Monday, July 19, 2010

Hercules and the Captive Women (1961)

This is actually a Hercules-movie, not just a character like Maciste renamed for the American audience. The titles, Hercules and the Captive Women, is a bit flamboyant to. Because there's actually only one captive woman and that goes on for like... five minutes at the most. But if don't mind a detail like that, you'll find out that this is one of the best peplums of it's time!

Reg Park (Woof!) only did five movies in Italy, and he's one of the coolest and strongest peplum-heroes ever. Here he plays Hercules (what else?) who's joining his friend Androclo (Ettore Manni, who died mysteriously in 1979) to save Thebes from the evil Atlantis. The crew on the boat tries to take over, but Hercules and Androcolo leaves them on an island and sets towards new adventures. What Hercules don't know that his son is aboard, and when the ship sinks in a storm, Hercules floats to Atlantis where he saves the only captive woman in the movie and finds out the evil plans of the evil queen (über-cool Fay Spain) and her army of weird albinos!

Vittorio Cottafavi directs with a fantastic eye for visuals. The budget are probably quite low, but it looks amazing with sparkling colors, huge sets and inspired actors. Reg Park, sporting a nice beard and friendly eyes, is excellent as Hercules and brings warmth and humanity to the character. Far from the stereotypical muscleman-stars of the sixties (whom we love anyway of course). But there's nothing with Reg Parks that makes him look down on other characters, even the bad guys, he's just a friendly smart giant - who both kills and hugs with a sincere smile.

Cottafavi uses the depth of the sets to create something that looks much more expensive than it is. The camera tracks down and up, back and forth and both let us view the colorful scenery, the intensive action and the human (or should I say, "Atlantian"?) drama. The main hall that the Atlantis queen holds court is impressive, but whats even cooler is the outside - probably built in an old sandpit, which makes it looks like a temple built inside a mountain. The action is mostly fights, and the highlight is a cheesy fight with between Hercules and a shapeshifter named Proteus (which is a big lizard with blinking eyes).

The albino army looks really cool too with stylish uniforms and weird make-up. Here we have something that can be quite rare in peplums: set design, clothes and sets that feels "realistic". Not just something that they found hours before shooting, in the basement, left-overs from a couple of other peplums. Like all good peplums, the city is destroyed by a volcano eruption in the end and Atlantis sinks. Some impressive miniature work, but mostly real life stuntmen trying to avoid huge falling blocks of papier-maché stones.

This is a great adventure, a fun matinée and one of the best in it's genre. I had a terrible headache before watching this, but "Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide" was the perfect cure.


CiNEZiLLA said...

Cool! So now we all have to watch Ercole ala conquista di Atlantide everytime we feel a headache comming on.

Ninja Dixon said...

I often watch these kinda movies when I'm sick or have a headache. They are just entertainment, nothing deep, and with nice footage to look at. Massage for the brain :)

dfordoom said...

That was the movie that turned me into a peplum fan. It's enormous fun.