Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Heroes vs Head Hunters (and bad dancers)

Colossus and the Headhunters
(aka "Maciste vs. the Headhunters") (1964)
Starring: Kirk Morris, Laura Brown, Frank Leroy, Alfredo Zammi, and Demeter Bentic
Director: Guido Malatesta
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Wandering hero Maciste (Morris) leads his people from their volcano-ravaged homeland to another island where they find themselves in the middle of a civil war. Maciste takes up the battle of the kindhearted and babe-alicious Queen Amoa (Brown) against the evil pretender to her throne (Bentic) and his headhunting mercenaries, all in the interest of peace and finding a new home of this people.

"Colossus and the Headhunters" is a low-budget fantasy film that is several different shades of bad. The cheapness wafts from every frame, the acting is horrendous (both on the part of the original actors and the voice actors who did the English-language dub), and the script drags on and on, turning even what should be exciting battle- and chase-scenes into excrutiating tests of the viewers patience.

The one well-done thing is the costume designs of the three different cultures featured in the film--Machiste's people, the kingdom dealing with the cival war, and the headhunters. Each culture has a distinct look to it, and some level of thought and care went into their visual creation. (Although even this isn't perfect. Were their two civilizations on Machiste's original home island, because the people he leads to safety are your garden variety, Sword & Sandel, psuedo-Greek/Mediterreanian in costuming and armaments... yet most of the people we see fleeing from earthquakes and falling boulders as the island is consumed by the volcanic eruptions are fur-clad, sharpened-stick and stone-axe weilding cavemen! That's because this movie was so cheaply made that there was no money for the special effects shots required to portray an exploding volcano, so the director grabbed footage from an earlier third-rate fantasy film he'd made, 1962's "Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules." (You can follow this link to read all about that movie misfire at Cinema Steve.)

There is one reason to see this movie, one VERY good reason. It features one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes ever put on film. Run the movie while you're reading a book or cleaning, but start paying attention when the villian is forcing Queen Amoa to marry him... and watch in awe-struck disbelief (and through eventual tears of laughter) as the handmaiden throws off her cloak and performs a wedding dance like none you've ever seen. That dance alone earns this film a full Star!

A severely edited version of "Colossus and the Headhunters" might be great addition to a Bad Movie Night, but, despite hilarious bits like the wedding dance, there are too many drawn out, boring sections to make it worth while.

(It's interesting to me that, despite the American title, there is no character in the film named "Colossus". What was the aversion to using the name Maciste in titles when these films were imported? Would "Colossus" reallly attract that many more viewers than "Maciste"? I suspect "Headhunters" was a bigger draw, and youd get the same audience if it had been called "Big Gay Al and the Headhunters" or "PeeWee and the Headhunters".)

Fun Fact: Maciste is sort-of the all-purpose Italian go-to epic hero. He is featured in tales of swashbuckling, freedom-fighting, and just plain old fashioned monster-bashing mayhem set in all historical ages, cultures, and places. For all I know, he even shows up in sci-fi stories and movies. (And if he doesn't, get on that Italy!)


  1. I echo your sentiments on this one, Steve. It's in the 'Dis List' section of my site. I have all but given up on Kirk Morris aka Adriano Bellini. I've yet to see a movie he did that was good. The most tolerable would have to be HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES. Before I got to it, I knew what you were going to say regarding the dance sequence. Wow, MST3K missed the boat on this one. Director Malatesta truly was a master of junk. The one movie he did that was enormously entertaining, GOLIATH & THE GIANTS, he got fired from shortly into the filming and Gianfranco Parolini finished it for him.

    You should definitely look into the Margheriti/Deodato mess that is MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES, HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL and HERCULES, THE AVENGER, all starring Reg Park. His first two Herc pics (HAUNTED WORLD and CAPTIVE WOMEN) are classics, but those last three are a major dip in quality.

  2. Have you seen "The Devil of the Desert vs. the Son of Hercules"? It stars Kirk Morris, and I enjoyed it quite bit.

    And, yeah, anyone who's seen this film knew what I was going to say before I got to that point. If there's a goofier dance sequence in a film, I've yet to encounter it.

    "Haunted World" and "Captive Women" are certainly among the best Hercules films out there. Mario Bava was a great asset to "Haunted." I'll keep an eye out for those other three--with your warning in mind. I think I might even have "Prisoner of Evil", but I've not gotten around to watching it yet.

  3. And by "that point," I meant "the point of commenting on the dance. I had a longer description of it, but found that words were failing me, so I dumped it. It really is something that must be witnessed.

  4. Yes, I've seen about ten minutes of DEVIL OF THE DESERT. The print I got of it isn't very appealing. Speaking of Maciste in a sci fi scenario, HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN counts to an extent. Morris also appeared in the sci fi peplum, CONQUEROR OF ATLANTIS and Gordon Mitchell was in GIANT OF METROPOLIS. Morris also plays "Ringo" in the spaghetti western musical RITA OF THE WEST, another pretty bad movie you should check out at some point.

  5. Would love to find a copy of this movie on DVD or blu that looks as beautiful and that is in the aspect ratio shown in this photograph.