Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World
Director:  Ricardo Freda
Year:  1961
Rating: 5.5

Country: Italy

AKA - Maciste alla corte del Gran Khan

Is it considered a Peplum film if it takes place in China? I don't know.

When it was released in the USA under this name it was dubbed and had about ten minutes cut. Fortunately, I came across the Italian version though I am not sure if the extra ten minutes was a blessing or a curse - and hearing Chinese speak Italian feels even odder than speaking English.  Odder yet, there is no Samson in the film. That name was given to him by the American distributor. In the Italian version he is called Maciste. Apparently, the character of Maciste originated in the Italian film Cabira, a 1914 Italian classic epic in which he was a muscular slave. I have been meaning to watch this for years. Clips I have seen look amazing. Maciste was to show up in many silent  films and then with the popularity of Peplum films in the 1960s he swung back into popularity and was played by many of the Peplum actors - Reg Park, Gordon Mitchell, Alan Steel, Mark Forest and Gordon Scott, the hero of this film. Jesus Franco even made two Maciste films. I have to admit I had never heard of him. Where have I been? In the 1970's there was a comic character called Machiste who was a gladiator and wandered the land. Not sure if this is supposed to be our Maciste.

One last point - the Italians did Yellowface as well it seems. Most of the Chinese or Mongol characters are played by white actors. Setting it in China seems a strange choice - it may have had to do with being able to use the sets of the epic films Marco Polo and The Mongols both produced by the Italians. The sets are wonderful. Maybe the best part of the film. But with a Chinese setting back in the 1400's it is more than peculiar to see a muscular white man walking around in nothing but a loin cloth - and no one really seeming to think it worth noting. At times Maciste has to sneak around or escape - not so easy when you are white, almost naked and a head taller than most of the others. You might think someone would suggest he wear a robe and hood to disguise himself. Nope, that would cover up his tawny well oiled well toned body. Because Gordon Scott certainly had that - though after seeing Arnold in Conan, Scott looks relatively small. Pre-steroid.

Scott made less than 30 films but he managed to play some famous heroes - Tarzan six times, Zorro, Hercules, Buffalo Bill, Goliath, Remus of Romulus and Remus fame and Julius Caesar. Hard to imagine Caesar as a bodybuilder. His Tarzan films were made in America after Lex Barker dropped out of the role. I hear that a couple of them are very good. Then he went off to Europe where he spent the rest of his career. He looks great and his Italian is perfect! Dubbed of course. He has one action scene that is quite impressive and looks fairly real - he is trying to stop a chariot from cutting off the heads of a few people and leaps in and hangs underneath as the chariot is clearly going ahead and tips it over.

A quick summary - the Tartars are ruling China with a cruel hand and so the Chinese invite the Mongols under one of the Khan's to drive the Tartars out. Naturally when they do that they decide to stay - bringing back the old saying - be careful of what you ask for. Considering the lovely female Chinese dancers I don't really blame the Khan - has to be better than a tent in the steppes. Years pass and the two children of the murdered Emperor are grown up and the Khan decides it is their expiration date. He places the boy in a tiger trap and sends his men to kill the female who has been in a convent. This is where Maciste who just happened to be in the neighborhood comes in and saves the day and the Princess played by Yoko Tani, a French Japanese actress, as well as defeating the glass eyed stuffed tiger. The Khan is played by Leonardo Severini, his very lovely concubine by Hélène Chanel and the rebel leader by Gabriele Antonini. The monk who actually looks Asian is in fact played by a Russian - Valéry Inkijinoff. The film is moderately fun - I am not a huge fan of Peplums but every now and then it hits the spot - what spot I am not sure.