Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Maciste in Hell (1925)

The Italian film industry has never been shy about aping success, and so the Steve Reeves' Hercules films inspired a flood of sword and sandal imitators during the 1960, including over 20 starring the hero "Maciste".

When I fired up this DVD I expected one of those movies, but this is actually one of the original, silent era Maciste films.  Again, there were over twenty of these, with Maciste in Hell being one of the later entries.

Maciste is a tremendously strong and virtuous man, a combination which deeply concerns the forces of Hell.  They send one of their most expert agents to tempt Maciste into wickedness.  In this case, being an 'expert' seems to consist of dressing like you've just tied a woman to some train tracks somewhere, and blatantly offering "gold, pleasures or power" in exchange for becoming an ally of Hell.

Unsurprisingly, this approach meets with little success.  The demon does come up with a better plan though, as he targets Maciste's young cousin Rosabelle and her child.  Maciste saves the boy but ends up in the underworld as a result.  Initially, that just gives him the chance to beat up a bunch of demons, but things change when he meets a couple of female denizens of Hell.  There's bad girl and a good girl (yes, even amongst demons there are good girls, it seems).  The good girl warns Maciste not to kiss any woman in Hell, but ten seconds later he's making out with the bad girl.

Maciste is strong, not smart.

This turns Maciste into a demon, just in time to lead an army in an Infernal civil war.  Because being really strong makes you a good general, I guess.  Not that you really need to be much of a tactician when you can beat up a hundred enemies by yourself.

Will Maciste escape Hell?  Of course he will, eventually.  The film's not going to let it happen easily, though.

Much as with Lost World, the main selling point of this film is the effects.  While they're not the technical marvel of the other movie's stop motion, they are very ambitious for the era, with some immense sets and some cool ideas.  The plot's rather more disjointed than that other film, though, and Maciste's frequent melees aren't as interesting as say Allosaur vs Triceratops, so overall I can't recommend it.

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