Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Many Loves of Hercules

The alternate title to this mythic cup of instant soup is Hercules Versus the Hydra, so take your choice to the kind of thrills to enjoy here,

When I was very young, Hercules as an entertainment entity was quite the thing. There were the Steve Reeves movies that seemed incredible. I never saw them but whatever I heard about them sanctified the idea of wonder in this world, entertainment division. I believe The Three Stooges met up with Herc in one of their later cinematic affairs featuring Curly Joe. There was even a lame-o cartoon in which a lot of mythic names were misapplied. The cartoon was stupid, even young Allen could tell.

Like Samson, Hercules was more anti-hero. He couldn’t quite handle his power, thru impetuosity, ambition, pride, a bit of ADHD. Welcome to the 2016 presidential race.

Anyway, here we have a movie to dissect as part of the teeming flood of entertainment that humankind apparently needs. By entertainment I guess I mean the broader word content. When you peruse the opulent lists of possible movies to watch on Netflix, or whatever fount of entertainment, you can only feel amazement at the quantity of items needed to keep us entertained. Who urges these projects, who pays for them, who profits from them, who cares? I mean the scale of movie making, even the shoestring budget stuff, compared to the production of poems and selfies, is huge. The Many Loves of Hercules was the instance of soothing entertainment for this nonce.

Entertainments like these are worthy one’s attention. Within their machinations and veritable excitement lies the intent to capture. That intent deserves consideration. For years Donald Trump sparkled in public as a celebrity dingbat. Turns out he was serious, and seriously sucked people into his production. We take the greatest of shit seriously, to our core.

The movie begins straight away with action, leastwise with a number of people running around without much dialogue. Whoever scored this thing apparently understood that this was a dramatic event of some flurry. Unfortunately that person never saw the rushes, which honestly aren’t all that rushed, if you get my drift. Grand musical incitement occurs while on the screen half-hearted actors try to read their lines and hit their marks correctly. The catchphrase Make America Great Again holds no future or past, it’s just a rousing musical score to accompany a lot of dithering. Dithering opens the action of the movie, with the invading army laying waste in lightly swishing gestures. The person who scored it read it differently, with vital armies and vital objectives. On the screen some listless grappling, like recalcitrant calisthenics.

This opening action, to call it that, is oddly intriguing. I found myself drawn to the sub-vignettes of the extras attempting to bring forth the carnage of war without overly exerting themselves in the hot Italian sun.
Plot starts when the he of evil beard invades the tent of, it turns out, Mrs Hercules. She is a pawn on this fell person’s chessboard. He is the adviser to the invading king. I think his perfect beard and ringlets tell the story well enough. He has Mrs Hercules killed. Mrs Herc vows that her hero will avenge her. The plot says that her death will be attributed to the king. Pathway to the throne cleared.
The king is then dispatched, but with the story that he died bravely in battle against all those peasants with sticks. Evil smirk. Believe me now and hear me later.

Hercules is played by Mickey Hargitay, erstwhile husband of Jayne Mansfield. Herself is the other dot of civilized glamour in this Italian-American production. Hercules is first seen chatting up the oracle. Hargitay was a body builder but back when one could still look humanly plausible. He looks beefy, albeit glistening with oil, He looks a little brash, a little self-involved, a touch of boyish charm. Not heroic but at least he has qualities fitting of the hero. Thru out the film, he wears a skirt, I guess, and sometimes a sash across his shoulder.

Hargitay was from Poland in real life and retained an accent. A poncy English person spoke his lines, wishing in his heart, no doubt, that this was King Lear. He of the glistening hairless pecs pleads with the oracle as to when his life might settle down. The oracle is none too positive on that question.
Suddenly, a colleague of Hercules interrupts this misty scene to announce the defeat of the city and death of Hercules’ wife. Hercules heads to the city. The oracle is left to look oracular.

Hercules arrives at the city gate and yells that he wants admittance. An army awaits behind the gate but no one replies. Exasperated, Hercules picks up a lengthy tree trunk. It is long enough that he has trouble gaining balance. Carrying it awkwardly overhead, he applies it battering ram style to the gate, which eventually succumbs. The army runs away. The slain king’s daughter chooses to meet him.
The queen is movie star galore, Jayne Mansfield, whose star I wot has already faded. She tells Hercules that her father is dead and that he can avenge himself on her. He decides against wreaking further havoc. There’s some claptrap about the now queen having to endure some test if she meets with Herc. Bravely she does so. 

Priests strap her to a wall and Hargitay must revisit his presumed Vegas act of throwing axes at her. If he can sever all four cords and not the queen, she can go free. Calling on Zeus, head honcho of Greek gods, he succeeds. Jayne faints.

Hercules comfortably makes himself at home with the queen, despite having threatened the city and breaking its gate. His presence upsets the plans of the evil bearded one. He sends a text message to the queen’s betrothed. This was to be an arranged marriage unburdened by the shackles of love. He arrives to find the queen and Hercules all lovey dovey. He attacks Hercules with a knife but Hercules overpowers him. In the ensuing dust up, we see Hercules holding the betrothed over his head somewhat pointlessly, and the queen pleads for the man’s life. Hercules accedes, and leaves.
Maybe it was earlier that Herc and the queen were out on horseback when suddenly... Well, kind of suddenly, some cattle escape and Hercules manages to corral them in a scene of scintillating milling about. A bull, however, wanders over towards the queen. She falls off her horse and screams as the bull apparently considers whether to gore her. While the bull considers his next move, Hercules arrives in time. He wrestles the bull to the ground then stabs it. He leaves the knife in the beast as he rushes to see to the queen. A stealthy co-conspirator cannily takes the knife. Now go back to the scene where Hercules fights the betrothed.

Hercules leaves in a huff. He camps with a couple of colleagues. Someone arrives to say the queen’s betrothed is dead and Hercules is implicated. Hercules rushes back to the city.

Looking for extra credit, the director makes more of the funeral scene than you’d expect for a minor character albeit a linchpin to the plot. We see a full procession including women in nightgowns and men in short skirts. A couple of servant boys wear thin bibs that reveal barely unbare butts. Fashion choices. Jayne Mansfield is always squeezed into some sort of emphatic Hollywood gown.
Hercules crashes the funeral to say he is innocent, calling upon Zeus and the dead guy as his witnesses. Somehow, it is worked out that tho Hercules’ knife did the dirty work Herc himself was not responsible. A certain someone is identified and Hercules goes in chase. Someone says that the perp was headed to the gates of Hades, like how did that person know and why would the perp go there.

We see the guy with his chariot clattering along. Hercules a-horse catches up. The perp tries to ascend an embankment but lacks horse power so he leaps from the chariot and enters a cave. Motivation unclear.
As he stands in the cavern, three giant monster heads arise. They look like dragons, spew flames and smoke, and bob their heads. Ray Harryhausen was not called in for animation duty, this is just paper-mache. An enormous paw presses down upon the unfortunate one.

Hercules arrives, enters the cave, scopes the scene and grabs an axe that happened to be there. Forthwith he goes banging at the monster, the Hydra of one of the movies’ titles, which bobs its heads and furthermore bobs its heads. The perp had gotten free from under the paw but then a head grabbed him n its jaw. Hercules keeps thumping. Eventually he hacks thru the neck. He pushes at the head so that it falls off. Dead hydra. Dead perp, as well. If you had entered this by way of Hercules vs the Hydra, you’re done. Herc won, winner take all.

Hercules endured injuries in the fight and swoons after the Hydra’s death. A couple of warrior women on horseback saw him enter the cave and go in to find him. They take him away.

Hercules’ two colleagues discover the chariot of the perp and head to the cave. For some reason we now hear the sound of rushing water, which was not audible earlier. Dead Hydra and Herc’s cape, where could he be? One of them remembers that this is the land of the Amazons and no one has ever left it alive. They decide to return to the city.

The healer of the Amazons says she can fix up Hercules right nice, but warns Hipolyta, Queen of the Amazons, that his presence will not go well. He is still transfixed by the other queen. Hipolyta entreats the healer to transform her into the queen’s likeness.

Here, then,is Jayne two, a redhead. The other queen was black haired. I suppose it shows Jayne’s range that she can do black and red hair as well as her patented platinum. Hercules is smitten. We get some overacting on the part of Jayne. Thru out the movie, her lines sound concocted. She’s trying to take the dialogue straight but there aint much to hang on it. She resorts to gasps and thunderstucks, plus a curious widening of her eyes which seemingly betokens sexual attraction, if not some ophthalmic distress. Too much effort.

Earlier we had seen the evil side of Hipolyta. She visits a blasted area of stunted trees. Only thing is, these trees are former lovers. One is still human enough to plead horribly to be freed. Yikes! Hercules falls right in line with the temptation. Interesting to note that now it is Jupiter to whom people call in times of atavistic distress.

One of Hipolyta’s minions can’t abide this bullshit and warns Hercules. She shows him the trees, breaking a twig to show blood flowing from the wound to prove her point. She tells him to return to the city, where insurrection against the bad guys is rising. Herc carelessly trots off. Hipolyta arrives in time to shoot an arrow into the one who betrayed her. In turn, one of the trees grabs her and kills her, and her appearance returns to normal.

Within the city a reign of terror, The bad guy tortures a fellow, trying to gain information about the revolt. The fellow eventually is dropped into a pool of dry ice. We don’t know what that pool might be.

Hercules gathers a force of people escaping the terror. Proudly a-horse, he leads them back to the city. Insurrection in the city and the army joining the peasants.

On stone steps the army makes a stand. They shoot arrows, which sort of damages the insurrection. Hercules finds a cart with a large wheel. He removes the wheel, hefts it over his head and runs towards the archers. I think the theory is that the wheel offers protection. It would, but only from those archers shooting directly above Herc. And no one else is protected. No matter, the mob presses thru the gate, energized by Hercules’ lifting capabilities. Hercules lifts a very large stone block to smash one enemy, and that’s about the only offensive action he takes to defeat the enemy.

Hercules runs to the dungeon to save the queen. The Bad Guy is already there and drags her away. They ride off and Hercules follows. The Bad Guy finds a cave. In it is a big hairy beastie, Bigfoot. Bigfoot kills the Bad Guy. He looks lovingly at the queen, who screams. Herc arrives and the two tussle. Hercules is knocked against a wall, which causes a paper-mache boulder to fall on him. He lifts it up and crushes Bigfoot. Then everything is good again.

This whole ride is of the 2016 presidential race. Secret motives and machinations. Self-involved heroes. Idolatrous public. Tricks, deception, unwarranted ambitions. Hercules for sure does very little. Especially during the revolt, which he charismatically led, he hardly supplied any muscle, and his sole aim was to save the queen. It all sounds too familiar, like the tv show we’ve been watching about electing a president in 2016. At least we got ninety minutes of thoughtless entertainment out of this movie, clearly a core ideal in this world.