Samson and the Mighty Challenge (1964)

aka Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili
Article 2519 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-26-2008
Posting Date: 7-5-2008
Directed by Giorgio Capitani
Featuring Sergio Ciani, Howard Ross, Nadir Moretti
Country: Spain, Italy, France

Hercules wishes to marry Omphale, the daughter of the Queen of Lydia. However, the daughter, who is in love with a man from one of the mountain tribes, does not wish to marry Hercules. A plot is hatched to convince Hercules that he can only marry Omphale if he defeats the mightiest man on Earth, Samson.

The opening scene of this movie has Zeus hurling thunderbolts at Hercules to warn him that he has two paths to choose from – virtue and pleasure. To Zeus’s disappointment, Hercules chooses pleasure, as it leads to the land of Lydia, which is reported to be full of beautiful women. Zeus tells him not call on him for help if he should get into trouble, and Hercules assures him that he will not need his father’s help with the women. This singularly unheroic Hercules is your first clue that this is not your ordinary sword-and-sandal flick (the first clue was that the theme over the titles is is decidedly eccentric). Yes, what we have here is that rarity; this movie, like COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZONS and HERCULES VS MACISTE IN THE VALE OF WOE, is a sword-and-sandal comedy. Hercules is a lady-killer who still fails to impress the princess even after saving her life and making sure she knows he’s a demigod. Samson is a henpecked husband, married to a jealous Delilah; when he decides to go off to Lydia without her, you won’t be surprised by her course of action. Ursus is an ill-tempered bully who beats up on everyone and won’t pay for his meals. That leaves Maciste as the only remotely heroic muscleman here, and he’s such a goody-two-shoes he not only saves a beleaguered family from Ursus, but he helps repair all their wrecked furniture as well. Throw in an evil queen that will remind you of Madeline Khan and a mischievous dwarf who pretends to be the voice of Zeus, and you have a fairly amusing spoof of the whole sword-and-sandal genre. It’s sitting with an extremely low rating on IMDB, but I’ll openly admit that I was highly entertained by this one, and, as far as comedies go, it’s certainly a lot better than the VALE OF WOE movie.



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