“The most noble and most excellent Don Ramiro Duke of Madena and Marika.”
Don Ramiro (Arturo Dominici) is an evil and vicious ruler. His land boarders the benevolent Don Francisco (Renato Navarrini). Anyone who manages to make it across the border onto Don Francisco’s land will receive sanctuary. A young married couple, Felipe (Piero Leri) and Dolores (Dina De Santis), make the run across the river border and are taken in by Don Francisco. Ramiro gives the couple to Francisco’s daughter Dona Blanca (Jose Greci) as a present.
Francisco will do anything to avoid war between his people and Ramiro’s. Even to betroth his daughter Blanca to the sadistic Don Ramiro. Blanca is in love with her cousin Don Juan (Mimmo Palmara) and has been since childhood. Juan has been away for a year fighting in a war for the king. He returns to Francisco’s castle only to find that Blanca is now betrothed to Ramiro. When Francisco finds out that Juan and Blanca are planning to run away together he banishes Juan from the castle.
Out on his own Juan is captured by a band of gypsies. Their leader is the Gypsy Queen Estella (Pilar Cansino). In a test of skill Juan battles strong man Hercules (Sergio Ciani). The fight ends in a tie and Juan is accepted into the troupe. Juan dons a red mask and cape as a disguise. He joins the gypsies in fighting against Ramiro and his troupes. “Hercules and the Masked Rider” was released in 1963 and was directed by Piero Pierotti. It is an Italian sword and sandal film with a Zorro-esque plot set in seventeenth century Spain.
Apparently Italian filmmakers ran out of ideas for Hercules. In this movie he doesn’t do much except beat people up. He may be in the title of the film but he is not the main character. That honor belongs to Mimmo Palmara as Don Juan. Palmara is also well known in the sword and sandal genre although he normally plays the second or third banana.
Traditionalists may be a little disenchanted with this mash-up but the fault really lies in the film title. The Hercules in the film is not the Greco-Roman character but just a strong gypsy with the moniker of Hercules. Actually Hercules is the name given to him by the American filmmakers that dubbed and repackaged the film for American consumption. In the Italian version of the film his name is Golia or Goliath. The honor of playing Hercules goes to Sergio Ciani. Ciani goes by the Americanized name of Alan Steel in many of his films. He’s played many Greco-Roman characters, Samson, Maciste, and Ercole to name a few.
Although the movie is not a standard peplum film it does fall within the realm of the sword and sandal genre. It just has some swashbuckle added to it. The fight scenes are also pretty standard although a little subdued. Hercules does beat up a bunch of people but most of the time he’s throwing huge timbers at them. As a masked man fighting for justice it’s not bad. It’s not heavy in the plot department but most sword and sandal films aren’t. You also won’t find a lot of oiled and half naked muscle bound bodybuilders flexing. Deal with it.