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Director: Pietro Francisci

Cast: Pietro Francisci, Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Fabrizio Mioni


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Heralding a decade of Italian-made sword-and-sandal films, Hercules -- as it's been known in the United States since its 1959 release -- draws most of its plot from the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Hercules, the half-immortal son of Jupiter (or Zeus) rescues Iole, the daughter of Pelias, the king of Jolco, when the horses pulling her chariot run wild.


Heralding a decade of Italian-made sword-and-sandal films, Hercules -- as it's been known in the United States since its 1959 release -- draws most of its plot from the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Hercules, the half-immortal son of Jupiter (or Zeus) rescues Iole, the daughter of Pelias, the king of Jolco, when the horses pulling her chariot run wild. Returning her to the court, he is engaged by Pelias to train his vain, arrogant son in the use of arms, that he may one day become a warrior king. Pelias' hold on power is very uncertain, owing to the way he became king -- his brother, the previous monarch, was murdered by persons unknown in the palace -- and he looks to leave a dynasty. The prince is later killed through his own foolishness, however, and the blame falls on Hercules. In order to win back the grieving heart of Iole, Hercules surrenders his immortality and manages to triumph in a savage test of his strength against the Cretan Bull. One day, a stranger arrives in Jolco claiming to be Jason, Pelias' nephew, and son of the murdered king -- and the rightful king. To prove his claim, he vows to sail to the ends of the Earth and reclaim the Golden Fleece, the symbol of rightful rule in Jolco, which was stolen on the night that his father was murdered. A crew is assembled that includes various legendary figures out of Greek mythology, with Hercules at the head of the list. They survive encounters with sea storms and a predatory race of women, the machinations of a traitor in their ranks, and Pelias' treachery, and Jason slays the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece. On their return, however, the Fleece is stolen and Hercules is imprisoned. Jason and his men are surrounded by Pelias' soldiers and a battle ensues. Iole frees Hercules, who comes to the aid of Jason and restores him to the throne that's rightfully his. This battle features one of the best action sequences in the film as Hercules, his wrists still in the shackles and chains that bound him in Pelias' dungeon, first kills the man who murdered the old king and then, faced with mounted cavalry charging him on the steps of the palace, pulls down the pillars supporting the facade and wipes out the cavalry. Pelias, unable to contain his own guilt, commits suicide and Iole, seeing the truth about her father, goes to Hercules and accepts him as her husband. Ray Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts, made six years later, told the same story with far superior effects and a less conclusive ending, but Hercules is a fun movie in its own right, and Steve Reeves cuts a stunning figure, even if his voice is dubbed. Curiously, there are two different dubbed versions of Hercules in circulation, one of which (the one that was on television in the early '60s, and was on the VidAmerica videocassette) features a simpler range of English dialogue that works better. The other version occasionally uses more florrid language (and appeared on the Image Entertainment letterboxed laserdisc), which doesn't really resonate well. The giveaway comes in the scene where Hercules prays to Jupiter at the temple, surrendering his powers. The simpler, better track has the echoed voice come back "the Cretan Bull awaits."

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
In 1959, Steve Reeves became an international screen star with this film, which had been shot in Italy two years earlier under the title The Labors of Hercules. Bought by producer Joseph E. Levine (who had previously brought the Japanese film Gojira into the United States successfully as Godzilla), retitled and redubbed, and then promoted with a bigger budget than it had cost to shoot the movie, Hercules became a box-office smash in the United States and set the standard for a decade of Italian-made muscle-man films that followed, all featuring professional bodybuilders as leads and all set in some era of Greek or Roman antiquity. Contrary to what the critics claim, this is not a bad movie. Reeves cuts a commanding figure as the legendary hero, and even people who didn't like his work conceded that he looked great; the rest of the cast, especially Silva Koscina as Iole and Ivo Garrani as Pelias, try very hard in portraying what are essentially mythical icons out of Greek antiquity; and the special effects work within the limitations of the budget. True, Ray Harryhausen in his sleep could have created a more convincing dragon (and later did just that, in Jason and the Argonauts), but within the confines of this film's available talent and money, the dragon awaiting Jason at the end of the quest for the Golden Fleece worked as well as it needed to. Moreover, the popularity of this movie inspired a generation of teenage and preteen baby-boomers to start studying Greek and Roman mythology with varying degrees of seriousness; it also may well have planted the pop culture seed through which Marvel Comics was able to spawn the Mighty Thor in comic books three years later, which eventually introduced Hercules as a semi-permanent character.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Good Times Video
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
[Dolby Digital, monaural]
Sales rank:

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Steve Reeves Hercules
Sylva Koscina Iole
Fabrizio Mioni Jason
Ivo Garrani Pelias
Arturo Dominici Eurysteus
Gianna Maria Canale Antea
Mimmo Palmara Iphitus
Lydia Alfonsi The Sybil
Gina Rovere Amazon
Gabriele Antonini Ulysses
Andrea Fantasia Laertes
Aldo Fiorelli Argos
Gino Nattera Orpheus
Afro Polli Chiron
Luciana Paluzzi Actor

Technical Credits
Pietro Francisci Director,Screenwriter
Mario Bava Cinematographer
Giulio Coltellacci Costumes/Costume Designer
Ennio de Concini Screenwriter
Calo Frattini Screenwriter
Enzo Masetti Score Composer
Mario Serandrei Editor
Federico Teti Producer

Scene Index

Side #1 -- Hercules
0. Scene Index
1. Chapter 1 [6:20]
2. Chapter 2 [11:26]
3. Chapter 3 [9:59]
4. Chapter 4 [7:07]
5. Chapter 5 [8:27]
6. Chapter 6 [7:30]
7. Chapter 7 [9:15]
8. Chapter 8 [8:12]
9. Chapter 9 [9:16]
10. Chapter 10 [7:22]
11. Chapter 11 [8:03]
12. Chapter 12 [10:47]

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Hercules 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This film was responsible for the slew of sword and sandal films that followed in the aftermath.It also put Steve Reeves,a well known body builder who won every coveted title at the time,into the international spotlight of filmdom.Probably under a more prestigious director or budget-inflated production,the film would have been on a par with other period piece epics such as Samson and Delihla or Ben Hur.Francisci however,creates a moody almost surreal atmosphere, with vibrant colors,on-location scenery and limited effects sans CGI,that gives the feel of a larger budgeted film.Reeves,who tooled around Hollywood in various TV appearances and small budget(even an Ed Wood vehicle)films after his body building carreer, gives a very likable and more than capable performance in the title role(with a dubbed voice that sounded very similar to his own).There have been other Hercules films made since this one,but I guarantee this is the one you will remember.This is great fun and an exciting adventure that is terrific for the whole family.