Saturday, July 10, 2010

In short: Medusa Against The Son Of Hercules (1963)

This Alberto De Martino-directed peplum does some rather peculiar things with poor old Perseus (Richard Harrison, as always very good at the physical parts of his role). For one, it makes his adventures much less fantastic and decidedly lacking in gifts from the gods.

It's not a bad movie, though. De Martino has always been quite good at keeping the cheapskate action up and varied, and does so here, avoiding the dullness some of the lesser peplums suffer from. Although the larger battle scenes and the special effects are held back by the film's impoverished production values, I can't deny the its sense of forward momentum, nor the primal, Tarzan-like call of scenes of men throwing each other through the air or whipping each other.

De Martino is less successful at filming drama, which in his interpretation means having people shout dramatically at each other while wringing their hands, or at creating the sort of dream-like mood the more fantastic elements of the film could use to be a little less ridiculous than they are. Not that I'm complaining about the film's use of two excellent, nearly motionless rubber monsters in ill-advisedly bright lighting. Or am I?

While I'd rather avoid talking about the half-paralyzed dragon Perseus kills in an underwater sequence in which I couldn't see anything beyond milky shadows, I have a certain degree of respect for the medusa sequence. It has an excellent matte painting (probably by Mario Bava's dad Eugenio) dominating the background, some surprisingly cool looking statues and it rethinks the medusa as a slithering rubber tree thing with a single, glowing eye, which shows more creativity in five minutes than the Clash of the Titans remake does in its whole running time. Really, what more could one ask of a film?


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