Here’s the first of two more movies I’ve wanted to cover on B-Movie Enema for quite some time – 1983’s Hercules. This is Luigi Cozzi’s update of the 50s and 60s tradition of the Italian sword and sandal movies that ran from 1958 to 1965. You might think that, oh, there were only five or six or so Hercules movies released in that time frame. NO! there were a total of NINETEEN Italian Hercules films starring a handful of various American stars with bodybuilder Steve Reeves being among them.
Yeah, the Italians loved them some Hercules. It kind of makes sense. These movies were almost like comic book style movies. You have a beefy hero, scantily clad (and absolutely gorgeous) women, and high action and adventure. It basically offered something for everyone. They were badly dubbed when brought over here and they were kind of goofy. After all, a few of them would be lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Still, they were popular enough to continue to be made with multiple movies released each year.
Hercules, the movie character and Italian cinema was so well tied together, I’m honestly shocked that it took 18 years between the last of the Italian produced Hercules movies to this one released by… OH BOY… Yup, this is a Cannon Films flick.
So, before I go back down the Cannon Films and Luigi Cozzi rabbit holes with this movie, I want to say that I always thought Hercules in New York, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, was also Italian. I have no other reason to have always thought or considered that to be the case than the fact that Schwarzenegger was so horrifically dubbed in that movie that it HAD to be Italian. It’s not. It’s American through and through. I just wanted to throw that in.
We know who Cannon Films are. Yeah, it’s the Go-Go Boys of Golan-Globus. I don’t know too much about why Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus wanted to do this movie outside the fact that they could probably produce the movie relatively cheaply, it could be sold globally, and they probably grew up hearing the tales of the hero and seeing some of those Italian movies and what have you. Originally, the script was to be written by our old friend Claudio Fragasso, but Cozzi would go on to pull double duty as lone screenwriter and director. It was also announced in 1982 that Ennio Morricone would do the score. HA! Nope, that didn’t happen either. That’s the Cannon way, though… Shoot for the stars and be satisfied when you only manage to make it to the moon.
As with many Cannon productions, there was tension behind the scenes too. Sybil Danning and star Lou Ferrigno HATED each other. She was very public about their dislike of one another whenever she was interviewed to promote the film. She even claimed he had her role reduced. As for Ferrigno, he was best known for two things – being a world class bodybuilder and for playing the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk on TV. I ain’t gonna argue with the casting of either Ferrigno or Danning because they definitely fit what this movie was going for.
As for writer/director Luigi Cozzi, we will see more of him on this site down the line. In fact, we’ll see him next week. Most of his film career was in the 70s and 80s. He became very good friends with fellow Italian director Dario Argento and has worked closely with him for decades. In fact, there is a little store in Rome called Profondo Rosso (which is the Italian title for Argento’s Deep Red) that Cozzi manages and co-owns with his dear friend that sells movie memorabilia. If you go there, he’ll talk your ear off and tell you all sorts of stories and secrets of his time making movies with Argento. From everything I’ve heard, it’s a destination for horror fans when in Rome.
I’ll have a chance to talk more about Cozzi in the future, but let’s dig into this wild and crazy Hercules flick!
Naturally, there is a voice over to try to make this all sound much more mythic and all that jazz. Now, narration man tells us that from the primordial fire of chaos that came along, it created the four basic elements of the cosmos – night, day, matter, and air. Now, I don’t mean to go all Neil DeGrasse Tyson on you or anything, but I’m pretty sure night and day are not elements. Shit, I’m not sure you consider matter an element. Then, on top of all that, you have air… That’s made up of several elements. Already, I’m pretty sure this movie doesn’t know anything about anything.
Also, we’ve been staring at space for plural minutes to start this movie before they show us “Pandora’s Jar” which contains, I dunno… spooky shit or something.
Okay… Again, I thought it was Pandora’s BOX. Not Jar. Have I been lied to all my life, or for this movie, or what? I wish I could say I cared quite enough to look it up. But look at that jar… It’s got little sci-fi lights and buttons and things I’m sure makes “boop” and “beep” sounds. Anyway, when Pandora’s Jar busted open, all the stuff that flew out of it made up the planets, stars, and galaxies.
You know that scene in The Spy Who Loved Me when Triple X and 007 track the one guy down with the microfiche and Jaws kills the guy at the Great Pyramids? There was this whole dramatic storytelling and music used to explain how the pyramids came along. That’s what this opening feels like. It’s overblown, stuffy, but over five minutes long before this guy shows up.
Look, I know this is just a Hercules movie. Maybe people didn’t expect it to have an air of realism to it, but holy fuck does this movie look cheap. This was supposed to be Cannon’s answer to Clash of the Titans. Golly, that movie looked great and even though there was lore to catch people up on, and there was a point that Zeus and his court of gods and goddesses sat around and talked about the shenanigans us human folk got into. But it looked 20 times more expensive than what you see above. It’s just guys obviously sitting around taking in one of those shows at a planetarium.
Could you imagine that? Cozzi, Golan, Globus, these people in goofy costumes, and a bunch of camera people come up to the box office at the planetarium and pay for their tickets. Then, as the show starts with the music and the lights popping up and what have you, they go down to a spot where you can see some of those lights and start filming while everyone else just trying to make that acid they dropped kick in – or hoping to get some prime necking time in during the show. That’s the production value we’re looking at for Hercules – stolen shots on, what I can only assume to be, sets.
Okay, so Santa Christ here says something about the jar busting open and… Oh my god there are more weirdos here.
Did I drop acid before turning this on? Is that’s what’s going on? I mean, you guys see these two too, right? Anyway, these three, Zeus, Hera, and Athena, debate what to do about whatever. Hera doesn’t think people should be granted gifts from the gods. Athena says they should just give one man their special gifts. So Zeus makes Hercules to be basically invincible and fight for the good of all men and so on and so forth.
I guess it’s true what Carl Sagan said because Zeus creates this hulking beast of a beefy Barbie doll from star stuff in the cosmos.
Zeus sends the ball of light that will be Hercules to Earth where it inhabits the body of the newborn son of the King and Queen of Thebes. Meanwhile, there are evil doings going on in Thebes. There’s a guy planning to steal this sword being guarded by two guys. After killing the guards, the thief takes off with the sword. When one of the sentries reports the theft to the commander of the guard, the commander kills the sentry and it’s revealed that this was all part of a plan set up by the eeeeevil, yet sexy, Princess Ariadne (Sybil Danning).
I guess the plan was for the sword to be stolen and blame the King for trespassing in the Temple of Hera. If this Supreme Commander guy says this, his reputation will be good enough for the people of Thebes to follow him. He’s also supposed to kill the King and Queen. I… I don’t know how that will make it easy for a transfer of power, because they would be dead and the guy could just say he’ll lead Thebes out of the darkness of an assassinated King and Queen, but meh… I don’t know. I’m just here to give you the play-by-play, folks.
Insert stock footage from another old movie showing the civil war within Thebes. The soldiers kill the King and Queen, thus handing the crown and title of King over to their commander, Augeias. However, there is one final loose end – Hercules. That’s left to Augeias, but when he tries to kill the kid while he sleeps, he learns that one of the royal maids made off with little Herc.
The soldiers chase after the maid, who places little Hercules onto a boat and sends it down river before the maid is killed. The soldiers leave the child to die on the boat on the river. Hey, remember when Perseus was sent in a boat to his ultimate destination where he would be raised by Burgess Meredith? Well, here, no Burgess Meredith, but Zeus does get involved by sticking his hand into our world and out of a waterfall that little Hercules was about to go over it. Hera is one of those gods in the Greek Pantheon that just likes to fuck with other gods’ favorite people – not to mention, she is mythically pissy about the existence of the Herc-meister due to the real stories of Zeus seducing and impregnating Herc’s mom. Anyway, so when lil’ Herc’s boat stops on the bank of the river, she creates some pretty mean looking snakes to try to kill the little babe. The little babe is a bit tougher than most as he dispatches the evil looking snakes rather quickly.
20 minutes of this movie, one-fifth of the total runtime, and all we’ve seen of Hercules as a small child and him idealized by Zeus to show off his smooth crotch.
Hera realizes that the movie is about to lose the audience, so several cross-cut scenes later, we see that Hercules is growing up and getting stronger. Finally, we see Lou Ferrigno as he lifts a whole tree out of the ground. I don’t know what that tree did to Hercules, but it sure as fuck did something to warranted it being just lifted up, roots and all, and tossed to the side.
One of the most famous moments of this movie happens next. As Hercules and his adoptive father finish chopping wood and what have you, a big ol’ grizzly bear starts approaching where the father is. When the bear slaps ol’ pappy in the face, he calls for Hercules and he comes running. He decides to take on the bear by leaping into action and tackling the bear. He begins punching said bear until it is dead. He’s too late to save his father though, and out of anger, he sends that fuckin’ bear to the stars!
So, Hera is thwarted yet again. After snakes and bears, where else should she turn to try to kill Herc? Well, she turns to followers. One of which is King Minos. He’s got some business of his own that’s doing, and in order to be successful, he’s gotta call Daedalus.
Daedalus shows up and begins to… HAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh god. You guys gotta see what this Daedalus chick looks like…
What the hell is Daedalus? Is she, like, the Goddess of the Fish People and/or Wide Receivers? What the hell is she wearing?
Okay, back on track… Woof, I really needed those belly laughs. So Daedalus, in Greek mythology, was a skilled architect and craftsman. So, I’m guessing she’s being represented as science and technology here instead of a crafter of things. As a quick side note, Daedalus was the father to Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun and, as a kid, was the star in one of my favorite Nintendo games.
Daedalus is called by King Minos to deal with Hercules for Hera. Daedalus is not too happy that Minos, who is supposedly dedicated to science, will still do things and confer with the Gods. She believes it’s time to move past all the old folklore and into a more modern period of human history. Let’s not forget that she herself is supposedly a goddess, so I’m not sure turning backs on the Gods is a good idea. Sigh. Whatever. Either which way, she’s wearing a very dumb getup.
Minos says he is dedicated to science. He doesn’t believe in the gods, but doing these gods a favor doesn’t hurt anything. That’s a contradiction. Anyway, Daedalus gives Minos a trio of steampunk/clockwork style machines to wipe out Hercules. Instead of ensuring that his request can be completed and sending all three mechanical monstrosities to Earth to kill Hercules, he only sends one at a time. The first attacks Herc’s mom and before she can explain what it is that attacked her, it comes to battle Hercules itself. Hercules kind of destroys this thing pretty quickly.
Hercules bids his mother farewell as she succumbed to her injuries caused by the flying grasshopper thing. He burns her body in a funeral pyre. He then burns down his adoptive home. He explains to a friend who came to him to say his mother was in danger. He says it’s because he has no parents and he needs to figure why he has the power he did. Fair enough. You know what? Of all the things that happen in this movie for kind of batshit reasons, this actually makes a lot of sense to me. Destroy the home that you don’t need to ever return to and go find out who you are. Great.
He also says that there’s a city some place in Greece that runs a circus of toga-clad beefy dudes fighting each other endlessly. The winner will be given riches and a very important mission for the King. Naturally, Herc wipes out the competition. The King tells Hercules that he must escort his daughter, Cassiopeia, to this other town. They need someone tough because there are all sorts of creatures created by Minos that makes the trip treacherous. In order to prove that he’s all that and a bag of gyros, Herc has to clean the royal stables, in, like, I dunno, two hours or something.
Cassiopeia wears a veil all the time. This is because, while she is betrothed to another prince somewhere else, an oracle told her she would marry the first person who ever saw her face. Hercules says he’d like to see her face because rumor has it she’s quite the catch. He is able to strike a deal with her that if they successfully clean the stable as promised, she’d show him her face.
I should also mention that it appears that Cassiopeia’s dad is none other than Augeias who was in on that whole thing with the sword and killing Hercules’ actual mother and father. Cassiopeia’s mom is maybe Ariadne. I’m not sure about who these people are. There are at least four people in this movie that look like Minos and Augeias is definitely one of them. As for Ariadne and Cassiopeia’s relationship… I’m not sure. It could be Ariadne is her mother, but they don’t have time to explain shit and/or dick about these characters. Anyway, obviously, there’s no way for Herc to know about who these people are and what his relationship is to them. Also, let’s not get into any the business that Zeus didn’t just send a ball of light down to inhabit a child. He fucked Herc’s mom and that’s really why Hera was so hate-filled for our hero.
This movie does follow some of the “Labors of Hercules” in the sense that before Hercules is to be trusted with escorting Cassiopeia, he was assigned to clean the King’s stables, right? Hercules shows Cassie how he plans to use the river to clean the stables. He dumps rocks off the cliff and into the river creating a diversion of the water that then goes into the stables and cleans it out. I have a question… Where were the horses? Does the king not have any? Were they in the stable the whole time and perished horribly when the water that came gushing in? Jeepers. So many questions.
Anyway, massive amounts of horse murder by way of water makes Cassie hot for Herc. She not only does as promised, and shows her face, but they share a kiss. They are knocked out by Zeus because it’s Hera’s son who she’s destined to marry, but don’t worry about that ever coming up again or being a significant plot point to follow for the rest of this movie. Anyway, Ariadne dumps him in the shallow part of the ocean while she takes off in her boat with Cassie.
Hercules swims for twelve days and twelve nights and makes landfall on an island where a scary old lady witch sees him and takes him back to her home. She feeds him and allows him a place to rest. He asks her for help. She is not exactly warm to the idea, but does say that his enemies are her enemies as well. He eventually convinces her to help, but she needs ten drops of Herc’s blood to drink. When she does, this old witch gets HOT!
She introduces herself as Circe the sorceress. Circe is mostly known from Homer’s The Odyssey. In that, Odysseus and his men came across her island and she turned some of his men into her enslaved menagerie before he escaped. In this, she’s less of a villain, but still doing some stuff for her own ends, and is able to help Hercules with his mission to save Cassiopeia which will help her in her struggle against King Minos.
It’s a whole thing.
Daedalus suggests Minos send another of her mechanical monsters to deal with Circe and Hercules. He gives some sass saying that the last one didn’t work so well, but Daedalus claims this one, a three-headed dragon that spits cosmic rays of fire, will not fail. By the way, cosmic rays of fire, as Minos deduces, will disintegrate Circe and Herc. The two heroes encounter the machine, which is meant to look like the hydra. It knocks the sword and shield Circe gave Hercules out of his hands, but Circe is quick to point out that he can use the shield to reflect the rays back at the monster.
So far these monsters of Daedalus are shit.
While Hercules and Circe cross through the underworld to where a special charm of Circe’s is being kept from her, Cassie is on the Isle of Thera, in the capital city of Atlantis. I’m pretty sure they are now just making shit up for this movie. She’s awaiting sacrifice for some reason. Here’s where I’m very confused about the relationship between Cassiopeia and Ariadne. Ariadne is delivering Cassiopeia to Minos for that sacrifice for reasons I’m not too sure of and positive I don’t care about. So is Cassie and Ariadne related? Was this all part of a large plan of hers that started with stealing that sword and getting that other dude on the throne of Thebes? We see the sword later. It does a thing, but I’m not sure about any of the other stuff and I’m about 95% positive the movie wasn’t interested in telling us either.
Hercules retrieves Circe’s talisman after passing existential tests to obtain it from the glowing egg thing it was put in. Circe can’t take Hercules directly to Thera, but she can get him close to it. She gets him to a place where he can get a winged chariot, but he has to win it from the, sigh, King of Africa. It’s kind of interesting that the King of Africa has white dudes carrying his little throne thing and he has a white lady that appears to be some sort of concubine. I also like that he’s sitting in the skeleton of an elephant. I’m not entirely sure if it’s as dicey as I initially thought having a character like this in the movie, but there is some imagination behind it.
Real quick… I want you to look at the below picture. This picture pretty much sums up the insanity of this movie. You have a pretty boring location, in this case a beach, in other cases, a poorly designed set. You have glowing things. In this case, the glowing thing is Circe’s talisman that she’s holding over her head and spouting off lines that sound good and important, but are pretty bad. And then you have big ol’ Herc. Hercules is what we’re all here for, but when you put all the pieces of this batshit movie together, you’re mostly watching Hercules doing some dumb things. You could have just called this movie Crazy Glowing Dumb Shit and it would have fit without a problem.
So why is Hercules so big now and why are they talking to the King of Africa? Well, they gotta get that winged chariot. In order to win over the King of Afrcia, Hercules separates Africa from Europe by pushing two cliffs apart. Was that really what the King of Africa wanted? Are we sure he explicitly said, “I want to be segregated, please.” Did he call the Europeans “honkies” and just didn’t want their kind around anymore?
Oh whatever. The King of Africa decides that what Herc did was pretty darn interesting so he’ll give our hero his flying chariot. Circe insists on going to Thera with Hercules. Circe has been kind of ensorcelled herself by Zeus who gave her a gift of love from Aphrodite. So, she’s kind of got the witchy hots for our big beef mountain.
How do you think they will be able to use a flying chariot without the winged horses that have either all died off or scattered to the winds of eternity? By tying a rope around a big ass rock and whipping it around and throwing it to let the force of the rock’s trajectory carry the chariot, that’s how. Then, they will fly through space…? Then, they’ll crash land in the water after their ingenious idea of how to fly the chariot. Circe proclaims her love to Herc, and Herc is like, “Never mind that horse pucky! Check it out! We’re here where the other girl I like is!”
But don’t just take my word for it. Check it out below.
This is one of the cheapest and ugliest movies I’ve ever seen. They have this big, dramatic music that plays as it shows off the island of Thera. It’s just so clearly a miniature and it’s bathed in green light and always looks like night. What the flying fuck is this? When you fly through the stars, it’s bad looking. When you look at where Zeus, Hera, and Athena are making their plans, it’s just… It’s fucking awful, folks.
There’s shit that doesn’t make sense either. Why is Minos on a plateau in space or some other dimension? That doesn’t make any sense. There’s so much outer space in this movie too. Is Thera in space? Is that why it’s green? They flew that fuckin’ chariot to space. Is that the same space that I’m thinking of? When they are on Thera, Herc is fighting the last of the three mechanical monsters, the sky clearly has three moons in it. Last time I checked, Earth only has one moon.
Yes, Cozzi wanted to have both fantasy and science fiction melded into one story, but it simply doesn’t work. Those two things are diametrically opposed to the other. Minos is the sci-fi guy and he engages in doublespeak about how he is devoted to Daedalus and what she can teach him about technology, Everyone else appears to be in a fantasy movie, but I can’t say that for sure. Sybil Danning is a bad guy but we’ve only seen her in, like, only 3 or 4 scenes so far. It’s not a great watch, guys.
What was the main plot of this movie again?
Oh, yeah! Hercules has a boner for Cassiopeia. Okay. Well, Hercules has entered the island of Thera. King Minos believes that Herc is in a trap and he’s got plans for the hero. He sends Daedalus off and tells her that the next time he calls on her is for the final battle in which science will finally defeat the gods. He then gives her their version of “Live Long and Prosper” – “Science for the Sake of Science!”
What is this movie trying to say? Science guys are bad guys? Faith and belief in the fantastical is the true path for… For what? For you to live in Greece? For you to have an alternative to the crusty old bible?
I really do believe this movie is supposed to be Herc doing some things and trying to save Cassiopeia. But the first 20 minutes was about Herc as a baby. Then, they just kept throwing characters at you. This movie has lost its thread. And I’m beginning to lose my patience.
Now, if you watch this movie, I would not recommend it, but if you did, you’d be curious why Cassie is so ho-hum about being sacrificed shortly? Well, it was stated by Sybil Danning that Cassie’s being kept docile thanks to the black lotus. But then again, what’s Sybil Danning doing in this movie? What’s her angle? Where’s Cassie’s dad? Shouldn’t he be upset about his hot ass possible wife sacrificing her for what I can only assume to be more power?
Oh forget it. I think this movie saw Flash Gordon and thought they needed to have a wedding thing like with Ming and Dale.
King Minos did apparently have a plan for Hercules… Have guards lure him to walk over a trap door. They dumped him deep into the bowels of Thera. I also just found out, with only about 15 minutes to go, that King Minos is Ariadne’s father. He tells her to use her womanly charms on Hercules and if he resists, just use the black lotus and then can then use him to suit their needs too.
So yeah, Hercules is chained up in a dungeon. Ariadne goes to see him and tries to get him to drink a black lotus potion, but he throws it in her face and fights his way out. Meanwhile, Cassiopeia is about to be sacrificed to some sort of fire thing. Here’s the thing about this too… King Minos is all about the science, right? Why, then, is he sacrificing anyone? Sacrifices and sciences don’t go well together. Oh fuck it. They sacrificed Andromeda in Clash of the Titans. They can do it here too I guess.
Hercules finally defeats all of Ariadne’s guards and stuff. He demands that she take him to Cassiopeia. However, I just saw Cassie go into that fire room. That’s probably not good. I’d really like it if Hercules failed to save the girl. That would be a brilliant way to end this movie.
Minos talks about how he captured the phoenix. Every seven years or something, he’s gotta dump a virgin into his volcano that he keeps in his castle. He’s also got that sword from the beginning. I sure as hell didn’t have any confidence in it returning to this movie. Okay, Minos says that sacrificing a virgin will renew his powers. So is the phoenix a science creature or a magical one?
Oh fuck it. It’s whatever it has to be for this dumb movie.
Minos has this flamy sword thing that can hurt Hercules. He pulls that sword from earlier of the movie, despite Minos saying that removing the sword will free the phoenix and the volcano will erupt. Both things are… pretty bad. Anyway, with that sword, he runs Minos through and kills him. Cassie and Herc escape before the volcano erupts. I should say they escaped after one last showdown with Ariadne. She wants to kill Cassie, but, instead of her throwing her spear when she had a chance, Herc threw the sword and it runs her through.
Hercules and Cassie talk about how the evil that was keeping the phoenix prisoner is destroyed and the phoenix can now return to the universe to serve it as it always should. Cassie wants Herc to lay one on her, and he has to ask if she is truly Cassiopeia or if she was either Ariadne or Circe in a new form. She says, “I’m all of those and none of those…” before telling him she loves him. Uh… That doesn’t exactly answer the question, Cass, baby. In fact, it creates even more questions!
This movie blows, guys. It’s aggressively Italian in its feel. But it also doesn’t look good either. It’s a mess. The sets are middle school play type stuff. It’s just looks like poop on celluloid. It’s one of those movies that just threw whatever there was into a blender and just let it go without any real focus or interesting creative ideas. It’s just… bad… and ugly.
At least there’s that one scene that sent that fuckin’ bear to the stars.
Honestly, I don’t have anything else to say about Hercules. At least nothing I haven’t said, ad nauseum, already. But, sigh… I’m not done yet. Two years later, a sequel came along called The Adventures of Hercules. I might as well go ahead and bang out the sequel sooner than later. So… How does that sound for next week? Next week come back here and check out what I have to say about that 1985 masterpiece(?).
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Until next week, my lovelies!