Hercules


1h 38m 1983
Hercules

Brief Synopsis

Hercules faces the task of trying to rescue a princess from the clutches of her villainous kidnappers, who make their home on the moon.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Adventure
Fantasy
Release Date
1983

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m

Synopsis

Hercules faces the task of trying to rescue a princess from the clutches of her villainous kidnappers, who make their home on the moon.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Adventure
Fantasy
Release Date
1983

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m

Articles

Hercules (1983)


Released during the summer of 1983, this Italian fantasy vehicle for Lou Ferrigno, star of TV's The Incredible Hulk, instantly baffled an entire generation of '80s schoolchildren. The film marked an ambitious gamble by the prolific, semi-upscale exploitation company Cannon Films to rope in the summer juvenile market with a PG-rated epic a la 1981's Clash of the Titans, complete with a poster promising monsters and... space battles? Yes indeed, this revisionist take on the mythical muscleman takes some serious liberties with its source material, with a barrage of special effects compared by more than a few critics to tinker toys.

Though it's best known for its very R-rated action and horror films, Cannon was determined to compete with the majors in the family-friendly department around this time. Its first significant gambit came early in 1983 with the PG-rated Treasure of the Four Crowns, an Italian 3-D adventure starring Tony Anthony in the wake of his surprise hit, Comin' at Ya! (1981). Cannon enjoyed being in the Ferrigno business, using Hercules as the opening salvo in a wave that also included The Seven Magnificent Gladiators (1983), though actually shot before this film), Hercules II (1985) a.k.a. The Adventures of Hercules, and the baffling Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989). A famous bodybuilder and fitness trainer, Ferrigno had no dialogue in his most famous role as the Hulk and was dubbed in all of his Cannon productions, despite the fact that he speaks perfect English. Ferrigno suffered substantial hearing loss as a child, which affected his speech. He took on weight training at the age of 13 and cited Steve Reeves, star of the original Italian version of Hercules (1958), as his primary inspiration. The chance to step into the iconic star's shoes was too great an opportunity to pass up, and with The Incredible Hulk leaving the air in 1982, the timing was perfect to make his feature starring debut.

The road to finding the right creative team for Hercules proved to have more than a few speed bumps, with director Bruno Mattei originally announced to helm and Ennio Morricone attached as composer. One of the more notorious low-budget Italian directors, Mattei had directed The Seven Magnificent Gladiators with the participation of his frequent collaborator, Claudio Fragasso, who in turn would go on to helm the legendary Troll 2 (1990). Fragasso had been enlisted to write the screenplay for Hercules as well, but Cannon's decision to forgo an immediate release for Gladiators speaks volumes about their opinion of its commercial prospects. Instead, directorial and screenwriting duties for this film and its sequel ultimately fell to Luigi Cozzi, a relatively new filmmaker with only a few films under his belt including the accomplished giallo The Killer Must Kill Again (1975), the delirious space opera Starcrash (1978), and the effects-laden Alien semi-imitation, Contamination (1980). Cozzi would later go on to open and manage the popular Rome horror-themed store Profondo Rosso, which still stands today. In fact, chances are if you stop by in the afternoon, you'll find Cozzi behind the counter more than happy to chat with any fans about the golden age of Italian genre cinema.

As confusing an experience as it turned out to be at the time with its space-bound bears, laser-zapping oversized plastic toys, and haphazard dubbing, Hercules would prove to be not only an indelible experience for many young viewers but a gateway into the colorful world of Italian cult cinema. The screen is packed with familiar faces from other much-loved films of the era: Mirella D'Angelo, the subject of the immortal slashed shirt murder in Tenebre (1982); William Berger from Sabata (1969) and 5 Dolls for an August Moon (1970); busy American-born actor Brad Harris of the Kommisar X series and The Girl in Room 2A (1974); Claudio Cassinelli, who headlined Slave of the Cannibal God (1978) and The Great Alligator (1979) and would tragically die in a helicopter accident while filming Hands of Steel (1986); and even the enigmatic transgender actress Eva Robin's (yes, with an apostrophe), another Tenebre alumnus. However, the thespian who made the strongest impression here is undoubtedly drive-in queen Sybil Danning, cast here as the imposing Ariadana and wearing an audacious array of cleavage-baring costumes that push the PG rating as far it will go.

Adding a layer of class to the film is a rousing orchestral score by the great Pino Donaggio, working with his regular orchestrator, Natale Massara. Though best known for his stellar work with Brian De Palma and Joe Dante, Donaggio was also busy in Italy and continued to work with Cannon on several subsequent films including Over the Brooklyn Bridge (1984), Déjà Vu (1985), The Berlin Affair (1985), The Barbarians (1987), Going Bananas (1987) among others. However, it's his work here that stands tallest and proudest, bringing a sense of grandeur and scope to a lovably eccentric film that would never play in American theaters from coast to coast today.

By Nathaniel Thompson
Hercules (1983)

Hercules (1983)

Released during the summer of 1983, this Italian fantasy vehicle for Lou Ferrigno, star of TV's The Incredible Hulk, instantly baffled an entire generation of '80s schoolchildren. The film marked an ambitious gamble by the prolific, semi-upscale exploitation company Cannon Films to rope in the summer juvenile market with a PG-rated epic a la 1981's Clash of the Titans, complete with a poster promising monsters and... space battles? Yes indeed, this revisionist take on the mythical muscleman takes some serious liberties with its source material, with a barrage of special effects compared by more than a few critics to tinker toys. Though it's best known for its very R-rated action and horror films, Cannon was determined to compete with the majors in the family-friendly department around this time. Its first significant gambit came early in 1983 with the PG-rated Treasure of the Four Crowns, an Italian 3-D adventure starring Tony Anthony in the wake of his surprise hit, Comin' at Ya! (1981). Cannon enjoyed being in the Ferrigno business, using Hercules as the opening salvo in a wave that also included The Seven Magnificent Gladiators (1983), though actually shot before this film), Hercules II (1985) a.k.a. The Adventures of Hercules, and the baffling Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989). A famous bodybuilder and fitness trainer, Ferrigno had no dialogue in his most famous role as the Hulk and was dubbed in all of his Cannon productions, despite the fact that he speaks perfect English. Ferrigno suffered substantial hearing loss as a child, which affected his speech. He took on weight training at the age of 13 and cited Steve Reeves, star of the original Italian version of Hercules (1958), as his primary inspiration. The chance to step into the iconic star's shoes was too great an opportunity to pass up, and with The Incredible Hulk leaving the air in 1982, the timing was perfect to make his feature starring debut. The road to finding the right creative team for Hercules proved to have more than a few speed bumps, with director Bruno Mattei originally announced to helm and Ennio Morricone attached as composer. One of the more notorious low-budget Italian directors, Mattei had directed The Seven Magnificent Gladiators with the participation of his frequent collaborator, Claudio Fragasso, who in turn would go on to helm the legendary Troll 2 (1990). Fragasso had been enlisted to write the screenplay for Hercules as well, but Cannon's decision to forgo an immediate release for Gladiators speaks volumes about their opinion of its commercial prospects. Instead, directorial and screenwriting duties for this film and its sequel ultimately fell to Luigi Cozzi, a relatively new filmmaker with only a few films under his belt including the accomplished giallo The Killer Must Kill Again (1975), the delirious space opera Starcrash (1978), and the effects-laden Alien semi-imitation, Contamination (1980). Cozzi would later go on to open and manage the popular Rome horror-themed store Profondo Rosso, which still stands today. In fact, chances are if you stop by in the afternoon, you'll find Cozzi behind the counter more than happy to chat with any fans about the golden age of Italian genre cinema. As confusing an experience as it turned out to be at the time with its space-bound bears, laser-zapping oversized plastic toys, and haphazard dubbing, Hercules would prove to be not only an indelible experience for many young viewers but a gateway into the colorful world of Italian cult cinema. The screen is packed with familiar faces from other much-loved films of the era: Mirella D'Angelo, the subject of the immortal slashed shirt murder in Tenebre (1982); William Berger from Sabata (1969) and 5 Dolls for an August Moon (1970); busy American-born actor Brad Harris of the Kommisar X series and The Girl in Room 2A (1974); Claudio Cassinelli, who headlined Slave of the Cannibal God (1978) and The Great Alligator (1979) and would tragically die in a helicopter accident while filming Hands of Steel (1986); and even the enigmatic transgender actress Eva Robin's (yes, with an apostrophe), another Tenebre alumnus. However, the thespian who made the strongest impression here is undoubtedly drive-in queen Sybil Danning, cast here as the imposing Ariadana and wearing an audacious array of cleavage-baring costumes that push the PG rating as far it will go. Adding a layer of class to the film is a rousing orchestral score by the great Pino Donaggio, working with his regular orchestrator, Natale Massara. Though best known for his stellar work with Brian De Palma and Joe Dante, Donaggio was also busy in Italy and continued to work with Cannon on several subsequent films including Over the Brooklyn Bridge (1984), Déjà Vu (1985), The Berlin Affair (1985), The Barbarians (1987), Going Bananas (1987) among others. However, it's his work here that stands tallest and proudest, bringing a sense of grandeur and scope to a lovably eccentric film that would never play in American theaters from coast to coast today. By Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1983

Released in United States 1983