Wednesday, August 30, 2006

XIV. GLI AMORE DE ERCOLE (THE LOVES OF HERCULES/HERCULES VS. THE HYDRA) (1960)



GLI AMORE DE ERCOLE (THE LOVES OF HERCULES/HERCULES VS. THE HYDRA)

Year; 1960

Director & Writer; Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia
Country; Italy and France
Duration; 98 mins (Original aspect ratio; 2.35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Trimark Home Video
Colour * Panned and Scanned *English*

Alternative;
The Loves of Hercules /Hercules vs the Hydra - US TV title/Les amours d'Hercule - French title/Hercules and the Hydra/The Loves of Hercules - US title/Die Liebesnächte des Herkules - German title/Los amores de Hércules - Venezuelan title/Herkules ja rakkauden kuningatar - Finnish title/A desforra de Hércules - Portugese title.

The Players; Jayne Mansfield [Queen Dianira / Hippolyta]Mickey Hargitay [Hercules]
Massimo Serato [Lico] Gil Vidal [Achilles] with; René Dary/Moira Orfei/ Sandrine/Rossella/Como/Andrea Scotti/Arturo Bragaglia/Andrea Aureli/Olga Solbelli/Giulio Donnini/Lidia Alfonsi/Barbara Florian/Aldo Podinotti/Tina Gloriani


Just as classics were created from the minds of the French/Italian/Spanish collaborators there was also a fair chunk of vulgarity created. ‘Gli Amore di Hercules’ isn’t vulgar in content but in visuals.

Gone are Bavas significant coloured gel vitality or Franciscis’ high octane action epics the audience were enchanted with two to three years earlier. This time Steve Reeves and Mark Forrest are replaced by Mickey Hargitay in the lead role; gone also are the beard motif and the charisma for this incarnation.


In one sequence Hercules can be seen fleeing through a ‘hellish’ landscape where people are turned into trees for not satisfying Hippolyta, an Amazonian queen. It made me grin to think that Hargitay was amongst his equals in this last sequence.


Hargitay struts around pigeoning his chest like a cock bantam and seems a weak substitute for who wore the loincloth before.

Joining the beefcake is the cheesecake in the form of Jayne Mansfield. The whole movie runs as a vehicle for her as she plays not one but two roles. As if we haven’t had enough of her in the first half she crops up again as Hippolyta’s disguise to seduce Hercules.

The Hydra creature is an awful turgid plastic creation the sort one sees at the base of a pikey fairground ride, supporting dubious rusty people spinners. Despite this there is vibrancy throughout the conflict between the hero and the monster.

Hargitay overacts and tries admirably to cope with the façade that the creature is chucking him about by throwing himself in the direction of the Hydra and pushing himself away. This is poor indeed as Hargitay can be visually seen waiting for his cue to ensure the tail or the head of the beast is coming his way.

Bragaglia uses lurid cheap visuals to emulate his predecessors’ true skill but this makes the whole affair an even bigger tinsel and tat spectacle .Coloured light is swapped for coloured smoke, the ‘camp’ elements soar and the action is very lame.

Mansfield is featured in varying degrees of scanty cladness which emphasises her delicious breasts of course. In one exploitative moment Bragaglia films a scene where Hercules saves Dianira from a rather docile, unthreatening looking bull. As the thing charges towards Mansfield the camera seems to lunge towards her tits as the bulls’ p.o.v, classic exploitational stuff. The end of the film will have you in fits of laughter by the way.

Despite the negatives it still has an immense charm that takes you back to innocent times in a way, and is highly watchable on the whole. Nostalgia has worked its’ spell, you see as well as sword and sandal, peplum, mythology, we can now add comedy to the versatile categorisations of this genre whether intentional or not.

The film begins where our dumb hero leaves his village and wife unprotected from harm, despite Hercules’ track record for pissing many others off in the past. Consequently they are all massacred based on the orders of the King of Icalia.

The King is stitched up and is also slaughtered and blamed for the atrocities, leaving the vulnerable Queen Dianira, his daughter, as lonesome ruler of her kingdom. Hercules goes to kill the King as retribution for the massacre but finds Dianira instead. He refuses to harm her and begins to fall for her. He saves her life in an axe throwing contest, saves her from a herd of sedate bulls and a few other near misses so naturally they grow immensely close.

Deceit ruins the love affair and Hercules scorned leaves the kingdom, in a cave he battles the Hydra and is then taken to a place of sanctuary in the realms of a race of beautiful women. He will be a wonderful treat for their Queen Hippolyta who for some reason or another turns her conquests into ‘trees’ when she tires of them. As Hercules is drugged by a love potion he sees a change in Hippolyta as she seems to transform into Dianira. This gives Mansfield an opportunity to change her wig colour from black to vivid red to establish the character change and to wake up the weary viewer.

As Hercules is being pampered in lady land poor Queen Dianira is getting usurped in her cuckoo land. Dianira is oblivious to the fact, and being so dopey its’ no wonder, that someone close to her has his eye on the throne. Due to the change in ruler and the laws becoming more ruthless the people revolt and form rebel alliances. Only Hercules can now restore balance and harmony to the kingdom of his true love, but can he escape the grasp of Hippolyta? Or will he become a great oak?

An absolute farcical piece of peplum pizzazz that despite its tawdriness and wood has an unusual sense of spirit whether this has anything to do with the energy of the egos on display is another question entirely.

I picked a copy of this from Amazon.Co.Uk , it was a bargain at £17.99 and despite the number of films for the ‘bargain’ price tag the prints in the Trimark ‘Adventures of Hercules’ box-set aren’t bad at all. The only drawback is that the majority, if not all, are panned and scanned. In comparison to some of the other region 1 versions which are shockingly poor quality I feel I have had a super deal. I believe the box set to be very rare now.



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