Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness

May 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm (6 Heads, Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness) (, , , , , )

Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness – 1964 – Italy

The Sons of Hercules was an American television series reediting Italian swords-and-sandals films. Each flick was divided into two 40 minute episodes with some added narration identifying the hero as one of Hercules’ sons. Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness is actually Hercules the Invincible (1964).

Hercules’ son Argolese wanders upon a beautiful princess being stalked by a lion. After Argolese wrestles the beast, the princess’ father promises him her hand in marriage if he can also slay a dragon. Of course he readily does, but while he is gone, blood-drinking Mongol-like raiders kidnap the princess, sequestering her in their volcanic subterranean city. Along with his cowardly gluttonous comedy-relief sidekick, Argolese invades the raiders’ city and kicks ass.

The action in Son of Hercules is nonstop as Argolese battles beasts, fells posses of warriors single-handed, dodges traps, lifts heavy stuff, and charms ladies. In one outrageous bit, he grapples with a bipedal bear on a narrow log above a magma river. In another, he is chained between two elephants charging in opposite directions until he wrenches the chains apart. And the athletic fight scenes have great stunts. Grabbing a man by the legs, Argolese twirls him around to clobber guys. Later, Argolese charges into a line of dudes, initiating a devastating domino effect.

Son of Hercules’ hyperactive pacing glosses over many narrative shortcomings and clever filmmaking techniques help conceal its small budget. The sets elegantly utilize matte paintings to create a dramatic sense of scale. Crowd scenes are craftily edited to conceal the small number of extras. And the dinosaur-like dragon costume is shot as to seem much more awesome than it probably was. The live lion and bear greatly increase the production value too.

Son of Hercules is imaginative and energetic, qualities found consistently in Italian fantasy films of the era. Italy is home of legendary film heroes Hercules, Masciste, and Ursus, along with countless other faceless sword-and-sandals warriors. These characters and their rugged, scenic, magical worlds provide charming and childish escapism. Son of Hercules embodies this concept wholeheartedly.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. The Sons of Hercules theme song is triumphant.

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