Review: GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON (1960)

Bodybuilder Mark Forest makes his acting debut in GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON, a 1960 adventure fantasy directed by Vittorio Cottafavi. This picture was intended as a Hercules film and was shot as such under the Italian title REVENGE OF HERCULES, but American International Pictures changed the titular character to Emilius/Goliath to tie in with GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS from 1959. The AIP version also includes a stop-motion dragon fight, which shoves our hero into one of the most absurdly entertaining fight scenes in the movie.

GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON begins with Goliath going underground to snatch the Blood Diamond, which he plans on forking over to the god of vengeance. He’s been put up to the task by Eurystheus (Broderick Crawford), who believes the expedition will kill Goliath. With the hero out of the way, Eurystheus plans to attack Thebes and hits up his acquaintances for help. Goliath’s lady Deianira (Leonora Ruffo) is keeping an eye on things, while Hyllus (Sandro Moretti) is jonesing for Thea (Federica Ranchi). This creates complications, which in turn leads Goliath to fight his way through a pile of evil creatures.

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The plot of GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON is more complicated than most soap operas, but following the flow isn’t essential. The joy of Cottafavi’s yarn is in watching Forest at work. He’s a marvel of emotional depth, veering from charming to delicate in seconds. At one point, he tears a building apart and tells it to “collapse like my shattered dreams.” Emo Goliath may be wearing the garb of a boastful Theban and his lubricated aura may suggest confidence, but dude’s having his very own BLACK PARADE inside.

The creatures of GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON are entertaining, too. Forest does battle with a three-headed dog, some kind of magical bat thing, a bear, an elephant, a dragon, a statue, a centaur, and more. Each fight is relatively short and Cottafavi doesn’t exactly expend energy building action set pieces, but the crude creatures are neat and Carlo Rambaldi’s makeup provides some fantastical charm. One of the best moments comes when Goliath jabs out the eye of the dragon. While such a goopy moment makes it hard to take this flick all that seriously, that’s part of the fun.

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