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Hercules (1958) 
Written by: on January 16th, 2005
Hercules Hercules 1958
Theatrical Release Date: February 20th, 1958
Director: Pietro Francisci
Writers: Pietro Francisci, Ennio De Concini, Gaio Frattini
Cast: Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Fabrizio Mioni, Ivo Garrani, Gianna Maria Canale

DVD released: 2000
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono French
Subtitles: French
DVD Release: DVDY Films
Region Coding: Region 2 Pal (France)
Retail Price: $9.95


“Filmmaking in Europe was a little different from working in the United States. There’s a scene in HERCULES where I’m in chains — they looked like steel, but they were actually made of wood — and I had to swing these chains at my supposed enemies who were advancing towards me. Well, I didn’t want to really strike someone so I kind of held back with my motions. The director yelled, ‘Swing those chains! Swing them hard!’ I said, ‘I don’t want to hurt someone.’ And the director yelled back, ‘If they don’t get hurt, they don’t get paid!”
Steve Reeves

Hercules of Thebes (Steve Reeves) saves Princess Iole’s life (Sylva Koscina) when she loses control of her chariot. He was traveling to Iolcus to tutor the heir to the thrown in military strategy. When Princess Iole reveals to Hercules her family’s secrets this leads to Hercules investigating further into the matter. The closer Hercules gets to the truth the more he infuriates Pelias who publicly blames Hercules for Iphitus’ death. Pelias tells Hercules that the only way he can redeem himself for killing Iphitus that he would have to kill the Cretan Bull. After Princess Iole and the other mortal’s turn their back on Hercules he visits Sybil with his wish to be a mortal. Will Hercules find the Golden Fleece and help Princess Iole find the truth behind her father deaths before he is silenced forever?

Former Mr. Universe Steve Reeves would achieve international stardom as the immortal Hercules of Thebes. The literal translation of the films title is Labors of Hercules. Famed Italian filmmaker Mario Bava worked as the special effects supervisor and cinematographer on the labor of Hercules. Steve Reeves spent his acting career predominately working in Peplum. Labors of Hercules is responsible for igniting a cycle of films about muscle-bound mythological heroes and the genre would produce more then 170 films before running its course in 1964. The labor of Hercules was the first film shot in Italy in the French Dyaliscope anamorphic widescreen system.Hercules is filled with lavish sets and its strongest asset is Mario Bava’s beautiful photography. The story and its structure moves along at a nice pace up until the start of the final act which feels anticlimactic as it fails to pay off after a long build up. Besides Bava’s brilliant use of color in his photography and his special effects are surprisingly effect outside of the dragon like monster that looks cheap and fake. Hercules is a more grounded film then its imitators that followed it as the most of the monsters are nothing more then your average monster in the form of a bull or loin.

Steve Reeves gets many chances in the film to flex his muscles during the course of the film and like most of actors in the film they serve more as eye candy then anything else. The thing that I find most fascinating about Peplum films is that they are filled with larger then life characters that are plagued with the same problems that afflict us mortals. Hercules has more strengths as a whole then weaknesses; still I would place its squeal Hercules Unchained ahead of it as one of the best examples the Peplum genre has to offer.

The DVD:

DVDY Films presents Hercules in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 Dyaliscope aspect ratio. The colors are strong and flesh tones look natural unlike previous DVD releases of this title. The detail is good and there is noticeable grain through out. While there is still room for improvement DVDY Films Hercules transfer blows away all other version currently available in region 1.

This DVD comes with three audio options the films original Italian language track and English and French Dubbed language tracks. The mono source does leave a lot to be desired at times and the English track does exhibit some minor hiss and distortion. The Italian and French tracks are better shape then the English track. No English subtitles have been included for this release only forced French subtitles have been included that cane be disabled two ways. First way is select the French Language track and once the movie starts playing switch with your controller over to the English track. The second way is on certain DVD players by selecting turn off subtitles via the set up menu.

The extras on this release include a six minute featurette on the Peplum genre and filmographies for Pietro Francisci and Steve Reeves unfortunately all the extras are in French only.

DVDY Films Hercules is the best this film has looked on home video to date. Fans of the Peplum genre can finally see this film in its original aspect ratio after years of horribly cropped and washed out releases. Hercules is a landmark film that has for years only been available in sup par releases and DVDY Films is an affordable way to watch this classic like you have never seen it before, highly recommended.

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