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Ercole al Centro della Terra

Hercules in the Haunted World
Hercules in the Center of the Earth / Vampire gegen Herakles

Italy 1961
produced by
Achille Piazzi for SPA Cinematografica
directed by Mario Bava
starring Reg Park, Christopher Lee, Leonora Ruffo, George Ardisson, Marisa Belli, Ida Galli, Franco Giacobini, Mino Doro, Rosalba Neri, Ely Drago, Gaia Germani, Raf Baldassarre, Elisabetta Pavan, Aldo Podinotti, Claudio Marzulli, Monica Neri, Grazia Collodi
written by Mario Bava, Sandro Continenza, Franco Prosperi, Duccio Tessari, music by Armando Trovajoli, cinematography by Mario Bava

Hercules, Theseus, Hercules (Reg Park), Hercules in Italy, Hercules in the 1950's/60's

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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After years of absence, Hercules (Reg Park) returns to his fiancée Deianira (Leonora Ruffo), to find her in a state of trance he is unable to wake her from, while her benign uncle Lycos (Christopher Lee) has taken over the affairs of state she was invested with - thing is, uncle Lycos is not quite as benign as he seems to be (after all he's played by Christopher Lee - dead giveaway), and it was actually him who put her in her trance in the first place. Be that as it may, Hercules learns that to cure Ceianira's condition he has to travel to Hades, the underworld, the land of the dead, to retrieve a certain stone, and in order to leave Hades again, he has to first fetch the apple of the Hesperides ...

So before long, Hercules, his loyal sidekick Theseus (George Ardisson) and comic relief Telemachus (Franco Giacobini) travel to the land of the Hesperides, a land covered in permanent darkness terrorized by a stone monster and populated by a tribe of women, where Hercules tries his best to climb the local apple tree - but to no avail. Only eventually does Hercules come up with the idea to build a swing out of a stone and a rope and shoot down the apple from below - immediately the darkness leaves the land of the Hesperides and the female populace jumps with joy ... but by now, Hercules' friends are attacked by a stone monster, and Hercules can only just save them when he throwsthe monster against some rocks and shatters it.

Then its off to Hades for Hercules and Theseus, and while Hercules fights off all kinds of threats and retrieves the stone, Theseus ultimately loses his life falling into a pool of hot molten lava ... but does he really die ?

Nope, Persephone (Ida Galli), daughter of Pluto, saves him, nurses him back to health ... and falls in love with him. And ultimately, Theseus can persuade Persephone to follow him to the upper world - as a stowaway in Hercules' ship.

On their way back home, Hercules' ship has to face a storm, and it looks as if our heroes are done for - when Persephone tells Theseus to throw the apple of the Hesperides overboard ... and wouldn't you know it, the storm seizes and our heroes arrive home safely.

Soon enough, Hercules has healed Deianira from her condition, but by now Lycos has joined up with Pluto, who is furious because Hercules has taken away his daughter - even though Hercules was totally oblivious to that fact - and abducts Deianira to sacrifice her to Pluto in a Stonehenge-like stone circle that is guarded by the living dead, courtesy of Pluto.

Of course, Hercules soon takes up fighting the living dead and crushing them with the stones of the circle, he even defeats and kills Lycos, but to ultimately save the country, Persephone realizes she has to leave Theseus for good and return to her father, even if that breaks her and Theseus' heart ...

 

Director Mario Bava was without a doubt one of the most important and influential horror directors of his time, having created such classics as Black Sabbath, Black Sunday and Planet of the Vampires, to name but a few. Hercules in the Haunted World, a borderline horror film at best, however is not among Bava's best films, nor is it a classic of either the horror or the sword-and-sandal-genre (or peplum, if you may). Much rather, the film is a typical trashy entry into the Hercules-series of films that was immensely popular in the early 1960's that had little to do with the actual mythological Hercules (as you might have realized reading the film's synopsis).

That all said though, Hercules in the Haunted World is quite simply a wonderful film: the sets are a cheap but enjoyable mixture of ancient Greece and pop art, the colourful lighting effects are quite unique and inventive, and direction and camerawork give the film an unusual dark atmosphere - which all works surprisingly well together with the film's rather silly plot.

The result is a quite enjoyable film, but one you mustn't take seriously.

 

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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Out now from
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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD