Hercules (1958 film)

Hercules (1958 film)

Infobox Film | name = Hercules

caption = VHS cover
director = Pietro Francisci
producer = Federico Teti
writer = Ennio De Concini
Pietro Francisci
Gaio Frattini
starring = Steve Reeves
Sylva Koscina
Fabrizio Mioni
music = Enzo Masetti
cinematography = Mario Bava
editing = Mario Serandrei
released = 20 February 1958 (Italy)
22 July 1959 (USA)
distributor = Lux Film (1958, Italy)
Warner Bros. Pictures (1959, USA, dubbed)
runtime = 107 min.
language = Italian
followed_by = "Hercules Unchained"
imdb_id = 0050381

"Hercules" (1958) is an Italian feature film based upon the Hercules myths and the Quest for the Golden Fleece. The film stars Steve Reeves as the titular hero and Sylva Koscina as his love interest Princess Iole. "Hercules" was directed by Pietro Francisci and produced by Federico Teti. The film spawned a sequel, "Hercules Unchained" "(Ercole e la Regina di Lidia)" "(Hercules and the Queen of Lydia)", that also starred Reeves and Koscina.

"Hercules" made Reeves an international film star and effectively paved the way for the dozens of 1960s sword and sandal flicks featuring oily bodybuilders as mythological heroes and gladiators battling monsters, despots, and evil queens. "Hercules" has been broadcast on American television, is in the public domain, and is available in both VHS and DVD formats. Its Italian title is "Le Fatiche di Ercole" "(The Labors of Hercules)".

ource material

The film's screenplay is loosely based upon the myths of Hercules and the Greek epic poem "Argonautica" by Apollonius of Rhodes. In both myths and epic poem, Hercules' role in the Quest for the Golden Fleece is marginal; he abandons the expedition early-on when Hylas, his armor-bearer and "eromenos" (Greek: ἐρώμενος), is lost on an island while searching for water. With Hylas conveniently absent in the film, Hercules' role is greatly expanded: he remains with the expedition for its duration, saves the Argo from destruction in a storm, disciplines mutinous crew, and overwhelms enemy forces with brute strength in the film's finale. Twists on the sources include the introduction of Iole into the tale as Pelias' daughter, the replacement of Hylas with young Ulysses as Hercules' clownish fanboy, and Hercules' renounciation of his immortality in order to experience life as a mortal man.

Plot and cast

The film opens with Hercules (Steve Reeves) on the road to the court of King Pelias of Iolcus (Ivo Garrani) to tutor Pelias' son Prince Iphitus (Mimmo Palmara) in the use of arms. Pelias' beautiful daughter Princess Iole (Sylva Koscina) updates Hercules on the history of her father's rise to power and the theft of the kingdom's greatest treasure, the Golden Fleece. Some suspect -- and it eventually proves true -- that King Pelias has acquired the throne through fratricide. Hercules and Iole are attracted to each other and a romance eventually develops.

King Pelias is warned by a seeress (Luciana Paluzzi) about a stranger wearing one sandal who will challenge his power. When his nephew Jason, the rightful King of Iolcus, (Fabrizio Mioni) arrives in town wearing one sandal, Pelias takes fright and packs him off to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the distant land of Colchis. Jason and Hercules sail aboard the Argo with their friends Ulysses and his father Laertes (Gabriele Antonini and Andrea Fantasia), Argos (Aldo Fiorelli), the twins Castor and Pollux (Fulvio Carrara and Willi Colombini), the lyre-strumming Orpheus (Gino Mattera), the physician Aesculapius (Gian Paolo Rosmino) and others.

After weathering a tempest at sea, the Argonauts dally in a lush garden-like country with Antea, the Queen of the Amazons (Gianna Maria Canale) and her ladies (Gina Rovere and Lily Granado). Jason falls in love with Antea, but, when the Amazons plot the deaths of the heroes, Hercules forces Jason to board the Argo and secretly set sail in the night. On the shores of Colchis, the heroes battle hairy ape-men while Jason slays a dragon and retrieves the Golden Fleece. The Argonauts embark for home with their prize.

In Iolcus, the populace greet the returning heroes but Pelias and his henchman Eurysteus (Arturo Dominici) steal the Golden Fleece, deny Jason's claim, and plot his destruction. A tense battle between Pelias' forces and the heroes follows. Hercules halts Pelias' cavalry dead in its tracks by toppling the portico of the palace upon them. The defeated Pelias drinks poison. Jason ascends the throne while Hercules and Iole set sail for new adventures.

Subplots involve the death of Pelias' headstrong son Prince Iphitus, and exploits for Hercules resembling the Labors of the Nemean Lion and the Cretan Bull. Cast includes (Lidia Alfonsi) as Iole's Maid, (Afro Poli) as Jason's mentor Chiron, Aldo Pini as Tifi, Spartaco Nale and Paola Quattrini in the uncredited role of Young Iole.

Production notes

American producer Joseph E. Levine acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the film, and, due in part to his "saturation" promotional campaign (the film opened in 175 theaters alone in the New York City area), "Hercules" became a major box-office hit.

Reeves was an accomplished horseman, and did all his own horse stunts. His voice was not used however, and his lines were dubbed into whatever language was required for local distribution.


Richard Nason wrote in the "New York Times" of July 23, 1959, "{The film] is a slow-paced and stilted affair studded with routine spectacles that have been seen since movies immemorial. Steve Reeves throttles the screen evils with his big muscles in the old manner of Tarzan. There is added but unintended humor in the fact that his voice has the querulous pitch of a bank clerk's. Most of the dubbing is bad. Those who are willing to buy a whole barrel of apples because it may contain one or two good ones might be satisfied with some of the production effects, a few prettily tinted scenic shots and the corny stabs at humor and romance." [ [http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9D01EEDB1F3CE63BBC4B51DFB1668382649EDE "New York Times" Review] Retrieved 29 August 2008.]


In America, the film generated a Dell comic book adaptation with illustrations by John Buscema and a 33 RPM long-playing RCA Victor recording of the film's soundtrack.



External links

* [http://www.archive.org/details/hercules "Hercules" (1958)] at the Internet Archive
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9405E0DE1738F936A35756C0A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all "New York Times" Tribute to Steve Reeves] Retrieved 29 August 2008.

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