Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hercules And The Captive Women

HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN marks the film debut of Reg Park, an English bodybuilder and former Mr. Universe who owned a gymnasium in Johannesburg when producer Achille Piazzi tapped him to be the new Hercules.

Park looks a lot like Steve Reeves, of course, and handles the action sequences just as well. Maybe even better, since director Vittorio Cottafavi makes sure we can see Park doing some hairy stunts. Whether Park can act or not, who knows and who cares (all the actors are dubbed, as usual)?

Androcles (Ettore Manni), the king of Thebes, B.A. Baracuses a reluctant Hercules to bring him on a mission across the seas to find out who is threatening Greece. A storm smashes their ship, and Herc washes ashore on an island, where he fights an awesome lizard-man in a rubber suit (that can morph into a snake, a lion, and a vulture on wires) and rescues a girl (Laura Efrikian). She’s the daughter of Antinea (Fay Spain), the queen of Atlantis, who isn’t that happy to have Ismene returned to her.

Yep, Antinea is an evil queen who keeps trying to sacrifice Ismene, but our heroes keep rescuing the poor thing. Hercules discovers that nasty ol’ Antinea is using the blood of Uranus (just go with it) to transform Atlanteans into super-warriors she can use to conquer the world. Unfortunately, Uranus isn’t perfect—some of the men are instead turned into ugly mutants who are then tossed into a gravel pit to fight over raw meat.

It takes a reel for HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (there’s only one captive woman—Ismene) to get going, but once Herc reaches Atlantis, the action, Spain’s deliciously mean performance, and the spacious, imaginative sets are a lot of fun. A chariot race through a massive underground chamber is a blast, and the island’s ultimate destruction, though likely embellished with stock footage from another movie, generates big thrills. The lizard-man, actually a god named Proteus, looks phony as hell, but it’s fantastic.

Woolner Brothers bought the Italian production for American release. They cut some scenes, added a new title sequences and Gordon Zahler’s stock musical cues (including recognizable riffs from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON!), and released it in 1963, two years after it was a hit in Italy. How busy television actress Spain ended up in Rome doing a quickie pepla is a question for the ages.

1 comment:

Grant said...

"The lizard-man ... looks phony as hell."
Yes, but luckily in the same way that a Kaiju lizard-man would. In other words, it's so entertaining you just don't care.