Hercules (1983) / Adventure-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and brief nudity (probably PG-13 today)
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Lou Ferrigno, Sybil Danning, Brad Harris, Ingrid Anderson, William Berger, Rosana Podesta, Mirella D'Angelo
Director: Lewis Coates (Luigi Cozzi)
Screenplay: Lewis Coates (Luigi Cozzi)
Let me get one peeve out of the way, speaking as someone who has a degree in Classics: Hercules is the Roman name and Herakles (or even Heracles) is the Greek name. Everyone else in the film is called by his or her name in Greek mythology, while the star is has his Roman moniker. I was annoyed by this fact for...oh, about three minutes. It didn't take long before I realized that Italian director Luigi Cozzi (Devil Fish, Starcrash) was not planning on making a real movie about Hercules (Herakles) at all, re-imagining the entirety of Greek mythology from its very beginnings. Students looking to get out of assigned readings, take note: do not put anything about Hercules battling giant, laser-shooting robots in your report!
In Cozzi's version, Hercules (Ferrigno, "The Incredible Hulk") is created by Zeus as the strongest man alive, whose mission shifts from time to time, and is constantly being meddled upon by the Gods (who live on the moon!) His main goal is to save the beautiful Cassiopeia (Anderson), who has been kidnapped for an ancient sacrifice of a virgin. Along the way, he has many obstacles and mini-adventures before finally battling the sorcerer Minos (Berger, Keoma) for the fate of his potential beloved.
Hercules is one of those movies that is so bad, it's almost good. Schlocky special effects, bad acting, laughable fight choreography, sets that are obvious miniatures, and the funny voice they give to Lou Ferrigno (funny because it is much more normal and intelligible than his real voice) all add to the unintentionally campy fun. The story itself, which capitalizes on the sword-and-sorcery craze that dominated the early 1980s, is pure comic book, rehashing the style and structure of 1981's hit mythology opus, Clash of the Titans.
Produced in Italy, Hercules actually has managed to find a small international following of sorts, mostly among lovers of bad, cheesy movies, as well as those that enjoy the sword-and-sandals kitsch factor. It hearkens back to the olden days of cinema, when bodybuilders like Ferrigno would regularly star is muscle-bound epics, flinging their would be opponents with brute strength. The best things one can say about these kinds of films is that the women are usually quite attractive, and speaking as a male pig here for a moment, the "hot babe factor" did increase my enjoyment of Hercules quite a bit, but only because everything else was so ugly to look at.
It's a common stereotype that those who have impressive bodies don't have a lot going on upstairs, and this muscle-headed epic certainly does nothing to change our attitudes toward this. It's the kind of film where Hercules can do outlandish things, like fling a giant (and obviously fake) bear into outer space with his bare hands, or grow ten times larger than a normal man in order to push apart the continents, and do it with such a straight face, you can't help but find it quaintly enjoyable on the most basic of levels. Fling the giant rock tied to that chariot, hop on, and take a trip along with Ferrigno through some of the most hilariously inept adventures put to celluloid.
-- Followed by a sequel in 1985, The Adventures of Hercules.
©2006 Vince Leo