Goliath and the Dragon: A Celebration of 1960 Retrospective

Goliath and the Dragon (1960) posterFor those looking for a quality sword & sandal movie, they better look elsewhere than GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON, but for those who take a guilty pleasure in silly dialogue and ratty-looking fantasy monsters, this movie is bad movie gold.

After the unexpectedly enormous success of Embassy Pictures’ import of HERCULES, American International Pictures shopped around for a Hercules-type film of its own, settling for La Vendetta di Ercole (“The Vengeance of Hercules”). However, since Joe Levine claimed to own the rights to the name Hercules, AIP renamed the hero Goliath before entering the fantasy film into the U.S. box office sweepstakes. Sam Arkoff even ponyed up  extra cash to Projects Unlimited and Jim Danforth to add some extra stop-motion footage of a full-sized dragon for the film (in the climactic confrontation, all Goliath attacks is a very cheesy-looking giant head of a dragon). Once again, composer Les Baxter created a new musical score for the U.S. version.

Broderick Crawford looks as if he should be playing Scarface.

Broderick Crawford looks as if he should be playing Scarface.

Aiding in making GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON saleable in the States is that the film has two American stars—Brooklyn-born and muscle-bound Mark Forest as Goliath and Broderick Crawford as his nemesis Eurysthesus, bearing a scar that looks like he was auditioning for Scarface only to be told to report to Italy. Eurysthesus has usurped the throne and wishes to become the head honcho in Goliath’s beloved kingdom of Phoebes.

Unfortunately, GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON  gets off to a very bad start: the first image is Forest’s rear end heading towards the screen. Perhaps opening with the protagonist mooning the audience is a fitting ways to prepare us for what follows. Goliath is not the sharpest blade in the knife drawer, as he descends into a pit without the use of a rope. Once he reaches the bottom, he is attacked by a thread-bare three-headed dog, apparently meant to be Ceberus, with a flame thrower projecting from each mouth (at one point Forest receives a dangerous blast of flame apparently aimed right at his brylcreamed hairdo). This pathetic pooch, however, is no match for the mighty thewed muscleman; it is quickly dispatched. Oddly, for no apparent reason, Ceberus’ demise causes a cave wall to collapse, allowing Goliath access to his next challenge.

Goliath and the Dragon (1960)

Mark Forest displays his physique

Throughout GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON, Forest is better at showing off his impressive physique than his fighting prowess; most of his melees are over with before they have begun. Additionally, even though this is a sword-and-sandal picture, Goliath is only armed with a short knife instead of a sword. Was he too busy, when heading out on his adventure, to equip himself properly?

Goliath is on a quest to obtain the blood diamond, but just before he can do so, he is attacked a large bat-winged monster that looks something like the moth-eaten cousin of that sleepy bat creature from THE NEVERENDING STORY or (God help us) a flying Ewok. The bat-thing swings by on wires trying to intimidate our hero, but it too is quickly dispatched, allowing our protagonist to collect his bloodstone and head on home.

Goliath establishes his good-guy credential by assisting a farmer in uprooting a tree; he then heads out hunting and sees his friend Alsinuea (Wandisa Guida) being attacked by the fakest-looking bear costume in the history of movies. (I mean if you thought Beach Dickerson looked ridiculous as a bear in TEENAGE CAVEMAN, you haven’t seen anything yet!)  Not surprisingly, the ursine opponent is quickly dispatched.

Goliath and the Dragon (1960) dragon headMeanwhile, back in Phoebes, Goliath’s brother Illus (Sandro Moretti) has made the mistake of falling in love with Eurysthesus’ bride-to-be, Thea (Federica Rancha), which causes Eurysthesus to sentence him to be killed in the arena by being tied to a cross and then stepped on by an elephant.  Eurysthesus also arranges for a shape-shifting centaur named Polymorphus to kidnap Goliath’s wife Dejanira (Leonora Ruffo of I VITELLONI and HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD fame) and threatens to feed her to the titular dragon. What’s a he-man to do except rescue the brother, bring the kingdom down Samson-style, and quickly dispatch the dragon, whose head is stuck in a large whole, pulling out its tongue?

Of course, having risible dialogue such as “I ask your pardon for my absence, friends, but the unpleasantness is over now! Let us enjoy our dinner!” and “Even the gods are against us! Let’s get started!” doesn’t help matters in the slightest. Adding to the difficulties is that Crawford’s voice has been redone by a not very effective impersonator, nor does it help when he has to wrestle a rubber snake. Additionally, after the opening monster-battle scenes, GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON continually introduces minor and unimportant characters who add nothing to the narrative except to impede it.

Goliath and the Dragon (1960) Goliath and opponent

Goliath brings down the house

Director Vittorio Cottafavi is a specialist in the Peplum genre, having written and directed such films as WARRIOR AND THE SLAVE GIRL (1958), LEGIONS OF THE NILE (1959), HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1963), and SON OF EL CID (1964). He keeps things moving and colorful, and fares better with scenes of destruction than with making the mangy monsters look menacing. The Something Weird video version of GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON offers Cottafavi’s CONQUEST OF ATLANTIS as a special bonus feature, along with a few shorts and a collection of pepla trailers.

GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON will appeal to fans of pepla fans and/or cheesy and cruddy creature features. Others need not (and probably should not) apply. For those who like to grab a brewski and jeer at a movie, GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON can make for a fine evening of entertainment, a reminder of the tattered glories of the cinema-going of yesteryear.

Goliath and the Dragon (1960)

GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON (a.k.a. La Vendetta di Ercole [“The Vengeance of Hercules”], 1960). Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi. Written by Marcello Baldi, Mario Ferrari, Marco Piccolo, Duccio Tessari, and Archibald Zounds, Jr.. Cast: Mark Forest, Broderick Crawford, Gaby Andre, Philippe Hersent, Leonora Ruffo, Giancarlo Sbragia, Wandisa Guida, Sandro Moretti, Federica Ranchi, Carla Calo.

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About the Author

Dennis Fischer

Author of Horror Film Directors and Science Fiction Film Directors (both from McFarland).

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