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In 1959, Joseph E Levine acquired the rights to a low-budget, Italian-dubbed-to-English movie, "Hercules", with former Mr. Universe, Steve Reeves, in the title role. The movie was heavily promoted and, to the astonishment of many movie critics, became a huge hit. Kids lined up round the block to see Hercules do his thing--kill a bull with his bare hands, ditto a lion, pull down buildings, toss statues at the bad guys, save beautiful women from fates worse than death etc. The kids didn't care that the movie was dubbed, with English dialogue not matching moving lips, or that Reeves was unlikely to be awarded an Oscar! So the floodgates in Italy opened, and for the next five years, these "spear and sandal" epics were turned out for the Saturday Matinee crowd. Other muscle-bound actors were recruited--some were imported from the US like Gordon Scott--some were Italian guys given anglicized names to help at the US box-office (hello Alan Steel!). Some were good fun--some were awful. "Gladiators 7" is definitely one of the better examples of this "genre". The star is "Richard Harrison"--no--not Rex Harrison--not Richard Harris. He is a good-looking guy, who--surprise--is better in the action department than acting. The movie seems to be about renegade Spartans battling a nasty tyrant who has the backing of Rome. If the plot seems familiar, check out "The Seven Samurai", or "The Magnificant Seven"--insert gladiators in place of Toshiro Mifune or Yul Brynner and Co--get the picture ? Sure, it's all quite hokey--but it is very entertaining. The action seldom flags, and the final fight between our hero, and the dastardly villain is memorable--a literal cliff-hanger!

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UE1023 Gladiators Seven VHS (1962/Richard Harrison) $14.99