THE HIGH SEAS
THE HIGH SEAS
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ianchachere:

The Adventures of Hercules  (1985) directed by Luigi Cozzi and starring Lou Ferrigno as HERCULES!!!
WOW!!! This was terrible. That’s really all there is to say here. I’ve been pretty long winded on everything else I’ve posted here, but any effort that this movie deserves just got put into making the art piece. I don’t have a joke coming either.This was just bad. Whatever affinity I had for the confused, but like-able, blank stare that Ferrigno charmed me with in the first film is gone. This was a trash can. Not like a fun one you play with by rolling it down a hill on a cool summer day, but one you see down a dark alley after the bar is closed and you notice there’s a dead animal thrown on top and the smell is permeating the surrounding area in a sickly sweet stench of decay. This movie was garbage. At one point it started to rain outside, and I decided to simply get up and go meander around outdoors for a second because that might give me more life satisfaction than continuing to plod through this movie. I couldn’t find any logic to why it was made, you would assume a cash grab, but I don’t see how belief was secured to that with the first film’s dismal box office. There’s just nothing here. 
The movie goes through some kind of motions in resuming the first film’s plot I guess, everyone that was principal cast from the first comes back and embarrasses themselves, making their mothers rethink that abortion they could have a had in their twenties. It has two principal sins with me. One, it makes me loathe the wonderful dynamic of Evan Robins Dedalos from the last film. Two, it finally hits a high mark with the galactic space battle at the climax, with Hercules fighting King Minos in space as a cosmic light force that then turns into a dinosaur, followed by Hercules turning into space King Kong, followed by the dinosaur becoming a snake, and then being thrown into a nebula and exploding. This movie ruins THAT. By the point your even there, you cant possibly give a fuck what tricks it pulls out, nothing is going to save it. If I could have seen that scene divorced from the experienced of watching this movie as like, a gif on tumblr, it probably would have made me weep from happiness. But the weight of having committed to the rest of this crushed that. 
Depiction of Hercules?  There’s nothing here. I don’t care if he has a beard. It’s nothing, game over. 
I don’t know what fresh hell I’m putting myself through next, but if I’m committed to following this mythos through the ears, there’s only two in the nineties I have to to go through next and one of them is starring Kevin Sorbo. I’ve been putting it off do to the fact that (I think) I’m a professional, but it’s time to go into town tomorrow and get whiskey. I’m not gonna be here sober. 
Up next (if my soul is strong enough)…….
Hercules and the Amazon Women (1994) directed by Bill L. Norton and starring (sigh) Kevin Sorbo as HERCULES
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Hercules (1983) directed by Luigi Cozzi and starring Lou Ferrigno as HERCULES!!!
After over a decade of sleeping, it’s up to the Italians to resurrect the Hercules property once again (I’m going to say at this point Hercules has moved to a marketable icon level). The scion of Jupiter has risen again, but this isn’t the 60s, or even the 70s anymore, this is the 80s. Peplum can’t rely on its old tricks because the audience doesn’t want that speed anymore, they’re on to the next thing: Science Fiction. After the success of Star Wars (1977, 80), Battlestar Galatica (78-79), and probably most importantly Donner’s Superman (78)the public has a whole new appetite which necessitates a new direction for the lion of Thebes. More in line with Flash Gordon than Spartacus, this era’s Hercules is a lot more robots and ambient space shots than have been in the series before, but it’s still the formula we love. Nothing affects the most important aspect of the films (at least to me) as two time Mr. Universe winner Feriggno is in the saddle as the Greek god. Louie himself has a hand in the modern advent of popular science fiction with his hit role as the Incredible Hulk through the seventies and into the 80s (he just wrapped up the show).
The part I feel that is interesting to note during this period’s incarnation is the move towards recognizing Hercules as the proto-superhero character he has always been, even the casting of recent Marvel Comics icon Louie reflects this; Hercules is the stuff of comics now. Coming from a distant land, his parents killed at a young age and left to be cared for by good, honest, salt of the earth folks. Herc must one day rise up as the noble champion of mankind with powers far beyond those of mortal man. This is pretty standard to what I feel as always been inherent in this fiction; Hercules has always been an original architect for superhero fantasy (watch any History channel special and they’ll say the same thing five times). So I could keep listing off ways this movie reflects the formula, but we’ll be hitting that with Disney in ‘92 anyway, so let’s move on.
More important than its newest flavor is the fact that the recursion formula of culture within Hercules cinema is still intact, as the legacy of nepotism STILL holds up in this era. Louie is a personal friend and fan of the previous Hercules star (check one!) he’s a Universe title holder who was influenced by the films and specifically Arnold himself to pursue competitive bodybuilding (check two!!) and the movie reflects an intentional goal to emulate the previous star’s success and life (check three!!!). It’s all here.
The film bears more than a passing resemblance to the recent Conan the Barbarian (1982) by John Milius and Schwarzenegger, and if Conan is not Arnold’s true Hercules movie, then we’ll never see it. Milius is pulling from the B movie peplum as much as he is anything else so the incestuous relationship between all these films is a strong as ever. But the final piece is the body of Hercules himself; Louie has once again completed the standard of the next star pushing the limits of what the title character’s physicality can achieve. Looking at Ferrigno’s body in this film makes my eyes hurt, it’s psychotic. With the changes mentioned from the last review, we now live in a world completely altered by this film series’ cultural legacy, it’s the rise of bodybuilding fully achieved.
After the impact of Pumping Iron (1977) ( which also stars our two Hercules: Arnold and Louie) the phenomena of extreme fitness has reached full swing, and with it, the sport’s inherent nature of pushing to the next level at any cost. The culture’s philosophy offers Louie no other choice than to be next level of superhuman in this film. With the the widespread use of performance enhancement supplements already a cultural pas time, we not only have science as a theme in the film, it’s running its star’s body (like most in industry now) into horizons never before seen or imagined. You can see it every time Louie runs somewhere in this film, he’s just not natural, he’s acquired so much “display flesh” it’s hard to even accept him as a human being anymore. We’ve probably never been closer to the demigod ideal realized than in this film.
What else we got? The depiction of Hercules? Welp, he’s got a beard, so he’s got a seat at my table from the get go.  As stated previously, this is Superman/Conan/Star wars Hercules, so anything that comes close to giving me mythic origin satisfaction has probably been thrown out 3 films ago. That said, I love Louie, his big hairy emotive expressions and child like grin are just adorable to me (have you seen this Pumping Iron? He’s adorable 24/7) He’s a giant bearded muscle bound baby. AND he gets the classic voice dub that every Hercules star has had since day one. Yes, we still have that going uninterrupted, though in this particular case it’s most likely due to Ferrigno’s speech impediment (caused by his 80% hearing loss as a young boy). Not once have we heard the natural voice from our star recorded and used for the audio (the first time out) it’s an incredible recurrence yet to be broken.  
So, onto the actual film review? OK. Christ this thing is crazy. Not too much to say here that couldn’t be said for its previous company. Its got the bad SFX like no body’s business going on. If you love miniatures then this is your bag. The main thing I’m keeping in my heart from this movie is every scene (all two of ‘em) between William Berger’s King Minos and Eva Robins' Dedalos. That stuff is gold. Dedalos is THE star of the show hands down. No connection to any accurate representation of the original, but who gives a shit? She LOVES SCIENCE. She’s the dark god of loving the shit out of science, the Tesla of Greek (geek?) gods AND probably the strongest female character we’ve ever had in these things (though this film doesn’t improve on the depiction of women in any real capacity worth mentioning) OTHER than that? Ummmm…….(looks over entirety of the movie in every aspect) Yeah that’s it.
Up next we have the sequel to this Multiple Golden raspberry winner (Louie snagged worst new star in ‘83 for this. Who judges those fucking things? Assholes) so come on by tonight, until then I’m going to bed. Up next….
The Adventures of Hercules (1985) directed by Luigi Cozzi and starring Lou Ferrigno as HERCULES!!!
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Hercules in New York (1996) directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman  and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger  as HERCULES!!!
Well here we are we made it to this point in our lives, and there’s no going back.
If there are people that care about Hercules films (other than me….alone), then they most likely know about this one. Not for the movie’s relevance to the Greek god or its quality, but for the fact it is the first lead role of someone who is arguably the biggest Hollywood star of all time. Few people have had the cultural and financial impact that Schwarzenegger has achieved during his time in the spotlight. From popularizing bodybuilding and advanced fitness into a worldwide cultural phenomenon, to dominating the movie market during the 80s and 90s, to finally assuming leadership of the 8th largest economy in the world and the leading pop culture epicenter of our times; Arnold has done it. That kind of relevance only naturally dictates that something as silly as even this film still holds interest and will continue to be talked about for a while. Which is why I don’t want to. What would you want to hear? How stupid the bear fight is? Is it funnier with the crazy dubbing or Arnold’s mumbling attempts at lines? The ludicrous guffawing of Arnold Stag at every twist and pose of Schwarzenegger’s body, as the two of them fart around late 60s Manhattan? It’s beating a dead horse. There’s nothing here that wasn’t back when you would watch this after school/work when you were either bored or stoned enough for it. But all that aside, this is probably the most important Hercules movie of all time.   
(Second half still coming soon. My computer ate it)
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Line Work for tonight’s review on Hercules in New York (1969)
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The riginal line work on Hercules and the Haunted World 
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ianchachere:

Hercules in the Haunted World (1961) directed by Mario Bava, and Franco Prosperi and starring Reg Park as HERCULES!!!
          Here we go. This one was of interest to me before I started the film fest, as I had tried to watch it numerous times already and always fallen asleep by the 5 min mark. Why? Because (sometimes) watching a movie with me is like watching a movie with someone’s dad at night. I knew (vaguely) prior to my research that this was a picture of critical regard, for some reason or another, which I found strange while heading into the cheapest domain of these films. What could be the reason for the attention given? Two words: Mario Bava. This guy was awesome.
           I was unfamiliar with the Italian B movie legend until I found mention of his work in our previous film, Hercules and the Captive Women (1961). He had worked with the cinematography crew uncredited and was responsible for some wonderful shots near the three quarter mark; as Hercules breaks open a cave wall to release a single beautiful shaft of light deep within the underground cavern (remember that one?). To be honest though this shouldn’t have surprised me, as I must humbly admit to you herc fans: I was sleeping on this guy from the beginning. It turns out Bava was the head of lighting and special effects for Hercules (1957), and Hercules Unchained (1959) so he’s been on the home team since day one! He’s a peplum founder! I was napping on this guy harder than Park did on boats in Conquest of Atlantis.
           Bava was renowned for his atmospheric effects, color palette, and composition genius, and he brings all those tools to table here. I was immediately taken by how, from the very start of the film, one could tell a firmer hand now had control of the peplum ship. With Park in his usual charming bear-like grace, this movie won me over from the opening horse cart toss into barbarians, to the revamped Thesus sidekick (George Ardison) I was absolutely swooning. Checking the cast list after we got our first look at primary antagonist King Lico, confirmed my suspicion that we were also being given a VERY young Christopher Lee. With all these elements combined, this was definitely the BEST Hercules film I have watched to date. There’s only one problem with this film: it’s fucking boring.          
           The movie does so much well: the creative color choice, the rich atmospheric moods, the stark lighting which finally give the wonderful attention to Park’s body that no previous film has given its muscle bound star (Bava’s chiaroscuro is excellent) and the imaginative fantasy wide shots which move us from the ocean into the depths of Hades and back again, all with pacing that finally makes sense……So WHY is it so borrrring. Jesus! Guys you were right there. Just put the ball in the hoop! This shit’s checkers, it ain’t chess!         
             The budget is most likely to blame for a large part of these decisions, but we have nothing in here that can be classified as entertaining action or even watchable. This is peplum. Hercules. You have to give us something. You can’t rely on the tree guy who tries to turn people into human ropes as your only b movie goof off. Bava, you’re a Gothic underground legend, and you even made flying zombies boring for Christ’s sake! This is certainly the most well-made Hercules film I have seen to date, and also the least entertaining. If this movie was a silent picture and we were left with only the music and Bava’s gorgeous visuals to contemplate, I think the film could rise up to be a real winner, BUT c’est la vie.
            One aspect which should be noted after all this shit talking is Bava’s handling of King Lico, or more accurately: Greek Dracula. Lee is Greek Dracula in this movie. It’s fantastic. Basic premise: He’s out to drink the blood of Hercules’ fiancé (Leonaro Ruffo) so that he may gain eternal life and be king for all eternity. He’s assisted by zombies, keeps people in coffins, women in trances, and finally bursts into flames from sunlight at the end of the picture. Bava has the most fun in the picture (besides those oceans, GOD those psychedelic oceans) with how he lights, moves, and plays Lee in and out of scenes. So that was fun. If I take anything away from my time with the pepla Hercules era, it would definitely be the discovery of Bava. I’m pretty excited to follow him into the later Italian giallo film genre, which he helped pioneer/create with The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963). Just knowing how much he’s grown from Hercules (57) to Haunted World (61) makes me long to see what kind of a director he became once he got into his swing. Sadly, I must leave the Italians for now. There are more Reg Parks to enjoy for sure (you were the best Reg) and a hell of a lot of wonky 60s movies with Hercules in the title, but I only have time for one more in these labors. Tomorrow is a real zinger, as I watch one of the most infamous movies of all, from the biggest action star of all time…..
 Hercules in New York (1969) directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as HERCULES!!!
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ianchachere:

Hercules and the Captive Women  (Italian title: Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis) (1961) directed by Vittori Cottafavi and starring Reg Park as HERCULES!!!
            I’ve been excited to get here, because if anyone ever talks about peplum era Hercules, Reg “The Legend” Park movies are typically the ones they speak of. As the film rights passed to French/Italian studio SPA Cinematografica, the Hercules franchise was also shifting; it was about to get cheaper, weirder and a whole lot more fun. The leadership change seemed to invite less restricted imagination and levity absent in previous pepla. The final touch to pull together the best B movie Italian magic of the early 60s was the inclusion of Park himself. He would lead the series for the next 4 movies and go on to popularize the art of bodybuilding across the world, leaving a legacy which inspired some of the sport’s biggest stars.             Park was surely destined (by the gods!!!) to appear in the series sooner or later. As a young British youth, Park had been involved in the burgeoning sport of competitive bodybuilding since the golden age (aka drug free period) of the 50s and on to the 70s. One of his first triumph’s was coming in second to the original Hercules star Steve Reeves (whom young Reg idolized) in Mr. Universe 1950, returning only a year later to take the crown away from Reeves, and ending the American domination of the sport. Park would continue following Reeves by moving into the peplum theater as THE Hercules of the 60s. The passing of the torch would continue yet again with a young Austrian youth named Arnold Schwarzenegger.
             The young farm boy grew up watching the Park films and became inspired by the hulking muscular and masculinity portrayed by the films’ star. Arnold would daily plaster pictures and clipping across his bedroom walls of Park, eventually seeking him out to learn the sport of bodybuilding from Reg “The Leg” personally. Park and Schwarzenegger trained together, traveled together, lived together, and finally competed as well, with Schwarzenegger winning the universe title a half point ahead of the former three time champion in 1970. A year earlier he had already taken the title of Hercules after Park in the infamous Hercules in New York (1969). The Park movies not only cemented the formula of how Hercules movies were to be done, but also the nepotistic nature of former stars inspiring and handing off the role to later generations, both in the universe competition and on film. But enough real world bro-dacious politics! How was the movie? Right?! 
             The film’s depiction of Hercules is once again in line with the Reeve’s model, but infused now with Park’s smooth charisma and affable nature. This guy just wants to hangout, sleep, and get in “good natured brawling”. He’s GREAT! The adventures also immediately take on the weirder tone of 60s fantasy and move the plot from political fiasco to globetrotting escapades. We see Hercules battle shape changing vampire island gods to the death, take on evil empires, take naps, and finally blow up the newest evil empress with her own volcano base weapon. All with a smile and a laugh along the way.              By this point the Greek legends are window dressing on the feature, but at least were having fun! Most Italian film historians will mention the movies for its unsubtle political messages of democracy in opposition to Nazi Germany and the atomic age symbolism. But that’s not the kind of debate I would like to start here. What I am interested in is the now cemented recurring theme of women in authority being Hercules’ primary film antagonists, this time represented by Fay Spain’s Atlantian queen.               As we’ve previously gone over how much masculinity and fraternity has driven the men of Hercules on and off screen, it seems telling that the main force against him is a matriarchal one, but perhaps further than that, femininity itself. As in the original mythology, Heracles (so named for the goddess Hera, his long time tormentor) has always portrayed masculinity incarnate, every aspect of chauvinism and misogyny tied with the male archetype can be found in these early stories. I don’t just speak of him in terms of movies or films, as I believe Hercules myths to be the foundation of innumerable models of men in fiction. Legends which have shaped generations of later fiction and set precedents followed by society either consciously or not. Heracles/Hercules is plagued by the queen of gods from birth for the infidelities of his father and Hera’s own tormentor, Zeus/Jupiter the true king of masculine insanity unchecked. But Zeus is too much of a open and detached expression of the dangers of patriarchy, while Heracles’ life offers its followers a more insidious approach to accepting misogynist tropes. He’s a human being, a man, who lives an unfair life even though naturally good and noble, evil and fate align against him and the form they take is women.
            The “perils” put to Hercules throughout his stories, and its modern era movie companions, become a one sided view of female authority always as the antagonistic and set dangerous conventions of thinking. For if male power and strength are always held up to be respected, championed and venerated, what natural inverse than the opposing gender for its enemy. The binary viewpoint of gender inequality inherent in these films isn’t some conscious and considered attempt to correspond to the mythos nor do feel I Cottafavi and company are nefariously trying to support an agenda; I believe that such misogynistic viewpoints will only naturally recur in any iteration of these stories unless careful consideration is made. It’s a part of these tales as much as any aspect. These stories, in whatever form they take, are designed to teach, they entertain along the way, but they teach men how to value themselves and how they can literally shape themselves into an ideal they could become, either physically or psychologically.
            “As females in a patriarchal culture, we were not slaves of love; most of us were and are slaves of longing— yearning for a master who will set us free and claim us because we cannot claim ourselves”  (Bell Hooks).                 Masculine fetishism has been a primary focus for media since fiction was first becoming popularized for mass consumption, and as they lecture to men they also teach women how to value and shape themselves as well. For if men are destined to rule and honorably hold the burden of strength in society, so then must women be ruled and look to the values assigned them; servitude and beauty. Women must remain captives, for to become unchained is the aberrant path to evil. Adhere they must, lest they fall to the darkness of self government or worse yet a seat of power themselves, becoming the next queen to defy and fall before the chosen champion of Thebes. Yet all women, be they “good or evil”, who love or wish to be loved by Hercules silently validate the unspoken law that nature is patriarchy, which in the end allows no escape, even in the sacrilege of independence.Their lust for him is the perfect observant of this silent rule. If you see me struggling for a thesis here, then it’s because I don’t have one yet. If there is an inherent pedagogical value to this mythology that works beyond the concealed trap I’ve talked about, then I haven’t grasped it yet, but I’m hoping to because these are just the basics. That’s one of the reasons for this film study, to hopefully figure out how these myths work, and what they’re doing to men and women in society today.             I’m sorry, I got a little lost in there. I’ll try to climb down off the soapbox (slips and falls on his ass) Join me next time and help continue to uphold the patriarchal pillars of modern male establishment in….
Hercules In The Haunted World (1962) directed by Mario Bava, and Franco Prosperi and starring Reg Park as HERCULES!!!