Friday, 1 November 2013

Hercules Unchained (1959)

This is the second of four consecutive Hercules movies in my "Sci Fi Classics" boxed set.  Unlike most of the films in the set, however, Hercules Unchained was an international hit for its Italian film-makers at the time of release.  Quite why the film was such a success is a bit more perplexing. Perhaps it was simply that it was a sequel to the previous year's hit film (simply titled Hercules in English).  Perhaps it was a combination of the very handsome leading man and the plethora of very attractive women in short skirts. It's definitely not a result of the acting or the writing.

This was the second and last time leading man Steve Reeves would play Hercules.  The financial success of these films, coupled with his physique and good looks would ultimately lead him to become the highest paid actor in Europe during the early 60s.  Reeves claims to have turned down the role of James Bond in Dr No because it didn't pay enough.  Probably not his smartest choice.  I know of him mostly because he gets a reference in Rocky Horror.

So how is the film itself?  Well, in what I find a rather perplexing theme for Hercules films, it has old Herc be a bit of an ass in the early going (I like to call him "Jerkules"), but eventually he agrees to try and help stop an incipient war between two brothers, each of whom craves the throne of Thebes.  Alas, while journeying on this quest, Herc picks the wrong fountain to drink from: his memory is magically erased, and he becomes the captive and love slave of an evil Queen.

Normally this Queen dallies with a man for while, then turns him to stone, but of course she falls in love with Herc.  And they might have been very happy together if not for Ulysses, who reminds Herc of his true identity (and his wife, cough cough).  From there, the film moves into its end game as the two brothers hatred erupts into open war, Herc rushes to save his wife from enemies, and so on.  I doubt I am spoiling anything if I say that the film ends with Hercules triumphant.

This is not a terrible film, and if you enjoy these sword and sandal flicks, you might get a kick out of it.  There are better Hercules films, though.

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