Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 1, 2021


Steve Reeves
HERCULES (aka Le fatiche di Ercole/1958). Director: Pietro Francisci. 

Hercules (Steve Reeves of Athena) has been summoned by King Pelias (Ivo Garrani) to tutor his insufferable son, Iphitus (Mimmo Palmara), but instead Iphitus winds up being slaughtered by a lion when he rushes ahead of the hero to try to show him up. Pelias is furious at Hercules and orders him to kill the Cretan bull, after which the demi-god encounters his old tutor Chironi (Afro Poli). Chironi tells him that his ward, Jason (Fabrizio Mioni of Girl Happy), Pelias' long-lost nephew, is the true heir to the throne, and legend has it that Jason will destroy his uncle. To prove his identity Jason sets sail with Argo, Ulysses, and of course Hercules, to find the golden fleece, which had been spirited away years before. Meanwhile Hercules and Iole (Sylva Koscina of Deadlier Than the Male), Pelias' daughter, have a love-hate thing going on. 

Canale and Mioni
Hercules, which was a big hit in the U.S. thanks to an expensive ad campaign engineered by producer Joseph E. Levine, brought into being the whole Italian sword and sorcery/mythological epic genre that employed not only Hercules but also Samson and other characters as protagonists, giving work to a lot of handsome guys with great big muscles. Hercules, in widescreen and Cinecolor, is no better or worse than most of them, and is at least watchable, with a strikingly charismatic Reeves filling the bill quite nicely. Oddly, when the gang get to an island of Amazons, it is Jason who romances the queen, Antea (beautiful Gianna Maria Canale), while hunky Hercules sits it out. It is even Jason who tackles the rather pitiful dragon that is guarding the fleece and is quickly dispatched. (The story of the search for the fleece was told much better in the far superior Jason and the Argonauts.) There are also a pack of crazed beast-men to briefly bedevil the argonauts. 

Koscina and Reeves
The cinematography and special effects for the film were done by Mario Bava, later the director of gruesome horror films (and at least one Hercules movie), and his work is good -- aside from that terrible dragon -- if not quite outstanding. Enzo Massetti's score is about on the same level, although it briefly incorporates a bit of ersatz opera when the burly rowers on the ship break into a chorus and the galley master joins in -- more than once. Hercules is a hodge podge of mythology with bits taken from one legend or another and thrown into the mix. 

Verdict: A very attractive cast almost offsets one pretty ugly dragon. **1/2. 


angelman66 said...

Steve Reeves is my favorite Hercules....not a great actor but lots of charisma and even more muscles! Need to see this one again soon!
- Chris

William said...

Reeves was one of the hottest men in Hollywood -- in my opinion the ONLY Hercules. He had a great physique but didn't overdo it the way later muscle men, such as Arnold, did, giving them -- in my opinion at least -- a mutated and gross appearance. Reeves was rarely given a chance to act or to use his real voice, even though there was nothing wrong with his actual speaking voice. But he made a living and became a star of sorts, so he didn't do too badly.

Chrisk said...

Steve Reeves was the King of Sword and Sandal movies.

William said...

Absolutely! I'll be looking at and reviewing some more of his movies in the next few weeks here and in my brother blog B MOVIE NIGHTMARE.

Thanks for your comment!