Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Aliens plummet to earth from the moon and force the people of Samar to sacrifice groups of young men and women every three months at the Mountain of Death. Gladius, advisor to Samar's Queen Samara, begs her to find a way to stop the sacrifices, but it turns out she's in cahoots with the moon men (or man, as I think we only ever see one of them, usually in the form of a transparent hologram); they have promised her that when they take over the world, she can rule with them. Gladius asks Hercules to help stop the slaughter. Complicating matters is Princess Billis, she of the fabulous 60s hairdo, who is about to be sacrificed—her blood will revive her look-alike, the dead moon queen Selene. Billis's boyfriend Darax fights for her, even taking an arrow in the chest and surviving, as do a band of rebels. Hercules joins in, escaping drowning in a pit, killing a monster, facing a small army of huge stone creatures, and surviving torture in which he is slowly pressed between two large spiked slabs. Then, of course, there's the alien's prediction that a cosmic cataclysm is about to strike the earth.

Of all the 60s peplum musclemen, I think Alan Steel is the most appealing—he's seems happy and excited doing what he's doing (not bored like Reg Park in HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN), has an open and friendly face, is quite well built without being grotesquely bulbous, and does a great job sweating and straining under torture. This film has the added attraction of a science-fiction element spicing up the usual storyline. The special effects are not great, consisting mostly of a sickly green tinting of any scenes on and in the Mountain of Death; the alien is a tall robed figure wearing an owl-face mask, and the final disaster is very disappointing. But the stone men are kinda cool, and the typical sword-and-sandal action scenes are carried off well, especially the spiked torture of Hercules. Many critics (and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang) make fun of the lengthy sandstorm scene near the end, but though it definitely does go on too long—"Deep hurting!!" to quote the MST3K robots—I enjoyed the shifting color washes and the swirling sands. Had I seen this movie when I was fourteen, the long torture scene, with lingering close-ups of Hercules's sweaty arms and chest, would have been like gay porn for me. Not the best of peplums, but not quite as bad as its reputation, though it must be seen in widescreen. [DVD]

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