Newsletters - 2001 - Volume 7 Issue 1

Classic Physique - 2001

Back Story Goliath and the Barbarians

Just a few months after completing The White Warrior in Yugoslavia in early 1958, Steve was approached for another sword and sandal epic, /I Terrore del Barbari (or its English translation, The Terror of the Barbarians). This fourth Reeves' adventure depicts one of the most turbulent periods in all of Italian history, that era when fierce barbaric tribes – Lombards, Goths, Visigoths, Herulians, Gepidae and others invaded Northern Italy and forced the natives under their oppressive rule.

In probably one of his more violent films, Steve plays Emiliano, a young nobleman whose father has been killed when Barbarians invade his village. He then defies the Barbarians and wages a one-man war against them, earring him the nickname of "Goliath". Livio Lorenzon leads the supporting cast as he portrays the Barbarian general Igor, an imposing baldheaded menace who brutalizes many in his path. Joining Igor's Barbaric tribe are Luciano Marin and Arturo Dominici. Dominici, a veteran of many Reeves films, is cast as Svevo, a cutthroat henchman whose main passion is the hatred and jealousy of Goliath. Andrea Checchi, is cast as Duke Delfo, in a complex role combining ruthless leadership and a man of integrity whose word becomes law.

Playing Londa, the sultry daughter of Checchi, is Cuban born Chelo Alonso. As Londa, she goes against her father's wishes and remains disrespectful to the cunning Barbarian general and his advances. Having previously worked professionally as a dancer in Paris, Chelo shows her foot talent in two exotic dances in the film. One of the dances is slightly more formal, being danced in a sumptuous banquet hall in Barbaric splendor before the Barbarian King Alboyna (Bruce Cabot), and in it she dances over crossed swords. The other, a wild almost savage type dance, takes place before the covetous Barbarian general (Lorenzon) in the open courtyard of the fort at night with torches alight and the Barbarians cheering her.

Leading the production chores for Goliath was 33 year-old Italian producer Emimmo Salvi. Previous to Goliath, Salvi was an established production assistant who worked for Federico Fellini and others and needed a breakthrough film to establish himself as a producer and screenwriter. The success of Goliath in Europe left his production assistant days behind him. Changing chores, Salvi would later prove himself in the European directing arena, particularly Gordon Mitchell's Vulcan, Son of Jupiter, Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens, Treasure of the Petrified Forest, and Three Bullets forRingo. In addition, he wrote and produced Gordon's very successful 1961 film The Giant of Metropolis.

At Goliath's director's helm, we have veteran Italian direotor Carlo Campogalliani. Born in Concordia, Italy on October 10, 1885, Carlo directed over 45 films from 1919 to 1964. Peplum fans are probably familiar with his directorial efforts on 1960's Son of Samson with Mark Forest, 1961's The Mighty Ursus with Ed Fury, and 1962's Sword of the Conquerorwith Jack Palance, Andrea Bosic, Edy Vessel, and Guy Madison. His last directing effort was1964's The Avenger of Venice with Brett Halsey. Carlo passed away in Rome on August 10, 1974 at the age of 88.

Opposite to how Steve looked in The White Warrior, we see a much leaner Reeves' physique in Goliath. We would imagine the weight loss can be attributed to the production company's request not Steve's. Scenes of a much disguised Reeves, dressed in knee-high animal furs and sometimes a mask, also add to the Reeves' masquerade. Despite that appearance change, his physical perfection still shines through, especially from the waist up. Movie audience must have enjoyed every moment of his onscreen attention as the camera gazed at that unique physique.

The best physical scenes in the film occur when Reeves is to take part in two “impossible” tasks – the first is a “horse pulling” or "Test of Truth" incident in which two wild horses are tied to Reeves' arms and then whipped to go in opposite directions, threatening to pop his limbs from his very sockets. With every muscle straining, Reeves finally manages to reign in the wild beasts and win both the approval of the crowd and his freedom.

Though the film has a predictable revenge plot, Steve's mere presence lifts this routine peplum yarn to an above average film of its genre. Not that this is a weak film, because it's well made and has many interesting sets and exterior shots, the familiar plot contains few interesting characters and a somewhat familiar story. And at times the movie slows its quick pace to cover the brief romance between Reeves and Alonso. Overall, for ardent Steve Reeves' fans, the film is well worth watching despite its familiarity to the Italian epic arena.

Goliath also has more than its share of graphic violence compared with other Reeves' films. Specifically, the depiction of the Barbarians massacring their enemy in the film's beginning is often brutally violent, as their victims are repeatedly speared or stabbed to death by the enemy. Though some tame censored TV versions exists, the uncensored version contains violence that is somewhat reminiscent of the underwater battle scenes of Giant of Marathon, yet on a much larger and more disturbing scale.

Aside from the opening sequence and final battle with the Barbarians, Goliath does not contain many battle scenes and but yet it still does not get bogged down with abundant dialogue. And to the viewer's disappointment, the final conflict scenes questionably take place in the dark, which lessens much of the effect. In addition, many obvious interior (soundstage) scenes (probably due to budget restrictions), also tend to subtract from the film's impact.

For North American audiences, Steve appeared in theaters as the heroic and avenging Emilano in December 1959, four months after its European premiere in Italy. American International Pictures (AIP), headed by entrepreneurs Sam Arkoff and James Nicholson, not only bought the film's distribution rights for North America and many other countries, it also financed part of the film so the film would see completion (See article on AIP.).

We suspect that distributor Joe Levine, who had much success importing the two prior Hercules films, never had a chance to import Goliath because of AIP's proactive role in financing the film's completion. Back in the late 50s, it was Levine's style to buy films already completed and ready for distribution, not to co-finance a film before its completion and then distribute it. But nonetheless, AIP saw to it that their promotion and mass marketing of Goliath in the U.S. and other countries would parallel a few of the Joe Levine Hercules hyped ideas. These included: a giant 12-page 18 X 24 pressbook, TV trailers, five different radio spots, comic strips, life size theater standees of Goliath, newspaper heralds, window and lobby cards, a movie soundtrack LP, and the trademark AIP teaser ads:

GOLIATH is coming! 10,000 sights…10,000 thrills 10,000 Barbarians feared his strength and called him “GOLIATH” I will kill 10,000 Barbarians and they will call me Goliath! A thousand and one women dream of his embrace! The fabulous giant of giants.

SEE… The savage attack of the wild Barbarians

SEE… The frightening monster from the hills

SEE… GOLIATH and the fierce test of truth

SEE… GOLIATH and the test of 20 spears

SEE… GOLIATH and his miracles of strength

SEE:… The orgy of the exotic sword dance

SEE… The violent love of a Barbarian princess

And in AIP fashion, the numerous television, radio, and promotional ads soon followed. However, it wasn't exactly the same 102-minute film released by the European distributors 4 months earlier. AIP's release was a shortened, English dubbed 86-minute version. And for unknown reasons, outside of some incidental original film music from composer Carlo Innocenti, the soundtrack was replaced with an impressive score by Hollywood's very popular movie maestro Les Baxter (Read article on Les Baxter.). The movie makeover also included abbreviated opening credits, a descriptive title, ("A time when if you didn't love or fight ... life was a very short and dull affair"), and a substantial opening narration to set the background for the film's story. But the biggest celluloid change was adding the character name of Goliath to not only the story but the film's title. We're almost certain the producers must have entertained changing the film's title to Hercules and the Barbarians, but doing so would add conflict and character inconsistency to Joe Levine's previously released Hercules film five months earlier. So rather than use Hercules or maybe even a Samson, AIP went another well-known strongman, Goliath. The substitute hero worked.

Despite the press' mediocre reviews, the idea of having the film released within months of Hercules in 1959 was a smart move by AIR And why not capitalize on the Reeves', phenomena? The long line that marched their way t the U.S. theaters to se Reeves as Goliath yielded gross revenues that were more than 20 times AIP's original investment. What a return, what success, and what foresight!

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