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Le Fatiche di Ercole

Hercules
Die Abenteuer des Herkules / Los Viajes de Heracles

Italy/Spain 1958
produced by
Federico Teti for Galatea Film, O.S.C.A.R., Urania Film
directed by Pietro Francisci
starring Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Fabrizio Mioni, Ivo Garrani, Gianna Maria Canale, Arturo Dominici, Mimmo Palmara, Gabriele Antonini, Lidia Alfonsi, Aldo Fiorelli, Andrea Fantasia, Gian Paolo Rosmino, Luciana Paluzzi, Afro Poli
screenplay by Pietro Francisci, Ennio De Concini, Gaio Frattini, based on the poem The Argonautica by Apollonious Rhodios, cinematography & special effects by Mario Bava

Hercules, Jason and the Argonauts, Ulysses, Hercules (Steve Reeves), Hercules in Italy, Hercules in the 1950's/60's

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Hercules (Steve Reeves) is called to Iolkos to teach Iphitos (Mimmo Palmara), King Pelias's (Ivo Garrani) son some manners. but while Iphitos proves to be an arrogant brat who unsuccessfully challanges Hercules on every opportunity, Hercules immediately falls in love with his sister Iole (Sylva Koscina), who fills him in on the cruel history of Iolkos: that her uncle, the rightful king of Iolkos was murdered, & both the sign of his rule, the Golden Fleece, & his son Jason have vanished, which have made Pelias' rule of the realm an uneasy one ever since (of course what neither Iole nor Hercules know is that Pelias had hired an assassin, Eurysteus (Arturo Dominici) to kill the king & take over himself).

One day, when Hercules is out doing good deeds & killing the Nemeic Lion, he somehow neglects his duties when Iphitos gets in the way & is killed by the lion.

To repent for his sins, King Pelias sends Hercules to kill yet another animal, the Bull of Crete, & when doing so, Hercules encounters Jason (Fabrizio Mioni), who has lived nearby ever since the assassination of his father. Hercules brings Jason back to Iolkos to heave him onto the throne, but Pelias (understandably) proves to be reluctant, & promises him the throne only if Jason is able to bring him the Golden Fleece, which Jason & Hercules promise to do ... but little do they know that Pelias sends Eurysteus the assassin with them on their ship to Kolchos, where the fleece is supposed to be, & Eurysteus tries every trick in the book to sabotage the expedition, & furthermore there's a tribe of amazons led by Anthea (Gianna Maria Canale), who seduce Jason & his men only to kill them later on ... only the  cleverness of Ulysses (Gabriele Antonini) - yes, inexplicably he's on board too - can save the men from this terrible fate (the killing, not the seducing, stupid).

Finally on Kolchos, Jason has to kill a giant dragon guarding the fleece, & a few weeks later he returns home victorious, when Hercules discovers both the fleece & Eurysteus are gone ... He puts 2 and 2 together & sneaks into Pelias' palace, finding Pelias & Eurysteus leaning over the fleece - but unfortunately Hercules realizes too late he is standing on a trap door - & soon gravity is put to good effect.

Hercules is put into chains, but that won't stop the coup d'etat anymore, as Jason & his men are attacking the palace from the outside while Hercules breaks his chains & uses them to whip up whomever he finds standing in his way. Soon the palace is won, & Pelias, overcome by guilt at last, is committing suicide, but to put an emphasis on their victory, Hercules still brings down the palace walls.

 

Le Fatiche di Ercole is often seen as the godfather of the pelum (= Italian sword & sandal-movie), which it clearly was not, as Italians were producing sword & sandal movies since the early days of silent cinema, & while during & immediately after wartime, production of these movies was understandably scarce, by the early to mid-1950's it did pick up again (e.g. Ulysses from 1954 starring Kirk Douglas), to come into full swing in the late 1950's when many American productions (e.g. Ben Hur) took advantage of Italian production facilities.

Le Fatiche di Ercole is notable however for 3 reasons, a) it was an immense success even in the USA, b) it started the movie career of Mister Universe 1950 Steve Reeves (who had previously acted in Ed Wood's Jail Bait), and c) it did spawn a number of sequels over the next 6 years that was nothing short of immense - around 1964 however, the series came to an aprupt halt.

The film itself is an entertaining epic that boasts a certain light-footedness often amiss in comparable Hollywood sword & sandal movies, treating its ancient source material with a charming lack of respect (though it's nowhere near as careless with its sources than later movies in the series) & turning the poem of Jason & the Argonauts into a colourful fairy tale for the whole family, with easily distinguishable heroes & villains & an easy to follow plot remarkably free of unexpected plottwists or deeper meaning - which in itself can be quite charming.

 

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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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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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
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD