Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Call him Samson.

Call him Goliath.

Can him Maciste.

Whatever you call him, former 1950s Tarzan star Gordon Scott calls himself Samson in this lavishly produced but low-budget sword and sandal epic set in China during the 13th century. Peplum movies about strong men didn't last as long as their producers would have liked. As many as 300 of these muscle man melodramas appeared between 1959 and 1963. The genre can be broken down into those muscle man movies that occurred in the world around the Mediterranean Sea and those that transpired in foreign countries far off the beaten path, like "Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World."

Our beefy protagonist sets out to destroy murderous Mongol warriors who want to rule China by killing its virgin princess (Yoko Tani of "Koroshi") and sacrificing its prince to a tiger. Samson behaves like the Lone Ranger here roaming the world to right wrongs. Not surprisingly, Scott has been dubbed by somebody else, which is a real shame, because Scott ranks as one of the few big-screen beefcakes who possessed acting talent.

Anyway, Samson wanders in to save the day in customary style. All the guy wears is shoes and an elaborate red diaper. Mind you, the fight between Samson and a tiger appears apocryphal, but things improve. There's a complex chariot scene where our mighty hero saves the lives of several Chinamen buried up to their necks and awaiting certain death when the aforementioned chariot tries to run them down and cut their heads off. In fact, Scott does one of his own stunts as he clings for dear life to the tongue of the chariot as it careens around the open ground of an arena. The best thing about the screenplay penned by Oreste ("The Witch's Curse"—another 'fish out of water' strongman saga) Biancoli, based on a story that Duccio ("A Fistful of Dollars") Tessari and he wrote, is that it doesn't bog down in machinations.

Clocking in at a really lean, mean 79 minutes, "Samson" doesn't linger. The best scene in what amounts to a generic rebellion plot occurs near the end when an apparently dead Samson precipitates an earthquake. Indeed, Samson's last act is truly his best act. After the villains capture an apparently dead Samson, they bury him in a claustrophobic vault in the bowels of a mountain of solid rock. They even go to extent of having a midget creep into the crawlspace of a tomb and shackle Samson in snugly, but when the strongman awakens to a priest's summons, nothing can keep him down.

Thoroughly average in script and action, "Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World" is marginally entertaining. Scott makes a more than serviceable muscle-bound hero. An amusing scene takes place in a restaurant that Samson pretty much demolishes when he goes toe-to-toe with the many villains. Afterward, he discards a support beam as if it were a toothpick, then apologizes to the owner for all the destruction that he has wrought before leaving. People who love dubbed Italian muscle man spectacle will enjoy this run-of-the-mill muscle man movie. Clearly, the Samson as he is so-called here has little in common with the Biblical Samson, because Gordon Scott wears his hair far too short.

The version that I watched came from Alpha Video and they appear to have semi-letter-boxed their grainy print, so that its 2.35.1 ratio is squeezed down to 1.85.1, but a little letter-boxing beats none at all. "Lady Frankenstein" lenser Riccardo Pallottini gives this mediocre adventure a sprawling, larger-than-life look.

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