Friday, April 9, 2021

Blu-ray debut for would-be camp classic from 1961, HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN

Is there anything better than a good bad sword-sandal-and-sorcery epic to cleanse one's film-going palate? Not really. There's just something (well, many things) about these campy, goofy, usually-pretty-ridiculous musclebound-beefcake movies from the 1960s -- think any film that had the name Hercules in the title -- that puts the rest of the world, not to mention all other movies, into perspective. While you can't watch these things one after another without totally losing your mind, a viewing every few years can be oddly entertaining, maybe even productive.

The latest addition to the understandably slowly-growing Blu-ray "collectible" trove comes via The Film Detective and is titled HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (first released in Italy in 1961 under the moniker Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide), and if it is perhaps not quite the hoot-and-a-half that you'll hope it will be, for this genre it easily passes muster. 

Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi (shown at right; I'd never heard of him, either, even though he helmed, according to the IMDB, over 80 films), this movie is mostly mediocre rather than an outright camp fest, with a screenplay full of reams of exposition, punctuated with action scenes in between. 

The movie's main special effect is the gorgeous body of cute-but-goofy-faced Reg Park (shown at left and below), to whom the mantle of Hercules was evidently passed, once Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott got tired of wearing it. 

Not much of an actor (none of these body-beautiful guys were) -- some of Park's oddball facial expressions will put a smile on your face -- all he really has to do to win us over is to flex those mammoth muscles. Which he does pretty consistently throughout. And mouth the silly exposition without stumbling over the words. Which he also does as gracefully as that big, brawny body will allow.

The plot? Oh, something to do with the destruction of all mankind via the evil Queen of  Atlantis (yes, that place, when it was still above the water line), which Herc, his best pal Androcles, a comic little-person, and Herc's stowaway son all set out to sea in order to prevent.

Around one half-hour in, the movie does indeed grow campy, as our boy gets to fight with probably the silliest looking giant lizard in movie history. Further along, we get the usual "dancing-girl" sequence that features, I kid you not, a male ballet dancer strutting his stuff.

Priceless lines such as "Today is dedicated to Uranus" crop up (Uranus is the god these folk worship most), and the crowd scenes --- remember: these are real extras; no CGI effects back then! -- look like Land of the Pharoahs on a shoestring or two.

The finale is full of stock "lava" footage, with that evil queen getting her comeuppance and Atlantis sinking you-know-where, amidst terror, tears, and quite a bit of laughter, as Hercules continues to show off that ample chest and arms. 

From The Film Detective, in a so-so but supposedly 4K Blu-ray transfer from 35mm archival elements, and running 95 minutes (the film is also available in standard DVD format), the disc also features a number of bonus extra, including a very informative and fun 20-minute documentary, Hercules and the Conquest of Cinema, and a really unnecessary complete Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of the film, which, if you can take more than a few minutes of this overdone and long-past-its-sell-date nonsense, you've a stronger constitution than I.  (Really: You or I can talk back at the screen at least as well as those MST 3000 guys manage it.)

No comments: