Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Deja Vu All Over Again by Dave Goode

To people who aren't fans of the sinew & sandal film genre the movies all seem to look alike. I've even known people who couldn't tell Steve Reeves from Reg Park. But even as a fan I have to say there are a few of these flicks that make me think didn't I see this all before? And not just because I had seen it before. For instance there's THE FURY OF HERCULES starring Brad Harris as Hercules. It's one of my favorites. Harris is in top form and performs a number of feats of strength. And then there's SAMSON also starring Harris in the title role. I should mention this Samson is not the biblical strong-man from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. Harris wears the same costumes that he did in THE FURY OF HERCULES. The sets are the same and the cast more or less remains the same.But they're playing different roles. For instance Alan Steel plays a villain in THE FURY OF HERCULES. But in SAMSON he plays a strength hero named Millstone who teams up with Samson to battle oppression.
And then there's THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR starring Mark Forest and Marilu Tolo. I saw it written up in an article about peplum movies that said it was THE TERROR OF ROME VS. THE SON OF HERCULES. So wanting to upgrade my copy I sent away for it. I was disappointed to find they weren't the same movie at all. But I was happy to add another Mark Forest film to my collection of "movies about gladiators".  Again the two movies have the same sets. And again the casts are the same. But the actors are playing different roles. The biggest difference is that THE TERROR OF ROME VS. THE SON OF HERCULES features a battle between the gladiator-hero and a gorilla(one of the cheesiest ape-suits ever). And THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR doesn't.

The most confusing of all sinew & sandal
flicks. And the one to give you the
greatest feeling of deja vu may just be HERCULES THE AVENGER starring Reg Park. I first saw this picture when I was about nine or so.I had just read a book on Greek mythology. And I thought the story about Hercules battle with Antaeus,the Earth giant was pretty cool. And watching it in a movie was even cooler. What I didn't know was that about 75% of HERCULES THE AVENGER was made up of footage from HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD and HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN. For years whenever I watched either of those movies I'd wait for Hercules to battle Antaeus in the films climax and walk away disappointed.Until I found that the flick I was looking for was made through creative editing. Now I own copies of all three movies and can enjoy them on their own.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Without a doubt the best masked wrestler movies not to come out of Mexico were the Superargo series from Italy. The two movies starred Giovanni Cianfriglia. Someone who should be familiar to all fans of European costume dramas. He worked as a body double for Steve Reeves and did stunt-work in many Italian action movies. Cianfriglia portrayed the Earth giant Antaeus in HERCULES THE AVENGER and has a memorable fight scene with Mr.Universe winner Reg Park who plays the demi-god Hercules. He also has a great fight in GOLIATH AGAINST THE VAMPIRES against former Tarzan movie star turned sinew & sandal hero Gordon Scott. Scott portrays Maciste and Cianfriglia in the course of the battle portrays an "evil twin". For years it was rumored that it was Steve Reeves that was seen in long shots as the evil Maciste/Goliath as the two men grappled. But it was in fact Cianfriglia.

In SUPERARGO VS. DIABOLICUS(1966) Cianfriglia billed as Ken Wood plays the masked wrestling champion Superargo. In what is more or less an origin tale masked wrestling champion Superargo defends his title against his friend,a wrestled called el Tigre. During the course of the match el Tigre is accidently killed. Superargo is understandably despondent and looks for purpose in life.He finds it when his former commanding officer from the army,now the head of the secret service,recruits him for a special mission. And he uses his special abilities plus a bullet-proof costume and some Bondian gadgets to take on the modern alchemist Diabolicus and his sexy red-headed accomplice who refers to her employer as the "future ruler of the universe". This flick is a lot of fun with a lot of action. And Loredana Nusciak as Diabolicus accomplice(girl friend?) and Monica Randall as Superargo's girl friend Lidia are both nice to look at.

The sequel SUPERARGO a.k.a SUPERARGO AND THE FACELESS GIANTS(1968) has Cianfriglia returning as the masked wrestler turned secret agent. Superargo's girl friend from the first flick is nowhere to be found. Instead the masked man is keeping company with Kamir a Hindu guru who has taught him to unleash his psychic abilities. Superargo is called in by the authorities to solve a case involving a group of missing athletes and ends up battling Professor Wond,played by former American western star Guy Madison,and his army of living robots.

I always thought there should have been a third movie so that fans of the masked wrestler genre would be talking about a Superargo trilogy today. Wondering what that might look like my buddy Vance Capley and I put together this faux page for a Superargo comic book.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Best Superman Movie (IMHO) by Dave Goode

For my money, the best Superman feature film to date, remains SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN from way back in 1951. Produced by Barney A. Sarecky, written by Richard Fielding and directed by Lee Sholem, this little B-Movie was distributed by Lippert Pictures Incorporated. And it introduced the world to George Reeves in the role of Superman. With no Jimmy Olsen. And Perry White only briefly mentioned in the dialogue this black and white film seemed almost like an extended live-action version of the animated shorts the Fleischer Brothers produced for Paramount back in the 1940s.

The movie jumps right into the action.Clark Kent and Lois Lane arrive in the town of Silsby to cover the story of the world's deepest oil well. The drill however has penetrated into the underground home of a race of "mole men" who come to the surface to investigate what's going on. The town's people on first contact with the strange visitors from the center of the Earth form a mob intent on killing the creatures. Luckily Superman is around to prevent a tragedy.

More or less a sci-fi flick the movie's limited budget (estimated at 275,000 dollars) is obvious. George Reeves does some pretty effective Peter Pan take-offs.But his actual flying scenes are limited to two. One is a pretty cool overhead tracking shot where the viewer never actually sees Superman in flight.But at the same time you don't feel cheated.The other is a brief animated flight scene. It's pretty bad. But we still "believed a man could fly".  And of course there is the infamous vacuum cleaner/ray-gun that the Mole Men use. Something Irwin Allen might have tried on LOST IN SPACE. But it works.

What really works is the tightly written script.And George Reeves and Phyllis Coates as Superman and Lois Lane.Reeves is the perfect Superman. Even without a wind curl on his forehead. And his Clark Kent is even better. Though some purists might argue he's a far cry from the Clark Kent that Siegal & Schuster created. I've always preferred Reeves' mild-mannered reporter to the wimpy Kent played by other actors. And Coates was the perfect Lois Lane. Independent and gutsy.

You probably have seen this movie in it's edited form that was shown in two parts on THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television series where it was titled THE UNKNOWN PEOPLE. But if you've never seen the 58 minute movie version I suggest you search it out.Those missing 15 minutes do make a difference.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Jackie Robinson of Super-Heroes by Dave Goode

Born at the tail-end of the baby boom,just when the Silver Age was beginning I loved the comic books of that era. But there was one thing that I found a bit disturbing about that period. The lack of "heroes with a face like mine". Consider that the civil rights movement was getting a major push at the same time the Silver Age was beginning it seemed strange that the first black super-hero from a major comic book company wouldn't appear until 1966 with the appearance of the Black Panther in Fantastic Four 52 and 53 from Marvel Comics.

To be sure there had been black characters featured in comics since the Golden Age. But the less said about them the better. They were a reflection of their times. Mimicking the negative stereotypes that were found in the movies. It was during the Silver Age that you began to see black characters that were positive role models for young black comic book readers. And that taught young white comic book readers to reject the old stereotypes.

In Fantastic Four No.52 we got the first black super-hero to appear in a mainstream comic book...T'Challa, the Black Panther. The only thing that you can compare it to was when Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's "color barrier in 1947. In 1947 no matter what baseball team you rooted for if you were black the Brooklyn Dodgers automatically became your second favorite team. Captain America was my favorite super-hero.But the Black Panther immediately became my second favorite super-hero.

T'Challa was the king of a scientifically advanced fictional African nation. He was a super-athlete able to fight the Fantastic Four,at least for a brief time,to a standstill. He was intelligent,articulate and you could easily imagine him played by Sidney Poitier in a movie. The Black Panther was soon followed in by a super-hero I could even more readily identify with...Sam Wilson,the Falcon. Wilson would be the first African-American costumed hero from a mainstream comic book publisher. He would also become the partner of my favorite super-hero Captain America.

The other day I was watching THE SINS OF RACHEL CADE (1961) starring AngieDickinson and Roger Moore. The movie is set in Africa and features Woody Strode and Rafer Johnson in supporting roles. Watching the two athletes turned actors set me to imagining them in a 1966 Black Panther movie with Johnson as T'Challa and Strode portraying his father T'Chaka.