Hercules in the Haunted World-Movie Review

Hercules in the Haunted World Film Review-Mario Bava

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Hercules in the Haunted World

Dir. Mario Bava
Italy, 1961
35mm 91 min.

Before TV's Kevin Sorbo donned leather, there were countless movies about the legendary musclehead, and instead of faking camp appeal like the small-screen Hercules, these flicks were shot straight faced and their heartfelt sincerity translates into genuine laughs.

Out of all his many adventures this one stands head and shoulders above the others. For starters it's directed by the stylish and brilliant Mario Bava and his uncanny eye turns a cheezy testosterone affair into something wondrous.

Throw in the villainous Christopher Lee as an evil vampire (what else) who's battling Reg Park (a former Mr. Universe) and you've got the best sword and sandal epic ever to come out of Italy. The Queen of the region is placed under a spell and the Oracle convinces our beef-boy that he must venture to the Kingdom of the Damned and recover a magic apple in a giant tree guarded by condemned women.

Hercules, along with his steroid comic-sidekick pal, enters this Netherworld and encounters all manner of obstacles -- so look out for the foam rubber boulders, sinister yet amusing Rock Men, near-naked damsels, bleeding plants, homo-rotic subtext and an army of cobwebbed flying zombies! The whole atmospheric affair is shot in Cinemascope (big picture) and IB Technicolor -- which is nerd talk for "looks bloody marvelous".

Anthony Timpson