Saturday, January 26, 2013

In short: Sansone Contro I Pirati (1963)

aka Samson Against the Pirates

aka Samson Against the Sea Beast(s) (liars!)

The Carribean (Lake Garda), 1630. Shirt-hating trouser-sceptical hero Samson (Kirk Morris; relations to other half naked musclemen named Samson are never explained) fishes Amanda (Margaret Lee) out of the sea. Amanda, the daughter of a Spanish governor, has barely escaped capture and slavery by the pirate Murad (Daniele Vargas), the terror of the easily frightened Spanish Main. Amanda's lady friends haven't been so lucky and are now awaiting to be sold off to slave traders on Murad's - stolen - main base, a place with the more exciting-than-it-actually-is sounding name of Devil's Island.

Samson, being a hero and all, can't help himself and goes to the rescue. He, two friends of no import and Amanda rescue the maidens quite easily, but actually escaping Devil's Island with them turns out to be slightly more difficult. That's for the better, too, for Manuel (Aldo Bufi Landi), the leader of the local resistance against Murad, sure could use a shirtless guy to help him out against the piratical oppressor.

On paper, Tanio Boccia's Sansone contro i pirati sounds like a sure-fire win, seeing as it combines the pirate adventure movie with elements and shirtlessness of the peplum. Alas, what should be a blast is a mostly uninvolving, plodding affair.

The film's problems are easily spotted: its villain is a pudgy alcoholic who is about as threatening as (but less cute than) a puppy. Said villains only way to escape complete lameness is to possess even lamer henchmen, which turns out to be a problem once the film attempts to prove Samson's mythical awesomeness by having him throw a handful of said henchmen around. It's the sort of thing that doesn't really make a hero look so much heroic as like the kind of guy who'd probably win a fight against a bunny rabbit. That impression of Morris's Samson isn't exactly helped when he wrestles a fake crocodile that is unmoving even for a fake peplum crocodile; poor Morris even has to move the creature's mouth while wrestling it. Having a lame villain being fought by a lame hero is ruining any possibility of dramatic or melodramatic weight.

As if to add insult to injury, Boccia's direction lacks in charm and verve. Even the movie's two good ideas - the heroine actually rescuing the hero for once and a boat-and-spears variation of drawing and quartering for Samson to struggle against - are wasted by letting Amanda getting captured in a particularly lame way right when Samson is free, and filming it in the lamest way possible, respectively.

Sansone contro i pirati is one of those films where one can't help but think that nobody involved was actually even trying.

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