Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (1962)

Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules PosterThis movie was kind of like Midnight Run, only, you know, not as good. In this Italian strongman epic, Pericles is charged with bringing in Ulysses because Ulysses offended the gods by poking out the eye of some cyclops that just happened to be the son of Neptune. (Who knew, right?)

Pericles immediately gets to work on his mission and the next thing we know he’s on a Phoenician pirate ship ramming Ulysses’ boat and taking him captive. I won’t lie to you. When I first I got a look at Ulysses, I was kind of put off by his short blonde hair, his old wore out look and his generally skeevy nature.

Ulysses though was a pretty smartly written character and didn’t come off as the meathead these movies usually feature. Luckily, we had Pericles for our lunkheaded dope character and his big, shiny, shaved chest adequately hefted rubber boulders and filled out his singlet well enough.

Ulysses was probably a little too smart for his good a number of times in this movie. He was smart in that he always had a cunning plan, but it was the type of plan that invariably involved unnecessary risk to himself. These were times of extraordinary manliness though!

For instance, there was the time he was all trussed up in the hull of the pirate ship and he finds himself a metal spike. Instead of trying to use the spike to cut his bonds, he somehow uses it to start a fire and then holds his tied-up wrists over the flames until the rope is burned enough to break. Well, either that or until his fingers are crispy enough to snap off.

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Even when he’s free though, he has to hang around in the hull and try not to die of smoke inhalation until he can make his escape. Then once he does make it off the boat, he has to swim for shore. Keep in mind that he was somewhere in the ocean and since he had been in the hull, he theoretically would have no idea how far from land he was. Pericles orders everyone into the water to give chase and in the meantime the pirate ship burns up, screwing everyone in the process.

It all worked out though because everyone but Pericles and Ulysses drown and those two end up chasing each other over some beach that they manage to swim to. There are some funny scenes where we’re watching Ulysses stumble around the landscape while Pericles runs after him.

Pericles catches up with Ulysses giving them the long-awaited opportunity to roll around with each other. But their sweet moments of hunk contact are short-lived as they are captured by the bird men that inhabit this strange land!

The bird men are these silly-looking goofs in feathered-covered singlets and have beaks and feathers on their heads, but as is often times the case in strange and mysterious lands populated by bizarre and deadly creatures, they are ruled over by a comely queen.

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In this case she shows up in her feather costume which is highlighted by its ten-foot long feather train. These bird people are also clearly an advanced race because it’s evident from her costume that they have somehow developed the very first underwire, feather bra.

She explains to Ulysses and Pericles that even though they have achieved great advancements in avian-inspired undergarments, they are still a race primitive enough to worship a giant vulture that demands a couple of beefy sacrifices.

Before Pericles and Ulysses do battle to decide who gets sacrificed, the bird men get scared off by a thunderstorm and our guys escape. Admittedly, it all made very little sense, but then again, it was a strange and mysterious land that had heretofore never been visited by bronzed mortal.

After they leave the bird men behind and encounter a hermit, Ulysses makes his escape in the movie’s most confusing sequence. He seems to have somehow drugged Pericles’ drinking water and when Pericles passes out, he runs off.

The next thing I know, we’re back in Pericles’ old lands where he’s talking to his ex-girlfriend about some cave dwellers who are laying the smack down on her land while her new boyfriend is out of town.

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But whatever happened to Ulysses? It turns out that he’s in the land of the cave dwellers which is ruled by the insane despot Lagos!

Lagos asks him to invent him a pair of wings so that he can resume his attacks on Pericles’ old hometown, but when Ulysses (who’s obviously quite well-read) tries to refresh Lagos about what happened with Icarus and Daedalus, Lagos waves him off saying he doesn’t want to be bothered with such nonsense.

You probably won’t be surprised then when the guy testing the wings out, goes splat, but Ulysses tries to shirk responsibility by saying the guy didn’t flap the wings right!

Lots more action ensues, including a battle between Lagos’ and Pericles’ armies (about twenty guys or so for both), Ulysses getting himself crushed in some stone chamber, and a fight to the death between Ulysses and the guy that stole Pericles’ woman.

Maybe I’m just getting used to these cruddy sword and sandal movies, but I thought this went down easy enough. Georges Marchal is solid as Ulysses and Mike Lane who played Pericles, while obviously stinking up the joint, isn’t required to carry the movie, so his talentless presence won’t get on your nerves too badly.

The action and locales are varied enough so that things aren’t all bogged down in intricate political machinations as they were in muscle films like Hercules Vs. The Moloch. Yes, things are really cheap (I had classes in grade school with more people than these so-called armies) and the dubbing is predictably bad, but watching Ulysses shaking his head “no” repeatedly as Lagos asks if the poets will recount his exploits while trying on the wings Ulysses made for him is one of the great moments in peplum film history. The movie is a bit like Ulysses himself – skeevy, but okay.

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