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Maciste

Marvelous Maciste

Italy 1915
produced by
Itala Film
directed by Luigi Romano Borgnetto, Vincenzo Denizot
starring Bartolomeo Pagano, Leone Papa, Clementina Gay, Amelia Chellini, Didaco Chellini, Ada Marangoni
written by Giovanni Pastrone

silent
Maciste, Maciste (Bartolomeo Pagano)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Being pursued by a bunch of villains, Josefina (Clementina Gay) flees into a movie theatre, where she sees the heroics of Maciste (Bartolomeo Pagano), the brave Nubian from Cabiria, on screen. Encouraged by his heroics, he writes to his film studio, asking the strongman (who isn't Nubian at all in this story) for help - and intrigued by the letter of this damsel in distress, Maciste agrees to meet her. But the wild story about her and her mother (Amelia Chellini) being cheated out of their inheritance by Josefina's uncle Duke Alexis (Didaco Chellini) doesn't ring all that true to Maciste, so he soon parts way with her again ... only to hear her scream for help in a distance thereafter, and following that, she's gone, and Maciste's only clue is the dog of the villains, which leads him to a pub where the villains have their hideout riddled with trap doors and the like, but Maciste escapes them all, frees Josefina, and has all villains arrested safe for Peter (Leone Papa), Alexis' right-hand man.

Maciste accompanies Josefina on a trainride to free her mother from the clutches on Duke Alexis, but Peter makes an attempt on their lives, but only walks into a trap himself, and ultimately, he gives away the place Josefina's mother is held, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere ... but that's another trap set by Duke Alexis, and this time, Maciste and Josefina are overcome and tied up - but nothing ever beats the muscle power of Maciste. Ultimately, Maciste finds out Josefina's mother is held at an asylum, but to get her out, he has to trick Duke Alexis into writing a release letter for her - which he manages, disguised as a waiter in blackface. With the mother out, Duke Alexis calls upon the police to help him capture Maciste and Josefina, but Maciste turns it so ultimately Duke Alexis and Peter are arrested for their evil deeds ...

 

Maciste was quite obviously made to cash in on the (probably unexpected) success of the character in the peplum Cabiria, and was actually the film that would prove Maciste's value as a hero of a series of his own, and also showed the character worked regardless of the era he's shown in (the movie's set in Italy, 1915, rather than at Hannibal's time, as Cabiria was) - and consequently, Bartolomeo Pagano would repeat this role over two dozen times in the next 13 years, before the character was reintroduced in the 1960's.

As a movie, other than Cabiria, Maciste can hardly be described as a classic, it's a simplistic and formulaic piece of escapist cinema that doesn't try to go for depth or actual magnitude, it's more of a light-footed series of action scenes, all with Maciste emerging victorious, and never questioning his role as the untarnished hero of the movie. And that's what's also so charming about the film, it's an unapologetic piece of pulp cinema, but it's approach is utterly likeable and still translates to today's (as in 100 years later) audiences.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
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Tales to Chill
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