I saved the weirdest Christmas selection for last, the 1925 silent Maciste in Hell. Yes, we're going to Hell for Christmas! And it's gonna be fun!
Maciste is a character created by Italian filmmakers as a stand-in for Hercules. His advantage over Hercules is that he isn't tied to any particular time period, so (depending on the movie) he can be in the Ice Age, ancient Greece, Arabian Knights-land, Mongol-ruled Asia, mole-men menaced Africa, or even helping out the facists during World War One. He's got incredible strength because he's supposed to be related to Hercules. The dubbed American versions of the Maciste films from the Fifties and Sixties were called the “Sons of Hercules” series.
He's the hero of some of the strangest movies ever made – and Maciste in Hell is one of the most bizarre of the batch.
It's hard to say what time period it takes place in. The clothing in the Earthbound scenes could be from the twentieth, or an earlier century. This is also one of the few movies where Maciste wears a shirt.
The plot has lost a few things in translation. The reason a devil wants to bring Maciste to Hell is tied up with Maciste's girl cousin who was wronged by a nobleman – and oh yeah, she has a child but no husband. Maciste beats up the nobleman and his powdered-wig-wearing minions.
The devil sent to Earth turns his attention to Maciste, finally transporting him to Hell with some special effects that are like old woodcuts come to life. Primitive, but they still tickle the brain through the optic nerve.
Wild imagery -- and what's with the Jesus-looking guy nailed to the ground in crucifixion position? There is also television in Hell. And a dragon that serves as “Hell's airplane.”
Then it becomes Dante's Inferno with muscles and a sex drive. Any mortal man is permitted to come to Hell, hang out and see the sight for three days, and go home, as long as he doesn't kiss a devil woman. This would make for an interesting vacation, except that the devil women are hot babes in skimpy outfits who throw themselves at Maciste, and of course, the infernal liplock happens.
This transforms Maciste into a devil, and damns him to . . . you know.
When King Pluto, who rules this Hell asks, “Who kissed you?” Maciste points to the devil who brought him from Earth, and says, “HE!” And all the devils laugh at their compatriot.
The humiliated devil then leads a spectacular cast-of-thousands revolt against King Pluto. Fortunately, Maciste in his devil form is stronger than ever. In an amazing fight scene involving hordes of stuntmen, he quashes the rebellion. The leader of the revolt is nailed to the ground, just like the Jesus-looking guy.
King Pluto is so grateful that he makes Maciste human again, and lets him walk toward the gates of Hell.
But this is not the end! The devil woman who kissed Maciste ambushes him, and chains him to a boulder from where he can see the way out. Then she kisses him again, demonizing and damning him.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Maciste's cousin has gotten married, and is celebrating Christmas, has her son say his prayers, he blesses Maciste – who becomes human and joins the party! Seems a child's Christmas prayer can free a damned soul.
Ho-ho-ho -- Merry Christmas.
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