Friday, September 21, 2007

Hercules in the Haunted World

Wish I'd saved this one for Halloween. It's got vampires, zombies, dank crypts, torture chambers, and all kinds of other creepy stuff. And the villain is none other than Christopher Lee, playing (what else?) the King of the Vampires. I'm surprised that some enterprising Hollywood type didn't retitle this one "Hercules Versus Dracula", because for all intents and purposes that's what this movie is.
It's also probably the best of the sword and sandal movies I've watched so far. This is one that shows that a good director can take the same limited budget that lesser talents have and turn it into a visually stylish film. According to the internet, the director, Mario Brava, went on to become a famous Italian horror movie maker. I'm not familiar with him, but he certainly has a head for the spooky stuff. The rise of the zombies from their graves toward the end of the film is actually pretty scary and when the mob of decaying bodies is swarming all over Hercules in a dark, narrow corridor, biting and clawing, it's genuinely chilling.
The film's only clunky special effect is yet another bad rock monster. It looks especially out of place because the rest of the film manages to look so good despite the limited budget. Hercules journeys to Hades, the underworld, in a dreamlike sequence that's quite surreal and effective. He climbs a gigantic tree to find the golden apple he needs to save his main squeeze and her city.
This is another Herc film that I'm reasonably sure the producers of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys must have screened. Herc's sidekick in this one is an acrobatic young fellow with blonde curly hair and an eye for the ladies. Sound familiar? This one also has quite a bit of intentional humor. Much wise cracking and good natured insults. The dubbing on this one is better than average, though apparently Christopher Lee wasn't available to do his own dubbing. In some of the other S&S films I've watched, the American or British Actors did their own voices for the dubs.
I understand that this film has recently been digitally remastered and released in a wide screen version. The version in the Warriors Boxed Set is so-so, but still manages to look better than any of the other S&S movies so far. Hercules in the Haunted World gets an unheard of Five out of Five Sandals. This is probably as good as it gets for this genre.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Charles,

Glad you saw this one. Mario Bava was a horror director, his best pics are very stylish, perhaps because of his background as a cinematographer.

Two others of his I recommend are: "Black Sunday", with Barbara Steele, (1963), and "Planet of the Vampires, (1965). Some of the set designs in Ridley Scott's 1979 pic, "Alien", are obviously modeled on the latter movie, esp. the alien space ship.