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Hercules, Samson

& Ulysses

a/k/a Ercole sfida Sansone

a/k/a Ercole, Sansone e Maciste

     "Tonight we will celebrate the death of Samson, and that of his friend, the Greek."

-- The evil Seran to the eviler Delilah     




Gonzoid Cinema


The Forgotten Labor of Hercules:

Subduing the vicious Man-Eating Chicken of Thebes.


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The Beauty,
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Italian Pepla:

The Giant of Marathon

Goliath and the Vampires

Hercules in the Haunted World

Hercules Against the Moon Men

Colossus and the Headhunters

The Loves of Hercules

Hercules, Samson and Ulysses


For several weeks now a giant sea serpent has laid siege on the coastal village of Ithaca, causing several fishermen, tired of being on the beast's menu, to petition King Leyeritis for some much needed help. Luckily for them, Hercules (Kirk Morris) happens to be reveling in the King's Court and gladly volunteers to help slay the monster. His bestest chum, Ulysses (Enzo Cerusico), also volunteers to go; and as the boys and their small crew prepare to set sail, leaving their worried womenfolk behind, they promise to be back before the sun sets. And with that, after Hercules easily pulls up the giant stone anchor, they're off -- right into the teeth of a vicious storm! Then, to make matters worse, the lookout spies the sea monster and raises the alarm: "Thar she blows!" (?!?). Moving quickly, Herc harpoons the beast and tries to reel it in, but the monster proves too strong and, instead, drags them farther and farther out onto a dark and turbulent sea.

And so help me, I'm not making this up, but that "sea serpent" sure looks like an otter.

The next morning, as wreckage from their boat washes ashore, a carrier pigeon arrives assuring all that the expedition is okay -- well, if being reduced to floating around on what's barely left of the ship means "okay" -- but they might be out to sea a little while longer than originally anticipated. Cast adrift, what's left of the hungry crew wants to eat the remaining pigeons and threatens mutiny. But as Herc chucks them all in the drink to cool off, land is spotted ... Making it safely to shore, the Greeks are unfamiliar with the native flora and fauna -- but eat it anyway. They also attract the attention of a very large and cantankerous bull. And when the beast charges them, Hercules counters, bopping the bovine on the head several times, killing it. They eat that, too. Then after discovering a path, they follow it and come upon a village, and judging by the native garb, Hercules conjectures that they must be in the land Judea.

Soon spotted, the villagers eye these new strangers warily -- especially a very large native, who watches them from the shadows, fearing they might be Philistine spies sent to kill him...

And here's another one of those movies that evaded my grasp for far, far too long. 

I caught my first glimpse of it about ten years ago after stumbling home one night from the bar, drunk as a skunk, as one normally is after stumbling home from the bar, and kicked on the old boob-tube in time to see some kind of period piece on one of the Super-Stations, where a village was in the process of being massacred by a bunch of baddies. Through my booze induced fog, I watched as people were bloodily crucified against their houses, strung up, burned out, and the rest drug off in chains ... I kinda faded in and out after that, but clearly remember watching a muscle-bound hero exact some tasty revenge for the peasants in an equally spectacular fashion (-- that we'll get to during the review). And as the mind-boggling spectacle of carnage and flying boulders continued I realized two things: one, judging by the beefy hero and dubbed voices, this had to be some kind of Italian` Hercules movie. And two, this, in my stupor, could quite possibly be the greatest movie ever made!

And then I promptly passed out in the recliner before the movie ended.

The next morning, I added more misery to my hangover by kicking myself for not recording the end of the movie. Hell, I didn't even know what it was called. Checking the local TV listings in the paper confirmed that I wasn't seeing double due to the booze; there were two musclemen in this thing, running amok. Maybe even three ... And I spent the next decade trying to track down a copy of Hercules, Samson and Ulysses.

Was it as good as I remembered? 


It was better...

Welcoming the strangers, the village elder confirms that the wayward Greeks are indeed marooned in Judea, and adds that he and his people are Danites from the tribe of Dan. (And for those of us who remember our days in Sunday School already know that Mr. Beefy hiding in the shadows is probably Samson.) With the help of a local Philistine horse-trader, Hercules arranges for some transportation and a guide to lead them to the great port city of Gaza, where the Greeks hope to find a suitable ship that can take them back home. And after Ulysses releases the last pigeon with the good news, they ride off ... Once the Greeks are gone, when the elder gives the all clear, Samson (Richard Lloyd) comes out of the shadows but is still suspicious of the strangers; and with such a huge price on his head, to be paid with Philistine gold, the fugitive feels his presence has endangered the village long enough and refuses to stay any longer.

Since it's such a long trip to Gaza, the Greek caravan stops at an oasis to rest, where suddenly, the horses quickly become frightened and buck off their riders; then the reason why, a lion, stalks out of a nearby cave! Coming to the rescue, Hercules wrestles with a real lion first, and then puts the finishing lethal touch on a toothless stuffed one! (Truly hilarious.) Knowing of only one man who can fight a lion bare-handed, the Philistine guide mistakenly assumes Hercules to be Samson -- the sworn enemy of his king, Seran. And smelling a dubious plot to assassinate his monarch, he sends the Greeks on to Gaza, via the long route, while he takes a shortcut to warn Seran before they arrive.

Speaking of Seran (Aldo Giuffre), he and his army are currently ransacking the Danite village. Looking for Samson, they find no trace of him -- except for the body of another lion, without the mark of a wound, meaning Samson must have been there ... For harboring the fugitive, the King decrees that the village must be burned to the ground and it's occupants purged -- especially all the children, so there can be no more Samsons coming down the pike! But first, he tells his Captain to wait until after he departs for Gaza; apparently, the odor of burning Danites makes him ill. After he's gone, the Philistines set to work crucifying people, nailing them against their houses, hanging more, and commence to raping, pillaging, spearing and burning what's left, sparing only the young maidens who are tied up and dragged off to be sold as slaves.

Meanwhile, when the last pigeon arrives in Greece, Hercules's wife, Deianira (Andrea Fantasia), worries that Gaza will have no vessels that can safely reach Greece. But King Leyeritis tells her not to worry; they'll just borrow the Argo (-- from Jason and the Argonauts?) and head on over to Gaza to pick them up. Which will work fine -- if the party of marooned Greeks ever get there! And while they're still stuck out on the road, running around in circles, King Seran easily beats them back to Gaza. Returned to his throne, he watches the bewitching Delilah (Liani Orfei) dance her serpentine wiles to the crack of the whip. When the horse trader arrives, warning that Samson is on his way disguised as a Greek, they all realize that none of them have actually seen Samson; just heard the rumors of his incredible feats, and wary of a desire to see the Philistine King dead by his own hands. As a frantic Seran panics at the news, Delilah taunts his weakness and tells the big sissy to just relax, and leave this Samson to her.

Also on the long road back to Gaza, the Philistine raiding party is slowed by the train of bound prisoners (-- and some of those prisoners, the ones with the beards, are the funniest looking women I've ever seen). When one of the women collapses, causing the procession to stop, she's cut from the line and dragged to the side. And as a soldier raises his club to finish her off, the air is sliced by a spear that impales his wrist before he can strike, causing him to drop the weapon. Scrambling for cover, trying to determine where the missile came from, up on a nearby hill, the soldiers spy Samson knocking away his camouflage, revealing plenty more pointed sticks. Spurring their mounts, the bad guys charge and attack, but Samson unleashes another lethal barrage of spears, impaling horses and riders alike. (There's some incredible stunt work here that I'm not even going to attempt to describe. You're just going to have to see this for yourselves.) This time, the Philistines don't stand a chance and are quickly massacred -- all except for the Captain, though gravely wounded, who barely manages to escape a last volley of spears. Freeing the others, and told what happened to their village, Samson now firmly believes the Greeks really were Philistine spies and vows revenge. 

Uh-oh ... I'm smelling the old Marvel Misunderstanding Trick!

Finally reaching Gaza, Hercules and his party are escorted to the palace courtyard where Seran springs a trap. Surrounded by deadly archers, Hercules is accused of being Samson. And his denials go nowhere when the horse trader confirms that he was the man seen killing the lion bare-handed. Hercules, of course, doesn't deny that, saying he's killed a lot of lions. Next, Delilah tells them to bring in the wounded Captain, but he dies before he can exonerate the Greeks. Still unsure, an intrigued Delilah hatches a plan: if this man isn't Samson, he may be the only one who can fight and kill the mighty Danite. Seran agrees and gives Hercules three days to capture or kill Samson. And as an added incentive, if he fails, he will kill all his friends. Then, with a wiggle of his finger, Seran punctuates the threat with a volley of arrows that strike down several of Herc's comrades. 

Trapped, the son of Zeus agrees to the one-sided bargain but doesn't know where to begin. Told not to worry and to wait for her outside the palace, Hercules is soon joined by the evil vixen and her entire entourage. Once outside the city, the caravan pitches camp and Delilah decides to go skinny-dipping. She tries to coax the Greek into joining her, but Herc is more interested in the chicken he just killed, and, of course, he wants to eat it ... After sunset, Delilah cranks up the heat, but when Hercules still doesn't fall for her wiles, she leaves in a snit and retreats into her tent.

The next morning, Hercules awakens to find the entourage gone. Only Delilah remains, dressed as a Danite peasant girl. Seems the rest of her plan consists of Hercules dressing up as a Philistine soldier, tying her hands to a tether and then drag her around behind his horse as bait to draw Samson out. Entering a ruined temple, just as Delilah warns him to keep his eyes and ears peeled, sure enough, a javelin whizzes by Hercules' head and splits a boulder behind them. More spears come, but Hercules manages to lift a giant slab for a shield. He then challenges Samson to a real fight, man to man. Hardly believing that anyone would challenge him, Samson grows even angrier when Hercules removes his disguise and is recognized as the alleged spy who helped massacre his people.

And with that, as they say: Lets get ready to RUMBLE!

Now, the written word will not do this fight justice, either: punches are thrown, Styrofoam boulders are chucked, iron bars are bounced off of each other's skulls, pillars are toppled over, and at one point, Samson throws Hercules clear through a stone wall! Of course, during this dust-up, the two combatants get to talking ... Between blows, Hercules apologizes for having to kill his adversary, saying he only does it to save his friends from that bastard Seran. As Samson listens, he realizes he was wrong and stops the fight. And then they both agree that what they really be doing is teaming up to bring Seran down. But they're also both forgetting about one little thing: Delilah.

As she mounts the horse and tries to escape, producing a very large lasso, from who knows where, Samson manages to rope the horse, which promptly collapses and dumps its rider. Not to be outdone, Hercules uses another rope and snares the girl, and together, they reel Delilah in. Needing someplace safe to stash her, they return to the smoldering ruins of the Danite village, where the few survivors work to bury the dead. Hercules is appalled by this atrocity -- especially all the dead children. Just as rattled, Samson turns Delilah over to the Danites for safekeeping while he and Herc go kick a little Philistine ass. But fearing for her life, Delilah starts scheming again, begging Samson not to leave her there with the vengeful villagers. And she has another plan, if they'll listen:

Delilah's plan is to set up a prisoner exchange with Seran at the temple of Dagoth. If they let her go, she will have a boat waiting there, so the Greeks can leave, and once they're all safely on board, she promises that Samson will conveniently escape, too. Hercules doesn't believe her sincerity, but Samson, the big dope, does and unties her ... Upon her return to Gaza, Seran agrees to the trade, too -- yeah, I don't trust them either, but the ball, as they say, has been put in play. So at the appointed time and at the appointed temple, the Greeks are escorted to the waiting ship as promised. But once aboard, Ulysses (-- oh yeah, that guy --) discovers Philistine soldiers hidden in the hold and spies more in the hills. Obviously, Delilah lied, and needing to warn Hercules of this treachery, he manages to sneak off the ship.

Hercules, meanwhile, hauls Samson to the temple. Neither one of them really trusts Delilah, either, and smell a double-cross, too. And even though Ulysses warning comes too late and Seran springs his trap, his charging soldiers are quickly repelled by a barrage of Styrofoam boulders. And after the other Greeks make quick work of the Philistines hidden on board the boat, badly bloodied on all fronts, Seran's forces retreat. Seeing this, when Delilah rages and asks why they don't attack, Seran offers his troops just need a little persuasion, and then orders his archers to open fire on his own men to get them going in the right direction again! This negative reinforcement does get them swarming up the hill toward the temple, but Ulysses has hit upon a plan and instructs Hercules and Samson to topple the whole structure over on top of them. And with much straining, the walls soon come a tumbling down, burying almost half of Seran's army. The only problem is, that still leaves the other half to deal with -- namely those pesky archers, who open fire and put flame to the ship, forcing the Greeks overboard. Under a rain of arrows, Hercules, Samson and Ulysses fight their way to the beach but find their escape vessel completely engulfed. Trapped against the sea, they spot the welcome sight of the fast approaching Argo! And when that mighty ship opens fire, phalanx after phalanx of Greek arrows are soon raining down on the scattering Philistines.

His army in tatters, Seran takes up a bow and draws a bead on the fleeing Hercules. Seeing this, Ulysses warns his friend and steps into the line of fire, taking one in the shoulder. As the shooter takes deadly aim again, Samson snatches up a discarded spear, lets it fly, and impales Seran through the stomach. Crying out, Delilah cradles the dying Seran in her arms, and then stares daggers at her retreating enemies, who swim to the safety of the Argo ... But is that a hint of wistful longing we see in her eyes?

Alas, another tale for another day...

Once they're all onboard, the Greeks set sail for home. After being thanked for all their help, Hercules warns Samson to be wary of Delilah's treachery and recommends a women more like his beloved Deianira. To that, Samson just shrugs, dives off, and then swims back to shore. 

Then the Greeks sail on, leaving him to his own destiny.

The End

You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd swear this whole thing was a parody. Every genre convention is amped up to such ridiculous levels in Hercules, Samson and Ulysses, but discharged so effectively that the effect on the audience is palpable. You'll be laughing your ass off one minute, and than boggling at the all the wild stunts the next. The set-pieces are fantastic, the score rollicking, and the climactic -- albeit premature, battle between the beefy contenders does not disappoint.

Kirk Morris was pushing a pole on a gondola when a producer spotted him and thought that with his roguish good looks and sculpted frame, he had a future in film. Morris had several of these films under his tunic, mostly playing Maciste -- the son of Hercules, but this was the second and last time he actually played Hercules. (Steve Reeves was the best, but Morris is a close second.) Richard Lloyd is admittedly a little stiff as Samson. He's great when he's chucking spears at people, or throwing boulders and rocks, but you can't help but giggle when he walks -- especially when he waddles away from the camera ... Let's just say I'm pretty sure I know where he was when his diarrhea came back. Know what I mean? 

Writer/director Pietro Francisci popularized these muscles and mayhem movies when his Hercules and Hercules Unchained were imported to the States in the late '50s with surprising box-office success. Which, of course, brought on a rash of imitators to cash in. Goliath, Samson, Ulysses, Maciste and Atlas all had their separate vehicles, but the most popular protagonist was Hercules. And when your scriptwriter gets even more bereft of ideas, they start teaming them up. And that's exactly what Francisci did by teaming up our three stalwart heroes. And by all rights, the proper title of this film should probably be Hercules, Samson and Delilah as Cerusico's Ulysses disappears for half the movie and provides nothing but comedy relief. I mean, after all, it is Liana Orfei's vamping and scheming that provides the lever and fulcrum that moves this plot along. 

The only thing else I've seen the lovely Orfei in is the wonderfully creepy Mill of the Stone Women that's on tap to be reviewed here next update. Stay tuned.

And what a plot we have here ... I think it's pretty cool how Francisci's script manages to bring all our players together, and it's not all that convoluted -- well, once you get past the whole giant sea serpent towing them all the way from Greece to Judea part -- and I seem to recall another movie where Herc got blown even further off course and wound up shipwrecked in the land of the Incas in Hercules vs. The Sons of the Sun. I shit you not. I also seem to recall one where Maciste somehow winds up fighting a witch in Victorian England. Again, I shit you not. I just think it's refreshing that, here, a little thought went into it and they didn't just throw them together all haphazardly.

But then again, plot-schmot. Who needs a plot when you've got giant monsters, stuffed animal wrestling, bull head-butting, the greatest village massacre ever committed to film, crucifixions, hangings, impalements, raping, pillaging, deadly arrow barrages, spear-chucking, incredible stunt work -- including a very big nod to those amazing stunt-horses who took all those devastating falls during those arrow and spear barrages -- and that's not even getting to the laughable dubbing, cartoony sound-effects, Delilah's erotic serpentine whip dance of the cobra, the evil Philistine king who puts the bastard in dastardly villain, the converted German SS helmets of his lackeys, two beefy guys beating the living snot out of each other, and the complete and utter destruction of not one, but two, great stone temples. We're talking some major Styrofoam boulder chucking-fu, here, kids.

And that, my friends, is just scratching the surface. 

By the time Hercules, Samson and Ulysses finally made it to America in 1965, the sword and sandal epic was out and the spaghetti western was in. But I think this is one helluva last-of-the-genre hurrahs, though. Sorry, this is just one of those films that I have a hard time containing my enthusiasm for. And I believe a lot of it has to do with the long search, and the satisfaction that it actually turned out better than I remembered. I just wish someone, anyone, would get these things out in widescreen. The copy that I managed to procure off of eBay was a pan-n-scan dub off of Turner Classic Movies, and the framing in a lot of the shots really stinks, making one wonder how much vino the editor had imbibed -- and that's the only real complaint I have about the movie.

Most peplum fans agree that Mario Bava's Hercules in the Haunted World is the apex of this genre. That's fine for them. Me? It'll take a lot more than that to top the 86-minutes of sheer and absolute freaking insanity contained in this film. Seek this movie. Find this movie. Watch this movie. And you will love this movie, too. Trust me.

Hercules, Samson and Ulysses a/k/a Ercole sfida Sansone (1965) I.C.D. :: MGM / P: Joseph Fryd / D: Pietro Francisci / W: Pietro Francisci / C: Silvano Ippoliti / E: Pietro Francisci / M: Francesco Lavagnino / S: Kirk Morris, Richard Lloyd, Liana Orfei, Aldo Giuffrè, Enzo Cerusico, Diletta D’Andrea
Originally Posted: 03/12/05 :: Rehashed: 05/18/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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