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TCM Spotlight: Sword and Sandal
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The Minotaur

The Sword and Sandal genre that flourished in Italy for almost ten years, from the late '50 to the mid-60s, produced few memorable masterworks of cinema. Okay, it produced none. But it did produce a lot of fun and exciting period pieces, some being more fun and exciting for reasons not entirely having to do with the plot. Place The Minotaur, The Wild Beast of Crete (1960) squarely in that category. It's enjoyable but probably not for the reasons the filmmakers intended.

Following the recipe for Sword and Sandal success, a former athlete was cast in the lead role. The Hercules movies had Steve Reeves beginning in 1958, so in 1960 Italian producers Giorgio Agliani and Gino Mordini convinced former Olympic gold medalist Bob Mathias to star as Theseus in their upcoming take on the tale of the Minotaur. They don't exactly stick to any particular myth of the famous monster living in the labyrinth being appeased by sacrificed virgins. Instead, they introduce a tale of twins separated at birth-- one a princess, one a commoner-- for a take on The Prince and the Pauper, in which Mathias can rescue one of them from the clutches of the Minotaur.

The Minotaur, by the way, is awesome in exactly the same kind of way a man wearing an over-sized puppet head would be awesome, because that's precisely what was done. The person inside the puppet head was Milo Malagoli, an Italian boxer who stood somewhere between 7 feet and infinity. He was already a giant but the massive puppet head gave him another two feet. It's also abundantly clear that he can't exactly see where he's going in that head as he stumbles about and Mathias seems to move himself in front of the Minotaur when the Minotaur seems to be headed in the wrong direction. This all could have worked fairly well had the sound crew provided a sufficiently intimidating roar for the Minotaur. Alas, he sounds a bit like a dog moaning in the distance, hoping his owner finds him before dinner.

Mathias would go on to have a successful career in politics after giving the movies one more try in 1962 as a coach in It Happened in Athens, a Jayne Mansfield vehicle about the 1896 Olympics. Since neither The Minotaur, The Wild Beast of Crete or that one lit the movie world on fire, it was an easy decision for Mathias to move on. He served as a representative in the U.S. Congress for four terms and retired shortly after. His movie career never amounted to much but if you want to see the most entertaining movie of his short career, The Minotaur, The Wild Beast of Crete is the one to see.

Director: Silvio Amadio
Writers: Gian Paolo Callegari, Sandro Continenza
Producers: Giorgio Agliani, Gino Mordini, Rudolphe Solmesne
Music: Carlo Rustichelli
Cinematography: Aldo Giordani
Film Editor: Nella Nannuzzi
Production Designer: Piero Poletto
Makeup: Marisa Fraticelli, Duilio Giustini, Manrico Spagnoli
Special Effects: Carlo Rambaldi
Cast: Bob Mathias (Prince Teseo), Rosanna Schiaffino (Princess Fedra / Arianna), Alberto Lupo (Chirone), Rik Battaglia (Demetrio), Carlo Tamberlani (Minosse, Re di Creta), Nico Pepe (Gerione), Susanne Loret (Anfitrite), Nerio Bernardi (Re di Atene), Paul Muller (Medico di Corte), Tiziana Casetti (Illia, figlia di Xanto), Alberto Plebani (Xanto), Tina Lattanzi (Queen Pasiphae), Milo Malagoli (Il Minotauro)

By Greg Ferrara

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