Friday, January 25, 2008

Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses

kirk morris

I'm home today in time for a peplum triple feature on Turner Classic Movies: Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses sandwiched between Ben Hur and Jason and the Argonauts. Well, I caught only the tail end of Ben Hur, the part where Ben's mother and sister act like Queens for a Day after being cured of leprosy.

I must have seen all three movies at the theater as a kid--ever a student of the Pecs and Thighs School of Ancient History--but I don't remember HS+U.

In this one, Hercules (Kirk Morris, aka Adriano Bellini) and Ulysses (Enzo Cerusico) travel in search of a dangerous sea monster ... with a shipload of Italian bodybuilders, several quite hot ones. Morris looks pretty good, too ... a bit like the young Elvis, a bit like Buff Bagwell, but with the out-of-sync voice of Tony the Tiger.

They end up marooned in Israel, where the Philistines mistake Hercules for Samson. Easy mistake in the days before mugshots ... and the guy did manage to kill a lion with his bare hands, after all.

The leader of the Philistines, his evil minions wearing modified SS helmets, sets out to capture and kill Hercules/Samson, and, for good measure, kill all the Danite children to prevent "any future Samsons."

Meanwhile, the real Samson (Richard Lloyd, aka Rod Flash, aka Iloosh Koshabe) deduces from the Philistine attacks on the Danites that Hercules and his pals are in fact spies.

The film's full of the genre's usual mild S+M (an exotic dance in which Delilah, with I-Dream-of-Jeanie hair, gyrates to the beat of a snapping whip), heaving hot-waxed bosoms, and laughable dubbed dialogue:

--"We're dressed like Greeks, aren't we?"

--"Good point."

Also, one can't help but sympathize with the evil Philistine king when he laments to girlfriend Delilah, "Do you think it's easy fighting against someone who believes he was sent here by God?" (Quite possibly, the film offers other lucid insights to Middle East affairs, but I leave them to better wonks than I.)

Liana Orfei plays Delilah, delivering every line with a smirk and a pause as if to suggest that a double entendre waits behind every conjunction: "This Samson, is he as ... they say he is?" She convinces the king to let Hercules go, holding his men hostage, so he can prove that he is not Samson by capturing the real Samson.

The two he-men, inevitably, come face to face ... in Mesopotamian ruins made of hydrofoam and balsa wood ... and instinctively Hercules strips free of his tunic.

"Oh, that's how it is?" grins Samson.

And then the two dive into a wrestling match, exploring every possible hold that manages to thrust glistening chest against glistening chest.

H: "I never met such strength as yours. Why don't the two of us join forces?"

S: "I was thinking the same thing."

***SPOILER ALERT (Read no further and grow no brain if you want to be surprised by the film's conclusion.)***

Femme fatale that she is, though, Delilah double-crosses the two heroes, and playing fast and loose with God's Inspired Word, the movie depicts power couple Hercules and Samson bench-pressing the Temple of Dagon so that it collapses atop some feckless Philistine soldiers.

Through all this, Ulysses does little to earn his place in the film's title, except for cracking wise now and then with the cute Italian bodybuilders.

Hercules kills the wicked king by heaving a javelin roughly two and a half miles, and Delilah gazes on her fallen lover with a mixture of grief and amusement (as if to say, "Sometimes I just don't get men").

Bad lighting and choppy editing prevent me from reporting on what was up with the sea serpent.


Next up is Jason and the Argonauts, the first movie ever to give me a chubby.

I thought Todd Armstrong as Jason was as cute as Jesus in our Family Bible, and the film was the beginning of an intermittent six-year crush on Gary Raymond.

It wasn't until many years later that I realized that Hercules and Hylas were just shy of a civil union before the latter was squished by a giant walking bronze statue.

But when I was ten, my true beau was Doug Robinson (as Eupaemus), who looked a little like the choir director at our church. His underwater wrestling match with Gary Raymond is what gave me my chubby, and every time after that, when the choir director sang "How Great Thou Art," the chubby took a little curtain call.

No need to watch this one on TCM, since I've got the DVD for whenever I need a nostalgia wank.

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