Hercules Against the Moon Men

June 12, 2011 at 3:19 am (6 Heads, Hercules Against the Moon Men) (, , , , , , )

Hercules Against the Moon Men – 1964 – Italy

Hercules’ filmography spans five decades, encompassing dozens of flicks (mostly Italian) and TV series (one by Sam Raimi). As a lovably roguish but well-meaning demigod, Hercules’ popularity is understandable. Having never seen an Italian Herculean epic, I approached Hercules Against the Moon Men (HAMM) with few expectations. Unbeknownst to me, in the original Italian, the hero isn’t Hercules but Maciste (a legendary strongman warrior of Italian cinema), which helps explain the prevalent non-Greek (Roman and Egyptian) mythological elements.

In a dreary mountainous kingdom ruled by a despotic sorceress, townsfolk are sacrificed to the Mountain of Death—home of ethereal lights and stone golems. The sacrifices keep evil creatures at bay, says the sorceress. Actually, she pledged allegiance to aliens in the mountain to gain eternal youth. Hercules, on a (literal) white horse, leads the oppressed townies in rebellion, defeating the aliens somewhere along the way, although it’s hard to say how. As the aliens’ moon nears Earth, the flick is an apocalypse of bursting chromatic light and whirling dust, and comprehensibility breaks down. But eventually, Hercules and his girlfriend ride off in the sunshine, so presumably everything is okay.

HAMM explores typical ideas of good strength versus evil cunning. Like Robert Howard’s Conan’s distrust of sorcery, Hercules considers the use of wits inherently dishonest. The sorceress utilizes devious traps and ambushes, which Hercules simply smashes through. In the only exception, the sorceress employs a magic herb to seduce Hercules but he fakes being brainwashed to glean information. While it might be construed as a plot convenience, this moment adds depth to Hercules’ personality.

Knuckle-headed elements aside, HAMM is rousing. Charismatic Hercules is easy to cheer for and his villainous foes are easy to despise. There is exciting adventure galore as Hercules bends bars, breaks chains, and busts heads. While the evil creatures vary in creativity (the goblin-faced ape is lame), there are triumphant moments of fantasy too. The aliens have Darth Vader voices and faces like streamlined platinum skulls. Equally cool, their technology is formed of minerals in a blurring of science and magic. Their towering rock-man warriors are also suitably imposing.

I saw HAMM on Mill Creek’s SciFi Classics 50 Movie Pack (including other Hercules flicks). Even cropped to 4:3 with very faded colors, I probably didn’t miss much. Aside from its fanciful costumes and sets, HAMM is just barely proficient. Its most successful aspect is its imaginative blending of mythological fantasy and cosmic sci-fi. Watching Hercules go to town on a bunch of S.O.B.s is rewarding too. If all Hercules flicks are this interesting, then the Italians were onto something.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. Hail Hercules—legendary man of action.

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