HERCULES vs THE HYDRA
1960/Director: Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia/Writers: Sandro Continenza, Luciano Doria
Cast: Mickey Hargitay, Jayne Mansfield, Massimo Serato, Rene Dary, Moira Orfei, Gil Vidal
AKA: Gli Amori di Ercole (Italian), Hercules and the Hydra, Les amours d'Hercule (France), The Loves of Hercules (USA)
This film has the dubious honor of having remained in my draft folder the longest of any post draft ever. I would have to double check the date but I am sure it goes back to June or July. In fact the post was the last post I had made before my site was hacked back then and a three week nightmare began. I still have the PDFs and pics in a folder on my hard drive and tried to put the post back together and after I had finished this and a couple other posts lost during the hacker period I sort of forgot about them. The others have been completed and this is the last of the old posts that have been locked up in my draft folder since summer time. Another problem here is that I cannot find the movie file. It is burned on a DVD disc somewhere but I have so many I gave up looking for it for now. Typically I would prefer to fast forward through a film I have not seen in a while to refresh my memory before reviewing but in this case that will not happen. I will refer to the PDF files I made of reviews and my memory of the film, since it did leave and impression. In fact, I want to see it again as it is a fine camp classic and Mickey Hargitay’s beardless Hercules is one of the more unique peplum/sword and sandal performances in the history of the genre.
Hargitay did not make too many films and by far his most famous role was in Bloody Pit Horror (1965) where he hammed it up supremely as the Crimson Executioner. Mansfield was in Italy filming, I believe, Primitive Love (L’amore Primitivo) where Pit was also shot. In fact Italy is where most of Hargitay’s films, many of them peplum, were shot between the period of 1960 to 1967. He and Mansfield shot Loves of Hercules (Gli Amore di Ercule) in 1960 and certainly as the Son of Zeus Hargitay does not have the command of Steve Reeves or Reg Park but as far as peplum fare goes this is one of the better offerings. The original Italian 1962 title of the film is Gli Amori di Ercule and translates as The Loves of Hercules. The film was purchased in 1966 my Walter Manley Enterprises (who had something to do with the production of The Green Slime as well) and the title was changed to Hercules vs. the Hydra. There is not really a hydra in the film but rather a huge three headed dragon. I am not an expert on Greek mythology by any stretch. In fact my education in these matters probably comes from watching these sorts of films. But usually the underworld of Hades, where Hercules descends to in order to clear his name in a murder rap, is guarded by a three dog called Cerberus or something like that. The Hydra was killed by Hercules as one of his twelve labors but the Hydra had nine heads. Anyway after you see this ‘Hydra’ and how cheesy it looks just moving its three heads around, looking as though they are being hoisted around by strings or moved by guys inside the costume with sticks, then you will only be able to imagine how whacky it would have looked with another six heads. But that would have been great in my book. The cheesier the better for a film like this.
Before a little synopsis of the film I will state here that I will avoid all the jokes about males in peplum films having bigger boobs than the female leads or that the women look like drag queens. I love the way Italian women look and the more eyeliner and mascara they wear and the bigger their hair the better. And I like body building and the way the guys look. I once told a acquaintance that I had found the Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary Pumping Iron on DVD here in China and he went into something about how body building films are the most homo-erotic things in the world. What? This is another weird line of ridicule peplum films receive as if there is something wrong with something being homo-erotic, whatever that is. Sounds like a criticism made by someone who cannot do five pushups. I like the way body builders look and Mickey Hargitay, Mr. Universe of 1955, looks chiseled and tough as Hercules though hardly as imposing as Steve Reeves. Also is the ‘controversial’ issue of the beardless Hercules. I never thought it about really until reading reviews of the film online but I will agree that Hercules does look more like how I imagine him to look with a beard and I think Hargitay would have looked better sporting some face fuzz for the role but their may have been issues with all that. Maybe his beard simply looks crappy or the shooting schedule did not have enough time to allow a guy grow a real Hercules type of beard. We may never know the real reasons why Hargitay was a beardless Hercules. It is one of those mysteries of life that only an oracle can answer.
The story finds Hercules off somewhere completing the labors imposed upon him by the gods. While away his humble village is attacked by the army of the evil king Eurytus who orders Hercules’s wife Megara (Sandrine) killed in the attack. Big mistake of course. I mean of all the women to order to bump off right why choose the wife of a demi-god who is off completing labors that no mortal man could even consider attempting. Eurytus is soon assassinated himself by the leader of the army Licos (Massimo Serato) who has plans to ascend to the thone of the kingdom of Oechalia which is now being run by Eurytus’s daughter Dianira (Jayne Mansfield). Hercules receives word of the destruction of his village and the murder of his wife but looks more like he found out some neighborhood teenager scratched his chariot. He is to a man to show his sensitive side I guess and he soon storms off to Oechalia and beats down the gates of the city and demands justice. He learns from Dianira that her father himself is dead and that she has inherited his sins and must pay for them with her life. Hercules will not kill a hapless woman but settles, instead, for hurling huge axes at her while she is all tied up to a huge wooden board. The idea is for Hercules to sever her bonds and not plant an axe in her pretty skull. If he does not kill her it means she has been cleansed of her inherited crimes. Of course Hercules does not kill her and she melts in his arms and in no time he has forgotten why he came to Oechalia, to avenage his murdered wife Megara. His grieving period is over and he is falling in love with buxom Dianira. She is having the same warm feeling for Hercules but she is betrothed in one of those pesky arranged marriages to her cousin Achillos (Gil Vidal). Not sure if he is a first cousin or what. Later Hercules’s and Dianira’s love for each is cemented when he saves her from a stampede of cattle and a Quaalude sedated bull. This bull puts up no resistance at all but Hercules insists on killing it with his recognizable dagger which for some reason he leaves at the scene. Bad move since later Achillos and Hercules have a heated argument about Dianira and who gets to love her (Megara is out of the script altogether now). Dianira stops the men from fighting (which would have resulted in hercules tearing the other guy’s spinal cord from his body probably) and Hercules can’t take it all anymore and decieds to leave Oechalia. Later Achillos is murdered and guess whose dagger is surprisingly found in his back: Hercules’s!
Needless to say the real villain here is Licos and he wants to frame Hercules for Achillos’s murder. I am not sure what this supposed to accomplish other than making the citizens of Oechalia have a bad opinion of Hercules. Hercules does not seem to be the guy of guy who will turn himself over to the authorities to be tried and convicted of thrumped up charges. Hell, I doubt id Herucles actually did murder someone you could slap the cuffs on him and drag him away with your larynx still in your throat. Well what it does accomplish is that Hercules set of on a mission to prove his innocence. Seems there is a witness to Hercules being seen after the cow caper without his dagger. Hercules set off to the Underworld to retrieve the witness who will clear up his name and in the course of things encounters numerous monsters and perilous situations. First there is the three headed hydra that loses a head to Hercules’s hacking sword, but it still manages to knock Hercules with one it’s remaining heads and sends Mickey Hargitay into some of his the best acting of his career as his wobbles to and fro like a blind drunk in a tavern staggering to get to the pisser. He is stunned and is whisked off to the underworld’s Land of the Amazons led by Queen Hoppolyta. Hypolyta is given a magis potion by her sorceress advisor Magah that makes the queen resemble Dianira, except she has red hair now instead of black, and soon Hercules is swooning all over the place for the evil queen. The drawback to this romantic situation for Hercules is that the queens lover’s eventually wind up as trees in her orchard of ex-lovers. Back in Oechalia Dianira spurns Lico’s advances and winds up in the dungeon which causes all sorts of political intrigue. Well, causes some anyway. Hercules of course avoid becoming a talking tree but they get their just revenge on Hypolyta and grope her to death. Hercules teams up with a band of Dianira’s supporters and seize back power after he has a struggle with an ape man to rescue Dianira. Of curse everyone lives happily ever after and the name of Hercule’s murdered wife Megara, for whom this entire adventure began, is never spoken again.
I am a huge fan of peplum and I personally liked this film. I grew up on the stuff and I do not mind the corny dubbed dialog and the fact that English speaking Mickey Hargitay’s voice is not even his own here. Some people blast the film of course and it is not for every one’s taste to be sure. The version I have looks nice as far as the colors go and the sets are not too bad. I like the huge hydra puppet and the Gumbyesque tree men and it is cool to see Mansfield and Hargitay ham it all together in this enjoyable little camp classic. Included at the bottom are a couple audio samples I lifted from the film as I am testing out some new audio options for the Café. Great bad acting, Mansfield’s cleavage, Hargitay’s cleavage (okay, so I made one male boob joke), fakey monsters and names impossible to remember from one scene to next. A totally uranium charged feature for fine cheese connoisseurs only.
HERCULES AND THE ORACLE
HERCULES vs THE HYDRA: OVERTURE