Weird Movies: Goliath and the Sins of Babylon
“See the Thousand and One Orgies of Torture!” That’s an amazing tagline. This film never quite delivers on the orgies, or the torture, but it’s still really weird.
This is a ‘peplum’ film, also known as a sword-and-sandal picture. Long nerdy explanation made short: around 1958-1965 in Italy there was a craze for action movies that starred muscular shirtless men having adventures in a biblical or classical milieu. Some were fantasy films with monsters and magic (like Hercules in the Haunted World ) and some, like this one, just depended on big set pieces and action scenes. Eventually people got tired of the peplum and Italy moved on to the spaghetti western craze. Famous spaghetti western directors like Sergio Leone also directed a couple sword-and-sandal pictures.
Today people still watch the spaghetti westerns but nobody watches the sword-and-sandal movies. Why? One reason they may have fallen out of vogue is that, to a modern audience, the sword-and-sandal pictures come off as kind of…gay. There’s no homosexuality, overt or implied, in any of the films that I’ve watched (there’s much more of that in American films like Spartacus) but the movies do feature a lot of brawny shirtless guys high-fiving and wrestling each other. And they usually have beards. Like big gay beards, you know?
But even if these films were overtly gay that would just make them historically accurate! People in ancient times were big time gay all over the place. Also, it’s 2012. Anybody outside of a Falwell rally should not be bothered by gayness — real, imagined or wished-for.
The peplum films also had low budgets, laughable special effects, awkward attempts at humor, ridiculous costumes… Honestly, there are lots of reasons why people might not watch these films today and almost every one of those reasons is a big selling point for me.
Goliath and the Sins of Babylon is incredible because it has everything except a budget. It’s the perfect example of directors and designers going for broke when they were obviously already broke.
Not only does Goliath and the Sins of Babylon have one of the greatest titles of all time, it also features:
- a piratical sea battle
- numerous ridiculously/awesomely choreographed fights and chases
- man-eating lions
- a chariot race
- a deadly ‘bed of spears’
- a midget ‘mascot’ who befriends the heroes and acts as comic relief. He has several embarrassing comic routines throughout the film.
The plot involves the nation of Nephyr, which has been conquered by the cruel Babylonians. The Babylonians make the the Nephyrians send them a tribute of thirty of their most beautiful virgins every year. That is until Goliath wanders into town and lays down his own brand of sweaty, shirtless justice. He allies himself with other freedom fighters (and a midget) and together they take the battle all the way back to Babylon! There’s a princess and mistaken identity and lots of other stuff going on.
The best thing I can say about this film is that “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.” They literally don’t make movies like this anymore. It’s this seedy fun-for-the-whole-family romp through virgin sacrifice and babylonian torture rituals. It has action, romance, horror, suspense, farce. It’s like a pulp writer’s misguided attempt at recreating Shakespeare.
And unlike other “good-bad” movies, this film is actually watchable. You can follow the plot and get into the characters. There’s never a lull. The plot moves and the action scenes are all big fun.
I’m getting a kick out of these films and I’m filling up my Netflix and Amazon queues with titles like Hercules Against the Mongols and The Fury of Achilles. Someone else please watch them so I know I’m not imagining them or something.