Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960)

I’m rather fond of the peplum genre but it has to be said that on the whole these are movies that you don’t want to try to take too seriously. Mostly they’re enjoyable as silly fun. Colossus and the Amazon Queen (the original title is La regina delle Amazzoni) dates from 1960 and is slightly unusual in that it was intended from the word go as a comedic take on the genre.

The dubbed version which hit the U.S. in 1964 pushes the comic elements even further, in fact it arguably pushes them a little too far.

This movie is also a bit unusual in that its star (or at least one of its two stars) went on to have a real career. That star was Australian Rod Taylor and in the same year that he made Colossus and the Amazon Queen he also made the movie that made him a legitimate movie star, that movie being The Time Machine.

Pirro (Rod Taylor) and Glauco (Ed Fury) are the two heroes. Pirro has the brains while Glauco has the muscles. At least Pirro thinks he’s the one with the brains. They’re broke and Pirro grabs what seems to him to be a great opportunity to earn some easy money. All they have to do is undertake a sea voyage and act as watchmen. The difficult part is tricking Glauco into going along with the idea but Pirro has plenty of experience in such matters.

Everything seems to be going well. They land on a remote island where lots of gold is waiting for them and the rest of the crew. There’s also a feast laid out with plenty of fine wine. Unfortunately the wine is drugged. They’ve been tricked but it’s worse than that - they have been sold to the Amazons. And the Amazons have only one use for men.

This is a Battle of the Sexes movie but with the roles reversed. The men are the warriors and are in control. The men are effeminate slaves who spend their time gossiping and are treated like pets. That is the fate awaiting Pirro, Glauco and their pals.

A worse fate may be in store for Glauco. He has offended the captain of the guard and she wants him put to death.

The Queen of the Amazons is anxious to give up her throne. All the other amazons are allowed to have men but the queen must remain chaste and she’s getting rather tired of chastity. There are two deadly rivals competing for the succession.

And of course there are plenty of romantic complications in store as well. The amazon women are all somewhat man-crazy. There are also some pirates who are mostly there so as to provide the obligatory climactic battle scene.

It’s very hard to judge comedy when it’s been dubbed. The original script might well have been quite witty. The dubbed version goes for broad comedy. Mostly it doesn’t succeed in being especially funny but it does manage to be seriously weird. This movie takes high camp as far as it can be taken and then some. There are some awesomely camp dance sequences. There’s also a cheerful disregard for period. The story is supposed to take place not long after the Trojan War but then we get some medieval jousting, not to mention the jazz-inspired dancing (and even without the jazzy score added for the dubbed version the dance routines are clearly jazz-inspired).

The costumes are absurd but they are amusingly bizarre.

The cast clearly understood that subtlety was not required in their performances.

One of the great things about movies of the past is that the film-makers did not agonise over whether their films might offend somebody. This is a rather good-natured movie on the whole but it sure isn’t politically correct.

Colossus and the Amazon Queen is available on DVD from Retromedia in a two-movie pack paired with Goliath and the Sins of Babylon. Goliath and the Sins of Babylon is an excellent film and it gets a pretty decent anamorphic transfer. Sadly the transfer for Colossus and the Amazon Queen is pan-and-scanned and definitely not so good.

It’s generally rather unfair to deliver a harsh judgment on a movie when you’re seeing it in a poorly dubbed version plus the print is not in great condition and to top it all off it’s pan-and-scanned but I think it’s still reasonable to say that this is a pretty bad movie. Despite this it has a certain goofy charm. It’s a bit like a beach party movie in that you have to be in the right mood but I found it to be oddly enjoyable. Recommended, if you have a high tolerance for camp.

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