Written by: Pieter Boven on January 28th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, February 20th, 1958 (Hercules), February 14th, 1959 (Hercules Unchained)
Director: Pietro Francisci (Both Films)
Writers: Pietro Francisci, Ennio De Concini, Gaio Frattini
Cast: Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Fabrizio Mioni, Ivo Garrani, Gianna Maria Canale, Sylvia Lopez, Gabriele Antonini
DVD Released: April 27th, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 87 minutes (Hercules) / 90 minutes (Hercules Unchained)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Letterboxed (Hercules) / 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Hercules Unchained)
Rating: FSK-16 (Germany)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono German (both films)
DVD Release: Concorde Home Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (Germany)
Retail Price: 9.99 euro
Hercules (Die unglaubichen Abenteur des Herkules)
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?
Note: Please read the review of the French Hercules DVD for more information on this film.
Hercules Unchained (Herkules und die Königin der Amazonen)
Hercules Unchained picks up where Hercules left of. Hercules, his new bride Iole and young Ulysses are on their way to Thebes, Hercules’ hometown. After some initial problems concerning a not too friendly giant they run into some foreign soldiers. It turns out old King Oedipus has abdicated the throne in favor of his sons, who promised to hand over power to each other every year. A year has passed and Eteocles refuses to make way for his brother Polinices, who has already gathered an army to take the throne by force. Hercules quickly heads of for Thebes on a diplomatic mission and convinces Eteocles to stick to his promise. On his way back to Polinices however, Hercules drinks from a magic spring and loses his memory. Both him and Ulysses, posing as Hercules’ mute and deaf servant, are captured and taken to Omphale, the evil queen of Lidia. Omphale has a habit of using pretty studs like Hercules for her amusement, and with the help of some evil Egyptians, turning them into lifeless statues whenever she’s grown tired of them. Will Hercules regain his memory, make it out alive and return in time to prevent a war between the two brothers?
If you like peplums, you’ll love this one. We have the same, solid main cast from the first Hercules. Steeve Reeves is clearly the best Hercules ever and his grumpy performance here just adds to the fun. Of course Sylva Koscino as Iole, running around in a skimpy mini-skirt, is as pretty as ever. Sylvia Lopez as Queen Omphale, with some scary make-up and lovely outfits, is well cast as the sexy but deadly vamp. Finally there are some over the top performances from Mimmo Palmara and Sergio Fantoni as the power hungry brothers but they suit the tone of the film. Sets, costumes, action scenes, etc. are all very well done. Also Mario Bava fans can rejoice as the maestro returns once again with spectacular colour lighting. Simply put, the movie looks great and is a lot of fun on top of that.
Unfortunately Hercules is not presented in it’s original 2.35:1 format. The aspect ratio is about 1.78:1 and not anamorphically enhanced. Sharpness and colour are slightly below the French DVD. It is an improvement over the usual 1.33:1 transfer but still a disappointment, especially since a better transfer exists. Hercules Unchained on the other hand receives a better treatment with its anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 transfer. Quality is similar to the French Hercules DVD having strong colours, decent sharpness and minor print damage. There is some noticeable grain and one short scene (around 43 minutes) has a serious focus/colour problem, looking like one of those 3D movies when you’re not wearing the special glasses. Still, compared to the pan & scan VHS-like transfers out in the US, it looks amazing.
Audio options for both movies are an English and German mono track. The English track on Hercules has some crackling and the one on Hercules Unchained is hampered by a constant, but not too annoying, background hiss. However, dialog is clear and easy to understand. The dubbing (as far as dubbing goes) is quite good. The dub for Hercules is the same as on the French DVD and hence different from the ones you might know from US DVDs. The German tracks seem to be of slightly better quality. An Italian track with subtitles would have also been nice but alas…
The package contains a 35x52cm reproduction of the original Hercules Unchained poster. There’s also an insert listing the chapters of both movies and the famous Steve Reeves quote about filmmaking in Europe. Extras on the DVD are limited to some pointless German trailers of recent Hollywood blockbuster movies.
Well this double DVD looked too good to be true and it is. First of all, Hercules is not presented in its original aspect ratio. Secondly Hercules is CUT by 10 minutes or so. This is most likely due to the non-existence of a German dub for scenes which were cut in the past. Instead of providing these scenes on the DVD in English with German subtitles, they have left them out completely. The absence of any relevant extras is also disappointing. However, due to its low price and lack of any better alternatives, it’s easy to recommend this DVD. Especially in combination with the French Hercules DVD since this is, as far as I know, the best way to see both these movies in good quality.