Hercules and the Captive Women

May 14, 2014 at 12:01 am (6 Heads, Hercules and the Captive Women) (, , , , , )

Hercules and the Captive Women – 1961 – Italy/France

Hercules and the Captive Women opens with a barroom melee. In the city of Thebes, “good natured brawling is a necessity” “to keep young soldiers ready for battle”. Following this non sequitur, magical crimson mists enshroud Thebes. The king of Thebes summons the council of Grecian rulers, but they are impotent bureaucrats. Without an army, the king voyages off to discover the source of the mist, but not before kidnapping Hercules out of retirement.

After a mutiny and a storm, Hercules and the king reach a barren island and find young maidens encased in stone. The women are Atlantean sacrifices to the sorcerous god Proteus, son of Uranus. Hercules wrestles and kills Proteus, who is actually a shapeshifting dragon-man. Suddenly, Atlantis materializes from the mists. Hercules and the king enter, wherein Hercules is seduced by the Atlantean queen, and the king is brainwashed into an assassin. The conflict soon pits Hercules and his son (who stowed away on the voyage) against a rock of Uranus’s petrified blood, which the Atlanteans use to breed an army of identical blonde super warriors. Following much fighting, Atlantis is destroyed in a volcanic cataclysm.

The plot is every bit as crazy as it sounds. Hercules and the Captive Women (known outside the U.S. as Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis) is more concerned with rousing set pieces than coherency. Its highlights are numerous. Hercules plays tug of war with a galleon full of rowers by pulling its anchor chain. He brawls a wizard who transforms into a lion. He ignites a chariot and spurs it into mass of soldiers. Although physically weak, Hercules’ cunning son also shines as he romances a princess, and leads an army of mutated outcasts against Atlantis.

The epic events of Hercules and the Captive Women make for an expensive production. The sets and costumes are detailed and decadent. Crowds of extras and sprawling battles create an appropriately grand scale. Atlantis’s destruction is especially notable. Stock footage of a bursting volcano is intercut with awe-inspiring scenes of rushing mobs and collapsing scenery. The sets are decimated during this lengthy finale.

The Italian Hercules films are mostly good. Hercules’s adventures are never clever or original, but their steady stream of wondrous fantasy and outrageous action is typically engrossing. In its unpretentious way, Hercules and the Captive Women is a success.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. You may interpret the army of blonde Atlantean Übermensch as a reference to Nazi eugenics. In that case, this film is the closest Hercules comes to fighting Hitler.

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