Wednesday, October 04, 2006

XXV. HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY (1965) (TELEVISION PILOT)




Hercules and the Princess of Troy (Televison pilot for proposed series)

Year; 1965

Director: Albert Band

Writer; Larry Forrester & Ugo Liberatore

Country; Italy America

Duration; 47 minutes

The Players; Gordon Scott (Hercules) Paul Stevens (Diogenes) Mart Hulswitt(Ulysses) Diana Hyland (Princess Diana) Steve Garrett (Petra) Gordon Mitchell (Pirate Captain) George Ardisson (Leander) Roger Browne (Ortag) Jacques Stany(Argus)

Alternatives; Hercules vs. the Sea Monster

Available; Retromedia DVD

Original Ratio; 1.33:1 DVD Ratio; 1.33:1 Colour / Mono / Region 1

By 1965 peplum had fought it’s last battle until it’s resurgence in the 1980’s. Joseph E Levine the man who brought Hercules from Europe to the states had one final stab at sword and sandal entrepreneurialism with a proposed television series.

Hercules and the Princess of Troy was the pilot episode for a potential programme of our mythological heroes’ adventures on his big ship Olympia.

Due to the peplum genres exit from popularity and a general lack of interest the series was shelved and this is the only example of what may have been.

With a scant running time of approx. 47 minutes what is offered to us is a lively romp that is equivalent too if not better than any of the shows Irwin Allen churned out, the only obvious major difference was science fiction was utilised in theme instead of fabled fantasy.

On the whole it’s disappointing that a serial didn’t surface in full but judging by the production values of just one episode there would need to be a massive amount of money in the pot to keep up the wealthy momentum. The expense of sets and no doubt had the show been commissioned a few ‘big name’ lures could be another factor why it didn’t surface at all.

Gordon Scott who plays the quiff hair-styled demi-god, is instantly likeable and proves he is versatile in his portrayal of Hercules and dealing with whatever is flung in his path to challenge.

Despite other credible performances Scotts’ lively performance is never upstaged and holds his army of liberators together against varied adversaries from man to monster.

The effects themselves aren’t half bad either.

Carlo Rambaldi (the man behind the crude but pioneering sfx in Giants of Thessaly and much later helped to create that ugly cunt - E.T) creates a hard shelled pincer beetle thing from the depths.

Despite it being rooted to the spot in most cases similar to the fun fair ride based monster in Hercules Vs.The Hydra, it does try to offer enough near misses and thrills when confronted in the final battle.

There are also some great sequences where the creature advances on it’s tethered maiden tied to a solitary rock and one can help feel a little bit of ‘childhood’ delight when the creature pulls Hercules into the air held by its’ vice like grip.

So some of the 47 minutes demonstrates wonderful stuff, the sort of imagery legends and childhood memories are made of!

It really is so significant to see this format without the lead characters being decapitated or vital action taking place ‘off screen’ as in some of the other ration cock-ups that plague these mipics (mini-epics abbreviation, editors speak !).

Most participants appear to be having a jolly time. Cameron Mitchell, stalwart of such beefcake fayre crops up as a baddie pirate with much mascara and Diana Hyland plays the titular princess. I think she played Wonder Woman’s mother a decade later too. Doesn’t look like her career took off too well then really!

The plot is basic but for all its flimsy is usurped by the on screen fisty cuffs and beefcake battles. It’s also good to see actors using their real vocal talent (?) without the awful dub; synonymous with films like this.

This was due to English speaking actors being filmed on Italian location. Despite the yank funding the euro-feel is still strong much too many viewers relief.

It starts with a young maiden being sacrificed by the Trojans as an appeasement to a seafaring monster of the deep. By doing this it prevents the monster from infiltrating the city and munching on its’ inhabitants.

Unfortunately the creature is seemingly unstoppable and all the brave mortals that have attempted to destroy it have become the hors d’oeuvres or maimed terribly.

On the ocean wave sails Olympia captained by Hercules and a fond crew of different capabilities and characters. They try to right wrongs and keep the peace where necessary and lend a helping hand to realms in peril.

They come across a pirate ship which has a cargo full of kidnapped female Trojans snatched by slave trade pirates as they tried to flee Troy to avoid being ritual fodder.

Hercules and chums rescue the crew then set sail for Troy to slay the beast once and for all.

A jolly romp it all was too, its’ such a shame that this never gave the public even one series. The amount of mythological wealth could have been plundered left, right and centre and used to brilliant effect. Sadly it just was not meant to be.

This episode can be found on DVD courtesy of Retromedia, you can buy it here, it features alongside two other s&s films on the disc.

The DVD package is worth the purchase for the novelty factor alone; as worthy a mention as any of its longer relations, despite its’ short running time and lack of comparisons.




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