In a nutshell, the Lou Ferrigno-fronted 1980's Hercules
does for Greek mythology what Battle Beyond The Stars
did for space opera.
It is similarly cheap, cheerful, camp, and cheesy, with gloriously wonky special effects - as you would hope for from sci-fi fantasy of the era.
The 104-minute romp opens with a bizarre and jumbled retelling of a creation myth, that cherry picks various mythological elements (as does the entire story
) and mixes them in as it sees fit.
This then segues into Hercules backstory - which borrows heavily from Superman
's origin - with baby Herc being smuggled away from a palace coup that saw his parents murdered, then cast adrift in a
small boat, before washing up on a riverbank
and immediately adopted by a friendly pair of childless farming folk
Time wibble-wobbles forward and Hercules has grown into oiled-up beefcake Lou Ferrigno, just in time for his adopted parents to be killed off and for him to seek his destiny in the big city.
Having competed in a series of tasks, he is supposed to serve as a bodyguard to the stunningly gorgeous Cassiopea (Ingrid Anderson), but before Hercules can begin, Cassiopea gets kidnapped by the wicked King Minos of Thera (William Berger) and his daughter, Adriana, played with bosom-heaving brilliance by the ever-reliable Queen of Scream Queens Sybil Danning.
Hercules is dropped in the ocean, but manages to swim for a week to the shore of the island home of the witch of Circe (Mirella D'Angelo), yet another breathtakingly appealing woman falling into Hercules' lap.
Teaming up with Circe, our hero has to descend into Hell to retrieve her stolen amulet, which will supposedly help them get to The Green Island of Thera, where Minos is holding Cassiopea captive, under the spell of the dreaded black lotus.
I think this take on Hercules
is possibly a meditation on the battle between science and faith, with Hercules being helped (and hindered
) by the gods and their agents, while Minos, with the aid of a funky (possibly alien
) entity called Dedalos (Eva Robins), represents the advancement of technology and science.
But it's a very weird science - that, at times, relies on the power of human sacrifice as well as other clearly magical shortcuts.
Yes, I know, the general take on Arthur C Clarke's third law
, but I suspect writer/director Luigi Cozzi was more influenced by Erich von Däniken's Chariots Of The Gods
pseudoscience than Clarke's hard sci-fi.
There's definitely a strong whiff of Ancient Aliens
madness at work in the mythology of Hercules
And a large part of the film's appeal to me (along with its central trinity of beautiful actresses
) is that it takes this quirky spin on Greek myths, while still employing a very fantastical over-the-top approach that doesn't bother too much with rules and structure.
The movie certainly plays fast-and-loose with the idea of verisimilitude, refusing to let this hero's journey be grounded in any shape or form.
It's one of those films where ideas were obviously thrown at the screen, then forgotten as the production team moved on - for instance, in some of his early fights, Hercules (who we've learned was originally created as a being of light by Zeus, to be mankind's protector
) gives off flashes of light when he hits people.
But then later on, you realise this just isn't happening any more.
Which is a shame, because it was an oddly comic book-like effect.
There's a lot of model use in the film, again as you would expect, and while the creatures (mainly mechanical robots of various shapes and designs
) are quite raw and basic (and ultimately ineffectual
), the set designs - although obviously models - are interesting and evocative of the strange world Cozzi is creating for his characters to exist in.
The Sacred Swords Of Thera and The Phoenix.
|Sacred Sword Of Thera|
Sacred Sword Of Thera
(+3 flaming broadsword
: a sheath of yellow, pink, and orange flame ripples along the blade once it is drawn (and will stay for 1d4 rounds if dropped for any reason
A successful hit with the flaming blade calls for a Saving Throw vs Pain for the wounded target.
A failure means they cannot act for the following round (if they haven't already had their action in the round they were hit they also lose that action!
Magically light and easily used in one-hand, the sword grants a +3 bonus to attack.
|Sacred Sword Of The Phoenix|
Sacred Sword Of The Phoenix
(+3 two-handed sword
The more powerful of the paired blades, the Phoenix sword was crafted in a long-forgotten age from the material of a dying star, which has granted it power over the element of fire.
Its very elaborate golden hilt ends in a stylised pommel in the shape of a phoenix.
A mighty two-handed sword that grants a +3 bonus to hit.
The Sword Of The Phoenix can be carried by a normal person, but it requires both a STR and DEX of 15+ to wield safely.
For every statistic point - cumulative - below that threshold, the user suffers a -1 to hit and on damage. For every three penalty points he incurs, his fumble margin rises by one as well (e.g. a person with STR 14 and DEX 13 would hit at -3 and fumble on on a roll o either a natural 1 or a 2
: While held, it grants its wielder invulnerability to all forms of fire damage (both natural and magical
: Anyone slain by this sword is automatically reduced to a pile of ash and will therefore require extraordinary magic (possibly the direct intervention of a god
) to return to life. If such a thing is desired.
Bind The Phoenix
: However, its major power, and the one that makes it most sought after, is it's ability to control volcanoes.
If planted in the ground within 100ft of the base of an active volcano (the metaphorical phoenix
), that volcano will not erupt all the time the sword remains.
However, once the sword is next removed - as long as it has been there for 1d12 months - the volcano will start erupting in 1d20 rounds.
Oil Of Hercules
Found in a vial with 2d6 applications left, this oil must be used to cover the bulk of a person's body (upper torso, legs, arms, face
) for its magical enchantments to work.
For 24 hours, per full application, it grants its user heightened strength and protection of damage.
However, it only works on naked skin, and so is best employed by, say, a fighter or barbarian dressed only in a loincloth.
While the oil is on a person's skin, and exposed to the air, it grants +1d6 temporary Strength bonus (reroll for each day/application
) and invulnerability to 1d6 points of damage.
The damage resistance is rerolled each time the wearer is potentially wounded (from a a weapon, environmental hazard, fall, magical attack etc
), so they will never know how much protection the oil is granting them.
An added bonus for the user of the oil is that it grants a -4 penalty to anyone attempting to grapple them.
A person may only be subject to the benefits of a single application at any one time. Any attempts to layer applications simply waste the oil.