Case Number 04820


Anchor Bay // 1996 // 1080 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // July 21st, 2004

The Charge

Join Hercules as his adventures continue through the mythic world of Greek gods, goddesses, and otherworldly beasts.

Opening Statement

The first season of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was a serious, more action-oriented affair. The second season was lighter, funnier, and more accessible. For the program's third season, a compromise of sorts was reached.

Anchor Bay continues the highly successful DVD release of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys with the complete third season. Although not as loaded as the second collection, this is still a worthwhile package.

Facts of the Case

Hercules (Kevin Sorbo), son of god Zeus and human Alcmene, devotes his life to helping those who desperately need it. With his best friend Iolaus (Michael Hurst); acquaintances Salmoneus (Robert Trebor), Deric (Peter Muller), and Jason (Jeffrey Thomas); and his brother Iphecles (Kevin Smith), Hercules manages to fulfill his promise. Lurking in the background is Hera, queen of the gods and wife of Zeus. She despises our hero and would like nothing more than to see him dead. Will our hero manage to outwit his evil stepmother? Will he live to see another day and help another troubled soul?

You'll just have to watch.

The Evidence

I really enjoyed the second season of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. I liked the tongue-in-cheek approach creator Christian Williams and producers Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) chose to take with this material. After sitting through so many laughable Hercules films, it was great to be able to laugh with the material rather than at it.

That said, the third season is a little different from the first two. It is sort of a combination of the first and second seasons in tone. The sly humor is still present, but the series is determined to emphasize a dramatic element more this time around. Another notable change is that there are more stand-alone episodes than ever before. There are some mini-threads that are followed for two or more episodes, but the creators made the decision to create more episodes that could hold up on their own. The strategy works, although there is one stinker ("Les Contemptibles") that wouldn't even hold up as one of those cheesy Italian-made Hercules films from the 1960s.

Kevin Sorbo may be the first Hercules whose voice is not dubbed for American consumption. As you may or may not recall, Steve Reeves's voice was dubbed in the American cut of his 1959 Hercules, as it was in the original Italian version. Despite the fact that he could speak clearly enough, Lou Ferrigno was dubbed anyway by a worried Cannon Films in his two 1980s Hercules films. And who could ever forget Arnold "Strong" Schwarzenegger in the horrible Hercules Goes to New York? Luckily for Sorbo, he was spared this embarrassment. Sorbo makes an engaging and witty Hercules. His chemistry with costar Michael Hurst is still strong and fun to watch. Hurst also holds his own in the few episodes in which Sorbo does not appear. One could imagine these two in a comic remake of The Three Musketeers if it hadn't been done already.

All 22 episodes from the third season of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys have been spread out over eight discs. I rate them on a scale of zero to five swords.

* "Mercenary"
Hercules and prisoner Derk are washed ashore on a remote island after a savage storm. This marked the television directorial debut of Michael Hurst, who plays Iolaus.
Rating: *****

* "Doomsday"
Hercules discovers that Daedalus is making destructive weapons for King Nikolos.
Rating: ****1/2

* "Love Takes a Holiday"
Hephaestus falls head over heels in love with the goddess Aphrodite, only to discover that she has retired from the love business.
Rating: ***1/2

* "Mummy Dearest"
Ishtar is on the loose again. No, not the notorious box office bomb, but a dusty, angry mummy. This episode was directed by Anson Williams, best known as Potsie on Happy Days.
Rating: ****

* "Not Fade Away"
Two Enforcers are on a rampage, and it is up to Hercules and Iolaus to stop them.
Rating: ****

* "Monster Child in the Promised Land"
Thief Klepto has stolen the newborn son of Typhon (Glenn Shadix, Beetlejuice) and Echidna. Hercules tries to find him before it is too late.
Rating: ****1/2

* "The Green-Eyed Monster"
Jealous Cupid transforms into the title monster when Hercules accidentally falls for the woman he wanted for himself.
Rating: ****

* "Prince Hercules"
Hera plots with a heartbroken queen to make an amnesiac Hercules believe he is a prince.
Rating: ***1/2

* "A Star to Guide Them"
This episode presents a variation of the birth of Christ as Iolaus and others are compelled to follow a large star.
Rating: **

* "The Lady and the Dragon"
A fire-breathing dragon is manipulated by an evil warlord intent on destroying Hercules.
Rating: ****

* "Long Live the King"
Iolaus assumes the identity of his slain cousin Orestes to protect a peace treaty.
Rating: *****

* "Surprise"
Callisto poisons the friends and family of Hercules. In order to cure them, Hercules must travel to the Tree of Life.
Rating: ****

* "Encounter"
Prince Nestor plots to rid the Earth of Hercules once and for all.
Rating: ***

* "When a Man Loves A Woman"
Hercules travels to the Other Side to gain permission from his deceased wife to marry Serena.
Rating: ****

* "Judgment Day"
Hercules attempts to find the killer of his second wife, Serena, with the aid of Iolaus and Xena.
Rating: ****

* "The Lost City"
Salmoneus discovers a lost city under the control of an evil overlord.
Rating: ***1/2

* "Les Contemptibles"
During the French Revolution, Hercules inspires a group of people to aid the peasants. This episode just doesn't work.
Rating: *

* "Reign of Terror"
Hercules helps Aphrodite reclaim the temple now controlled by Hera, thanks to an insane King Augeus.
Rating: ****

* "The End of the Beginning"
Hercules ignores the ancient rule of time travel: Don't change anything in the past, or you will alter the present forever.
Rating: ****1/2

* "War Bride"
Hercules helps a princess stop her sister, who usurped the throne.
Rating: ***

* "A Rock and a Hard Place"
Hercules and Cassus are trapped in a mine while escaping from a lynch mob.
Rating: ****

* "Atlantis"
After a raging storm wrecks his ship, Hercules finds himself on the island of Atlantis, which has not yet sunk into the sea.
Rating: *****

One of the weaknesses of the Season Two set was the mediocre video transfers. Anchor Bay has made some improvements for Season Three. Instead of stuffing four episodes onto each disc, this set features three episodes per disc on discs one through seven and one episode on disc eight. This episode distribution actually improves the video quality. There is still some light grain during night scenes, but it is not as thick or pronounced as in previous collections. Day scenes look lush and sensational. The studio has finally gotten it right when it comes to video, and that makes me happy. It was really depressing to see such poor quality in the Season Two collection.

Another criticism I made of the previous set was the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and I still question that decision. As was the case last time, the sound effects and music are often overpowering. Dialogue is at times drowned out by the majestic score. This is not good, since the dialogue is often necessary to make heads or tails out of certain episodes.

The extras are not as plentiful as in the two previous collections, but when compared to other studios, Anchor Bay is still a trendsetter in this area. Here is what you will find in the Season Three collection:

* Three audio commentary tracks by Kevin Sorbo. As usual, Sorbo is an engaging and intelligent speaker. Assistant director Wayne Rose appears periodically as well. These tracks have some gaps, but Sorbo is getting more comfortable with each commentary he records.

* Audio commentary by Michael Hurst on "Mercenary." It is a bit shocking to hear Hurst's Australian accent at first, but once you get past it, there is a wealth of information in this track. I hope Hurst records more tracks for future Hercules collections.

* Interviews with the cast and crew. These are self-explanatory; producer Robert Tapert appears in most of them, along with various members of the cast.

* Photo galleries on each disc. Worth a look at least once.

There is also a ninth bonus disc with CD-ROM material. In this disc, you will find actor/director bios, a trivia game, and "Hercules Chronicles and Mythology: Your Guide to the Gods." This is the same feature as in the Season Two collection, but it is still invaluable.

Closing Statement

Despite the extra discs, Anchor Bay has actually lowered the retail price of this set to $69.99. That is a step in the right direction, and hardcore fans will just eat this set up. Casual viewers or those new to Hercules: The Legendary Journeys should either rent this set or catch the series in syndication. The third season is an improvement over the previous two, so do check it out.

The Verdict

Anchor Bay has made great strides with the video transfers. They have also put together a good, if not great, package for the third season.

As for the rest, you know the routine. If you're not out by the count of ten, I'll unleash Hera on you all. The countdown begins now. Ten...nine...

Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Treadway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 88
Audio: 85
Extras: 60
Acting: 86
Story: 89
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* None

Running Time: 1080 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Audio Commentary on Three Episodes by Kevin Sorbo
* Audio Commentary on "Mercenary" by Michael Hurst
* Interviews with the Cast and Crew
* Photo Gallery
* Actor/Director Bios
* Hercules Chronicles CD-ROM
* Trivia Game

* IMDb