feature any stock footage of the Vesuvius eruptions of '29 or '44? I didn't know how to pronounce "Freud" when I was old enough to notice that any film with either of those money shots seemed also to have enough beefcake to help me shoot some magma of my own.

    1. Brad, the volcano in this movie looks like the one I built out of modeling clay and firecrackers for the sixth grade science fair (not even a finalist).

    2. Glad I landed on a post about Kirk. For my part Kirk is just behind Steve. Mark Forest and Reg Park are neck and neck for third. As a teen I saw Hercules, Samson and Ulysses in the movies. The Herc/Sam fight scene was the best I had scene to that date. In general it seemed to me Kirk's abs and torso were (gladly) displayed more than most. He is one "looker."



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