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Movie Review: Hercules Unchained


Hercules Unchained (1959 Dir. Pietro Francisci) MST3K Episode 7 Season 4, August 1st, 1992.

Hurts so good, come on baby make it hurt so good!

Oh Steve Reeves, why did you have to leave us so soon? You had so much work to do. This movie opens slightly differently than the riffed episode does, starting with a group of soldiers carrying their dead leader to a woman who really isn’t dressed in the fashion one would suppose a woman in ancient Greece might affect. Not so much a toga as a mid-50s cocktail dress. Oh, my mistake the guy isn’t dead, she wakes him up and then the soldiers kill some guy who, I don’t know who he is and it doesn’t seem important as he’s dead and we’re only 2 minutes and 22 seconds into the movie. Then the credits begin, this is where the episode starts. Well, that’s where the movie part of the episode starts anyway. Interestingly, it seems to be a different version of the movie since the opening credits are in a different order and use a different font.

Easy come easy go,will you let me go?

This is a sequel to the original Steve Reeves Hercules movie, so his wife Iole is in here with them and a young Ulysses. Now I can’t help but think that Iole was a young woman Herc was smitten with and that caused his actual wife to shoot him and be dragged away by police crying that she killed him because she loved him so much. Now I don’t seem to remember Herc being a teacher of Ulysses, but this clearly isn’t a documentary. And does it really matter since the chick playing Iole is such a little cutie? That’s actually one of the problems these movies have. They claim to be based on all these myths of ancient Greece and even mention specific books, but when it comes down to it, they’re a mish-mash at best. What I’m saying is that you can’t use this movie to crib the fact that you didn’t read the book and expect to pass high school English. Shocking, I know.

Bismillah! No! We will not let you go!

It takes forever for this movie to get going, for a while it just meanders as they travel from the shore to Thebes where they want to get to. They muck around, Iole sings a song, Herc fights Antaeus, and this movie seems to be taking forever. I don’t want to dwell on the fight between Antaeus and Herc, because there isn’t much to say about it unless you want to see a big muscled guy roll around and wrestle with a guy who is big, but nowhere near as fit. Even if you’re totally into slashy style yaoi, it’s not anywhere near sexy.

LET HIM GO! (yeah, I’m done with that joke now)

They get half way to Thebes and find King Oedipus hiding in a cave because his sons… Huey and Duey have ousted him. Those aren’t really their names, but I think you’ll find that they’re not really important to the story anyway. I’ve seen this movie three times now, and I still can’t keep straight who is who and which one is what. Huey and Duey were supposed to swap the throne of Kingship every year, only now that his year is up Huey won’t give up the throne and Duey is kinda ticked about it. Oedipus gets Herc to go ask Huey to give up the throne and Duey gives him six days to get him to give it up or he’ll march on the city and presumably destroy it. I would like to point out that we’re 20 minutes into this movie, which is only 96 minutes to begin with, and the plot has only just now been described. No, I’m really not kidding. 20 minutes and what has come before is the equivalent of a pre-credit sequence in a Bond movie.

Don’t let those suckas fool you none bro. Pimpin’ is as easy as you let it be.

The problem is, what follows is about as relevant to the plot as what has come before. A longish scene with a big cat trainer playing with some tigers fills some time to show that Huey is a bad king. Once Herc tells him to leave, Huey agrees, but no one believes him because he talks sinister and throws his head back to laugh a lot. At least, I think that’s what’s going on, it’s sort of hard to tell because things just happen here. I doubt the dub can be to blame, because I’ve seen one of these in their original form and it was pretty bad then too. I think Herc and Ulysses leave Thebes to go tell Duey that the city is all his, and deliver a note proving all is groovy. Soooo, 8 minutes after the plot is described, it’s pretty much all cleared up. Good, good. What do I do for the next 70 minutes now?

Aww guys, did you put vodka in my water of forgetfulness again?

Oh come on, you know it can’t be that simple right? You know something is going to pop up, yeah? Like Herc will come to a fountain shaped like a face that spews “The Water of Forgetfulness” and won’t remember to do any of the things he promised and we’ll start yet another plot almost a third of the way through the movie or something. Why are you looking at me like that? What? Do I have something on my face? Oh crap, he does, doesn’t he? Herc drinks the waters, forgets all and the movie is extended an hour isn’t it? Oh crab cakes. Yeah, Herc forgets who he is, what he’s doing, why he left, anything written in the script. Everything.

The problem is, she’s not even that hot.

Well, it seems that the reason for the soldiers at the beginning of the movie was to gather up who ever drank from the fountain because Herc passes out and the guys from the beginning of the movie show up and put him on a stretcher. Ulysses pretends to be deaf and mute, because… you know, I have no idea why. I really have no clue as to why he pretends to be deaf and mute. I don’t know the reason for a lot of this. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why do I have to do these reviews sober? You’ve probably had a few drinks, why can’t I? It’s not fair, having to watch these movies without the buffering power of booze to cushion the blow. It physically hurts sometimes to watch these things. It hurts here, right at the temple. Add to my pain the fact that there is a sudden shift in my copy and it becomes like when they’d stretch a film during the credits. You remember that? When a wide screen movie would be squished and stretched so the credits could all be shown on the TV screen? I wouldn’t complain, but it’s pretty noticeable. Fortunately it doesn’t last very long, but still.

Oh baby, don’t be that way. I love your new sculpture. It’s great. No, really.

Well it turns out this is Queen Omphale, whom we’ve heard so much about. Oh wait, this is only the second time she’s been on screen and the first time we’ve heard her name uttered. My mistake! She’s the queen of Lydia, which is in Asia Minor, and as far as I can tell… nowhere near Thebes. They have to take Herc on a boat to get to Lydia though, so I guess they were just wandering around other people’s kingdoms with an army and no one bothered to ask them what the hell they thought they were doing being all armed and stuff during a time of political unrest when invasion seemed imminent.

You know something? It just occurred to me that while there might be screen caps of this movie that don’t involve young women who clearly aren’t wearing any bras running around in outfits made of very thin material stretched across their firm young bosoms… those caps don’t interest me.

Well, now that a hunky new piece of beef has shown up Omphale’s old flame is being like Prince in Thieves in the Temple and he’s all like “You said you loved me, you said I was your friend, you were supposed to take care of me, you lie, lie LIE!” and then the soldiers kill him. Why they do this is a question I leave to the reader. It could be she’s just a one man woman, or it could be she’s bunny boiling crazy, or possibly she’s supposed to be some kind of evil temptress. Whatever the reason, she trades up and gets Herc all to her slutty self. She tells him he’s her husband, king of the land, and then a dance number starts. Not kidding. A three minute dance number starts, just a bunch of girls dancing around in tights for three minutes.

Nope. This movie was terrible and I deserve some eye candy.

Can I go on a bit of a tangent for a moment? Why is her hair, make-up and costume all out of the 1950s while everyone else is done up in togas and not much else? Everyone other girl is in a bouncy toga, running in such a way as to make bouncy the only word you could use to describe what’s going on. Yet the dastardly lead looks like she could be the temptress in, say a movie about New York. She’s the girls who would try to seduce the ad executive away from his wife or something. This isn’t an isolated incident either. The evil seductress is always dressed in the latest fashions from Milan while everyone else has to do with two meters of colored cloth and a leather belt. I’ve never understood this, but it is a fact.

What? Did you think I was kidding?

Meanwhile, back on the ranch Iole is nervous because she hasn’t heard from Herc in sooo long. How long? Three days. Yeah. She gets so anxious when she doesn’t hear from him. Someone needs to explain to her that this is like 800 BC, where you can go years without hearing from your husband. Odysseus went 20 years and had a pile of junk mail taller than himself to deal with when he got back. If she’s anxious after three days, she must be a real handful to deal with. I only mention this because it always bugs me when they do things like this.

It’s just suggestive shots of women from here on out.

Ulysses manages to talk Herc down to earth, but he just babbles incomprehensible gibberish at Herc instead of talking any kind of sense. So instead of trying to actually convince him, he grabs a brazier from the door and brings it over to Herc, telling him to bend it, which Herc fails to do. Later, when the waters of the fountain starts to wear off… or something, Herc does manage to bend the bar of the brazier and remembers he is Hercules.

The more suggestive, the better.

While that’s going on, Ulysses’ dad gathers up half a dozen people, putting them all in one chariot, and takes them to go find Herc. They show up in Lydia, present their credentials, and are accepted into the palace by the queen. Now, when the queen gets a glimpse of one of the guys they brought with them she gets all interested in him. That’s when we discover that the queen has an interesting kink. She liked to preserve men in wax, or maybe they’re dipped in silver or something. Point is, she turns hot men into statues and we’re supposed to believe that Herc is in danger, but he isn’t really. Her is never really in danger.

Little known fact: In the unaired pilot for Captain Planet, there were going to be 10 scouts and the last power that would summon the hero would be “skank”

Herc eventually wakes up (It feels like it takes about nine months of real time viewing) and decides to leave the island. The queen, she just sort of lets them leave. The chief of the queen’s guards puts up a token resistance, but they’re shoved out of the way by Herc’s great might and his ability to throw around fairly light props that are made to look heavy. They get away and the queen cries to see Herc leaving. Then, for reasons that aren’t really clear to me, she jumps into the pool of stuff that she was going to dip Herc in. All I can think is that they wanted to punish her for being bad.

I’m just keeping up the captions as a pre-text incase my mother is looking in but not really reading.

Now, you might remember that there was a plot to this movie once upon a time. Huey and Duey get ready to duke it out on the front door of Thebes when Herc shows up. Huey, decides to throw Herc’s friends and family to their deaths while holding Iole to throw her to the tigers. Duey runs away and they agree to have a duel the next day. Herc sneaks into the city to save his wife and the two brothers duel to the death. It’s a really terrible fight too, I mean tremendously bad. You might be wondering who wins the duel, but really, does anyone win? I certainly don’t, I have to suffer through this movie. It occurs to me now I should have called them Heckle and Jeckle, or Frick and Frack. Since there is no Louie in this movie, I should have gone with a double instead of a trio.

Mmmm delicious cheesecake!

Actually the two brothers manage to kill each other and the only real winner is the guy who gets money for selling me this, the evil clever bastard. There is a token attempt to have a battle scene, right at the end, but no one cares by this point. Everyone knows the movie ended six minutes ago and this is just a last dash effort at some padding and fighting. It’s all over pretty quickly though and we’re freed from this film. I can’t believe this movie had so many plots, and that it felt like it took so long, and that so little seems to have been said or done. If it weren’t for the young un-bra’d women in the very thin material, I don’t think we could have made it.

Yeah, I know. I don’t care. This movie was awful and I refuse to treat it with any dignity.

It took me way longer to watch this movie and write this review than I should have. I can only explain myself by saying that I kept finding other things to do instead of watching the movie. I mean, the shower wasn’t going to re-grout itself, was it? The main problem of course is that this movie is just all over the place, we don’t even get to the main plot until the movie is nearly a third over and then that plot just sort of goes away for half the remaining run time. It’s such a hard movie to watch on your own, that I felt compelled to walk away. It should come with a warning or something, stating the dangers of trying to watch this without friend can lead to suicidal thoughts. With Joel and the bots, you’re fine. Watch with pals and you’ll be okay. Watching it alone is something you do at your own peril though. In conclusion, I shouldn’t have to do this sober, it’s not fair.

Okay, look. The movie didn’t treat the women any better than I did. It was horrible to me, the women, everyone. Look at that? A balding man threatening a barely dressed girl! If they don’t feel bad about what they’ve done, why should I?

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Cats and things



October 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Movie Review: The Amazing Transparent Man

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960 American International Pictures Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer) MST3K Episode 23 of Season 6, March 18, 1995

I’ll kill you all! Wherever you are!

ARE YOU READY? We’re going with an AIP movie today, so expect this to suck like a Hoover. The movie starts off with machine gun fire! AWESOME! Bet the rest of the movie won’t be this exciting. Actually, there is a problem already. This is a prison break, some guy is trying to get away, the searchlights are sweeping, looking for him, and some guard is just spraying the compound with automatic fire. You’d think he’d wait until the lights shined on him, but no, he just fires into the darkness. Going to be a lot of cop funerals this month I think. Actually, there were a lot of cop funerals back in the 40s when that stock footage was shot. Of course, when that footage was shot, he might have been able to see what he was shooting.

See the USA in your Chevrolet.

Anyway, it turns out that this jail break was done for a reason, but we don’t know what the reason is yet. Dude’s name is Joey Faust of all things. We learn this when our intrepid criminal is introduced to Major Paul Krenner of… no particular army. During the announcement of Faust’s career for the purpose of exposition, we’re told that Faust has a child he’s never met. The first crack in this movie’s writing then appears as he freaks out, announcing that if the guy mentions his daughter’s name again he’ll kill him. Faust has just given me almost more information than the Major has at this point. No one mentioned the child’s name or sex. Proof reading was not a priority on this script. See the cracks have begun to show. More cracks will appear later, and we’ll find that what little writing did get done wasn’t given much attention.

Look closely at this house, it won’t look like that later in the film.

It seems that they’re doing experiments in making people turn invisible, but the stuff they need to continue the experiments is rare and they have to steal it. They even call it Atom Bomb stuff and mentions that the government has it locked up tight. This is what they need him to swipe it. Now, if it’s 1960, and you can make people invisible, why wouldn’t the pentagon just fund you up the ass? I mean really! Still, they get Faust… Faust? For reals? Joey Faust? That was the best you could come up with? I mean it’s not even like there’s any kind of deal with the devil going on here. His movie has no such deep meaning. Was Falstaff too literary? It makes as much sense after all. Faust? Really?

Faust? My name is Faust?

…Okay. They get Faust out of the clink so he can be turned invisible and steal materials they need to keep turning people invisible, so they can steal more materials, so they can keep turning people invisible, so they can steal more materials and so on. It sounds sort of dumb, and that’s only because it is. Well, Faust pulls a gun and tells Krenner that he could just shoot him and Krenner’s bodyguard pipes up that he could shoot Faust. The guard is holding a Winchester rifle, the sort seen in a hundred westerns and probably borrowed from one, but he talks about it like it’s a shotgun. The guy has a Winchester, talks like it’s a shotgun. The script wasn’t read very carefully is all I’m saying.

This here rifle’s a shotgun right? RIGHT?

So we find out how they turn people invisible and it turns out to have been done through the magic of SCIENCE! They show how it’s done by turning a guinea pig, an actual guinea pig, invisible through a pretty neat special effect sequence. Some of the invisible effects are a little hokey, relying on actors to act like they’re being hit by someone who isn’t there, or items held by strings, but the vanishing effects are pretty good. Not great. I did not say they were great, but they are a patch above what I thought we were going to get. The demonstration also introduces a poor German doctor who developed the machine and who Krenner is keeping prisoner by holding his daughter locked up in a room right next to him. You know… I’m beginning to suspect that Krenner might not be on the up and up.

Would you trust this man with atomic weapons?

Krenner tells the room that the possibilities of this machine are limitless. Turning rodents and people invisible and then undoing that effect hardly equals limitless possibilities in my mind. It seems quite limited in fact. Sure, the uses of an invisible rodent might be limitless, but the machine itself is just an on/off switch. You hit a button and they vanish, you hit another button and they come back. Only one application really. The doctor, his name is Ulof by the way, claims that things might not be so safe to work with. He’s worried you see, because the process isn’t really as safe as advertised. It seems there are problems, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m doing Science and I’m still alive!

Faust is a little worried about the whole being blasted with radiation through a tube thing and wonders if maybe he shouldn’t just say thanks but no thanks. He’s not really given a chance though, as he’s locked into a room with the guard watching over him. The guard of course keeps his trusty “shotgun” which is still an old lever action rifle. Faust messes with the guard’s head and when the guard opens the door, Faust messes with it even more by means of a cudgel of some variety. The video isn’t really clear, so I can’t say exactly what he hits him with. I suppose it could be a fourth century Italian marble dildo, but I highly doubt it.

Yeah, I do the “Gangster Moll” fantasy for a lot of guys.

He goes upstairs, deciding that Doctor Ulof is the one person he could maybe begin to trust. Ulof tells him his story, and how Krenner is holding his daughter. Faust and he start to talk, but they’re interrupted by the girl who helped break Faust out in the first place. She wanders around in what today would be mistaken for a ball gown, but was meant to be a nightdress. She and Faust talk about maybe forming a team and getting away with the invisible machine so he could rob banks and give her a split. They then talk about opening a little restaurant somewhere in Mexico and how she can cook and he’ll run around in a cute cocktail dress… or did I just make all that up? In the middle of talking, the guard shows up and whacks Faust over the head just in time for Krenner to come back. After that there’s a scene that exists for no better reason than for Krenner to slap the girl (her name is Laura) twice. This, I assume, is for the males in the audience who can’t stand to see a woman assert herself in anyway without “being told” by a man. It was a different time you understand.

My self-esteem requires that I slap around a woman to make me feel strong. I’m sure you understand.

So, they lay Faust down on a table, turn on the endless possibility machine and turn him invisible. The problem here is that they don’t strap him down or anything, which means as soon as you can’t see him, he hops up and starts throwing monkey wrenches into plans. Krenner, true to form, tries to threaten Faust with staying invisible forever. The problem for Krenner is that Faust can now smack him around and choke him without being seen. So that’s what he does. Wow! The guy you’ve been threatening since you first met him has turned the tables on you at the first chance he gets… WHAT A SURPRISE!!! He starts messing with Krenner, who acts like a whipped pup now that the tables have been turned on him. Faust demands more money, but it’s not important beyond padding. He agrees to do the job.

Guys! Phone call from H.G. Wells’ estate, something about copyright infringement.

The job is pretty much what you expect from a movie like this. He breaks into the vault, knocks out a couple of guards and steals the stuff. This leads to a truly pointless scene where the guards try to tell their bosses about the heist and the bosses just yell at them for being bad guards. They are then denied cookies and are sent to bed without supper. Okay, that doesn’t really happen. I just wanted to pad this review out a few more sentences. This is sort of what watching the movie is like. Meaningless deviations that don’t serve any real purpose beyond adding a few more minutes to the run time. Isn’t this fun kids?

And this little tube would grow up to be Nomad.

While Faust is away, we learn what Ulof was worried about. It seems that the guinea pig died even though it had built up a resistance against the radiation, which is news to me. I didn’t know you could build up a resistance, I thought you just built up cancer and radiation burns. Evidently, every time you vanish a person it takes more power to make them vanish and less power to turn them back. Now they’ve swiped a new material called… are you ready for this? The new material is called X-13! I know, right? Krenner says that they’ll use the X-13 on Faust, but Ulof claims that X-13 had unusual properties that are different from other nuclear materials and he wants to study it more to make sure it’s safe. What properties? You’re just using the radiation to power your on/off switch with endless possibilities. If you were using it some other way, you couldn’t just replace the materials. Radiation is radiation, some things just have more of it. Srsly! Anyway, Krenner says they’ll use the X-13 on Faust and Ulof puts up a token resistance, but Krenner tells him that he’s willing to sacrifice one man if it means having an invisible army. So they decide to use the stuff on Faust.

Stop reading over my shoulder.

Faust on the other hand has other ideas besides those that Krenner has for him. He decides to rob a bank instead of the atomic vaults and enlists Laura’s help in his plan. The problem is, or turns out to be, that the whole invisibility thing is unstable and he reappears in the middle of his bank robbery. This turns the whole robbery into something of a debacle. When Krenner hears about this on the radio, he’s quite annoyed, but why? Think about this for a second, if Faust had reappeared with a handful of X-13 the guards would have jumped him and he’d have been forced to tell everything. This way he at least got away and no one knows that Krenner is part of it. Still, they get angry about the whole thing and decide to run. While Faust and Laura are discussing how they’re going to get away, Faust vanishes again and walks off.

Oh crap! Can you see me?

Inside the house, Krenner tells Ulof about how their going to take off and Ulof announces he’s going to stay. Krenner says that he’ll just take Ulof’s daughter and figures that’ll get Ulof to come along. Now, we’re 48 minutes into this 57 minute long movie and this is the first time we’ve actually seen Ulof’s daughter. I don’t think she even has any lines besides a gasp. Why have her in this thing? She doesn’t serve much purpose, she’s just a prop. It smacks of bad writing to have this weak plot device in the movie, they should have gone through a few more drafts of the script, strengthened the whole thing up a bit. It doesn’t matter because Faust shows up, hits Krenner and then actually appears again. Ulof explains the whole instability thing and tells Faust that once they get away from Krenner he’ll fix the whole thing. I, personally, can see nothing wrong with trusting a guy who only has one goal in mind.

EEEEK! Put your pants back on!

While that’s going on, the guard (he has a name but I refuse to care) catches Laura and Faust and Ulof and the daughter. Laura tells the guard that instead of having a son in prison he has a son in a graveyard and that Krenner has been using him from the word go. Yeah, I suppose there’s no reason to doubt the word of someone telling me something when I have a gun on them and they have every reason to lie. The guard decides to join the party, and help everyone escape. Faust shoves Laura into a locked room and the group leaves the house.

Again, look at that house!

When outside, Ulof makes an impassioned speech about the evils of science destroying our country and tells Faust he’s dying. You know… everyone in this movie is amazingly trusting. They just go along with whatever they’re told by people they shouldn’t really trust. Anyway, Faust lets Laura out of the locked room just long enough for Krenner to kill her, then a good old-fashioned fistfight breaks out in the lab. Kenner turns the machine on the nuclear materials and a small explosion blasts the house… from the outside. Oh stock footage, we love you so. You remember the piece of stock footage from the atomic bomb tests? Yeah, they use that. So the exploding house is clearly hit by a wave from outside the house.

See? It looks nothing like the house we saw earlier.

The explosion doesn’t even destroy the house since we see people scouring the wreckage. They say that there’s nothing left but ash, but you can clearly see part of the house, a lot of the equipment, standing telephone poles a few feet behind the wreckage, hardly destroying half the county as the script demands they say. After Ulof tells the agents how this whole thing, all this death and destruction was caused by Krenner wanting an invisible army an agent actually says “This whole invisible army thing is an interesting idea, maybe we should make some.” And then Ulof smacks him and screams “WHAT DID I JUST SAY? Am I talking just to hear myself? What the hell is wrong with you people?” He doesn’t really, but he comes close. He gets the last line in the movie, which ends on a “Research is bad and dangerous and you should just sit down and do what the system tells you to” note like a lot of these movies do. That’s what insults my intelligence, that they show someone being vain and irresponsible to claim that all science and research is bad. Like no one could be even remotely careful or responsible with the power of SCIENCE! I’m really offended by that idea, it smacks of stupid people trying to sound clever.

Some days, it’s like I’m talking to the headrest.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment