Italian film poster
|Directed by||Pietro Francisci|
|Produced by||Federico Teti|
|Screenplay by||Ennio De Concini|
|Story by||Pietro Francisci|
|Based on||The Argonauts|
by Apollonius of Rhodes
Gianna Maria Canale
|Music by||Enzo Masetti|
|Edited by||Mario Serandrei|
|Distributed by||Lux Film (Italy)|
Warner Bros. (US)
|Box office||$4.7 million (US/Canada rentals)|
Hercules (Italian: Le fatiche di Ercole, lit. 'The Labours of Hercules') is a 1958 Italian peplum film based upon the Hercules and the Quest for the Golden Fleece myths. The film stars Steve Reeves as the titular hero and Sylva Koscina as his love interest Princess Iole. Hercules was directed by Pietro Francisci and produced by Federico Teti. The film spawned a 1959 sequel, Hercules Unchained (Italian: Ercole e la Regina di Lidia), that also starred Reeves and Koscina.
Hercules made Reeves an international film star and effectively paved the way for the dozens of 1960s peplum (or "sword and sandal") films featuring bodybuilder actors as mythological heroes and gladiators battling monsters, despots, and evil queens.
Hercules is on the road to the court of King Pelias of Iolcus to tutor Pelias' son Prince Iphitus in the use of arms. Pelias' beautiful daughter Princess Iole updates Hercules on the history of her father's rise to power and the theft of the kingdom's greatest treasure, the Golden Fleece. Some suspect--and it eventually proves true--that King Pelias has acquired the throne through fratricide. Hercules and Iole are attracted to each other and a romance eventually develops.
King Pelias is warned by a seeress about a stranger wearing one sandal who will challenge his power. When his nephew Jason, the rightful King of Iolcus, arrives in town wearing one sandal, Pelias takes fright and packs him off to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the distant land of Colchis. Jason and Hercules sail aboard the Argo with their friends Ulysses and his father, Laertes, Argos, the twins Castor and Pollux, the lyre-strumming Orpheus, the physician Aesculapius and others.
After weathering a tempest at sea, the Argonauts dally in a lush garden-like country with Antea, the Queen of the Amazons and her ladies. Jason falls in love with Antea, but, when the Amazons plot the deaths of the heroes, Hercules forces Jason to board the Argo and secretly set sail in the night. On the shores of Colchis, the heroes battle hairy ape-men while Jason slays a dragon and retrieves the Golden Fleece. The Argonauts embark for home with their prize.
In Iolcus, the populace greet the returning heroes but Pelias and his henchman Eurysteus steal the Golden Fleece, deny Jason's claim, and plot his destruction. A tense battle between Pelias' forces and the heroes follows. Hercules halts Pelias' cavalry dead in its tracks by toppling the portico of the palace upon them. The defeated Pelias drinks poison. Jason ascends the throne while Hercules and Iole set sail for new adventures.
Hercules was released in Italy on 20 February 1958.
The film opened at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore on 26 June 1959 where it set a house record with $30,000 in its first week. With an intensive promotional campaign costing $1.25 million and a wide release of 550 theatres,Hercules became a major box-office hit.
It premiered in England on May 18, 1959 and in Spain on Nov. 23, 1959.
The Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation of the movie, episode #502, was first aired on December 18, 1993, on Comedy Central. The MST3K presentation edited the original movie to fit the TV show's time constraints, which causes Hercules's characters to go from "the midst of one plot development before the commercial ... [to] somewhere else entirely" afterwards.
Although two other MST3K episodes featuring Hercules movies (Hercules Against the Moon Men, at #49, and Hercules Unchained, at #61) were ranked in the Top 100 list of episodes as voted upon by MST3K Season 11 Kickstarter backers, Hercules did not make the cut. In his rankings of all 191 MST3K episodes, however, writer Jim Vorel ranked the episode #78, the highest of the four Hercules movies that aired on Comedy Central. "It's a mish-mash of Greek myth," Vogel writes, that is "the most purely entertaining film in the series. ... The total abject devotion of all the other men toward Hercules is naturally hilarious."
The MST3K version of Hercules was included as part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000, Volume XXXII DVD collection, released by Shout! Factory in March 24, 2015. The other episodes in the four-disc set include Space Travelers (episode #401), Radar Secret Service (episode #520), and San Francisco International (episode #614).