Aug. 23, 2011
Oh, the films of Mario Bava.... the myth, the grandeur, the sandals!
In the early 1960s, along with the threat of impending nuclear World War III, the world was inundated with cheaply made, yet often thoroughly enjoyable, movies out of Italy. You may have heard of “Spaghetti Westerns”? Well, Mario Bava didn’t just stop there. No, he produced what would become genre-defining Sci-Fi, Horror, Spy and Fantasy films as well.
What Bava brings, first-most, is a cameraman’s eye. His films are lush, colorful and striking in ways that would be imitated in later, more commercially successful American films. But it’s safe to say that Planet of the Vampires certainly informed Ridley Scott’s Alien, and Bay of Blood (also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve) is counted as a direct ancestor to films like Friday the 13th. In that vein, you could say there is a lot in the Hercules films that later showed up on the Kevin Sorbo TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, including the use of humor and a serious bromance as well.
The sets and cinematography for this film are gorgeous and well conceived, especially considering the budget and technology available at the time. The acting? Well... the set and the cinematography are gorgeous. I mean really, really nice.
Starring the exquisitely sculpted body-builder Reg Park, the film finds Hercules returning from his many adventures (some of them shown in the previous film Hercules and the Captive Women - a prime porn title sadly yet-to-be realized) to find the Kingdom in upheaval and his lover catatonic. The only cure for her rejuvenation is, of course, an epic quest. Hercules (and his horn-dog companion Theseus, and the comic-relief/lovable-cuckold Telemachus) must first retrieve the Stone of Forgetfulness from Hades. Seems simple enough, although first he needs this magic apple from the island full of women... it gets complicated. These quests usually do.)
Along the way there are laughs, stone-monsters, lava pits and Theseus endangering everything by thinking with his small head and taking Persephone out of the Underworld, which ruins everything back home. She’s described as “the favored daughter of Pluto” so don’t try to get your Greek Mythology on by watching this film, ok?
Ok, back to the film: Hercules hasn’t figured out yet what we the viewers have known from the beginning -- that King Lico, played by a young (was he ever really young?) Christopher Lee is, in fact, the guy that put Herc’s girl into that state and that he wants to take over and rule everything. This results in his attempt to blood-sacrifice Daianara so he can live forever, blahblahblah. This results in a big battle scene with Hercules having to fight off an army of zombies while he rescues the girl. This he does the same way he kills King Lico: by throwing huge rock-pillars at them.
Still, the day and the girl are saved, and Theseus returns to his senses and lets Persephone return to the Underworld, saving all Italia. His sorrow is short-lived as he again steals the fiance of Telemachus, thus providing the humorous, cuckold-y goodness that is the end of this film.
The true tragedy of this film is that, in the English-dubbed version, Christopher Lee’s voice is dubbed by some unknown. Which is understandable, I mean, Christopher Lee speaking English? Could that even work?
Ryk McIntyre is a Multi-Hyphen sort of person. Poet, critic, performer, workshop facilitator and co-host at both GotPoetry! Live (Providence) and Cantab Lounge (Cambridge,MA). He's been living in RI for the past 6 years, with his wife and daughter. Ryk has performed his work at Boston's ICA, NYC's New School, Portsmouth, NH's Music Hall and Lollapalooza, to name just a few. He has toured the US, performing in countless Poetry open mics and festivals. He turned down Allen Ginsburg once.