Friday, August 12, 2011

Thor and the Amazon Women (Coronet Film, Italia Film, Dubrava Film, 1963)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

On Wednesday night we had run a download from of a movie they listed with the almost incomprehensible title The Mighty Thor Against the Queen of the Amazons, an Italian production from 1963 originally titled Le Gladiatrici (“The Gladiatress”) and released to the U.S. (in a dreadfully-dubbed English version) as Thor and the Amazon Women. This was one of many sword-and-sandal movies Italian producers churned out in the early 1960’s after the enormous U.S. success of Hercules showed that you could make an historical spectacular and earn a ton of money off it without having anything like the production budget of The Ten Commandments or The Robe or Quo Vadis? or Ben-Hur or Cleopatra. I had thought this would be an interesting movie as a counterpoint to the recent Marvelized big-budget adaptation of Thor — which turned out to be surprisingly good, partly because of Kenneth Branagh’s direction and peopling his cast with excellent British actors, partly because the over-the-topness which has marred Branagh’s adaptations of classics like Shakespeare and Frankenstein was actually “right” for this story, partly because of a literate script that deftly (more deftly than the Marvel comic books on which it was based, if I recall them correctly) blended the ancient Norse legends with modern life, and partly also (I’ll admit it!) because the actor playing Thor, Chris Hemsworth, is a drop-dead gorgeous hunk!

Alas, the 1963 Thor and the Amazon Women (to use the simpler version of its English title) has none of those advantages. Its director is someone named Antonio Leonviola, who also co-wrote the script with Fabio Piccioni and Sofia Scandurra (the last-named is the biggest surprise because it’s hard to imagine a woman actually being involved in writing this piece of rancid sexism, which basically treats the Amazons with the same quiet dignity, understanding and respect as D. W. Griffith treated the Blacks in The Birth of a Nation); Leonviola turned out to be utterly incapable of directing a scene with any degree of flair — even the action highlights were surprisingly dull. One wouldn’t think the climax, a tug-of-war between Thor (Joe Robinson, who’s tall, blond and easy enough on the eyes but hardly the hunk to die for we got in Chris Hemsworth!) and 101 gladiatresses (a narrator, uncredited on’s Web page for the film, explains that anyone who questions the wisdom or decision-making of the Amazon queen gets sent to the gladiator corps), would be dull, but it was. Thor and the Amazon Women was the sort of bad movie that isn’t even redeemed by being so bad as to work as camp; it’s just dull, dull, dull, and the awful English dubbing and horrible print quality (’s version seems to have come from a fifth-generation copy of a VHS tape) didn’t help either.

If it matters, the heroine is a tall, blonde gladiatress named Tamar (Suzy Andersen), and though there doesn’t seem to be much if any love interest between her and Thor; and the villain is the Black Queen (Janine Hendy), who has a marvelous villain’s attitude that seems to be the closest anyone gets in this film to anything resembling acting. Though the setting in this is nominal antiquity instead of nominal science-fiction, the film Queen of Outer Space is virtually the same as this one plot-wise and Zsa Zsa Gabor actually emerges as a more believable actress than Suzy Andersen — though it’s hard to judge any of the performances in Thor and the Amazon Women fairly because we’re only seeing the visuals of the credited actors and they can’t be blamed for the god-awful line readings of the (uncredited) people dubbing them — and Queen of Outer Space not only doesn’t hurl the concept’s inherent sexism at us with the force of Thor and the Amazon Women, it’s also a good deal more fun.