Hercules Unchained


Hercules, the mightiest of them all, has to negotiate peace and escape a kidnapping Man-Eater…

After doing my usual browse through my collection I noticed I’d never cracked open my bargain bin Mill Creek Warriors 50 movie pack and decided to fix that right away. I picked this one to start with because it was one of the earliest, chronologically, in the set, made in 1959. I have not seen any of these movies, save for the original Reeves’ Hercules, but I like horror, action and creature features, so this is a big silly gap in my movie knowledge that I’m going to have fun filling in. In this sequel to that 1957 movie that made Reeves an international star and kicked off many busy years of knockoffs and variants, Hercules now married to Iole (Sylva Koscina). They travel with Herc’s mischievous and clever sidekick Ulysses ( Gabriele Antonini) to Thebes, where Hercules is engaged by Oedipus to settle a dispute between his two sons. The vindictive one and the sadistic one are battling over their yearly rotation of the Kingdom’s rule, but the sadistic one agrees to surrender control and sends Herc to relay the terms and message. Herc leaves Iole behind to visit the other camp, but on the way makes the mistake of drinking from the Waters of Forgetfulness, which gives him amnesia and makes him prey for abduction by the predatory man-eating (and man killing, preserving and displaying) Queen Omphale (Sylvia Lopez). With the help of Ulysses, and some pigeons who summon family and friends (the crew of the Argos), Hercules gets his memory back and tries to return in time to save Iole and stop the bloody civil war of Thebes.

What’s more, Hercules gets to fight Primo Carnera and a bunch of tigers, he gets to pick up and toss giant items made of marble, pry apart metal bars and stone doors and generally pull off all manner of superhuman feat, all while looking fantastic and laughing heartily at danger. The villains in contrast laugh wickedly as they leave rooms (have to try that sometime), have fabulous duels and fights, and delight in throwing people off high walls, all while decked in impressive costume. Omphale uses the services of some enterprising Egyptians whose recipe for preservation dip, she says prophetically (from 1959), is sure to make them famous someday. Reeves makes Herc a lot more than a big dumb hunk, striking the right poses to show off that famous physique and striking the right balance between brawn and some brain and some sweet romance toward his wife.

Primo Carnera who plays the giant, was a world heavyweight boxing and wrestling champion, and this was his last film, as it was far more tragically for delightfully vampy Sylvia Lopez, who had leukemia during this shoot and died shortly after at the age of 26. Mario Bava did the cinematography and special effects on this and the very next year finally made a name for himself with Black Sunday.

I really enjoyed this super entertaining spectacle, fine cheese on a silver tray, helped by decent writing with wisecracks that work even with the dubbing. I see from reviews that I’m not supposed to expect all the moves in this box set to be of this quality but I look forward to checking out a lot more.



6 thoughts on “Hercules Unchained”

    1. I know there’s a whole hierarchy of cheese quality! Many of these filmed in former Yugoslavia, with stars from there, so that’s interesting to me as I’m bound to recognize a lot. For that time they were a very attractive place to shoot, financially & visually.

  1. Absolutely love that poster. Trawling through those Mill Creek box sets to find the gems is a lot of fun (and can be a lot of work too)

    1. I snapped up all those sets I could find, just for the great deal they are, I expect lots of stinkers 🙂 but you’re right, lots of fun.

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