Maciste in King Solomon’s Mines (1964)

Country: Italy
Director: Piero Regnoli
Starring: Reg Park, Wandisa Guida, Eleonora Bianchi, Bruno Piergentili, Elio Jotta, and ‘Little’ Loris Loddi
Music: Francesco De Masi
Original Title: Maciste nelle miniere di re Salomone

Welcome to the ‘Big Muscle Tussle’. During February, the members of the Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit are celebrating musclemen – and muscle women. Fittingly, I have stepped once more into my time machine and traveled back to 1964, and to Italy where muscular men were running rampant – throwing boulders, ripping out trees, fighting monsters, fighting tyrants, and fighting whole armies. In general, they were fighting a lot.

Today’s fighting feature is Maciste in King Solomon’s Mine – which I believe is also known as Samson in King Solomon’s Mine. It just goes to show that a lot of these mythological heroes are interchangeable. This time Maciste (or Samson) is played by world champion bodybuilder Reg Park.

A the film opens the viewer is informed by a narrator who is not James Mason, but should be, that in the heart of Africa, there was a city called Zimba, which was surrounded by a high wall, and a dense jungle. At the centre of the city was a palace, from which secret underground passages lead to the fabled King Solomon’s Mines. But wise King Nammar was prohibited anybody from removing the gold from the mine – and the city has had twenty years of peace. Nammar has a young son, Vazmar (‘Little’ Loris Loddi) who is destined, in time, to take over the thrown. As he grows to manhood, he is kept in seclusion under the tutelage of a young woman named Samara (Eleonora Bianchi). The whereabouts (or fate) of Vazmar’s mother is never mentioned.

On the twentieth anniversary of Nammar’s peaceful reign, his Chief General, Riad (Ellio Jotta – billed as Leonard G. Elliot) decides he has had enough peace, and sneaks into the palatial grand hall, and beneath a giant Sphinx’s head (which conceals the entrance to the passageways to the mine), he pushes the marble lid off an alter. Inside is a wooden chest. He removes the chest and opens it revealing a ‘top secret’ map, which outlines all the secret passages underneath the palace – and most importantly to the mine. Riad presumably has a photographic memory, because he briefly scans the map, and then returns it, placing everything back exactly as he found it. He then heads off into the tunnels. But, despite what you may think, he chooses not to go immediately to the rich deposits of gold, but through a passage that leads him secretly out of the city and into the jungle.

Riad makes contact with a woman named Fazira (Wandisa Guida), who is the leader of fierce tribe of warriors. Riad offers her a third of the treasure from the mine, if she’ll help him overthrow Nammar. She agrees – but for half the treasure. Entering into an uneasy alliance, Riad agrees, then he leads her and her men back to Zimba and through the hidden passage. Once inside the city walls they do what any invading force would do – kill, rape, loot, set things on fire.

Meanwhile Riad heads off to the Royal bedchamber and kills King Nammar. While he is doing that, one of the King’s loyal subjects, Abucar (Bruno Piergentili – billed as Dan Harrison – who you may remember from Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens) rushes to the aid of Samara and Prince Vazmar (or is that King Vazmar now?) Abucar leads them to another secret passage that will lead them out of the palace and into the jungle. There they should seek the assistance of Maciste. Once they have escaped, Abucar rejoins the battle but is knocked out and captured.

In the jungle, Samara and Vazma are all alone, and anybody who has seen a Tarzan movie knows that the jungle is full of wild creatures, and no place for a woman and child. But more of that later. Firstly, Vazmar sees a lion cub and wanders off chasing it, because it looks soft, fluffy and fun. He catches up with it and befriends it. Befriend is actually a bad word – because this kid is clearly tormenting the clearly drugged, mini beast. I was half wishing it would claw him, and teach him a lesson – but that would be mean spirited.

Anyway, Samara has lost Vazma, and is wandering around trying to find him. Of course she crosses the path of the fully grown killer lion. But before the ravenous feline can attack, Maciste (Reg Park), who is clad in a loincloth, leaps from a tree and wrestles the lion into submission. Actually to death. Samara passes out.

Vazmar is now in his own little world, and falls into a pit designed to catch the rogue killer lion. He is found by natives, but luckily these natives are pretty good fellas, and they take Vazmar in and look after him.

Miles away, Maciste has his hands full, quite literally, with Samara who is still unconcious. He takes her to another village. Once in the village, delirious, she repeats Abucar’s words about finding Maciste. He realises his old friend Abucar must then be in trouble, so the big clod leaves her to the natives and plods off to Zimba to rescue his friend.

Back in Zimba, things have changed. Nammar’s subjects are now slaves and they are forced to work in the mines. Abucan is lashed and tortured by Riad, who is trying to find Vazmar. But Abucar wont speak, so Riad orders him to be put to death on the following morning. Of course, Maciste arrives in the nick of time and rescues his friend, but in the process, manages to get captured in a net.

Now Maciste is to be put to death in a ‘blood thirsty and breath taking spectacle’. This spectacle happens to be placing Maciste in a cage, which has spikes pointing in at his body. Then maciste is tied by ropes to horses on the outside. These horses are whipped and run off in different directions, pulling Maciste every which way – presumably into the sharp spikes. But Maciste, as you know, is super strong, and he holds the rope tight, waring out the horses, until they collapse.

As the story plays out, there are more plot twists and turns as the story writhes its way through the secret passages and into the Royal court. There’s betrayal, heroism, and the threat of Samara being doused in molten gold, and turned into a statue. And of course, more feats of incredible strength, from Maciste.

Reg Park was okay as Hercules in Mario Bava’s Hercules and the Haunted World is quite ineffectual here. Sure he looks the part, but beyond that he is wooden and lifeless. It doesn’t help that his character isn’t introduced until 25 minutes into the film. The real stars are the villains, Elio Jotta as Riad, and Wandisa Guida as Fazira, who have a high old time sneering and being evil. This film is most alive when they are on the screen being dastardly.

Maciste in King Solomon’s Mines is not an A-Grade peplum by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t a turkey either. Generally it is fast paced, and there are not too many extended talking head scenes, which seem to populate the most dreary of this kind of film. The sets are okay too, and the majority of the location footage, shot in South Africa, looks authentic – rather than using stock footage.

Wandisa Guida appeared in a few Eurospy productions such as Antonio Margheriti’s Lightning Bolt with Anthony Eisley, Killers are Challenged and Secret Agent Fireball, both with Richard Harrison. Eleonora Bianchi also made an incursion into Eurospy territory starring alongside Lang Jefferies in Agente X 1-7 operacion Oceano (X1-7 Top Secret).

That’s it for Maciste in King Solomon’s Mine, but I can tell by that look in your eye that you want more! I give you:

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules is a bit different to many of the other Hercules, or Sons Of Hercules films. It doesn’t take place in ancient Greece or Italy. It takes place in the Ice Age. However, it is still pretty average. If it didn’t feature Margaret Lee, one of my favourite leading ladies from the sixties, I would have switched off half way. Reg Lewis is wooden as the hero.

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How can you go past a title like Hercules vs the Moon Men? I couldn’t. This is a film that had to be watched, but admittedly with low expectations. And for three-quarters of this films running time I was highly entertained. However, the sandstorm towards the end of the movie drags on and drags the movie down with it.

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Hercules Against the Mongols isn’t the worst peplum you’ll see, but it isn’t inspired either. However it is a step up from the dreary Hercules Against The Barbarians, and it always intrigues me to see another chapter in the strange career of Ken Clark: Cowboy, Gentleman Spy, and Mongol.

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Gladiators 7, featuring Richard Harrison, is familiar territory for those who have watched any vintage swashbucklers, but the film handles it all with a great sense of style and fun. This is enjoyable if somewhat predictable entertainment.

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Hercules Against the Barbarians is a weak entry in the Sword and Sandal series. Forest is not my favourite Hercules. He takes the role far too seriously and always looks to be in pain. On top of that this movie is fairly slowed paced and drags between action sequences.

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One of the highlights of Goliath and the Sins of Babylon is when the villain of the piece has captured Goliath and is about to torture him. Goliath is tied to a table which sits under a roof with holes in it. Housed in each hole is a spear, which is attached to a length of rope. When the connecting rope is cut, one of the spears drops down from it’s hole above. When the villain forces Xandros and Alceas to cut the ropes, it’s a waiting game as each spear falls. Which rope will release the spear that will kill Goliath?

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The title, Hercules and the Masked Rider is a trifle misleading. This is not much of a Hercules film. In fact, Hercules (Alan Steel) is not the star of this movie at all. He is simply a strongman from a troupe of Gypsies, who are drawn into the story at a later stage. And even then, he is very much in the background. It’s almost as if Steel walked onto the wrong set and decided to throw around a few objects in the background.

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Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens is pretty silly in parts but it is fairly fast paced, which is a big plus. My main problem with the film is the character of Alia Baba. Nothing against Dan Harrison’s performance, he looks the part, but the character is simply not very convincing. He falls into nearly every trap set for him.

5 Comments Posted in Film, Film and Cinema
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5 Comments

  1. Ah-one, ah-two:

    “The Mighty Sons of Hercules
    Were men as men should be
    They burned with dreams
    Then turned their dreams into history

    They are there when the need arrives
    There to show that might and right still survive!
    On land or on the sea, as long as there is need
    There’ll be Sons of Hercules
    There’ll be Sons of Hercules!”

  2. Tim, it worries me that you know the words!

    However, it is a surprisingly infectious tune – was it something American Int. just tacked on at the front of these disparate Sword & Sandal flicks to make them seem like a series?

  3. Yes. No one knows who wrote and sang the song, but there are many speculations. The series was something I looked forward to every Sunday when I was growing up.
    You may laugh now at the cheesy effects, but we were grateful for whatever fantasy films we could get in the 60’s.

  4. Enjoyed your review. Just finished my own review of MINES alongside the better known HERCULES AND THE MOON MEN. MINES got a better nod from me.

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