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TCM Spotlight: Sword and Sandal
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Tyrant of Lydia Against the Son of Hercules

The Tyrant of Lydia Against the Son of Hercules a.k.a. Goliath and the Rebel Slave (1963) was an Italian production in the "Sword and Sandal" genre that was popular from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. Sword and Sandal films were exactly that: splashy Italian action flicks about biblical or mythological subjects, with lots of wrestling and swordplay performed by handsome bodybuilders, often Americans like Steve Reeves or Gordon Scott who were dubbed in Italian.

The Tyrant of Lydia Against the Son of Hercules is set in the 4th Century B.C., the time of the Macedonian King Alexander the Great (Gabriele Antonini) who "led his armies into Asia to meet the most powerfull [sic] of his enemies." Alexander approaches the small country of Lydia and promises not to invade unless they attack him first, while on the other side of the Lydian border is his enemy, Darius, the Persian King, who needs Lydia as an ally. The treacherous King Marcius of Lydia (Massimo Serato) must decide which king he should align his country with. He sends Hercules' son Gordian (Gordon Scott) to see Alexander. Gordian trusts Alexander and believes that he will treat the Lydian people well, but other factions in Lydia want to kill Gordian and sell out the country to the Persians for personal gain. On the way to see Alexander, Gordian rescues and falls in love with the beautiful enslaved Princess Cori (Ombretta Colli). This would be Scott's second appearance as Goliath/Gordian, having played the same character in Goliath and the Vampires (1961). Also in the cast were champion bodybuilder Serge Nubret (billed as Serge Noubret) as Milan and Mimmo Palmara as Artafernes.

Shot on Kodak Eastmancolor at the De Paolis Incir Studios in Rome and on location around Italy, the film was produced by Giorgio Agliani for a joint venture billed as "An Italo-French co-production" of F.I.A. (Films Internazionali Artistici) of Rome and Les Productions Georges De Beauregard of Paris. Thirty-year-old Mario Caiano directed from an original story by Gianpaolo Callegari, adapted for the screen by Callegari and Albert Valentin. While Caiano had worked in the Italian film industry for several years as a screenwriter and assistant director for Edgar G. Ulmer, among others, he had only become a director in 1962 and had already made three other films in one year before shooting The Tyrant of Lydia Against the Son of Hercules. Not surprising, then, that production was done quickly on a small budget and it showed, but the films were still very popular with audiences.

Gordon Scott had already packed a lot into his 37 years before becoming Goliath onscreen. Born in Portland, Oregon, Scott had previously served as an infantry drill instructor in World War II, where he taught weaponry, judo and hand-to-hand combat, had been a fireman, a cowboy, sold farm machinery and worked as a lifeguard at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. It was there that his good looks, 6'3" height and impressive physique earned him an MGM contract, thanks to producer Sol Lesser, who was looking for a new actor to play Tarzan. Scott played a more eloquent King of the Jungle in three films for MGM and two for Paramount, and had been married to and divorced from actress Vera Miles before going to Italy on the advice of his friend, Steve Reeves. Reeves had become wealthy starring in Sword and Sandal epics and had convinced Scott, who had tired of playing Tarzan, to come to Italy to play his brother in Duel of the Titans (1961).

The Tyrant of Lydia Against the Son of Hercules was released in Italy on September 5, 1963 and would later be repackaged by Embassy Pictures as a limited series called The Sons of Hercules along with 12 other Sword and Sandal films. Only two of the films were actually about Hercules (but not his sons) and four of the films were about Maciste, but they were tied together with a theme song that explained how these sons were "A hundred giants brave and bold, they ruled the world in days of old. The mighty sons of Hercules were men as men should be. They took the world and shook the world, the sons of Hercules!"

Gordon Scott would continue to appear in Italian films for the rest of his career, often playing iconic characters as diverse as Samson, Julius Caesar, Zorro, the Son of the Sheik and even Buffalo Bill before leaving films in 1967. By then, the Sword and Sandal genre had worn itself out and had been replaced with the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, featuring another American actor in Italy, Clint Eastwood.

SOURCES:

Bergan, R. (2007, June 08). Obituary: Gordon Scott. Retrieved December 20, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/jun/08/guardianobituaries.usa
Bondanella, P., & Pacchioni, F. (2017). A History of Italian Cinema. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
Goliath and the Rebel Slave (1963). (1963, September 5). Retrieved December 20, 2018, from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0178516/
Lentz, H. M. (2008). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2007: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Revolvy, L. (n.d.). "The Sons of Hercules" on Revolvy.com. Retrieved December 20, 2018, from https://www.revolvy.com/page/The-Sons-of-Hercules
Tyrant of Lydia vs Son of Hercules. (2015, March 22). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MsqIjQmfBg&t=2958s

By Lorraine LoBianco

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