In a move that defies any logic (ancient or otherwise) all of the muscle-headed adventure begins because some moron thought it would be a good idea to invade Hercules’ kingdom while he’s out of town and kill his wife. I wasn’t ever too sure what Licos was trying to do by killing Mrs. Hercules, but once he did it, he then doublecrossed his own king and killed him,too!
The thinking here was that Hercules (Mickey Hargitay from Bloody Pit Of Horror) would believe that the king killed his wife, but since the king was dead, there would be no vengeance to take. The people back home would just be told that the king fell honorably in battle and then Licos would be in charge. Well, except for Deianira the daughter of the king, who just became queen and is already betrothed to another guy!
Licos is nonplussed by all this and hatches another diabolically dumb scheme wherein he’ll frame Hercules for the murder of the new queen’s fiancee and then move in on the queen himself. The problem I see with this is that Hercules isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to sit still for some murder trial.
Hercules hauls ass over to this village and demands to see the king so he can get started with his vengeance, but is told that the king is already dead.
He then gets involved in a trial that Deianira has to go through. She is tied up to some apparatus and Hercules has to throw four battle axes at her. Hercules demonstrates some pretty funny throwing techniques and manages not hit her, which considering her generous figure is quite an accomplishment.
Deianira is played by Hargitay’s then real-life wife, Jayne Mansfield. As was probably the case in real life, Hercules takes one look at the queen and is immediately entranced by her talents. (One wonders if she and Harigtay spent a lot time comparing their breast sizes with one another.)
Hercules and Deianira get on famously (they’re both big-boned foreigners in a land of skinny Italians) and they go out riding when all of a sudden there’s a stampede of cows! I was riveted to my chair, biting my nails as I wondered whether Hercules had ever worked on a dude ranch and would have the skills to defeat these evil cows.
I needn’t have worried because Herc has always had a soft spot for farm animals (Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun) and he sets about conducting a muscular round up. Just then, a rampaging hell-bull (looks like regular bull, but rampages) goes after Deianira and Hercules has to quit playing cowboy and switch to rodeo mode!
He jumps off his horse and goes after this bull just like it was some Roman soldier. In a movie filled with spectacular moments this battle with a really big cow was probably the best.
Hercules literally grabs this thing by the horns and starts wrestling with it as the queen makes worried faces in reaction shots!
Now, the cow wasn’t really doing much in the way fighting Hercules, other than resisting being wrestled down to the ground, but eventually this farm animal had no choice but to yield to the superior strength and fighting prowess of this demi-god. (Ahh, to live in olden times, when the gods would walk among men and beat up their cattle!)
Trips to the underworld, the land of the Amazons, and an encounter with a guy in an ugly ape costume follow.
Hargitay was a bodybuilder who really had that Hercules style of acting down pat. With a perpetually dull-witted look chisled on his face, he had no problems standing at odd positions with his arms jutting out from his body so that we would be able to see that he was super-jacked and ready to flex some no-good enemy monster to death.
Hargitay also knew that in any battle scenes, Hercules had to do a lot of exaggerated lunging and groping. This was obviously to communicate to the audience how mega-powerful Herc was, because if he was quick and sure in his attacks, we wouldn’t get to see him roll around with his foe, put chokeholds on him, or hold him up above his head like one of those paper-mâché rocks that littered the ancient lands.
For his part, Director Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia (Ursus in the Valley of the Lions) wisely uses the lack of a story that made any sense to the film’s advantage. Unfettered by the needs of plot and continuity, Hercules is bounced all over the map into lots of different, fast moving and entertaining adventures. The only movie’s only misttep is that Hercules never wears leather chaps or a cowboy hat during his stint as a muscle fetish farmer.
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