Hercules vs. The Hydra (Gli amori di Ercole) (1960) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||1960|
|Running Time||93:30 (Case: 90)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
While Hercules (Mickey Hargitay) is off consulting the oracle his village is attacked and his wife killed by soldiers sent by the King of Ecalia led by Licos (Massimo Serato). However, Licos has ambitions of his own and on his return to the city he murders the king. This means that when Hercules comes looking for revenge, the person who will have to account for the deaths is the king’s daughter, Queen Deianira (Jayne Mansfield). When Hercules arrives he declines to take vengeance on Deianira and in fact is able to save her in a trial before the people. Deianira is smitten and when Hercules saves her from a rampaging bull he declares his love. However, Deianira is already promised to Archaleus, and when he arrives in the city Hercules leaves.
But Licos is not finished with him. Archaleus is murdered on his orders with Hercules’ dagger and Hercules is blamed. Hercules returns to protest his innocence; the real killer, Philotetes, has escaped from the city and Hercules sets out in pursuit, chasing him into the cave of the three headed hydra where Hercules kills the hydra but is badly injured. He is found by the Amazon Nemee (Moira Orfei) and taken to the Amazon kingdom ruled by Queen Hippolyta (Tina Gloriani). Hippolyta has an interesting fate for her lovers; she has them turned into living trees, and left to suffer in torment. She decides that Hercules will be her next lover, and with the help of a magic potion turns herself into the image of Deianira. Hercules is fooled, and willingly throws himself into Hippolyta’s arms. But, luckily for him, before Hippolyta tires of him Nemee reveals the truth to Hercules and he escapes.
Back in Ecalia Licos has shown his ambition. He embarks on a reign of terror in the city, suppressing all opposition with torture and imprisonment and when Deianira refuses to marry him he has her locked in a dungeon. Hercules rallies the people and attacks the palace; Licos flees taking Deianira with him with Hercules in hot pursuit. But there is another adversary waiting for them.
Starting in the late 1950s there was a spate of loosely termed “sword and sandal” films, Biblical or quasi-historical/mythical films drawing on Greek and Roman legends that were made and financed in Italy but with an international “star”, such as Steve Reeves for Hercules (1958). Indeed, Hercules become a favourite character and there were around another eighteen Hercules sequels that followed the Reeves original, only one of which starred Reeves. They were all stand-alone films, unconnected to each other, the fourth in the series being Hercules vs. The Hydra.
Hercules vs. The Hydra (the credits show the title of the film as The Loves of Hercules, which at least reflects the original Italian title Gli amori di Ercole), was directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, who had been directing since 1932 and had over 60 films on his resume, perhaps the best know being the Victor Mature film Hannibal, which Bragaglia co-directed in 1959. What makes Hercules vs. The Hydra rather special are the imported stars: Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay.
Mansfield and Hargitay were married at the time and in fact Mansfield was pregnant during the filming of Hercules vs. The Hydra which is why she looks a bit stocky. Although her assets are obvious she shows far more leg than cleavage in Hercules vs. The Hydra while body builder Hargitay’s muscled and bronzed torso is never covered. He cannot act but he does look good, even when picking up papier-mache prop tree trunks, which is all that is really required. Otherwise, Hercules vs. The Hydra has decent sets, a horde of extras, skimpy costumes on both males and females, atrocious dubbing, stilted acting and dialogue and one of the least frightening monsters you will ever see; the hydra is so puppet-like and slow moving a tortoise would be able to avoid its lunges. Rather better are the living trees, which at least look a bit spooky. Some of the sets are large including the massive palace steps and colonnade while the set design regularly takes advantage of the famous gold “Mask of Agamemnon” found by Schliemann at Mycenae in 1876 while the Amazon costume, as well as tiny skirts, features the silliest looking headwear of all time.
Shoddy effects, atrocious dubs and weird costumes are part of what makes “sword and sandal” films so much fun; you know what to expect from Hercules vs. The Hydra and it delivers!
The IMDb gives the original aspect ratio of Hercules vs. The Hydra as 2.35:1. It was made in CinemaScope and Eastman Color but apparently all the 35 mm prints have since been lost. The credit sequence of this DVD states that it is “The English language version directed by Richard McMamara”; it is 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced and in the NTSC format.
The print looks soft in exterior and wide shots but interiors are sharp and close-ups of faces and Hargitay’s bronzed torso clear. Colours vary from hazy to rich, blacks and shadow detail is acceptable. There are frequent small artefacts and some larger splotches, vertical scratches and regular interlacing. Contrast and brightness also varied on occasion. However, nothing was too distracting.
No subtitles are provided.
Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 224 Kbps. The film was shown theatrically with a mono audio track.
Dialogue is clear and understandable, the effects loud and sharp. There no pops and clicks and obviously no surround or subwoofer use.
The original music is by the prolific Carlo Innocenzi. He had 134 credits on the IMDb, including lots of sword and sandal films so he certainly knew what he was doing providing rousing sections and more lush romantic themes.
The thing many viewers remember about the sword and sandal films is the atrocious dubbing, and this is in full view. But it would not be a sword and sandal film otherwise, so this does not spoil the viewing experience.
|Surround Channel Use|
No extras – the menu has music and offers only Play / Chapters.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Amazon list only this Region All Australian version and a Region 1 US version of Hercules vs. The Hydra but no details are provided. I have my doubts about whether any decent versions of the film are available.
Hercules vs. The Hydra is cheesy and silly and in the incorrect aspect ratio. Yet, the film is lot of fun with its weird costumes, atrocious dubbing, stilted acting and laughable special effects. The Australian release is at least cheap but this is still one for fans of Jayne Mansfield or lovers of sword and sandal films.
The unrestored Eastman Color print could use some work but is still watchable, the audio is the original mono.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|