Goliath and the Dragon (La vendetta di Ercole) pretty much provides everything you could want in a peplum. It has musclemen, it has sinister villains, it has a beautiful but scheming princess, it has action and it has monsters. Including an actual dragon! The monsters are goofy-looking and the special effects are crude and unconvincing. As far as I’m concerned those aren’t faults, they’re bonuses!
As the original Italian title suggests this 1960 production is actually a Hercules movie but presumably the American distributors thought Goliath and the Dragon had a better ring to it than than The Vengeance of Hercules.
Goliath has successfully completed the tasks set for him by the gods and now he’s looking forward to the quiet life with his family. Of course that’s not going to happen. He’s going to be caught up in the machinations of the evil King Eurystheus (or Eurito in the dubbed version). His younger brother will also unwittingly cause him all sorts of grief.
The plot is convoluted indeed. The main plot concerns a woman named Thea, whose father was responsible for the deaths of Goliath’s parents. As you might expect Goliath is less than pleased when he finds out his kid brother Illus wants to marry Thea, but he’s not half as annoyed as the evil King Eurystheus who also wants to marry Thea. He wants to marry her to establish his right to her father’s kingdom.
Eurystheus wants Illus out of the way, but mostly he wants Goliath out of the way. He is cooking up a scheme to carve out a major empire for himself but he can’t be certain of the support of his unscrupulous allies as long as Goliath lives. His chief henchman has come up with a complicated plan to persuade the beautiful but scheming Alcinoe to persuade Illus to poison Goliath. His henchman is in love with Alcinoe but she falls in love with Goliath when he rescues her from a marauding bear and she decides to give up her evil scheming, apart from scheming to get Goliath.
There are numerous other sub-plots which I won’t go into in detail, mostly because I couldn’t follow all of them! Goliath has one other major problem to deal with - the gods have told him his brother will become king of Thea’s father’s kingdom but it will cost the life of the woman who loves Goliath. Goliath assumes (reasonably enough) that this prophecy refers to his wife Dejanira but what he’s overlooked is that the Greek gods like to mess about about with mortals by making ambiguous prophecies.
During the course of his adventures Goliath takes on a monstrous three-headed dog, a bear, an elephant (used by King Eurystheus as an executioner), snakes and of course a dragon. The dragon is about as scary as Barney the Dinosaur. It’s actually a really cute dragon but we’re supposed to see it as a fearsome monster. Goliath also gets to demonstrate his physical prowess by demolishing several palaces, including his own. He’s a rather hot-headed superhero and the gods have made him pretty angry and when he’s angry he demolishes buildings.
Mark Forest plays Goliath. He’s not the world’s most exciting actor but these movies fortunately don’t call for great acting skills. Broderick Crawford sports a rather impressive facial scar and he’s effective enough as the wicked but cowardly Eurystheus. The actresses aren’t required to do much apart from looking glamorous which they manage successfully enough. Alcinoe probably needed to be a bit sexier but that’s a minor quibble.
While the monsters are delightfully lame the movie is in other respects fairly impressive visually. Vittorio Cottafavi handles the directing duties quite competently.
Something Weird Video present this movie on DVD in its correct aspect ratio in a very nice letterboxed print, accompanied by a plethora of extras including a second complete peplum.
If you have any kind of love for this genre then you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Goliath and the Dragon.