HERCULES UNCHAINED (Ercole e la regina di Lidia)
1959/Director: Pietro Francisci/Writer: Ennio De Concini
Cast: Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Sylvia Lopez, Gabriele Antonini, Primo Carnera
ALSO KNOWN AS: Hercule et la reine de Lydie, Hercules e a Ranha, Hercules and the Queen of Lydia,
Hercules and the Queen of Sheba, Herkules und die Knigin der Amazonen
Sometimes called peplum by the cognoscenti, the sword and sandal genre is one of the most ridiculed and maligned in the whole world of cult cinema. The overly harsh criticisms range from everything like worst movies of all time, inept and amateurish to downright being "homoerotic" as if a film being homoerotic means it will be a bad film. I have seen plenty of great homoerotic films but maybe we can go into that another day. Well, who knows, maybe all these criticisms are true to some degree or another but I have found these films to be some of the most entertaining low budget B-films, long with old serial westerns, I have ever sat down to watch and I have seen quite few. Lately I have been able to locate scores of these online and have around a dozen or so queued up for viewing. I actually began watching these as a wee lad in the late 60's on Saturday afternoons, at abut the time the movement was losing its steam to new genres like Spaghetti Westerns and spy films. They were shown on a afternoon show that was called The Mighty Sons of Hercules and I can still hear the macho theme music in my head as I type this. We had a crappy b/w TV with "rabbit ears' back then and I never saw any of these films until only recently in color.
Hercules Unchained is considered one of the best peplum films ever made and I am sure that the involvement of Maestro Mario Bava the project had no small influence on that opinion. Hercules Unchained takes up where Hercules (aka The Labors of Hecules) left off and we will get around to that one here eventually. What Hercules and Hercules Unchained have in common is that both star Montana born body builder Steve Reeves in the role of the son of Zeus. Reeves is rightfully considered the definitive Hercules in the same way Sean Connery is the ultimate 007 or Johnny Weissmuller is the best Tarzan (at least in his early roles), but what is amazing is that Reeves actually only played in the above mentioned two Hercules films.