Hercules (1958 film)
(Le fatiche di Ercole)
|Directed by||Pietro Francisci|
|Produced by||Federico Teti|
|Written by||Ennio De Concini
|Music by||Enzo Masetti|
|Editing by||Mario Serandrei|
|Distributed by||Lux Film (1958, Italy)
Warner Bros. Pictures (1959, USA, dubbed)
|Running time||107 min.|
|Box office||$4.7 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
Le fatiche di Ercole (English: The labours of Hercules; English title: Hercules) is a 1957 Italian epic fantasy feature film (released in Italy in 1958) based upon the Hercules myths and the Quest for the Golden Fleece. 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 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 sword and sandal flicks featuring oiled bodybuilders as mythological heroes and gladiators battling monsters, despots, and evil queens. The film's Italian title means "The Labors of Hercules".
The film's screenplay is loosely based upon the myths of Hercules and the Greek epic poem Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes. In both myths and epic poem, Hercules' role in the Quest for the Golden Fleece is marginal; he abandons the expedition early-on when Hylas, his armor-bearer and eromenos (Greek: ἐρώμενος), is lost on an island while searching for water. With Hylas conveniently absent in the film, Hercules' role is greatly expanded: he remains with the expedition for its duration, saves the Argo from destruction in a storm, disciplines the mutinous crew, and overwhelms enemy forces with brute strength in the film's finale. Twists on the sources include the introduction of Iole into the tale as Pelias' daughter, the replacement of Hylas with young Ulysses as Hercules' protégé, and Hercules' renunciation of his immortality in order to experience life as a mortal man.
Plot and cast
The film opens with Hercules (Steve Reeves) on the road to the court of King Pelias of Iolcus (Ivo Garrani) to tutor Pelias' son Prince Iphitus (Mimmo Palmara) in the use of arms. Pelias' beautiful daughter Princess Iole (Sylva Koscina) 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 (Lydia Alfonsi) about a stranger wearing one sandal who will challenge his power. When his nephew Jason, the rightful King of Iolcus, (Fabrizio Mioni) 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 (Gabriele Antonini and Andrea Fantasia), Argos (Aldo Fiorelli), the twins Castor and Pollux (Fulvio Carrara and Willi Colombini), the lyre-strumming Orpheus (Gino Mattera), the physician Aesculapius (Gian Paolo Rosmino) and others.
After weathering a tempest at sea, the Argonauts dally in a lush garden-like country with Antea, the Queen of the Amazons (Gianna Maria Canale) and her ladies (Gina Rovere and Lily Granado). 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 (Arturo Dominici) 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.
Subplots involve the death of Pelias' headstrong son Prince Iphitus, and exploits for Hercules resembling the Labors of the Nemean Lion and the Cretan Bull. Cast includes (Lidia Alfonsi) as Iole's Maid, (Afro Poli) as Jason's mentor Chiron, Aldo Pini as Tifi, Spartaco Nale and Paola Quattrini in the uncredited role of Young Iole.
American producer Joseph E. Levine acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the film, and, due in part to his wide release (the film opened in 175 theaters in the New York City area alone) a long with an intensive promotional campaign, Hercules became a major box-office hit.
- "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
- Lucanio (1994). With fire and sword: Italian spectacles on American screens, 1958-1968. Scarecrow Press. p. 181. ISBN 0810828162.
- Kendall, Club (1993). Film Score Monthly. Lukas Kendall. p. 119.
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