The envoys of Pluto, the king of Hell, come to Earth to tempt Maciste, a kindhearted, pipe-smoking strongman. Since he is “physically and spiritually stronger than most”, he resists them. The envoys then kidnap a little baby and force its mother to take the Lord’s name in vain. Maciste doesn’t take kindly to that shit and promptly rescues the kid. When he goes to give those devilish fuckers a piece of his mind, they send his ass down to Hell. Once there, Maciste fights for the damned souls who are forced to work on a chain gang and tries to resist the temptation of kissing Pluto’s Women; whose lips mean a permanent stay in Hell.
Of course, who can resist one little old kiss, right?
So Maciste kisses one of Satan’s broads and becomes a citizen of Hell (complete with horns and cloven feet). When a hot-headed fallen angel sets his sights on taking over Hell and dethroning King Pluto, Maciste comes to the rescue. Now that he’s one of Hell’s Angels, Maciste’s already great strength is multiplied and he single-handedly stops the revolution. For his bravery, King Pluto grants him one wish. Naturally, Maciste thinks there’s no place like home and packs his bags for Earth.
I’ve seen a lot of silent movies in my time, but this is one of the best. The sets, make-up, and camera effects are amazing for the time and dwarf those being used as much as 50 years later. The art design for Hell is simply spectacular and it probably went on to influence many a filmmaker (most notably Jose Mojica Marins). The scenes of hundreds of extras wearing furry togas and brandishing pitchforks are equally jaw-dropping, as is the final mass grave Maciste builds for all of his fallen enemies.
The special effects are particularly impressive. There’s this great scene where Maciste punches a devil guy in the face and leaves an imprint of his fist, then slowly, the creature’s skin starts to puff back out and fix itself. Sure the effect is a little primitive, but considering the fact that this was made in the mid 20’s is pretty remarkable. We also get an awesome scene where a guy gets his head cut off and then someone throws it to him like they were throwing a basketball and he reattaches it. Again, you can tell how they did it, but this is a silent movie we’re talking about here. Cinema was just getting its proverbial feet wet and here’s this maniac director, Guido Brignone chopping off people’s heads and putting them back on. You got to respect this guy; especially for dressing Pluto’s Women up really slutty like (they resemble Princess Leia in her metal bikini get-up). There’s also a big ass dragon in this movie and I have no idea how they did it, but it looks pretty damn cool (even if it is a little on the “cute” side).
More people should check this out. When you mention silent movies, most people think Nosferatu or Phantom of the Opera, but this one is almost as good. The only complaint I had is like most silent flicks, it’s a little slow going at times, even if it does only run 65 minutes. That’s okay though because the Hell sequences in this movie are worth the price of admission and it’s crammed with all sorts of crazy ass title cards; my favorite being when Maciste calls someone an “Accursed owl!”
Maciste in Hell has loads of innovative imagery and slinky, sexy, silent sluts to make its way onto The Video Vacuum Top Ten Silent Movies of All Time List, landing it at Number 8; which puts it directly under the immortal The Cabinet of Calagari and above Laugh, Clown, Laugh, starring Lon Chaney.