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  Hercules in New York Hit Or Myth
Year: 1970
Director: Arthur A. Seidelman
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnold Stang, Deborah Loomis, Ernest Graves, James Karen, Tanny McDonald, Taina Elg, Harold Burstein, Merwin Goldsmith, George Bartenieff, Michael Lipton
Genre: Comedy, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: On Mount Olympus in the realm of the Greek gods and goddesses, superstrong demi-god Hercules (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has grown restless with his idyllic life and longs to return to the world of the mortals and have new adventures there. However, his stern father Zeus (Ernest Graves) forbids this, demanding Hercules stay exactly where he is and the more his son complains, the more angry Zeus becomes. Eventually, in a fit of rage, he throws a lightning bolt at Hercules and the explosion sends the demi-god down to Earth, passing an aeroplane on the way and surprising the passengers as he waves a cheery "hello". He lands in the sea and is picked up by a passing ship on its way to New York, but Hercules finds that life is not all plain sailing down among the mortals...

Written by producer Aubrey Wisberg, this film is notorious for featuring a certain screen megastar and future Governor of California in his first starring role, here under the alias Arnold Strong. Those who were less than convinced of Schwarzenegger's acting talents were vindicated by watching this movie which saw our hero either dubbed with a deep, American voice or using his own, thickly accented, Austrian voice depending on which version you saw, but not exactly giving thespian legends like Laurence Olivier or Marlon Brando a run for their money. In fact, he's even acted off the screen by the modest Arnold Stang, who appears as his sidekick Pretzie and helps him out of trouble when he successfully tries to jump ship.

But this is meant to be throwaway entertainment, so how does it stand up? Sadly, it has to be said Hercules in New York is found lacking - sure, it has camp appeal, but the whole affair is so low budget in the worst sense, with fluffed lines, wobbly camerawork and stilted acting that it looks punishingly amateur. When we enjoy scenes of Zeus and his godlike friends emoting in what looks like a nearby park, you can't help but notice the sound of passing cars in the background, and as it's Herc we want to see these constant interruptions have a tedious effect, especially as they're basically the same set up over and over again: we know Zeus wants his son to return, we don't need to be told incessantly.

Meanwhile, Hercules is wearing out his name (catchphrase: "I am Hercules!") and meeting new friends. He and Pretzie (who got his name because he's a pretzel salesman) see a group of students practising athletics, which the strongman considers with vocal disdain, leading to a "if you're so clever, you try it" sequence where he demonstrates his physical prowess courtesy of camera trickery. Yes, you too can break records in the long jump if nobody sees you flying through the air between takeoff and landing. They happen to be noticed by Helen (Deborah Loomis) and her father, Professor Camden (James Karen), who think the musclebound visitor has potential, leading to a not particularly hilarious drawing room comedy moment where Hercules makes the classic faux pas of inquiring who Helen is currently shagging.

This is supposed to be a comedy, but you'd have hard time raising a laugh at the antics on display here unless it's a derisive snicker. As Hercules becomes a wrestler for cash (of which we see one short shot of Schwarzenegger holding someone above his head and that's it), local gangsters get involved, and that's not all, as his father's wife Juno (Tanny McDonald) sends Nemesis (Taina Elg) down to sabotage his chances by reducing his strength in a televised weightlifting competition. It all ends in a frantic chase as Herc commandeers a handy chariot for a car chase and a massive fight erupts. And that's without mentioning the bear, well, the man in the bear suit at least, who Herc subdues, or the fact that this is the only Hercules movie you'll see where the mythological figure wears a cardigan. Not an esteemed debut for Schwarzenegger, then, but the only way was up after this fiasco. Relentlessly Greek music by John Balamos.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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