Ah The Fiend! Perhaps one of the more notorious cards in either deck of Horror Top Trumps, and certainly a strong contender for the most gratuitously violent too. You just wouldn't get a splatastic pic of a beheading complete with smashed vertebrae in a modern child's game! And people say there was no magic in the '80s...

But I digress...

So then, assuming that this furry gore-monger wasn't just the product of a deranged imagination and a heroic lack of judgement on the part of Top Trumps, where did this fluffy decapitator come from? Well, surprisingly The Fiend's origins lie outside the horror genre. In fact, they lie in an old Steve Reeves movie - yes the same Steve Reeves as referenced by Dr Frank N Further in the iconic number Sweet Transvestite in The Rocky Horror Show.

Old Stevie was an US bodybuilder who won Mr Universe back in 1950, and parlayed his good looks and massive Greek god physique into an acting career - scoring a worldwide box office hit with a role he was born to play, the lead in Hercules (1957). In fact folks, Mr Reeves is very much the godfather of the muscle man turned star school of acting, blazing a trail successfully followed by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. And although those who followed in his wake in the '80s made more successful movies, arguably Mr Reeves was a better actor than most of 'em put together. His natural charm made him a fun and memorable Hercules, a giant with a heart of gold, and a slew of sequels followed.

In fact there was a whole wave of these sword and sandals movies coming out of Italy at the time, featuring tales of Classical heroes, Roman warriors and brave gladiators, known as "peplum" movies (named after the Graeco-Roman tunics their heroes usually wore). And a great many starred our hero Mr Reeves, with one such outing being Il terrore dei barbari from 1959, retitled Goliath and the Barbarians in the US to cash in on Reeve's fame as Hercules. In this epic on a budget, Reeves plays Emiliano (or Goliath in the English version), a hulking but kind guy who ends up defending beleaguered villagers from a mob of vicious barbarians. Now many peplum involve fantasy elements, as quite naturally they were often drawing on Classical myths and legends. However that wasn't the case with Goliath and the Barbarians, which leaves us wondering where does the furry Fiend come from? Well, in his one man war against the barbarians, Reeves' Emiliano/Goliath initially fights back vigilante style, by taking a leaf out of Batman's book and dressing up in a lion costume to scare the pants of the barbarians while simultaneous knocking seven bells out of them!

still from Goliath and the Barbarians

And there we have it folks! Sadly no, there's aren't scenes of him doing a splattery beheading by smashing a spinal column but you can't have everything I guess! However all credit to the Unknown Horror Top Trumps Artist whose deranged imagination, probably fueled by a deadline and the hallucinogenic fumes from '70s Magic Marker pens, managed to transformed a swords and sandals hero into a furry Fiend!

But wait, don't go rushing off just yet! We have some other business to attend to! For often these cards feature multiple thefts... I mean, homages! So then, we know who lurks beneath the fur of the Fiend, but what of his hapless, and now headless victim? Now as a kid I always assumed this was some random lady. becuase, well, monsters like to prey on the ladies don't they, sexist pigs that they are! However looking again at the artwork, and realising that there is very little that's not lifted from somewher else, I began to wonder...

..And I came to the conclusion that this wasn't a lady at all. No, this was a fella. And what's more, it's my suspicion that this severed bonce may well be from one of the greatest decaptitations in cinema history. Many folks have lost their head on the silver screen, but to this day, one of the most spectacular is still the fate suffered by David Warner in The Omen (1976), when his photographer character is beheaded by a falling sheet of glass. Seriously if you've not seen the original Omen, do so immediately - Warner's decaptiation is worth the price of admission alone! But in the meantime, here's a still of the dummy used for the effect!

still from The Omen

Now then if you tilt your head a bit, I'm sure you will see the resemblence to the Fiend's victim. Our Unknown Artist has made old David Warner a blonde to throw us off the scent, and has drawn him looking up, but the resemblance is unmistakeable! The haircut's are nearly identical! Which just does to prove that while the monsters are important in horror, you need equally good victims to make a classic!

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