Hercules (Ercole) - Maciste - Ursus - Samson - Goliath (1957-1965)
Hercules (Italian: Ercole), the incredibly strong son of the gods in Greek mythology, had many names in movies: Maciste, Goliath, Ursus, Samson etc. This special section of cultmovies.info discusses films that dealt with him as a kind of super-hero.
In the 1950s a new action genre emerged: The sword-and-sandal epic. These movies have also been called "peplum" or "muscleman" films. In all of them, the main character (an interpretation of Hercules) saved beautiful women or entire cities from dangerous threats such as nefarious villains or terrifying monsters. The whole genre relied greatly on special effects and atmosphere, not to forget an impressive physique of its stars. In the essay and filmography below, only films with a supernatural aspect are treated (even if it's only the main character's super-powers), which is why you will not find any Spartacus clones here.
The very first film with HERCULES, or ERCOLE, in the title was released in 1957. LE FATICHE DI ERCOLE (1957) stands today as one of the best examples of the genre. The film was so successful, it proved to be the starting point for a whole new genre. The movie's original director, Pietro Francisci, was supported and finally replaced by the Italian cult figure Mario Bava, best known for his horror thrillers of the 1960s and 1970s. LE FATICHE was followed by ERCOLE E LA REGINA DI LIDIA (1959), also starring Steve Reeves, an American actor, who did not appear in other movies as Hercules, but made a respectable career in many European B-movie productions (usually playing a heroic strongman).
In 1960, two Hercules movies were released: GLI AMORI DI ERCOLE (starring Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay as the title character) and LA VENDETTA DI ERCOLE (directed by Vittorio Cottafavi), the first film that featured Mark Forest as the super-hero.
1961 was a big year for Hercules. No less than five movies were released: ULISSE CONTRO ERCOLE (featuring Mike Lane and directed by Mario Caiano), MACISTE CONTRO ERCOLE NELLA VALLE DEI GUAI (featuring Kirk Morris and framed by an odd story set in the present), LA FURIA DI ERCOLE (featuring Brad Harris, directed by Gianfranco Parolini), ERCOLE AL CENTRO DELLA TERRA (featuring Reg Park, directed by the great Mario Bava) and ERCOLE ALLA CONQUISTA DI ATLANTIDE (featuring Reg Park, directed by Vittorio Cottafavi).
Strangely enough, there are no Hercules films on record that were released in 1962. However, the following year, 1963, saw the release of three peplum epics: ERCOLE CONTRO MOLOCK (featuring the well-known Tarzan actor Gordon Scott and directed by Giorgio Ferroni), ERCOLE L'INVINCIBILE (featuring Dan Vadis) and ERCOLE SFIDA SANSONE (starring Kirk Morris). ERCOLE SFIDA SANSONE was made by the director of the original ERCOLE movie, Pietro Francisci and featured not only Hercules but also Samson and Ulysses.
1964 was the last year Hercules movies were produced: ERCOLE CONTRO I FIGLI DEL SOLE (featuring Mark Forest in a South American setting this time), ERCOLE CONTRO I TIRANNI DI BABILONIA (featuring Peter Lupus, directed by Domenico Paolella), ERCOLE CONTRO ROMA (featuring Alan Steel), ERCOLE, SANSONE, MACISTE E URSUS GLI INVICIBILI (featuring Alan Steel as Hercules, directed by Giorgio Capitani) and finally IL TRIONFO DI ERCOLE (featuring Dan Vadis and directed by Alberto de Martino).
Arnold Schwarzenegger's film debut in 1970 had him play Hercules in HERCULES IN NEW YORK (1970), an ultra-cheesy action comedy. Hercules also returned to the screen in the mid-eighties, starring the "Incredible Hulk" Lou Ferrigno (HERCULES and HERCULES II). Excluding these three imitations, our hero ERCOLE graced the screen with 18 appearances.
The name Maciste (more or less a synonym for Hercules) appears in almost 50 film titles. The early Maciste films (24 in total) were made between 1915 and 1926. The first Maciste film of the sound era, MACISTE NELLA VALLE DI REI, was produced in 1960. This Maciste trend lasted, like the Hercules phenomenon, until 1964.
Ursus was another synonym for Hercules. All in all, there were 8 URSUS films (from 1961-1964).
Five or six movies about the Hercules-substitute Samson (Sansone) were made in the years 1961-1964.
Only three or four Goliath movies were made, all between 1962 and 1964.
Roger Corman directed a movie called ATLAS in 1961, in which a Hercules-like superhero must fight against an evil king.
Sergio Leone directed the costumer IL COLOSSO DI RODE in 1961, but there is no superhero in this story.
Steve Reeves, the original Hercules, made a return to sword-and-sandal in 1961 for the historical epic LA GUERRA DI TROIA (1961), in which he plays hero Aeneas.
In 1963, a cartoon series called "The Mighty Hercules" was produced in the United States.
The first Hercules comedy was made in 1960. LE PILLOLE DI ERCOLE (HERCULES' PILLS)
These movies are not included in the combined filmography below.
The muscle-men of the early 1960s lost popularity rather quickly. After 1964, hardly any sword-and-sandal epics were produced anymore. Italian cinema (and its audiences) became more interested in westerns (Sergio Leone's PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI is one of the earliest), sci-fi movies (really hokey ones!) and spy action (as a result of the success with the Bond movies).
A notable revival of peplum movies occurred in the early eighties with the production (and success) of CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) and CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984), both starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Looking at the action movies of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, the super-heroes characterized by Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger do not necessarily rely exclusively on their brains to beat the villains (which goes to show the stagnant development of the supermen).
Le Fatiche di Ercole (1957; dir by Pietro Francisci/Mario Bava, starring Steeve Reeves)
Ercole e la Regina di Lidia (1959; dir by Pietro Francisci, starring Steeve Reeves)
La Vendetta di Ercole (1960; dir by Vittorio Cottafavi, starring Mark Forest)
Gli Amori di Ercole (1960; dir by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, starring Mickey Hargitay)
Maciste nella Valle dei Rei (1960; dir by Carlo Campogalliani, starring Mark Forest)
La Regina delle Amazzoni (1960; dir by Vittorio Sala, starring Ed Fury; not really a Hercules movie)
Ulisse Contro Ercole (1961; dir by Mariano Caiano, starring Mike Lane)
Maciste Contro Ercole Nella Valle di Guai (1961; dir by Mario Mattoli, starring Kirk Morris)
La Furia di Ercole (1961; dir by Gianfranco Parolini, starring Brad Harris)
Ercole al Centro della Terra (1961; dir by Mario Bava, starring Reg Park)
Ercole alla Conquista di Atlantide (1961; dir by Vittorio Cottafavi, starring Reg Park)
Maciste alla Corte del Gran Khan (1961; dir by Riccardo Freda, starring Gordon Scott)
Maciste Contro il Vampiro (1961; dir by Sergio Corbucci, starring Gordon Scott)
Maciste nella Terra dei Ciclopi (1961; dir by Antonio Leonviola, starring Gordon Mitchell)
Maciste, l'Uomo Più Forte del Mondo (1961; dir by Antonio Leonviola, starring Mark Forest)
Sansone (1961; dir by Gianfranco Parolini; starring Brad Harris; Walter Reeves is Hercules)
Trionfo di Maciste (1961; dir by Tanio Boccia, starring Kirk Morris)
Ursus (1961; dir by Carlo Campogalliani, starring Ed Fury)
Ursus nella Valle dei Leoni (1961; dir by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, starring Ed Fury)
La Vendetta di Ursus (1961; dir by Luigi Capuano, starring Samson Burke)
Vulcano, Figlio di Iove (1961; dir by Emimmo Salvi, starring Rod Flash as Vulcano)
Teseo Contro il Minotauro (1961; dir by Silvio Amadio, starring Bob Mathias)
Arrivano i Titani (1961; dir by Duccio Tessari, starring Giuliano Gemma; some supernatural elements)
Maciste all'Inferno (1962; dir by Riccardo Freda, starring Kirk Morris)
Maciste Contro i Cacciatori di Teste (1962; dir by Guido Malatesta, starring Kirk Morris)
Maciste Contro lo Sceicco (1962; dir by Domenico Paolella, starring Ed Fury)
Maciste, il Gladiatore Più Forte del Mondo (1962; dir by Michele Lupo, starring Mark Forest)
Totò Contro Maciste (1962; dir by Fernando Cerchio, starring Samson Burke; a comedy???)
Ursus e la Ragazza Tartara (1962; dir by Remigio del Grosso, starring ?; set in 17th century Poland)
Goliath Contro i Giganti (1962; dir by Guido Malatesta, starring Brad Harris)
Le Chevalier de Pardaillan (1962; dir by Bernard Borderie, starring Kirk Morris as Samson)
The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962; dir by Edward Bernds, starring Brad Harris)
Marte, Dio della Guerra (1962; dir by Ernesto Gastaldi, starring ? as Mars)
Ercole Contro Molock (1963; dir by Giorgio Ferroni, starring Gordon Scott)
Ercole L'Invincibile (1963; dir by Alvaro Mancori, starring Dan Vadis)
Ercole Sfida Sansone (1963; dir by Pietro Francisci, starring Kirk Morris)
Maciste Contro i Mostri (1963; dir by Guido Malatesta, starring ?)
Maciste, l'Eroe Più Grande del Mondo (1963; dir by Michele Lupo, starring Mark Forest)
Zorro Contro Maciste (1963; dir by Umberto Lenzi, starring Alan Steel)
Ursus nella Terra di Fuoco (1963; dir by Giorgio Simonelli, starring Ed Fury)
Ursus, il Gladiatore Ribelle (1963; dir by Domenico Paolella, starring Dan Vadis)
Sansone Contro i Pirati (1963; dir by Tanio Boccia, starring Kirk Morris)
Goliath e la Schiava Ribelle (1963; dir by Mario Caiano, starring ?)
L'Eroe di Babilonia (1963; dir by Siro Marcellini, starring Gordon Scott)
Perseo, L'Invincibile (1963; dir by Alberto de Martino, starring Richard Harrison as Perseus)
Ercole Contro i Figli del Sole (1964; dir by Osvaldo Civirani, starring Mark Forest)
Ercole Contro i Tiranni di Babilonia (1964; dir by Domenico Paolella, starring Peter Lupus)
Ercole Contro Roma (1964; dir by Piero Pierotti, starring Alan Steel)
Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus Gli Invincibili (1964; dir by Giorgio Capitani, starring Alan Steel)
Il Trionfo di Ercole (1964; dir by Alberto de Martino, starring Dan Vadis)
Gli Invincibili Fratelli Maciste (1964; dir by Roberto Mauri, starring Richard Lloyd)
Maciste alla Corte dello Zar (1964; dir by Tanio Boccia, starring Kirk Morris)
Maciste Contro i Mongoli (1964; dir by Domenico Paolella, starring Mark Forest)
Maciste e la Regina di Samar (1964; dir by Giacomo Gentilomo, starring Alan Steel)
Maciste nell'Inferno di Genghis Khan (1964; dir by Domenico Paolella, starring Mark Forest)
Maciste nelle Miniere di Re Salomone (1964; dir by Piero Regnoli, starring Reg Park)
Maciste, Gladiatore di Sparta (1964; dir by Mario Caiano, starring Mark Forest)
Ursus, il Terrore dei Kirghisi (1964; dir by Antonio Margheriti, starring Reg Park)
Sansone Contro il Corsaro Nero (1964; dir by Luigi Capuano, starring Alan Steel)
Sansone e il Tesoro degli Incas (1964; dir by Piero Pierotti, starring Alan Steel)
Goliath alla Conquista di Bagdad (1964; dir by Domenico Paolella, starring Peter Lupus)
Golia e il Cavaliere Mascherato (1964; dir by Piero Pierotti, starring Alan Steel)
Gli Invincibili Tre (1964; dir by Gianfranco Parolini, starring Alan Steel as Ursus)
La Valle dell'Eco Tonante (1964; dir by Tanio Boccia, starring Kirk Morris as Maciste)
Anthar L'Invincibile (1964; dir by Antonio Margheriti, starring Kirk Morris as Hercules)
Leone di Tebe (1964; dir by Giorgio Ferroni, starring Mark Forest as?)
Kindar, l'Invulnerabile (1964; dir by Osvaldo Civirani, starring Mark Forest as Kindar)
Il Colosso di Roma (1964; dir by Giorgio Ferroni, starring Gordon Scott as ?)
Hercules (1964; movie from India)
Il Vendicatore dei Mayas (1965; dir by Guido Malatesta, starring Kirk Morris as Maciste)
Il Conquistadore di Atlantide (1965; dir by Alfonso Brescia, starring Kirk Morris as Heracles)
La Sfida dei Giganti (1965; dir by Maurizio Lucidi, starring Reg Park as Hercules)
Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965; dir by Albert Band, starring Gordon Scott as Hercules; 47m.)
Afterword and Statistical Reference:
The most active directors of sword-and-sandal films seem to have been Domenico Paolella, Tanio Boccia, Piero Pierotti and Guido Malatesta (also cowrote many films). Important directors that worked in this field were Mario Bava, Riccardo Freda, Antonio Margheriti and even Umberto Lenzi.
Approximately 15 different actors impersonated the muscle-men. Mark Forest, Kirk Morris, Alan Steel and Reg Park had the most appearances.
A more or less notable contribution to the MACISTE canon was made in 1973 by the notorious Jess Franco. MACISTE CONTRE LA REINE DES AMAZONES is a sex-comedy set in medieval France.
This combined filmography may miss a couple of sword-and-sandal epics. If you know any that do not appear here contact Ron Altman and the update will appear here as soon as possible. Remember that only super-hero pics are featured here. Sandokan, Spartacus movies and the like are sword-and-sandal, but I have decided to leave them out (because they lack any supernatural aspect).
© Ron Altman (last update 10/19/06)