Joseph Fiedler
Grind House Maciste
Maciste is one of the oldest recurring characters in the history of Italian cinema.  I dedicated this new, 55-spread folio to Maciste, the cheesy Sword and Sandal hero from my youth.  View Maciste Sketchbook HERE!
Back story: According to William Smith’s A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology, Macistus was a surname of Heracles, who had a temple in a town of that name in Triphylia [Ancient Greece]. Makistos [from Greek] means longer, greatest, tallest and Macis [from Latin] means rock or of the rock [Mason?].  Maciste debuted in the 1914 Italian silent movie CABIRIA as a Heracles-like figure, utilizing his massive strength to achieve heroic feats. It is the story of a slave who rescues a Roman princess from an evil Carthaginian king and is loosely based on SALAMMBO the 1862 historical novel by Gustave Flaubert [Spartacus anyone?]. Salammbô interweaves historical and fictional characters and takes place during the Mercenary Revolt against Carthage in the third century BC. Flaubert's main source was Book I of Polybius's Histories.
There have been at least 52 movies featuring Maciste historically spanning a swath from biblical times through the 1700’s and geographically covering everything from Ancient Rome, Mongolia, Peru, Egypt, The Middle East and Sumer.  In 1958, Steve Reeves’ film Hercules created a minor boom in Italian dramas featuring American bodybuilders in vaguely mythological or classical/ historical situations.  This “Sword and Sandal” [also referred to as the “1 Million Lire Escape”] fad continued for 6 years until overtaken by the Spaghetti Western craze [Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name series], which consumed the attention of the Italian film industry and catapulted Clint Eastwood to superstardom.  Some S&S films were not released theatrically in the USA but premiered rather on television in a syndicated package called The Sons of Hercules, usually broadcast on Saturday afternoons.
I was lucky enough as a child to see both theatrical AND television versions of these sensational and poorly dubbed imported S&S classics.  Although not really a big super-hero fan, I did admire the works of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Ryder Haggard all of which featured a rugged out-sider usually faced with foreign environments, adverse conditions and some really bad people.  I doubt whether I was at the time aware of the parallels with my own country’s rugged involvement in exotic foreign lands but I think it was there percolating beneath the surface anyway. My friends and I would take a bus that took us to the streetcar that took us to the Garden Theater, which featured all sorts of “double bills” in pure Grind House fashion.  I saw nearly all of the classic Godzilla films there on the big screen as well as Hammer horror films featuring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Before closing, the Garden had become a 24-hour porn salon. I suppose that it re-invented itself [a survivor none-the-less!] only to die the death of a burned out strip of urban anonymity. More than ever though, Maciste remains a character for our times; a low-tech hero made of real flesh and blood that’ll fuck you up good [for sure]!  A world dominated by imperialistic political and corporate policies should ensure enough evil princes and rouge countries to keep our man in sandals busy for generations.
In addition the folio includes musing on various ad hoc Orientalisms, Art Historicisms, incidental location sketches and a few turtles.  Due to the relative complexity of some of the images, I’m showing the pages larger than usual for more detail.  Mars Lumograph and Prisma Pencils with acrylic on Moleskine sketch paper.

Map showing Triphylia
Poster for Maciste Against the Vampire [featuring former Tarzan Gordon Scott]
The Garden Theater today
The blue tint monochrome idea came from French Academic painter/philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

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Fiedler is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!