Wednesday, August 30, 2006

XVI. PERSEO L'INVINCIBILE (MEDUSA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES) 1963




Perseo Linvincible (Medusa Vs.The Son of Hercules)
Year; 1963

Director & Writer; Alberto De Martino
Country; Italy & Spain.
Duration; 82 mins [Spain] 90 mins [Italy]
Original Ratio; (2:35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Trimark DVD release.
Colour * Pan and Scanned Fullscreen*English Dub*

Alternative;
Medusa Against the Son of Hercules - US television title /Persée l'invincible - French title/Perseo e Medusa/Perseus - Der Unbesiegbare - West German title/Perseus Against the Monsters - UK title/El valle de los hombres de piedra - Spanish title

The Players; Richard Harrison [Perseus]Anna Ranalli [Andromeda] Elisa Cegani [Danae] Ángel Jordán [Medusa] Enrique Navarro [Stheno]Ángela Pla [Euryale] with; Leo Anchóriz/Frank Braña/Roberto Camardiel/José Luis Ferreiro/Miguel González/Rufino Inglés/ Arturo Dominici




‘Perseo L’invincible’ is the only other film apart from 'Clash of the Titans' that covers the Perseus legend, of sorts. Due to budget though this version is missing the sheen of it’s’ blockbuster counterpart but seems equal or surpasses the action status of its 1981 contemporary.

The film is just as enjoyable and is as likeable as anything else in this maligned genre of movie making. With a few conversations of the scheming nature, the film rolls ahead like a steamroller combining powerful visuals and near-constant action. There is a fast pace that keeps the action moving along nicely and even in the monster attacks, the creatures seem livelier and vicious than normal.

Richard Harrison plays the titular hero and is one of the most handsome actors to be cast in such a role. Harrison brings spontaneity, energy and vigour to the part which is an interesting ‘package’ of entertainment to view.

All the elements of what makes peplum so enjoyable is captured in Alberto de Martino’s interpretation of a legend. The Medusa itself is an o.k. monster that resembles more of a tree Cyclops than the snake headed she-demon she had previously been portrayed throughout time and contemporary icon.


She contorts and extends in her movement, lunging forward towards her prey and turning them to statues with her hypnotic eye.

The mist enshrouded rocky landscapes are the perfect climate for such a fiend-ess and is quite eerily captured via the lens. Alberto de Martino later went on to direct the goat bum licking Exorcist rip off ‘The Antichrist’ for those interested and Amando de Ossorio worked on the visual effects - explaining some of the style behind quite eerie dream-like visuals.

There are some pleasant surprises, usually in a b-movie of this kind; quality usually fell by the wayside as time was rushed to churn out such a gamut of cash-ins.

The adventure starts with Perseus having frequent meetings with a beautiful woman where he tries to improve her archery skills. The woman never reveals her identity and leaves Perseus hurriedly and in a vexed state. Perseus has fallen in love with her.

She is in fact the daughter of the King of Seriphos. The kingdom is on the verge of starvation caught between the slings and arrows of Argus and a swamp land fire breathing monster.

In the barren wastelands there is also the evil Medusa. Several of Seriphos’ bravest men have challenged the pitfalls of the trade route but have all failed abysmally.

Perseus shows up at court and is pitted against varied athletic tasks which, being the son of Jupiter, he achieves successfully.

Perseus is given the eventual responsibility of leading the king’s army into battle against the foes of Seriphos and he ultimately faces the Medusa whilst stumbling upon a healthy smattering of regal skulduggery along the way.

Perseus and his escapades makes for great viewing from the daft but catchy theme tune right through to the end title card.

I was fortunate to see a version under the title ‘Medusa vs. The Son of Hercules’, the print was watchable but is panned and scanned and after seeing the DVD release of Hercules in the Haunted World you do wish deep down they were all of such calibre.

The film was part of a box set that is available on this link and is well worth the price tag, but snap ‘em up as they are becoming increasingly rare . This version is currently available in Region 1 only and is unavailable on a region 2 format in the United Kingdom.



XV. ERCOLE AL CENTRO DELLA TERRA (HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD) (1961)



ERCOLE AL CENTRO DELLA TERRA (HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD)

Year; 1961

Director & Writer; Mario Bava & Franco Prosperi
Country; Italy.
Duration; 77 mins [UK] 83 mins [Germany]91 mins [Italy / USA]
Original Ratio; (2:35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Fantomas DVD release.
Colour * 16/9 (2:35:1)*English / Italian Dub*

Alternative;
Hercule contre les vampires – French title/Hercules at the Center of the Earth – US title/Hercules in the Centre of the Earth – UK title/Hercules in the Haunted World – US title/Hercules vs the Vampires/Herkules gegen die Vampire – Austrian title/Herkules voittaa helvetin – Finnish title/Vampire gegen Herakles – German title

The Players; Reg Park [Ercole]Leonora Ruffo [Princess Deianira of Ecalia] Christopher Lee (King Lico) George Ardisson [Teseo]Marisa Belli [Aretusa]Ida Galli [Miosotide]Franco Giacobini [Telemaco]Mino Doro [Keros]Rosalba Neri [Aegle]Ely Dracò [Giocasta]Gaia Germani [Medea]Raf Baldassarre [leader of the cutthroats]

As we have seen Mario Bava was no stranger to the ‘style’ of Ercole and it wasn’t long before he changed his technical ‘support’ role and went behind the camera with Franco Prosperi and between them produced one of the most definitive examples of the peplum genre.

Previously Bava had mastered the black and white technique with the haunting ‘Black Sunday’. If ‘Black Sunday’ hoisted the new plane of black and white cinematography then Hercules in the Haunted World achieved the same with blazing colour, breathing new ‘stylish’ life into a genre ignored and overlooked by the snobbish critics.

Ghoulish monsters, convoluted and intelligent narrative twists all set against a luminous terrain sets this movie leagues above its’ predecessors.

To top it all Christopher lee plays the villain magician ‘King Lico’, as always Mr. Lee brings a wonderfully ephemeral sinisterness to the character which is a joy to watch.

Reg Park plays Hercules and brings life back into the character he is also accompanied by a decent supporting cast – another true bonus.

Hercules returns from his Labours across the ancient landscape. When he returns he teams up with his best friend Theseus.

Hercules learns his true love Princess Deianira of Ecalia has been reportedly been in a powerful trance and is seemingly losing her grip on reality.

Hercules visits the mysterious, broody and sinister King Lico who advises that the answer for the cure lies with a Sibyl. They meet and she informs Hercules that the solution is in the underworld; he needs to venture to Hespirides where an apple will open the pathway to the stone of forgetfulness. This could restore Deianira’s memory but there will be perils along the way until the goal is scored and very deadly they are too….

Hercules gives up his immortality and with Theseus and Telemachus, the ‘stooge’ of the trio, voyage to the underworld.

The three venture into The Land of Night where they are tested by the harshest endurances. This netherworld is saturated in blue and red light. Rock pools bubble anticipating any poor souls fall into the burning inferno, there are supernatural abominations ready to attack and flying zombie vampires that acrobat through the air to sup the blood of their victims.

Bava pulls out all the stops and achieves stunning vortexes and whirlpools of texture and colour, bold, vibrant, sense sticking colour. At one stage our heroes manoeuvre themselves across a bubbling pool of lava by hand to rope. This sequence is a little masterpiece that demonstrates triumph using the barest of special effects. The variegated sequences of blue hue forests and the dank tombs are also worth a mention bringing Bava’s psychedelic nightmare into existence.


Bava’s miniatures and soundstages are transformed into lavish vistas and at first glance it seems colour itself has now been morphed into solidity leaving an echo of its former solid shape.

I first read a review of this movie in Hardy’s Aurum Encyclopedia of Horror Film, not one of the best references but never the less intriguing. I saw pictures and stills later and finally caught the tail end of the movie dubbed into German on early ’90’s satellite television, I recall RTL or SAT1 stations used to screen these on a Saturday afternoon. With such tasty glimpses I forgot about the movie but not completely.

For years I awaited a trigger to spark my dormant enthusiasm and fortunately Hercules in the Haunted World was given a new lease of life on a bells and whistles DVD region 1 release - available on this link. Eventually I could finally see ‘animated’ what had been dormant in my mind as a montage of stills for years, and I was bowled over.

We are spoiled rotten in what has to be the definitive release, the visuals are so sharp and pristine it looks as though it was film a month ago. The Fantomas DVD is platinum quality, I’d think I’d weep if I knew what versions and quality this has been released on in the past. Fortunately this version would blow all the others out of the water I would imagine.It is region 1 only and unfortunately is not available in the United Kingdom, this is a crying shame.

The film itself has aged admirably well and is a truly amazing piece of craftsmanship. The only shame is that Mario Bava didn’t do a few more but he returned to the giallo/thriller genre and remained in that niche forever more, pioneering some bloodthirsty firsts that would start a legacy..............


XIV. GLI AMORE DE ERCOLE (THE LOVES OF HERCULES/HERCULES VS. THE HYDRA) (1960)



GLI AMORE DE ERCOLE (THE LOVES OF HERCULES/HERCULES VS. THE HYDRA)

Year; 1960

Director & Writer; Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia
Country; Italy and France
Duration; 98 mins (Original aspect ratio; 2.35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Trimark Home Video
Colour * Panned and Scanned *English*

Alternative;
The Loves of Hercules /Hercules vs the Hydra - US TV title/Les amours d'Hercule - French title/Hercules and the Hydra/The Loves of Hercules - US title/Die Liebesnächte des Herkules - German title/Los amores de Hércules - Venezuelan title/Herkules ja rakkauden kuningatar - Finnish title/A desforra de Hércules - Portugese title.

The Players; Jayne Mansfield [Queen Dianira / Hippolyta]Mickey Hargitay [Hercules]
Massimo Serato [Lico] Gil Vidal [Achilles] with; René Dary/Moira Orfei/ Sandrine/Rossella/Como/Andrea Scotti/Arturo Bragaglia/Andrea Aureli/Olga Solbelli/Giulio Donnini/Lidia Alfonsi/Barbara Florian/Aldo Podinotti/Tina Gloriani


Just as classics were created from the minds of the French/Italian/Spanish collaborators there was also a fair chunk of vulgarity created. ‘Gli Amore di Hercules’ isn’t vulgar in content but in visuals.

Gone are Bavas significant coloured gel vitality or Franciscis’ high octane action epics the audience were enchanted with two to three years earlier. This time Steve Reeves and Mark Forrest are replaced by Mickey Hargitay in the lead role; gone also are the beard motif and the charisma for this incarnation.


In one sequence Hercules can be seen fleeing through a ‘hellish’ landscape where people are turned into trees for not satisfying Hippolyta, an Amazonian queen. It made me grin to think that Hargitay was amongst his equals in this last sequence.


Hargitay struts around pigeoning his chest like a cock bantam and seems a weak substitute for who wore the loincloth before.

Joining the beefcake is the cheesecake in the form of Jayne Mansfield. The whole movie runs as a vehicle for her as she plays not one but two roles. As if we haven’t had enough of her in the first half she crops up again as Hippolyta’s disguise to seduce Hercules.

The Hydra creature is an awful turgid plastic creation the sort one sees at the base of a pikey fairground ride, supporting dubious rusty people spinners. Despite this there is vibrancy throughout the conflict between the hero and the monster.

Hargitay overacts and tries admirably to cope with the façade that the creature is chucking him about by throwing himself in the direction of the Hydra and pushing himself away. This is poor indeed as Hargitay can be visually seen waiting for his cue to ensure the tail or the head of the beast is coming his way.

Bragaglia uses lurid cheap visuals to emulate his predecessors’ true skill but this makes the whole affair an even bigger tinsel and tat spectacle .Coloured light is swapped for coloured smoke, the ‘camp’ elements soar and the action is very lame.

Mansfield is featured in varying degrees of scanty cladness which emphasises her delicious breasts of course. In one exploitative moment Bragaglia films a scene where Hercules saves Dianira from a rather docile, unthreatening looking bull. As the thing charges towards Mansfield the camera seems to lunge towards her tits as the bulls’ p.o.v, classic exploitational stuff. The end of the film will have you in fits of laughter by the way.

Despite the negatives it still has an immense charm that takes you back to innocent times in a way, and is highly watchable on the whole. Nostalgia has worked its’ spell, you see as well as sword and sandal, peplum, mythology, we can now add comedy to the versatile categorisations of this genre whether intentional or not.

The film begins where our dumb hero leaves his village and wife unprotected from harm, despite Hercules’ track record for pissing many others off in the past. Consequently they are all massacred based on the orders of the King of Icalia.

The King is stitched up and is also slaughtered and blamed for the atrocities, leaving the vulnerable Queen Dianira, his daughter, as lonesome ruler of her kingdom. Hercules goes to kill the King as retribution for the massacre but finds Dianira instead. He refuses to harm her and begins to fall for her. He saves her life in an axe throwing contest, saves her from a herd of sedate bulls and a few other near misses so naturally they grow immensely close.

Deceit ruins the love affair and Hercules scorned leaves the kingdom, in a cave he battles the Hydra and is then taken to a place of sanctuary in the realms of a race of beautiful women. He will be a wonderful treat for their Queen Hippolyta who for some reason or another turns her conquests into ‘trees’ when she tires of them. As Hercules is drugged by a love potion he sees a change in Hippolyta as she seems to transform into Dianira. This gives Mansfield an opportunity to change her wig colour from black to vivid red to establish the character change and to wake up the weary viewer.

As Hercules is being pampered in lady land poor Queen Dianira is getting usurped in her cuckoo land. Dianira is oblivious to the fact, and being so dopey its’ no wonder, that someone close to her has his eye on the throne. Due to the change in ruler and the laws becoming more ruthless the people revolt and form rebel alliances. Only Hercules can now restore balance and harmony to the kingdom of his true love, but can he escape the grasp of Hippolyta? Or will he become a great oak?

An absolute farcical piece of peplum pizzazz that despite its tawdriness and wood has an unusual sense of spirit whether this has anything to do with the energy of the egos on display is another question entirely.

I picked a copy of this from Amazon.Co.Uk , it was a bargain at £17.99 and despite the number of films for the ‘bargain’ price tag the prints in the Trimark ‘Adventures of Hercules’ box-set aren’t bad at all. The only drawback is that the majority, if not all, are panned and scanned. In comparison to some of the other region 1 versions which are shockingly poor quality I feel I have had a super deal. I believe the box set to be very rare now.



Sunday, August 27, 2006

XIII. ERCOLE E LA REGINA DI LIDIA (HERCULES UNCHAINED) (1959)




Ercole E La Regina Di Lidia (Hercules Unchained)

Year; 1959

Director & Writer; Pietro Francisci
Country; Italy , Spain and France
Duration; 94 mins (West Germany) 97 mins (UK) 101 mins (USA)
Available; DVD Region 2 Concorde version correct aspect ratio.
Colour * 16/9 (2:35:1)*English / German Dub*

Alternative;
Heracles y la reina de Lidea – Spanish title Hercule et la reine de Lydie - French title Hercules and the Queen of Lydia - English language title Hércules e a Raínha - Portugese title Hercules Unchained - Brazilian and American/Western title Hércules y la reina de Lidia - Spanish title Herkules ja Lyydian kuningatar - Finnish title Herkules und die Königin der Amazonen - West German title

The Players; Steve Reeves [Ercole] Sylva Koscina [Iole] Sylvia Lopez [Queen Omphale of Lidia] Gabriele Antonini [Ulysses] Primo Carnera [Antaeus] Patrizia Della Rovere [Penelope]Sergio Fantoni [Eteocles] Carlo D'Angelo [Creon] Marisa Valenti [blonde slave girl]Mimmo Palmara [Polinicia] Andrea Fantasia [King Laertes] Gino Mattera [Orpheus] Aldo Fiorelli [Argus]Gianni Loti [Sandone] Cesare Fantoni [King Oedipus of Thebes]



As ‘Le Fatiche di Ercole’ was released and smashed box offices in Europe and across the water, courtesy of Samuel Levine’s sales skills and marketing campaign, it wasn’t long before the follow up ‘Ercole e la regina di Lidia’ (1959) was wowing audiences.

As in the previous movie the cast had not dramatically changed and those that say goodbye seem pleased to reprise their roles in a send off for Hercules now married to Iole and his buoyant chum ‘Ulysses’ hitchhiking along for the thrill of adventure.

Fortunately Bava and Pietro Francisci reprise their harmonious talents and pulls off a movie equal to, if not a little superior than its predecessor. The first was decent enough but at times compared to ‘Le Fatiche…’ was seemingly like a test run for better things to come.

The action is paced compact as the odyssey blends one perilous situation into another one. This time Francisci has avoided ‘The 12 labours of Hercules’ and ‘The Argonauts’ as his literary muses and switched to two ancient plays 'The Seven against Thebes' by Aeschylus and 'Aedipus at Colonus' by Sophocles as the desired mythological source.

Once more the vivid colours enhance miraculous visions of beautiful myth. The Queen of Lidia is also a superb foil for Hercules and features a startling revelation that also acts as her hobby. The climax in the garden of statues is wonderfully ethereal and as visually poetic as the literature that inspired it. Somehow this movie has a magic all of its own and a better veneer all together than the first movie.

Steve Reeves reprises his role as well as Koscina and Gabriele Antonini as Ulysses as our likeable trio. Almost at once the action starts and from there on never lets up and the slower moments act as only a ‘rein-in’ when necessary in the plot.

The film opens as Hercules and his entourage leave to go to Thebes. They are accosted by a Giant that recharges his energy from the Earth and after a skirmish the three come across a group of soldiers in a storm. Preventing another punch-up the trio seeks sanctuary from the storm in a nearby cave.

There they stumble upon King Oedipus who has abdicated from the throne. He is a troubled man as he agreed that his successors, his sons Eteocles and Polinicia, should take it turns to rule. So far the land has been under the reign of Eteocles and despite the one year ceasing he refuses to give it up. Polinicia informs Hercules that he is already assembling an army to usurp the throne from his brother, by force if necessary.

Hercules agrees to journey to meet Eteocles and act as an ambassador between the two with a hopefully eventful outcome. Vital time would be of the essence as both brothers begin to show aggressive demeanor and are psyching both themselves up for bloody battle of conflict.

Hercules and Ulysses head off on their journey and after a while take a break near a spring. Hercules takes a drink and loses his memory as the consequence, the water is magic and feed on thoughts eventually his mind will return but slowly and at this moment in time is the only protection they both have.

Hercules and Ulysses, posing as a dumb mute, are taken by a small army of men to Lydia. There we meet Queen Omphale who falls for Hercules and treats him comfortably but she has an ulterior sinister motive for her kindness and affection. Now Hercules has also lost his super powers he is the prime candidate for Queen Omphale’s despicable intentions.

Due to this unfortunate diversion the situation between Eteocles and Polinicia reaches breaking point as both parties decide to battle it out and without the intervention of Hercules this fierce battle could result in an absolute bloodbath.

This stunning sequel can be seen in all its’ widescreen, uncut glory as the other extra on the double DVD bought from Amazon.De.

This as far as I am aware the best version to procure, the versions in the states vary significantly in quality and price and of course zero availability in the United Kingdom.