"I am a humble man...son of the mountains, just like the roc
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 01/11/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Originally released in Italy as Maciste nella terra dei ciclopi (1961), this Gordon Mitchell `sword and sandals' entry eventually became known to American television audiences as Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops (1963), which was kind of strange, particularly because there was no character in the film named Atlas (if you originally saw this feature in the theaters, then it was probably called Atlas Against the Cyclops). Directed by Antonio Leonviola (Mole Men Vs. the Son of Hercules), the film features, as I've mentioned, strongman Gordon Mitchell (The Giant of Metropolis, Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens), who, prior to his extensive career in the Italian cinema, got his start in show biz as a muscleman in Mae West's touring beefcake revue, along with Reg Lewis, Brad Harris, and Mickey Hargitay. Also appearing is Chelo Alonso (Goliath and the Barbarians, Road of the Giants, Son of Samson), Vira Silenti (Son of Samson, The Witch's Curse), Dante DiPaolo (Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World), former Mr. Europe Paul Wynter (Mole Men Vs. the Son of Hercules), and Aldo Podinotti (Hercules Vs. the Hydra, Hercules in the Haunted World).
As the story begins we get a little background text talking about how Ulysses confounded the sorceress Circe by slaying the Cyclops so many moons ago. Apparently, not one to let things go, Circe, in an odd move, placed a curse on her descendants (instead of Ulysses'), which would only be lifted when Ulysses' lineage wiped out (at least that's what I think, as it was kind of hard to follow). I have no idea what this curse entailed, as they never really went into that, so whatever...anyway, in an effort to see things through, the wicked (and hot) Queen Capys (Alonso), a descendant of Circe, sends her forces to attack the kingdom of King Agisander (the last of the Ulysses line), to which the king is killed and Queen Penophae (Silenti) is captured (along with most of the women and children of the kingdom), but not before seeing her son is ferreted away to safety, eventually winding up with local strongman Maciste (Mitchell), who, in turn, leaves the babe with a goat herder name Erroneous or Aronius (six of one, half dozen of the other), prior going off in an effort to rescue those who were captured. So now you may be wondering why did Queen Capys bother with capturing the women and children, rather than having them killed outright? Well, seems Capys has her own Cyclops, one that subsists off the flesh of sacrifices, and the young prince is next on the menu. Maciste, whom we learn is born of rock (whatever that means), hence the thickness between his ears, engages in any number of battles, pitted against ferocious, stuffed lions and armies of guardsmen, before facing off against his biggest challenge, that of the voracious, extremely hairy and ill tempered Cyclops (you probably wouldn't be too pleasant either if you were stuck on an island in a drafty cave, and all you had to eat was raw meat)...
All in all I thought this a pretty decent film, but the story did sort of die out in the middle as Mitchell's character found himself being wooed by the evil queen, who was sort of presented as a victim of circumstance, forced into doing bad things because of the curse. That's not to say she didn't have evil inclinations (she did), but one could make the argument she was a product of her upbringing. Within the plot featuring the queen developing a fondness for Maciste, we also see jealousy in the captain of the guard, who professes his love for her a couple of times. Subsequently, he moves forward with his own, dastardly machinations in which ultimately lead to a betrayal of his queen. That's all fine and good, but it did draw away slightly from what I came to see, that of Maciste beating the hell out of man and beast. There are some decent fight sequences in here, not withstanding the one with Maciste battling a lion on the beach (the footage would alternate between a man looking like Mitchell wrestling with a real lion, and Mitchell himself fighting a stuffed lion), including Mitchell fighting a slew of guards, Mitchell fighting a well defined black man, Mitchell involved in a tug-of-war with twenty some odd slaves, Mitchell rowing a large ship all by himself, and finally Mitchell doing battle with the Cyclops. There was one part that sticks out in my mind, near the beginning, as the mortally wounded man delivers the baby to Maciste. The man eventually dies, leaving Maciste to rescue the baby from a lion (which he defeats soundly), and then Maciste dumps the kid off on a local goat herder before running off to save those women and children captured during the initial bloodletting. The funny thing is, as Maciste and the goat herder went their separate ways, they left the corpse of the man where it lay, rather than giving him a proper burial. Perhaps back in the day mortal remains were left for the Gods (or wild animals) to deal with...I dunno, it just seemed odd to me. Had I made the sacrifice this guy did, I would hope for, at the very least, a decent disposition of my remains. Anyway, I was a little disappointed at the overall lack of the presence of a Cyclops in this film, especially given the character's prominence in the title, as we only get to see about thirty seconds of the beast in the very beginning, and then a bit longer near the end. During the final sequences, the creature actually looked better than I would have expected (his size, proportional to Maciste, was presented very well), resulting in an exciting battle of the titans (of sorts). My favorite part of this sequence was when Maciste began chucking mammoth boulders at the Cyclops' head...woo hoo! The Cyclops was no slouch, but Maciste eventually dealt with him in a manner one would expect when fighting a Cyclops, striking at the obvious weakness, but not before the Cyclops grabs one guy by the legs and makes a wish...ouch! The film cut away rather than showing any actual carnage, leaving to the viewers' imagination a most horrible fate.
The fullscreen picture on this Alpha Video DVD release is extremely rotten, even for their seemingly non-existent standards. The picture is often blurry, murky, and generally washed out. The feature is in color, but you'd hardly notice as the colors have since been bled from whatever transfer they used, giving everything the vibrancy of mud. I wasn't expecting a pristine transfer here (given the price), but man, come on...if you intend on watching this feature, be sure to take a couple of aspirin prior to starting it, otherwise you'll develop a doozy of a headache as your eyes continually try to focus the picture. The audio isn't much better, inundated with pops and a constant hiss. Normally I would have given this feature three stars, but due to the shoddy transfer, I have to go with two stars. There really aren't any extras included, unless you count trailers for other Alpha Video releases like Goliath and the Dragon (1960)...look for the Something Weird DVD release of this rather than the Alpha Video release, Hillbilly Monster: Son of Jengal/Grandparents from Outer Space double feature (2003), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2002), Magdalen (1998), and Just Add Pepper (2002).
One last note, I will give Alpha Video credit for creating visually interesting DVD case art. Too bad the quality doesn't carry over into the transfers of their releases.
Maciste(Atlas) vs.the Cyclops for the Championship of the Wo
David M. Goode | Yonkers N.Y. | 03/03/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Okay let's start off by saying that this is another washed out DVD from Alpha Video.But there's nobody else selling classic films from the "golden age of gladiator movies",so when you see me give a sword and sandal flick from Alpha 4 stars it's for the movie itself and not for it's reproduction values.Though to be fair the box covers are usually pretty darn good.As for the movie itself it's very good.It features all the cliches you expect from the genre,including the obligatory scene where the hero resists the pull of two chains (or ropes).And you get a great fight scene between the hero and the giant cyclops.Gordon Mitchell's physique isn't quite as tight as it will be in later entries,but he still looks like he's capable of performing the feats of strength he does here.And speaking of physiques this film features Mr.Universe winner Paul Wynter as the villian's henchman.This is one of only two sword and sandal flicks that this black bodybuilder would make.In the other,The Son of Hercules vs.The Mole Men,he plays the hero's cowardly sidekick.That unfortunately was what black characters were reduced to playing in these productions,muscular versions of Mantan Mooreland or the villian's henchman.It's almost as if the civil rights movement hadn't been heard of in Italy.At least in American films from this period black characters were beginning to be treated with dignity.In a just world Wynter and Serge Nubret would have actually got to star in these movies and not just play token comic relief or villians.This movie also features Chelo Alonso as the female lead.She plays the cliched evil queen who falls for our hero.Oh yes,don't expect to find Atlas anywhere in this movie.Maciste is the hero here.The film was retitled for American distribution and used the more familiar name of Atlas for ads."