Warner Bros. // 1964 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // August 16th, 2012
Demi-Gods...and Well-Gymed Guns!
In another case of mythology muffing, Hercules (Kirk Morris, Colossus and the Headhunters) is hanging out with Ulysses (Enzo Cerusico, It's Never Too Late) and his father, King Laertes (Andrea Fantasia, Hercules Unchained) in Ithaca. The local fisherman are being picked off, one by one, by a giant sea monster and the people are clamoring for some macho, muscle-bound help. Thinking it will only take a day or two to destroy this beast, our hero and his half-pint charge take off with an able crew. While killing the creature, they are caught up in a mega-storm and stranded off the coast of Judea. There, they learn that Samson (Iloosh Khoshabe, The Seven Tasks of Ali Baba) is a wanted man, and since Hercules has rippling pecs and can kill lions with his bare hands, he's mistaken for the rogue. When the evil Judean king captures Ulysses, our hunk gets some help from Delilah (Liana Orfei, Hercules in the Valley of Woe) to find Samson. The two fight, then team up to rescue the boy and defeat the despotic ruler once and for all.
Ahhh...the peplum. The people's version of half-baked homoeroticism. If MMA mandated swords, sandals, and lots of shiny tanned skin (oh...wait...), we'd have the hollowed Italian action subgenre in a nutsack. If Magic Mike can make $100 million plus by having overripe actors flash their physiques, these ancient examples of a Blueboy magazine must have made billions. Gay allusions don't get any more amazing than this film's climatic confrontation at an ancient temple, Hercules and Samson tossing Styrofoam setpieces at each other like love taunts. Even though they are surrounded by some of the more ample women in all of Rome, these guys just can't get enough of each other. When combined with the always-reliable stuntwork, the veritable cast of thousands, the sometimes surreal aspects of the production (is that sea monster nothing more than a sea lion shot in close-up?), and the deranged dubbing, it's a full blown camp extravaganza. All one needs is Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a bucket of buttered popcorn, and the song "I Can Make You a Man" softly playing in the background.
On the other hand, director Pietro Francisci always had a winning way with this material, even if Steve Reeves refused to physically abuse the other actors with some prop chains. Already in his 60s by the time this movie was made, he shows that ample abilities, action-wise, can make even the most ridiculous premise percolate with thrills, and can turn any pre-Schwarzenegger steroid case into a convincing hero. This is an endemic slice of old-school epic making, where oversized sets are complemented by oversized characters crafted out of oversized actors and actresses. The results reek of noble intentions and unobtainable objectives. For their part, Morris and Khoshabe become the beefcake center of a sometimes silly mash-up where nothing fits, historically or within fictional folklore, but everything works as entertainment. With its brief running time and constant sense of forward motion, this is one of the better examples of the type out there. All strapping sinew aside, Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses is a cut above the rest of the predictable period Italian imports.
As part of Warner Archive collection, this DVD comes with very little in the added content department (a trailer) and a decent pair of tech specs. The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image is colorful and clean, though it does look aged and a bit worn. This is especially true whenever Morris is on screen. His henna rinse hair looks particularly odd thanks to this transfer. On the sound side, we get over-the-top and over-modulated orchestration followed by the '60s/'70s tendency to dub everything at double the normal volume that people would actually speak. The Dolby 2.0 Mono track is mostly to blame, but one has to remember that such Saturday matinee fodder was not meant for the art house crowd. The kiddies didn't care about much except that everything was in focus...and fun.
Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses is indeed a hoot, though not as good as those goofy celluloid examinations of Steve Reeves' inertia. But, if you're in need of a bumbling bodybuilder banquet, this'll do just fine.
Not guilty, unless you are talking about pleasures, then this is definitely
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated