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Maciste, or Machiste (pronounced ma-CHEES-tay) is one of the oldest characters in modern fiction.

The origin of the name is a bit of a mystery. There was no Maciste in Greek mythology or history. The word machiste, however, means "macho man" or "male chauvinist" in French.

Machiste made his debut in the 1914 Italian silent movie classic Cabiria, and as such may be one of the longest running cinema characters, anywhere. (Tarzan may have him beat by a year or so.) The silent film was a story about a slave who was involved in the rescue of a princess from an evil Carthaginian king, and was based very loosely on Salammbo by Gustave Flaubert and had a plot and screnplay by Gabriele d'Annunzio.

Machiste's debut pretty much set the tone for his later adventures. Typical plots involve tyrannical rulers who practice vile magical rituals or worship evil gods. Typically, the young lady who is the love interest runs afoul of the evil ruler. Machiste is a super-strong guy who must rescue her. There is often a rightful king out there somewhere who wants to overthrow the evil usurper. There is an obligatory hooch dancing scene. There is often an evil queen who has carnal designs on the hero.

These films, then, could be set in settings from Mongolia to Peru, from Egypt to the Roman Empire. It was interesting to see how they recycled the sets and costumes from one film to the next.

Machiste's heyday on the screen was long after his debut. In 1959, Steve Reeves[?]' Hercules, an Italian production, created a minor boom in Italian dramas featuring American bodybuilders in vaguely mythological or classical historical subjects. The actual mythology was frequently pied to make up the improbable plots. Machiste was a frequently recurring hero in these films. This fad continued for about seven years, until the new fad for spaghetti Westerns took over the attention of the Italian cinema[?] industry.

If you've watched any of these films, you've probably seen a Machiste picture, even if the title character in the English version was not Machiste. When these films were imported into the USA and dubbed in English, usually badly, the hero was often changed to Hercules, Samson, Goliath, Atlas, or Colossus, because the name of Machiste was not widely recognised in the USA.

The biggest source of Machiste films in the USA was the Sons of Hercules, a series which was later made into a syndicated TV show. Best remembered for its stirring title song --- hear it once and it will never get out of your head --- films originally featuring Machiste were dubbed into a variety of Sons of Hercules pictures, with stock narration at the opening relating each character to Hercules.

One of the first films to appear in the series was Il Trionfo de Maciste, Englished as Triumph of the Son of Hercules. Other Machiste films available in English are Terror of Rome v. the Son of Hercules, Beast of Babylon v. the Son of Hercules, and The Son of Hercules v. Venus. Many of these films are available from Sinister Cinema (http://www.sinistercinema.com).

In the 1970s, Machiste was introduced to another American audience by being made a recurring character in DC Comics' Warlord sword and sorcery comic.

What makes Machiste interesting and useful as a character is that he has no continuity from one film to the next. He is variously the son of Hercules, and the son of Samson. His tales are a series of random adventures that do not relate, one to another. Mythology became a mish-mash in his films, even more than on Xena: Warrior Princess. Free from back-story, he is a perfect drop-in hero for whatever story you choose to tell.

See also: sword and sandal

List of Maciste films:

The following partial list will give you a feel for the variety of Machiste material and settings, and its fate when dubbed into English. This list is of the recent films. The original Machiste from Cabiria, Bartolomeo Pagano[?], made an entire series of silent Maciste films in the 1920s.

  • 1960-Maciste nella Valle dei Re
    • a.k.a. Maciste the Mighty a.k.a. Son of Samson

  • 1960-Maciste contro i Cacciatori di Teste
    • a.k.a. Colossus and the Headhunters

  • 1961-Maciste nella Terra dei Ciclopi
    • a.k.a. Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops

  • 1961-Maciste alla Corte del Gran Khan
    • a.k.a. Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World

  • 1961-Maciste, l'Uomo Piu Forte del Mondo
    • a.k.a. Molemen Vs. the Son of Hercules

  • 1961-(unknown), a.k.a. Son of Samson

  • 1962-Hercules against Maciste in the Vale of Woe
    • a.k.a. Maciste against Hercules in the Vale of Woe

  • 1962-Triumph of the Son of Hercules
    • a.k.a Il Trionfo de Maciste (*)

  • 1962-Maciste contro i Mostri
    • a.k.a. Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules

  • 1962-Toto contro Maciste

  • 1963-Maciste, l'Eroe Piu Grande del Mondo
    • a.k.a. Goliath and the Sins of Babylon

  • 1963-Maciste nell'Infero
    • a.k.a. Maciste in Hell
    • a.k.a. The Witch's Curse

  • 1964-Maciste contro il Vampiro
    • a.k.a. Goliath Against the Vampires (*)

  • 1964-Maciste contro gli Uomini Luna
    • a.k.a. Hercules against the Moon Men
    • a.k.a. Maciste e la Regina de Samar
    • a.k.a. Maciste and the Queen of Samar

  • 1964-Invicibili Fratelli Maciste
    • a.k.a. The Maciste Brothers

  • 1964-Hercules, Maciste, Samson and Ursus Vs. the Universe
    • a.k.a. Samson and His Mighty Challenge

  • 1964-Zorro contra Maciste
    • a.k.a. Samson and the Slave Queen

  • 1964-Maciste nelle Miniere de Re Salomone
    • a.k.a. Samson in King Solomon's Mines (*)

  • 1964-Maciste alla Corte della Zar
    • a.k.a. Samson Vs. the Giant King

  • 1964-Maciste, Gladiatore di Sparta
    • a.k.a. Maciste and the Hundred Gladiators
    • a.k.a. Terror of Rome Against the Son of Hercules (*)

  • 1964-Maciste nell' Inferno di Gengis Khan
    • a.k.a. Hercules Against the Barbarians

  • 1965-(unknown), a.k.a. Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness

  • 1966-(unknown), a.k.a. Maciste, the Avenger of the Mayans
    • a.k.a Hercules v. the Sons of the Sun (?)

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