Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 14th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1983 (Hercules), USA, 1985 (The Adventures of Hercules)
Director: Luigi Cozzi (Both Films)
Writer: Luigi Cozzi (Both Films)
Cast: Lou Ferrigno, Sybil Danning, Brad Harris, Ingrid Anderson, William Berger
DVD released: July 12th, 2005
Approximate running time: 100 minutes (Hercules), 88 minutes (The Adventures of Hercules)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Both Films)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English (Both Films)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish (Both Films)
DVD Release: MGM / UA
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Hercules: Zeus from Mount Olympus which is strangely located on the moon creates a human being with superior strength and intelligence to help mankind. This child of Zeus is named Hercules is the infant son of Augius The king of Thebes who early on is betrayed by the captain of his guards Minos who assumes control of Thebes after he kills the King and Queen. One of Hercules nurse maids help the young child escape Minos wrath and after floating down a river he is raised by a couple who discover him by the river. After his parents die under suspicious circumstances decides to roam the land and seek his fortune. He eventually finds love and a job as Princess Cassiopeia’s bodyguard. Arianna the daughter of Minos kidnaps Princess Cassiopeia which forces Hercules to travel to lands as far as the island of the sorceress Circe, the lake of Hades and ultimately the land of Atlantis.
The Adventures of Hercules: Women are being sacrificed to appease a fire god. Glaucia is a fortune teller who had a vision that her sister Urania was to be the fire gods’ next sacrifice. So the two sisters search for Hercules to help them against the fire god. Zeus seven thunder bolts have been stolen by renegade gods who are drawing the universe closer to chaos. Zeus summons his son Hercules to find these renegade gods and return the seven thunder bolts to him. In order to stop Hercules from completing his quest the four renegade gods resurrect Hercules arch nemesis King Minos. Will Hercules save the day once again or will the gods kill him once and for all?
Hercules since making his cinematic debut in Pietro Francisci’s 1958 film Le Fatiche di Ercole released in America under the title Hercules has gone through many changes including several actor change with Steve Reeves and Reg Park being the two actors most associated with the role. The popularity of Pietro Francisci’s Hercules unleashed the flood gates to countless imitators in a genre which is referred to as Peplum. The Peplum genre was at the height of its popularity over the course of about seven years in between 1958 – 1965. Even though the genre came to slow painful death by the mid-1960’s it would through the years be resurrected for brief revivals like the early 1980’s with films like Conan the Barbarian and of course two more Hercules films starring Lou Ferrigno. In recent times actor Kevin Sorbo brought new life to the character with the T.V. series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Hercules and a carousal of actors have brought many varied interpretations of the legendary hero; still in the end when I think of Hercules I always come back Steve Reeves who originated the role who performance as Hercules has yet to be topped to date.
Luigi Cozzi directed these two Hercules films under the alias Lewis Coates. Cozzi only directed a handful of films with his strongest efforts in the ScFi/Fantasy genre. Cozzi as a director has never been as flashy as his Italian counterparts and outside of some outdated looking effects the overall style of the film is pretty low key as he focuses primarily on the spectacle of the story.
In the lead role of Hercules is cast former Mr. Universe winner Louis Ferrigno who had the look of Hercules but lacked the charisma that Steve Reeves possessed. Ferrigno lacks emotional depth in his expressions and at times looks more like the Incredible Hulk as he rages.
This version of Hercules is literally out of this world as he travels through space and to the moon. I like my Hercules earth bound and these fantasy elements take the viewer out of the picture because of their absurdity. Besides this minor set back for the most part Cozzi manages to capture the essence of what makes these Peplum films so enjoyable. The first film simply titled Hercules is the stronger of the two as the second film feels padded especially during it opening credits. Many films have employed the idea of bring back a character from the dead for a sequel. In The Adventures of Hercules King Minos the villain from the first film is brought back to deal with Hercules since obviously he knows something that the gods don’t know that can rid them of Hercules. Personally I would have liked it if they introduced a brand new villain instead of bringing back King Minos who oddly enough lacked that edge he possessed in the first film. Overall despite some of their shortcomings both of these films are a lot of fun.
MGM’s home entertainment presents both Hercules (1983) and The Adventures of Hercules in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves their original 1.85:1 aspect ratios. First I have to say Wow; I am really impressed how well these films look. The colors are vivid through out and the black levels remain strong as there is an amazing amount of detail present in every frame. There are no problems with compression or edge enhancement. The prints used for these two are nearly flawless as there is no print damage or any defects of any kind present.
Both films come with only one audio option the films original Dolby Digital stereo in English. Both tracks are evenly balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The action and dialog sound robust through out as the front channels are given a good workout. English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.
After the spectacular job MGM did with the audio/video presentation of these films it is unfortunate that when it came to extras they didn’t put in any extra effort. Each film comes with only one extra the films original theatrical trailer which is at least in its original aspect ratio. A word of advice don’t watch the trailers until after you have watched the films since they make the films look even worse then they actually are as they are filled with clips of the shoddy special effects which make these films look less like Peplum and more like a space opera. The price is more then reasonable for this double feature release and even though they border on the, it’s so bad its good territory a nice getaway from the real world for awhile, recommended.