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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 | , , ,

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