Goliath and the Barbarians (1959)

a.k.a. - Il Terrore dei barbari (ITA)

Steve Reeves stars in a well made Historical Peplum from director Carlo Campogalliani. Wild East R0 DVD

The Film

During the Dark Ages, Northern Italy was invaded by barbarian hordes from the North, they massacre the populations of whole towns on their way. When Emiliano (Steve Reeves) returns to his village to find it destroyed and his father killed, he vows to stand up to the barbarians and along with some other survivors, hides out in the forests to launch a series of small attacks against the barbarian soldiers. He soon gains a reputation and news is taken to the Barbarian leader Alboino. He sends his second in command Svevo to the province to hunt down the man responsible for the attacks. They capture Emiliano, suspecting him of being the Goliath behind the attacks, but Londo, the daughter of the province's governor, is smitten by him and sure he cannot be the Goliath - Svevo insists that he is put to the test...

After the unprecidented success of Hercules (1958), Italian producers were quick to capitalise and soon after the official sequel Hercules Unchained (1959), work began on Il Terrore dei barbari. Instead of following a similar, mythological storyline however, the film became one of the first Historical Pepla, set in the 6th Century in the post-Roman era during the invasion of Northern Italy by the Lombards - a rather obscure period for an international audiences but dutifully retained in the English language dubbing. This particular choice of setting never really affects the film too much and Il Terrore dei barbari has a rather standard storyline of invaders taking over a land and the survivors rallying to form a resistance movement against them, with a romance that crosses the boundaries and threatens both sides - it could work equally well in anything from a prehistoric to Second World War setting. Although running to less than 90 minutes, pacing is rather on the slow side and the film does threaten to drag in a few places, but fortunately the characterisation is built up well in this time, the action scenes are impressive enough to keep the film moving and it all builds up to a fittingly dramatic climax.

Obviously the unique factor here is the musclebound lead and the script was written to make the most of Steve Reeves in the lead role - in one very memorable sequence (particularly for a female audience), he has to prove his strength to prove his innocence - although this scene never really does make any sense (by proving his strength he proves that he is not the Goliath) and one suspects that the writers were just trying to shoehorn another 'strong man' sequence into the script, but it is certainly an enjoyable enough sequence that this does not matter. This lead character was called Emiliano in the Italian script and this name is retained in the English dub, but presumably to justify the film's eye catching American title, Goliath and the Barbarians, the characters keep referring to him as a Goliath which becomes a little bizarre after a while.

Director Carlo Campogalliani was an ideal choice to helm this film - his career, dating back to the very dawn of narrative cinema had encompassed the original Bartolomeo Pagano Mactise films and more recently he had written and directed the elaborate adventure film Capitan Fuoco (1958). The action scenes are not to the epic scale of some of the Historical Pepla but they are all helmed with flair including the fast paced horse riding while the nighttime scenes at the Barbarian camp are a real highlight and look beautiful, filmed in a yellow firelight rather than the more usual blue-tinted day-for-night technique which often obscured dark scenes entirely.

Steve Reeves takes the lead role and is bulked up as much as we was for the Hercules films (he would have to tone down considerably following an injury during 1959) and still sporting his Herculean beard. Showing the solid acting that set him above most of the genre's other strong-men, he looks very good throughout this film. A number of familiar faces make up the rest of the cast including Arturo Dominici and Andrea Checchi from Mario Bava's La Maschera del demonio (1960) as Barbarian leaders alongside retiring American Western star Bruce Cabot in a short appearance as Alboino, head of the Lombards. Sensuous love interest Londo is played by Cuban actress Chelo Alonso who later appeared as the equally feisty fianceť to Tomas Milian in Spaghetti Western Run, Man, Run (1969).

A rather slow paced story might disappoint anyone looking for the non-stop action and adventure of some of the other genre titles, but Goliath and the Barbarians has a solid script that provides plenty of character. Campogalliani does a great job behind the camera and all of the action scenes look great, while Reeves is one fine form in the lead role and backed up by a good cast. Probably one of the best Pepla and always enjoyable, this title comes recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Steve Reeves - star of the original Fatiche di Ercole (1958) that started the Peplum boom.
Directed by anyone interesting? Carlo Campogalliani - a veteran Italian director whose work dates back to the early Silent Film days, including Il Testamento di Maciste (1920) he later directed the Peplum titles Son of Samson (1960) and Ursus (1961)
Any gore or violence ? Nothing bloody.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Recommended to all Peplum fans and a must see for fans of Steve Reeves.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1. Not anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
Print quality is generally very strong with good colours and detail and very little damage. A few scenes are slightly softer.
Audio English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None
Extras This disc includes:
  • Original US trailer.
  • Picture gallery - 37 pages of promotional posters, stills and lobby cards from the film. As a video file with soundtrack backing.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability This available only as a double feature along with Goliath and the Vampires.
Other regions? Released in Spain with English audio, using the same print.
Cuts? Cut status unknown. Print used is Italian language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 8th February 2009.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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