Monday, September 16, 2019

By the Gods!

Goliath (Mark Forest; Hercules in original) battles a dragon to save Deianira (a stand-in for Leonora Ruffo) in GOLIATH & THE DRAGON (1960)

American International Pictures (AIP) bought the rights to La Vendetta di Ercole, retitled it as a GOLIATH movie and filmed additional scenes for two specific moments (at the very beginning and two thirds into the movie). The dragon appeared in two forms: a giant puppet (shown in these screengrabs) and some stop motion animated one. Some of the additional scenes had Leonora in them but the scenes shown here had a body double stand-in for her. The whole thing is quite peculiar. AIP decided to add the dragon to make the movie more pleasing for younger audiences. They thought the original Italian movie was too 'adult' for kids to enjoy. This version, the one with the dragon, was not released in Europe. Only in North America.

This explains Thursday's mystery about the Spanish DVD cover: the artwork on the cover is the poster for GOLIATH & THE DRAGON, the US version that was never released in Spain/Europe.

Additional information: The script for La Vendetta di Ercole was reportedly what was left of the working script for the third Steve Reeves HERCULES movie, to be called HERCULES AGAINST THE GODS. Reeves wanted Pietro Francisci to direct it but Francisci was busy with multiple other projects. I explain it here.


TC said...

It's easy to see why Maciste was often renamed (Hercules, son of Hercules, Samson, Goliath, Atlas) in English-dubbed versions of peplum movies. The name "Maciste" was not familiar outside of Italy.

I never understood why Hercules was changed to "Goliath" for this movie, though. Especially since some of the stuff in it was actually based on Hercules stories from Greek mythology. And "Hercules" is well known in English-speaking countries as a name for a super-strong hero.

I don't see how there could have been a problem with a trademark. After 3000 years or so, the name Hercules would surely be in the public domain.

Richard Svensson said...

I've commented on this before, but I've chatted (online) to Jim Danforth, who did the stop-motion work for this movie. At the time he had just been hired by special effects group Project Unlimited, who contributed work to such TV series Star Trek and The Outer Limits, as well as movies like The Time Machine and Tom Thumb. The Goliath dragon was Danforth's first pro movie job. As I recall it, the dragon puppet was built by Victor Delgado (brother of Marcel who created the King Kong puppets) and animated by Danforth. It was all done in a very short period of time.
Danforth later created great animation scenes for movies like Jack the Giant Killer, Clash of the Titans (under Ray Harryhausen's supervision), The 7 faces of Dr Lao, and When Dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Danfort is also a very accomplished matte painter with tons of fantastic movie and TV credits in that field.

Joseph Goodman said...

From Sam Arkoff's biography:

"After the success of Goliath and the Barbarians, Jim (Nicholson) and I decided we needed another "Goliath" movie, and we signed contracts in Italy to coproduce a new film, Goliath and the Dragon. Lou Rusoff wrote a script for us, and we flew Debra Paget, who had starred with Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender, to Italy as one of the leads in the new picture. When Lou flew to Rome, he brought over parts of the dragon that would be used in the film, like a giant claw that would throttle its human victims. The special effects involving the entire monster would be shot later.

Just days before production was set to begin, however, the movie was put on hold. The Italian filmmakers decided they needed to make some changes - most significantly, they wanted to double the budget of the film. "Sorry," I told them, "we have a signed contract. I'm not budging from the original financial agreement."

The Italians were shocked. "Some of these guys think that a signed contract is just the first step in the negotiations!" Fulvio (Lucisano) warned me.

To the Italians, American moviemakers continued to have deep pockets and were always willing to pay more money. However, AIP was not MGM or Twentieth Century-Fox. "We're willing to abide by our signed deal," I said. "Take it or leave it."

It was a stalemate, and after days of deadlock, I decided to bail out, leaving the Italians stunned at my willingness to walk away. I told Fulvio, "Sorry this one didn't work out. Tell them we don't care what other companies do; we're not going to be blackmailed. I'm going to Japan. AIP has a Godzilla production in the works over there. And I'll take some time for a vacation, too."

I spent a week in Japan, where we were coproducing a picture called Frankenstein Conquers the World. Then I flew to India. While I was there, I received a telegram from Fulvio:

"Come to Rome. There's a partially produced picture available that could become your Goliath and the Dragon."

With no more information than that, I flew back to Italy. Apparently, a Hercules movie in its fourth week of production had run out of money. Film Finance of Italy, a new Italian bond company (and a franchise of an English bond company), had been contracted to guarantee that the picture would be finished. But in the excitement of getting started, the film hadn't received the production funds they were supposed to dispense. Suddenly, they were desperately searching for financing.

I looked at the footage that had already been shot. "Fulvio," I said, "I think we can rework the remainder of the script to make it presentable, and even use the dragon parts that we already have over here." We got involved in the project, and it became Goliath and the Dragon.

The star of the movie was Lou Degni, an American gymnast in his late twenties whose muscles made him the 1960s forerunner to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Degni's physique propelled him into a short-lived career as a hero of Italian epic movies, although his name almost undermined those plans. "Degni" didn't sound American enough for our audiences, so we insisted that he change his name to something more all-American.

"It's ironic," Jim chuckled, "that we have this American actor with an Italian name - making a picture in Italy - and we change his name to something more American!"

Degni agreed on the name Mark Forest. He used it for a dozen more sword-and-sandal movies, including AIP's Goliath and the Sins of Babylon."

PEPLUM TV said...

Thanks Joseph for this bit of information.

The story seems to contradict everything known about GOLIATH & THE DRAGON: that AIP purchased the rights to VENDETTA DI ERCOLE and that it was a Hercules movie from the start, not Goliath. The Vittorio Cottavavi film was then altered to make it more marketable to kids. VENDETTA DI ERCOLE is a Hercules story...why make a Goliath story with Hercules elements? And an angry Goliath (Hercules) goes against the gods like the plot line for the never filmed HERCULES AGAINST THE GODS. The only thing connecting them is the name GOLIATH and AIP. GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS and GOLIATH & THE DRAGON are night and day. I don't see how they wanted people to believe that GATD was another GATB...hmm. I think there's some embellishment or confusion in that recollection. Debra Paget?

Anonymous said...

Sam Arkoff was notorious for all the bull shit he expounded. You can never take what he says as "fact".

I had always heard that the third Hercules/Francisci movie was eventually made as Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses many years later.

PEPLUM TV said...

"Sam Arkoff was notorious for all the bull shit he expounded."


"I had always heard that the third Hercules/Francisci movie was eventually made as Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses many years later."

Yes, that's the logical thought. Iole is in it (though a small role), Willy Colombini and Fulvio Carrara returned, presumably as Castor and Pollux, etc. But the story has no continuation from the two previous stories, aside from the appearance of those characters and actors. It's a stand-alone story. I like it but it's hard to imagine Steve Reeves battling Iloosh Khoshabe/Samson. Reeves would have easily overpowered Khoshabe. Kirk Morris and Khoshabe are great opposite powers, imo.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure if the film had been made right after Hercules Unchained, Reeves wouldn't have been fighting Iloosh. He didn't appear in films until much later. Maybe Gordon Scott would have been Samson? Also another connection with the two previous films is Ulysses as a very young man. And isn't his father played by the same actor as in the other films? It is stand alone but so is The Vengeance of Hercules.