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  Hercules Returns Love-A-Dub-Dub
Year: 1993
Director: David Parker
Stars: David Argue, Michael Carman, Mary Coustas, Bruce Spence, Brendon Suhr, Des Mangan, Sally Patience, Matthew King
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Brad McBain (David Argue) works in an executive position at Australia's biggest cinema chain, under the megolamaniacal boss, Sir Michael Kent (Michael Carman), but he is far from happy. As he sits through yet another meeting where the rights to distribute the latest Rambo films - Rambo meets Rocky, Rambo meets Bambi, Rambo eats Bambi - have been secured, his thoughts wander to setting up business on his own. There is an abandoned cinema in the city that he has his eye on, and if he could find the staff he could show the films he wants to there: but Sir Michael doesn't like rivals...

When Woody Allen made What's Up Tiger Lily? back in the sixties, he was spawning an idea that has resurfaced in film and television at irregular intervals ever since, that is, take an old movie and re-dub it with comedy dialogue. So it was with Hercules Returns where writer and cult film buff Des Mangan rescripted an old Italian sword and sandal epic called Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili, which mixed up a variety of musclebound heroes in one unlikely stew. Where much of the knack with crafting something truly funny out of this technique can be too much to last for a whole film (even Woody was stretched), Mangan gets it just right.

The bookends, where Brad does indeed open up that cinema, are fair but not fall down hilarious (apart from the sign gag). Here we see him assemble a three-person team of projectionist Bruce Spence, publicist Mary Coustas and himself and set about preparing for opening night, where they have the bright idea to premiere with the final film the cinema showed before it was closed last time. This is the Italian epic, but Sir Michael has switched the cans on them and given them a non-dubbed version, spelling disaster for the trio, which is a long winded way of explaining why they have to provide the voices and sound effects themselves.

Mangan and his cohorts had toured the world with this performance before he had opted to film it, and it does feel as if every line has been carefully fashioned for the biggest audience response. You are pretty much guaranteed a laugh out loud moment every few lines, giving this a higher hit rate than many comedies that came out of Hollywood and if the humour was cheerfully broad, that didn't stop it being authentically hilarious enough times to make this well worth your while. Don't try to follow the film within a film's plot, as although it does make sense in its way, you're likely to miss a joke or two.

Hercules becomes an American idiot, more keen on following his career as a nightclub singer than following the desires of Zeus, and rides off (in the wrong direction) to meet Labia who he saves from drowning and is ordered to marry as a result. Neither are keen, especially as Labia's heart belongs to Testiculi, so it begins to get complicated from here on in as the story introduces mithering Samson, who loses his hair of course, Scottish brawler Ursus, and too camp to be true Machismo. If this sounds as if Mangan was going for easy laughs, he is to an extent, but there's a wit and fine sense of the ridiculous here that sparkles in daft lines like "I'll fight you on one condition - that you lower your nipples." Hercules Returns doesn't outstay its welcome, if anything it's over too quickly, and one's only regret is that this lot didn't return themselves for a second helping. Music by Phil Judd.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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