Friday, November 29, 2013


Hercules and his son Hylas (in the myths, Hylas was actually his companion—and some say, lover) have a strange vision of red smoke spreading ruin over Greece. The blind seer Tiresias tells Hercules that an evil power from the west threatens, so Androcles talks a reluctant Hercules into heading off to preempt disaster. Herc's wife, however, wants him to stay home, so Androcles essentially kidnaps the strong man—by drugging his wine—and gets him on his ship where Hylas is hiding, wanting to share his dad's adventure. A resentful Hercules is content to be lackadaisical and let others do the work until a huge storm destroys the ship; Hercules is washed up an island and Androcles is swept away. Hercules has a vision that Androcles is still alive, and as he searches the island he finds a woman who is being slowly absorbed by magic into a mountainside. At the mercy of shape-shifting Proteus, she begs to be killed, but Hercules battles Proteus (who turns into, among other things, a lion, a lizard, and a vulture) and bests him, freeing the woman, the princess Ismene from the island of Atlantis. It turns out that her mother, Queen Antinea, sacrificed her to Proteus, partly because of a prophecy that, if her daughter survives her, Atlantis will be destroyed. On the island, a priest of the god Uranus lives in a mountain and stands guard over a pool of Uranus' blood which has evil powers. Soon, Hercules starts seeing Androcles around the palace, but he's wandering in a stupor, having lost his memory, so Herc stays long enough to help his pal, and gets involved in a plan to overthrow the Queen.

As I'm noticing in these reviews, there's an awful lot of plot in these peplum movies, maybe to distract from the low budgets or wildly variable acting, and I'm not always sure my summary details are accurate. But overall, this is fun, full of action, colorful sets, and male and female pulchritude. There are some nice fantasy touches, such as Proteus' shape-shifting and occasional intercession by the gods (we never see them, but Hercules invokes them). The storm sequence is particularly effective, as is the climactic destruction of Atlantis—though that looks cobbled together from other film footage. Reg Park makes for a beefy and not bad looking hero, but, as the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew pointed out when they showed this, he is almost comically passive for chunks of the film. Ettore Manni as Androcles and Fay Spain as the Queen are fine, though both seem a little underused. The widescreen DVD print from Retromedia looks great. [DVD]

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