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Review: Hercules (1983)

By Trey Lawson - Celluloid Sheep

Best Bad Quote:

“Chaos merged with darkness, and from this union were born the elements: Night, Day, Matter, and Air.”

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It would be generous to say that Hercules is a confused film. It simply doesn’t know what it is supposed to be. The tagline could easily be “Brought to you by the director who saw Clash of the Titans – and occasionally paid attention.” That director, by the way, is Lew Coates, aka Italian director Luigi Cozzi, responsible for lots of European genre movies, mostly low-budget, in the 70s and 80s. The title role is played by Lou Ferrigno, best known for playing The Incredible Hulk on television, and I have to admit he looks perfect in the role. Unfortunately, due to his speech impediment none of his dialogue was usable, and so he is very obviously dubbed for the entire film, resulting in a stilted performance not that far removed from the old Steve Reeves Hercules films of the late 50s. It also features Sybil Danning as one of the villains, Ariadne. Her performance is passable, but the less said about the cast in general the better.

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The film’s plot (such that it is) seems to be made of half-remembered plot points from other sword and sandal films – especially the aforementioned Clash of the Titans and Conan the Barbarian. The gods, who live in outer space and wear cheap-looking robes, are playing a game with the fate of the world at stake, and humans like Hercules are the pawns. This quickly is scaled down to a more manageable “Hercules’s woman is kidnapped by Minos and he must rescue her before she is sacrificed to a phoenix”….or something. Between the really bad performances and the even worse special effects, it’s kind of hard to keep up with exactly what is going on.

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The gimmick used to make Hercules stand out from countless other sword and sandal films is a very confusing dose of science fiction. Minos tries to use “science” (as opposed to the gods’ magic) to defeat Hercules. The result is that the various giant monsters, which are a staple of the genre, are all robots! This could have been an interesting conceit, had the script attempted to explore the idea of science vs magic in any detail, or at least if the effects had been halfway decent. As it is, the monsters have very few moving parts and typically only interact with the humans by shooting laser beams. Er, excuse me: “cosmic rays of deadly fire.” Also, Hercules and his sorceress companion Circe take a brief detour away from the plot to ride a chariot into outer space, pulled by a boulder that Hercules threw. Seriously. Actually, Hercules throwing things into space is something of a recurring image throughout the movie, and it never failed to make me laugh.

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Hercules is a really terrible movie, and my rating is going to reflect that. However, at no time did I stop having fun while watching it. The fusion of science fiction and fantasy is done so randomly and with so little regard for logic that it boggles the mind. Couple that with the shoddy effects, bad dubbing, and cheesy-yet-sincere dialogue/performances, and you’ve got a perfect storm of 1980s cinematic awfulness. And the here’s the best part – THERE’S A SEQUEL! I caught this on Netflix Watch Instantly this time, but the DVD is double-sided to include both films. While it’s definitely a bad movie, it’s the kind of bad movie that I in good conscience can recommend to those who have acquired a taste for such things. So, pop some popcorn, have a few drinks, and invite your friends to watch one of the most bizarre fantasy films of the 80s.

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Rating:

2 out of 5 Ancient Greek Giant Robot Centaurs

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4 Responses to “Review: Hercules (1983)”

  1. James says:

    I feel that your review could have been summed up in two words that are strangely absent from said review, but maybe that’s just because you feared repeating yourself: Cannon Films.

  2. Trey says:

    Yes, it is a Cannon Films production…but you know, some of my favorite low-budget movies of the 80s are Cannon productions.

  3. “Brought to you by the director who saw Clash of the Titans – and occasionally paid attention.” This is a wonderfully perfect line that could be used over and over for bad movie reviews. It’s when you can’t think a movie that must have influenced the director that you know you have a very, very special movie on your hands.

    “Hercules is a really terrible movie, and my rating is going to reflect that. However, at no time did I stop having fun while watching it.” I find this interesting, because when I have non-stop fun watching a terrible movie, the fun I have overrides the terribleness of the film. It’s the fun I have that ultimately influences my rating, not the awfulness.

  4. Amazing freakin blog here. I almost cried while reading it!

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