Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Cormac Fitzgeoffrey and the Giant of Marathon

Barely two weeks after his last essay, Keith goes for gold on a subject dear to me: Cormac Fitzgeoffrey.  This week is "The Blood of Belshazzar," first in a series, judging from the Part One. Keith discusses the likes of Belshazzar, Cambyses and more, and I can only guess what else he'll be discussing in the next issue.

A thought occurred to me on reading this excerpt:

The readers are also told “the ancient carver had followed some plan entirely unknown and apart from that of modern lapidary art.” The bandit assures Cormac that “No mortal carved it, but the djinn of the sea!”

Hmm, where has Howard tackled the denizens of Arabic mythology before...

"Over this very trail, legends say, the great Sulieman came when he drove the demons westward out of Asia and prisoned them in strange prisons..."

From that black gaping entrance no tiger-fanged beast or demon of solid flesh and blood leaped forth. But a fearful stench flowed out in billowing, almost tangible waves and in one brain-shattering, ravening rush, whereby the gaping door seemed to gush blood, the Horror was upon them. It enveloped Hassim, and the fearless chieftain, hewing vainly at the almost intangible terror, screamed with sudden, unaccustomed fright as his lashing scimitar whistled only through stuff as yielding and unharmable as air, and he felt himself lapped by coils of death and destruction.

Kane, dazed and incredulous, looked down on a shapeless, colourless, all but invisible mass at his feet which he knew was the corpse of the Horror, dashed back into the black realms from whence it had come, by a single blow of the staff of Solomon. Aye, the same staff, Kane knew, that in the hands of a mighty King and magician had ages ago driven the monster into that strange prison, to bide until ignorant hands loosed it again upon the world.

The old tales were true then, and King Solomon had in truth driven the demons westward and sealed them in strange places. Why had he let them live? Was human magic too weak in those dim days to more than subdue the devils? Kane shrugged his shoulders in wonderment. He knew nothing of magic, yet he had slain where that other Solomon had but imprisoned.

While I have a different view on what the sunken city could be from Keith (sunken cities, monstrous mummies, taloned hands - sounds like a nation akin to Kathulos' Atlantis to me) it's good food for thought.

However, this part stuck out for me due to recent revelations:

Back when I was a kid, they made a movie called “The Giant of Marathon,” starring Steve Reeves as Pheidippides, though in the movie he was called Phillipides. Because it’s simpler to pronounce, I daresay. Steve was Mr. America, Mr. Universe and the Arnold Schwarzenegger of his day, best known for playing Hercules in two sword-and-sandal epics. As Phillipides, unlike the historical original, he survived, got the girl, and just for gravy saved Athens from the Persians personally, swimming furlongs under water with his buddies of the Sacred Guard, setting stakes in the harbour to rip the keels out of the Persian ships. He had to attack one of the galleys personally, since his beloved was chained to the prow, which meant the obligatory muscle-flexing rescue.

(I’ve just looked at the trailer for that old movie. Brings back memories. The girl, Andromeda, is played by Mylene Demongeot. My thirteen-year-old lust for Ms. Demongeot was considerable. But she’s blonde and good. The dark-haired bad girl, Charis, played by Daniela Rocca, looks more interesting to me now.)

I kid you not, yesterday I discovered that The Giant of Marathon was one of a number of historical films directed by Italian horror maestro Mario Bava, and I decided I simply have to check it out.

As an aside, Keith off-handedly quips about Cormac being a forerunner to The Phantom, while I've seen people comment on Toon Boom's interpretation of "Hawks of Outremer" as Conan the Punisher. Cormac and the Phantom, now there's a crossover idea! Toss in the Punisher and you have a wing-dinger.


  1. God, that looks good, even though there are no skeletons. There are several cheap Region 1 collections on Amazon. Unfortunately our DVD player isn't multi region. :(

  2. Yeah, Al, Bava directed my personal favorite sword & sandal flick, Hercules in the Haunted World, which features Christopher Lee, no less, as the king of the vampires. Actually pretty scary at times. I enjoyed The Giant of Marathon as well. When I was a kid, watching these movies on Sunday afternoons at my grandparents house, that was as close as I could get to a Conan movie. Well, that and the Golden Voyage of Sinbad, but I digress...

  3. I love SWORD & SANDAL movies!! One of my favorite genres!!

  4. These I have to see! Anybody other than me read Howard Jones's recent Sword and Sandal effort? (Desert of Souls)

  5. I read Desert of Souls, zornhau. Enjoyed it tremendously

  6. Given it has zombie monkeys, ghost cities and gritty combat to the death, it probably has the Least Appropriate Cover Ever - apparently it looks so very wafty and pallid, one major chain in the states won't stock it!

  7. in the italian sword and sandal films of the 50's and 60's all the good girls were blondes and the bad girls black haired, in some english like The invaders too, and in the Hammer prehistoric stuff, sword and sandal was a kind of proto-sword and sorcery and in wikipedia consider the italian ripoffs of Conan to be sword and sandal

  8. check out Giant of Metropolis for a totally bizarro film made with help by Bava...rad!!! One of the very best!