Hercules (1958)

“Deceit does not go with a man of such quality.”

Hercules Poster

Synopsis:
Legendary strongman Hercules (Steve Reeves) romances the daughter (Sylva Koscina) of King Pelius (Ivo Garrani) and assists Jason (Fabrizio Mioni) on his quest to secure the Golden Fleece.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that this enormously popular “muscleman epic”, starring former Mr. Universe Steve Reeves, “doesn’t compare to Ray Harryhausen’s epics”, but is “much better than its imitators”. He argues that while it’s “hurt by dubbing, lack of wit, and extreme earnestness”, it’s “still fun”. Maybe so, but for my money, I’d much rather rewatch a Harryhausen flick any day — namely Jason and the Argonauts (1963), which even Peary concedes covered “the same ground… much more spectacularly”. The dialogue in Hercules is laughably corny (“My heart has reached the crossroads of destiny.”), and the dubbing is highly distracting — yet it remains one-time must-see viewing given its historical importance as the film which “spawned [a] wave of Italian-made, myth-based, sword-and-sandal films”.

Note: Reading the film’s amusingly bombastic tagline (available on IMDb) gives one a sense of the excitement kids at the time must have felt about this flick:

SEE the heroic Hercules rip down the Age of Orgy’s lavish palace of lustful pleasure! SEE the Mightiest of Men fight the Mightiest of Beasts, the killer Cretan Bull! SEE Hercules fight off the savage love-starved Amazon women! SEE the seductive Amazons lure men to voluptuous revels and violent deaths! SEE the powerful Hercules crush the savage ape-men who guard the shrine of the Golden Fleece!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Steve Reeves’ appropriately ripped body (it’s worth a look!)
    Hercules Reeves
  • Mario Bava’s cinematography
    Hercules Lighting
  • Effective historical sets
    Hercules Sets

Must See?
Yes, but only for its historical importance.

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One Response to “Hercules (1958)”

  1. Agreed. A must for its historical importance.

    This one really takes me back – have just seen it for the first time probably since childhood.

    Warts and all (esp. the dubbing – which I don’t find horribly distracting here but it is noticeable), this is really not such a bad little flick. It is what it claims to be (I mean, what the film itself sets out to be, not so much the way-over-heated ad campaign) and, as such, is an effective popcorn flick.

    Later, all the other films of this sort (esp. the Italian ones, I guess) came along to turn the genre into a cash-cow franchise. Overall, watch them at your own risk; they generally range from less successful rip-offs to unintentionally humorous to godawful.

    The dialogue in ‘Hercules’ may be corny but, compared to something as stiff and labored as ‘Clash of the Titans’, it almost sounds believable. At least it has some life to it as it’s performed.

    There is much to be said for what Ray Harryhausen brought to mythological films (and the one larger-than-life creature in ‘Hercules’, though functional, is not as distinguished as what Ray H. would have come up with). But it did strike me that it’s surprising how well this film holds up without an emphasis on creature visuals. And…well, with Reeves on board…are other ‘special effects’ really necessary?

    Reeves has an interesting bio at Wikipedia. Surprisingly, he is referred to as having been a real sincere and nice guy. Interesting. And he looked like *that*? Interesting. He turned down the lead in ‘Samson and Delilah’ because he wouldn’t lose weight. He turned down ‘Dr. No’ and ‘A Fistful of Dollars’. (Now, wouldn’t either of those been…different?) He *did*, however, say yes to appearing in Ed Wood’s ‘Jail Bait’ (!!!). Interesting.

    Fave scene: Hercules is granted his request to be more like a human; to have strength, but not the strength of a god.

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