Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Sons of Hercules: Land of Darkness

Oh no, not another Hercules movie! Save me, Jebus!
At the height of the "sword-and-sandal" craze of the 1960s, The Sons of Hercules was an American syndicated tv show that featured 14 Italian films recut and repackaged to cash in on the Hercules-fad. Some were originally Machiste films, others featured heroes such as Mars, Prince Hippur or Goliath, and some, like this one, actually did feature Hercules.
Go figure.
This was originally filmed in 1963 as Ercole l'invincibile, but it has also been known as Hercules Against the Elephants' Empire.
It starts off with a Sons of Hercules title sequence that features one of those songs that could only be written in the 1960s:

The mighty sons of Hercules
Once thundered through the years
These men of steel could never feel
The curse of a coward's fears

The mighty sons of Hercules
Were men as men should be
They burned with dreams then turned their dreams
Into history

The mighty sons of Hercules
Were men as men should be
They shook the world and shook the world
Sons of Hercules!*

Groovy, baby.
I'm thinking that I should just stop this review now. After those lyrics, do I really need to continue?
But no, you don't get off the hook that easily. I had to watch it -- you have to read about it. That's why you're here. That's the deal.
In this one Dan Vadis plays Argolese, a son of Hercules. He (or his stunt double) saves a beautiful woman who's about to go skinny dipping from a lion. Did they have lions in ancient Greece? According to her people's custom, if you save a maiden's life, you get to marry her. Argolese thinks this is swell, until he learns this rule doesn't apply to her because she's a princess. He has to slay a dragon to prove his worth. Argolese still thinks that this is swell.
What did these Greek heroes do for a living? Argolese just seems to be wandering around the countryside in a skirt, and decides that killing a dragon to marry a woman he's known for 30 seconds is an excellent career choice. Is this logical? Is it any wonder the Greek civilization fell!
He goes to see an old witch who wears a red towel and too much white make-up, and she gives him an enigmatic hint on where the dragon is. Meanwhile some cannibalistic bad guys who look like Mongols ransack the princess's village and she is sold into slavery. Anything to get out of this movie, I'm suppose. Did they have Mongol cannibals in ancient Greece?
Argolese fights the dragon, which is a guy in a suit that makes Godzilla look good, but returns to find the village destroyed. He vows revenge, but strangly is followed through the countryside on his quest by an upright-walking black circus bear. Did they have upright-walking black circus bears in ancient Greece? Argolese (or his stunt double) fights the bear. Then he is captured but is saved by a herd of stampeding elephants. And this is just part one!
Suddenly in the middle of the movie, there's a preview for part two which shows exactly how Argolese defeats the Mongolian cannibal look-alikes. "Then Argolese performs an almost impossible feat -- he moves the bridge of Stone, which destroys the enemy army!" Whew, that's a relief, now I don't have to keep watching.
The special effects are awful, but one thing deserves special mention. A volcano erupts, sending rivers of lava flowing through an underground city. The lava flows through a model of the city and it looks like jam or melting jello. It's soooo bad. Did they even have Jello in ancient Greece?
This was one of Dan Vadis's first films. He also did some spaghetti westerns, and later he was in a number of Clint Eastwood movies like Bronco Billy and Every Which Way But Loose. He died in 1987 in his car in a desert of acute ethanol and heroin-morphine intoxication.

* Yes, Constant Reader, I transcribed those lyrics myself. What I won't do for my readers.

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