1910s & 20s * 30s * 40s * Pre-50s * Frankenstein * Atomic Angst * 1950 * 1951 * 1952 * 1953 * 1954 * 1955 * 1956 * 1957 * 1958 * 1959 *
1960 * 1961 * 1962 * 1963 * 1964 * 1965 * 1966 * 1967 * 1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971 * 1972 * 1973 * 1974 * 1975 * 1976 * 1977 * 1978 * 1979

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Giant of Metropolis

An interesting digression from 1971's Omega Man, is 1961's The Giant of Metropolis (GoM). Both films carried strong warnings about the dangers of science and doom. While the former film is well known, the latter is quite obscure. GoM is an Italian production, but starred American bodybuilder, Gordon Mitchell as the hero, Obro. The english-dubbed version played in America in 1963 -- perfect second-feature fodder for drive-ins. The film is a curious mix of sci-fi and the sword-and-sandal genre. Between the story, screenplay and dialogue, the film had six writers. The result is clearly a soup from many cooks.

Quick Plot Synopsis
20,000 years BC, a band of men trudge over a barren landscape. Their leader falls ill, but before he dies, he tells his son, Obro, (Mitchell) to continue their quest to warn the people of Metropolis to stop tampering with nature or nature will take revenge. He dies. Some men turn back, but Obro and his three brothers continue. In Metropolis' king, Yotar, plans to implant some brain tissue from his dead father, Egon, into the brain of his pre-adolescent son, Elmos. This, so Elmos can live forever and have the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of his dead father. As Obro and brothers approach Metropolis, the city's scientists send magnetic storm to kill them. It turns the brothers into skeletons, but Obro survived. Yotar has him brought before him. Obro's amazing strength may be of use to Elmos too. Yotar puts him through tests. Obro fights a big brute of a man, and wins. Obro fights a gang of cannibal pygmies. They win, but Yotar spares Obro. He tortures Obro with heat rays and freeze rays. Meanwhile, Egon has been brought back to life by the miracles of Metropolis' science. He's not happy to hear why. The queen, Texen, is also not keen on having her son experimented upon. She and Egon conspire to have Obro escape. Egon convinces Obro to periodically raid Metropolis as "a terrorist" to disrupt the experiment. Periodic scenes of hammy fighting are interspersed. Some other scientists warn Yotar that magma beneath Metropolis is rising. Yotar discovers Texen's complicity in Obro's escape. When he confronts her, she takes poison and dies. She never really liked Yotar anyhow. Yotar's daughter, the princess Mercede, runs away, upset at her step-mom's suicide. Guards capture her, but Obro beats up the guards and carries Mercede off to his hideout cave. She now has doubts about her father's ideas after all, and kind of likes hunky Obro. The experiment presses on, despite warnings from his scientists. A storm brews. The city is filled with low dry-ice fog. A power outage stops the transplant experiment before completion. Obro and Mercede rescue Elmos from the table. Pandemonium ensues as the citizens revolt against Yotar, the sea begins to flood the city, and buildings begin to collapse. Yotar says he's sorry, but it's a bit late for that. People are swept into the sea. Metropolis blows up and sinks into the sea. Obro, Mercede and Elmos wash up on a beach somewhere. Hugs, smiles, The End.

Why is this movie fun?
It's hard to get bored with this film. GoM is such a curious mix of genre that it defies prediction. B-grade Italian acting -- especially when dubbed into english -- has it's own bizarre quality that is entertaining. Fighting a gang of cannibal pygmies? Too odd to be boring. Some of the sets and matte art scenes have a hint grandeur beyond the overall low-budget flavor of the film.

Cultural Connection
Perhaps influenced by the sword-and-sandal genre, there are none of the Cold War themes or tropes. Instead, GoM is a mix of good vs. evil with a layer of the Frankenstein theme -- a cautionary tale about scientific hubris.

Where's the Giant? -- One of the curious features of GoM is that there really wasn't a giant in Metropolis. There was the big brute that Obro defeated in the arena, but that hardly seems title-worthy. There is a giant statue of Atlas in the city square, but it does nothing. Perhaps Yotar is the "giant" villain? Or, Obro is the "giant" hero? Or, perhaps the producers had a cool title first, but the screenplay veered off in its own direction.

Alias Atlantis -- Even though never called by that name, Metropolis is really just a rebranded Atlantis. A city of (supposed) marvelous advances, is lost when it sank into the sea.

Peplum Parentage -- The "peplum" genre, also called sword-and-sandal, was popular in the late 50s to mid-60s. Like westerns, the costuming didn't take much, and barren outdoor location shots were inexpensive. Peplum usually featured a super-strong hero -- Hercules, Samson, Ursus, etc. -- who rescued a beautiful princess from some evil ruler. Single-handed battles against many guards or soldiers were requisite. A few odd monsters thrown in now and then, kept interest up. GoM was clearly an offspring of peplum.

Frankenstein redux -- The sci-fi half of GoM is the traditional Frankenstein theme, but without a monster. True, Yotar's father, Egon, is brought back from the dead, so he's functionally like Frankenstein's monster. Although, Egon isn't hideous, can talk just fine, and even has a kind heart. Yotar is the classic mad scientist, though. His goal was to swap brains and cheat death, the same as Victor. In the end, like most evil scientists, Yotar is killed as a morality message about tampering with nature.

Monotheistic Moment -- Writer #5 or #6 must have thought the script wasn't spiritual enough, so inserted some non sequitur dialogue. While Obro and Mercede are chained the column in the cave of doom, he says that they, and Metropolis are in the hands of the Superior One. Mercede admits she's never heard of this lone god, but quickly becomes a believer. Nothing more is said of the Superior One, but then, they were mostly running for their lives and being thrown into the sea.

What's in a Name? -- Obro isn't regular italian, but it is word in other romance tongues, such as Catalan, Galacian and Spanish, meaning "I build", or "I produce" or "I work." Thus named, the hero is a worker, a maker, symbolic of creative power. At one point, near the end, Egon berates Yotar by telling him that all he knows how to do is kill, he has never created anything. Yotar is symbolic of destructive power. This is all a bit fancy sounding for such a cheap film, but it's fun to muse over.

Bottom line? GoM is a strange little film that resists easy classification. Fans of cheesy sword-and-sandal films will find most of the usual features. Fans of obscure B-grade sci-fi will find some curious nuggets to muse over. The film can be found on some free internet viewing sites. Thanks to blog-reader Paulo for pointing out one of those sites. (Click Here). ---


Randall Landers said...

Thanks for the link and the review! I love this sort of movie!

Video chaoui said...

Film on Youtube :