In the beginning there was darkness, and then came a huge explosion which started the universe, the elements and the earliest beings: the gods. Then Pandora's Jar was smashed, fragments of which became the planets, including Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter and Earth, where there was life. Zeus (Claudio Cassinelli), the King of the Gods who lived with them on their home on the moon, created Hercules (Lou Ferrigno), a man with enormous strength, and sent him to be born as a human in the cradle of a king. However, Minos (William Berger) and his daughter Arianna (Sybil Danning) were determined to rule the kingdom, putting Hercules' life in danger...
Exhibiting a confused approach to Roman and Greek mythology, this variation on the famed legend was scripted by director Luigi Cozzi and became infamous for its ambition on an inadequate budget. There are a number of influences to this would-be epic; at first you think it's going to be a rerun of Superman: The Movie as Hercules zooms Earthwards as a ball of light, in fact considering all those flashes of light and laser, sorry, cosmic beams flying around Star Wars might well have impressed the film makers, or better still one of the Ray Harryhausen special effects extravaganzas, specifically Clash of the Titans.
But what this film really resembles is one of the sword and sorcery movies that was released by Italy in the sixties, only with pretentions to equal all of the above works. With perhaps a bit of Conan the Barbarian thrown in, because the star of Hercules is Ferrigno, hoping to cash in on the eighties passion for musclebound heroes led by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He would have to needed a better backing than Cannon to give his career the required lift than this would have offered him, and it's telling that even after all these years he's still known as television's The Incredible Hulk.
The plot is a confusing mishmash of myths and legends which are chopped and changed with scant regard for logic. Recognisable tales, such as Herc strangling two snakes as an infant (I think they're supposed to be snakes anyway) or cleaning out the Augean Stables, are employed, along with Daedalus now being a woman (well, Eva Robins) dressed as a Valkyrie and building robot creatures to battle the protagonist, along with hectoring Minos about science being better than the gods - even though her machines, including a giant metal bee and a similar-looking hydra, are always soundly beaten by Hercules.
It's as if Cozzi had flicked through a book of fables and taken random pages to illustrate his story. The effects are frequently laughable, none more hilarious than Hercules' fight with a bear; he grapples with a man in a costume which is cunningly intercut with shots of a real bear (hands up who was convinced?), then, at the crucial moment, he throws the animal into space where it turns into a constellation. He has a habit of throwing things into space as a log gets hurled skyward too, and he ends up sending himself into the heavens on a chariot at one point.
Incident is piled upon incident, with the hero repeatedly facing tests of his strength without making much sense as far as the plot goes. He falls in love with princess Cassiopeia (Ingrid Anderson), is accompanied by sorceress Circe (Mirella D'Angelo) down to the realms of Hades, but hardly ever gets to meet Arianna, despite Danning being second billed. The final swordplay with Minos (couldn't they have found room for the Minotaur?) is obviously supposed to make you think of lightsaber combat, but I doubt many viewers will still be making flattering comparisons. The overall effect is one of crazed amateurs plunging headlong into mythology with nary a hint that the end result might be overwhelmingly ridiculous, which is of course exactly what it is. Music by Pino Donaggio.
Italian director of low budget horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Like many of his countrymen, Cozzi was quick to leap on the back of whatever Hollywood films were currently winning at the box office, hence films 'inspired' by Star Wars (Starcrash), Alien (Contamination), Conan (Hercules) and so on. Directed the 1991 Dario Argento documentary Master of Horror, and has worked on several Argento films over the years, including Two Evil Eyes and The Stendhal Syndrome. The pair also co-own the Rome-based movie shop Profondo Rosso.