Sunday, August 27, 2006

XIII. ERCOLE E LA REGINA DI LIDIA (HERCULES UNCHAINED) (1959)




Ercole E La Regina Di Lidia (Hercules Unchained)

Year; 1959

Director & Writer; Pietro Francisci
Country; Italy , Spain and France
Duration; 94 mins (West Germany) 97 mins (UK) 101 mins (USA)
Available; DVD Region 2 Concorde version correct aspect ratio.
Colour * 16/9 (2:35:1)*English / German Dub*

Alternative;
Heracles y la reina de Lidea – Spanish title Hercule et la reine de Lydie - French title Hercules and the Queen of Lydia - English language title Hércules e a Raínha - Portugese title Hercules Unchained - Brazilian and American/Western title Hércules y la reina de Lidia - Spanish title Herkules ja Lyydian kuningatar - Finnish title Herkules und die Königin der Amazonen - West German title

The Players; Steve Reeves [Ercole] Sylva Koscina [Iole] Sylvia Lopez [Queen Omphale of Lidia] Gabriele Antonini [Ulysses] Primo Carnera [Antaeus] Patrizia Della Rovere [Penelope]Sergio Fantoni [Eteocles] Carlo D'Angelo [Creon] Marisa Valenti [blonde slave girl]Mimmo Palmara [Polinicia] Andrea Fantasia [King Laertes] Gino Mattera [Orpheus] Aldo Fiorelli [Argus]Gianni Loti [Sandone] Cesare Fantoni [King Oedipus of Thebes]



As ‘Le Fatiche di Ercole’ was released and smashed box offices in Europe and across the water, courtesy of Samuel Levine’s sales skills and marketing campaign, it wasn’t long before the follow up ‘Ercole e la regina di Lidia’ (1959) was wowing audiences.

As in the previous movie the cast had not dramatically changed and those that say goodbye seem pleased to reprise their roles in a send off for Hercules now married to Iole and his buoyant chum ‘Ulysses’ hitchhiking along for the thrill of adventure.

Fortunately Bava and Pietro Francisci reprise their harmonious talents and pulls off a movie equal to, if not a little superior than its predecessor. The first was decent enough but at times compared to ‘Le Fatiche…’ was seemingly like a test run for better things to come.

The action is paced compact as the odyssey blends one perilous situation into another one. This time Francisci has avoided ‘The 12 labours of Hercules’ and ‘The Argonauts’ as his literary muses and switched to two ancient plays 'The Seven against Thebes' by Aeschylus and 'Aedipus at Colonus' by Sophocles as the desired mythological source.

Once more the vivid colours enhance miraculous visions of beautiful myth. The Queen of Lidia is also a superb foil for Hercules and features a startling revelation that also acts as her hobby. The climax in the garden of statues is wonderfully ethereal and as visually poetic as the literature that inspired it. Somehow this movie has a magic all of its own and a better veneer all together than the first movie.

Steve Reeves reprises his role as well as Koscina and Gabriele Antonini as Ulysses as our likeable trio. Almost at once the action starts and from there on never lets up and the slower moments act as only a ‘rein-in’ when necessary in the plot.

The film opens as Hercules and his entourage leave to go to Thebes. They are accosted by a Giant that recharges his energy from the Earth and after a skirmish the three come across a group of soldiers in a storm. Preventing another punch-up the trio seeks sanctuary from the storm in a nearby cave.

There they stumble upon King Oedipus who has abdicated from the throne. He is a troubled man as he agreed that his successors, his sons Eteocles and Polinicia, should take it turns to rule. So far the land has been under the reign of Eteocles and despite the one year ceasing he refuses to give it up. Polinicia informs Hercules that he is already assembling an army to usurp the throne from his brother, by force if necessary.

Hercules agrees to journey to meet Eteocles and act as an ambassador between the two with a hopefully eventful outcome. Vital time would be of the essence as both brothers begin to show aggressive demeanor and are psyching both themselves up for bloody battle of conflict.

Hercules and Ulysses head off on their journey and after a while take a break near a spring. Hercules takes a drink and loses his memory as the consequence, the water is magic and feed on thoughts eventually his mind will return but slowly and at this moment in time is the only protection they both have.

Hercules and Ulysses, posing as a dumb mute, are taken by a small army of men to Lydia. There we meet Queen Omphale who falls for Hercules and treats him comfortably but she has an ulterior sinister motive for her kindness and affection. Now Hercules has also lost his super powers he is the prime candidate for Queen Omphale’s despicable intentions.

Due to this unfortunate diversion the situation between Eteocles and Polinicia reaches breaking point as both parties decide to battle it out and without the intervention of Hercules this fierce battle could result in an absolute bloodbath.

This stunning sequel can be seen in all its’ widescreen, uncut glory as the other extra on the double DVD bought from Amazon.De.

This as far as I am aware the best version to procure, the versions in the states vary significantly in quality and price and of course zero availability in the United Kingdom.







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