Friday, April 19, 2019

Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules

Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules
Antonio Leonviola

The Son of Hercules... I mean Maciste (Mark Forest) is fishing (and catches a whale), he is asked to save a Princess (Raffaella CarrĂ ). After freeing another strongman named Bangor (Paul Wynter) they discover that the princess has been caught by the Mole Men, a group of white-skinned cave dwellers who will die if exposed to the sun. Maciste comes up with the brilliant plan to let themselves get captured and taken underground.The Mole Men queen, Halis Mosab (Moira Orfiel) quickly takes a liking to Maciste and offers to make him her king…

Although there is some fun to be had at the beginning, once Maciste and crew are captured and taken underground there just isn’t a lot for the movie to do. We get a lot of escaping and capturing, some torture and executions, but it all takes place in cramped caves among waves of identical looking villains. One of the big strengths of peplum films is their spectacle, and there isn't much of that here. This movie attempts to go over-the-top during the climax but it feels too late to save such a sluggish story. There is also the inevitable love story (or two) but nothing that manages to generate much interest.

He wanted his forehead to look really surprised.
Although the movie does liven-up considerably during the climax everything feels very rushed. There is a mass jailbreak that leads to a lot of running around the caves. Maciste is pushing a giant wheel that does… something? Eventually, he and Bangor use the wheel and some chains to bring the whole Mole Man kingdom crashing down, but the fate of the Mole Men is never addressed. Just when the story seems to be wrapping up, someone walks off a cliff in a scene that is supposed to be tragic but heads straight into bathos.

One place where Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules does succeed is in the goofy costume department. The Mole Men are outfitted with white skin, gold eye-masks complete with horns, and 1980s-worthy feathered hair. The cult leader Kahab (Enrico Glori) sports a huge hat complete with giant eyes on the front. Maciste and his pal Bangor are probably wearing more body oil than actual clothing, but I suppose that is to be expected in a muscle man movie.

Chests greased and ready for action.
A number of actors have stepped into the role of Maciste since 1914, so how does Mark Forest stack up against the rest? He’s affable without being arrogant. He does manage to give a virtually indestructible hero just a little bit of a vulnerable edge, or least as much as you can within the limited confines of this subgenre. His companion Bangor is more problematic, he’s black and portrayed as plenty dumb and eager to serve Maciste. He does, however, have a much more compelling romance subplot that is given almost equal weight to Queen Mosab's love triangle.

There are certainly better peplum films out there. I suppose if you have exhausted all the more obvious choices (Hercules (1957), Hercules in the Haunted World (1961), Hercules (1983) to name a few), Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules isn’t an awful choice, it’s just an aggressively mediocre one.

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