I’ve been revisiting a lot of the old Sword & Sandals flicks that I loved as a kid when they’d show them on TNT in weekend marathons.
Having rewatched several of these, I think my favorites are:
1. the Steve Reeves Hercules
2. Son of Samson [a Mark Forest Maciste flick]
3. Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun
An Honorable Mention goes to Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules, which is absolutely terrible, but I love every minute of it, because it is non-stop cavemen beating each other with clubs and Maciste fighting dinosaur puppets.
Fire Monsters is must-watch viewing for fans of the United Caveman Federation. In AD&D terms, it’s the story of a high-level lawful good fighter who finds himself in the middle of a struggle between two patron-level factions of cavemen: good sun-worshiping cavemen in white furs and evil moon-worshiping cavemen in black furs who capture the women and are going to wife them and/or sacrifice them.
While a few of the bigger Peplum flicks (such as the top 3 I listed above) were brought to the US, dubbed and released as standalone movies, several (including Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules, actually Maciste Against the Monsters) were compiled into a TV Movie pseudo-series and released as The Sons of Hercules.
These were even given their own opening and closing themes.
The unifying theme of the Sons of Hercules movies was that the wandering strongmen, these titular “Sons of Hercules,” wandered the lands, righting wrongs and fighting injustice with their magnificent superhuman strength. Of course, many of these were either redubbed Maciste movies or other pseudo-historic/mythic flicks, like Perseus the Invincible.
One of the best of this bunch is Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules [Maciste, the Strongest Man in the World].
Anyway, these movies are a ton of fun, and I recommend you check them out!
But who is Maciste?
Maciste is an old Italian strongman character who goes back to the earliest days of silent film. There have been around 50 Maciste movies made, including both the silent-era films and the 60s peplum revival.
Many of the English releases of Maciste movies have transformed him into either Hercules, a Son of Hercules, a Son of Samson, etc, because it was easier to market him to non-European audiences that way. In fact, in the Sons of Hercules version of Maciste Against the Monsters, there’s a noticeable hiccup in the English dub whenever he introduces himself, “I am Maxus, Son of Hercules,” where another voice actor inserts the line to fit the franchise.
There is not really any sense of continuity or canon to the films: Maciste is just a wandering strongman fighting for the weak against injustice. He can appear anywhere in time, and has aided good tribes of cavemen against bad tribes of cavemen and dinosaurs and even stood against the Mongol hordes. But wherever Maciste appears, you know that wrongs will be righted by fantastic displays of strength and virtu. Plus there will be sultry sometimes villainous dames, who will be conquered by his manly honor.
I’m toying with the idea of doing a strong-man anthology series at some point, so consider writing some of these up. Even if I don’t go forward with it, your story will still stand a strong chance [rimshot] for 2023 Cirsova submissions next August.
[Meantime, don’t forget, we’re still running the Julian Hawthorne Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm Kickstarter, plus Jim Breyfogle’s The Paths of Cormanor will be out November 1st!]
Update: I can’t believe I forgot to mention that at one point Maciste fights Zorro.