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Goliath and the Vampires

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The middle of the last century saw the rise of a Italian phenomenon almost as popular as pizza: the "sword and sandal" movie. Also known as pepla, films of this genre typically had low budgets, gladiators or biblical characters, and beefcake heroes played by professional bodybuilders and the like.

The film "Goliath and the Vampires" (1964) is perhaps one of the most perfect examples of how fantastically fun a peplum can be. It lumps together the standard fare of adventure films, such as the razing of a village, abduction of the hero's girlfriend and subsequent vowing of revenge, with elements of fantasy-horror—a demon vampire that preys on the weak and selfish. To top it off, there's anachronisms galore. (See if you and your friends can spot them all!)

It's worth noting that the original Italian-language release didn't mention Goliath at all—the hero's name was Maciste, a popular character that appeared in dozens of Italian films. Initially Maciste was intended to be a synonym for Hercules, but when the films were marketed to English-speaking audiences, it was translated into any one of a number of familiar strongman monikers: Colossus, Samson, and even Goliath (but without the worrisome bullying of David).

A fair number of well-known Italian directors are said to have gotten their start in pepla, including Sergio Leone, the visionary responsible for the groundbreaking Spaghetti Westerns that launched Clint Eastwood's film career with "A Fistful of Dollars", a film classic that was released the same year as "Goliath and the Vampires".

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Patricia Eisenman

Dr. Patricia EisenmanPatricia Eisenman, Associate Dean of the University of Utah’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science, discusses physical strength.


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