Friday, February 2, 2018

Dojo Classics - The Mighty Hercules!

I watched two classic flicks back to back yesterday -- Hercules and Hercules Unchained, the original two Steve Reeves movies starring the muscleman as the mythic hero.

One thing I noted about both films is that they are a bit too long. There is some great action (for the time) but there are spots where the story languishes for no clear reason. I'm not someone who demands furious activity all the time in my movies, but I do want all the minutes in a movie to contribute to the story significantly. These movies seem to pad a bit here and there.

But that's a quibble. Steve Reeves is amazingly handsome in these movies and he towers over the other actors adding to the suggestion of his superhuman status. I'd never noticed how many costume changes there are in both flicks, something of a fetish almost. Every half hour or so Herc is sporting some new tunic. My favorite was the fur one in the original movie. Also in that one Hercules swings both a giant club and chains to very good effect. This movie gets a bit somber in spots, but the action sequences are stupendous.

The sequel is pretty good and offers a neat mystery at the beginning. Hercules though takes a very long time falling into the clutches of the villainess, though things propel okay once he's there. The battle before the gates of Thebes is pretty well done and reasonable spectacle for the day and the budget.

These aren't great movies, but they are fun. Only in movies like this can you accept the ludicrous dragon that Jason battles for the Golden Fleece. It seems to be full-scale but we never get a decent look at it before that single spear kills it. That was an odd moment.

UPDATE: I recently dug these two epics out again and gave them yet another look and I find my patience with them has increased. Also I was struck by the sheer beauty of Sylva Koschina in both movies, especially the first one in which she is quite the hottie. Steve Reeves is still the center of attention though which I assume is appropriate for a movie like this. What is remarkable is the extent that Hercules is a moral center for the characters in this story, even when he forgets his identity for a time with the temptress Omphale in Hercules Unchained, the switch in his nature is notable. His very demeanor tells all his friends he's not right, so ingrained is his behavior. The army of mystical clones in the sequel reminded me of the clone army from Star Wars, a mighty force of identical warriors is a tyrant's dream.

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