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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
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
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 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