Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (1962)
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Herakles (Lane) is ordered by Jupiter to capture Ulysses (Marchal) and deliver him into slavery as punishment for blinding a Cyclopse. He succeeds at the first part of the mission, but Ulysses keeps outsmarting him and escaping, leading to lots of mayhem, culminating in a clash of kingdoms and the near-death of Herakles' lady love, Elena (Pannaro).
I am once again finding myself wondering how culturally illiterate the people at Embassy Pictures were, or how culturally illiterate they were counting their audience on being? Actually, given that their audience were little kids, wouldn't it have been responsible of them to either a) NOT include this movie in their "Son of Hercules" TV syndication package, or b) do a more significant change when dubbing it? They haven't been shy about renaming other characters "Hercules" in some of their imports, so why didn't they simply NOT call Hercules Herakles in this film? How can someone be their own son?!
It IS a widely known fact that Hercules and Herakles are one and the same, right? Herakles was the original, Greek name for Hercules. The Romans called him Hercules, just like they called Odysseus "Ulysses" and Zeus "Jupiter". I'm not the only person who first frowed and then groaned when this particular "son of Hercules" turns out TO BE HERCULES HIMSELF! This is dumber than when Embassy Pictures took a caveman monster flick with a title that should be translated into English as "Machiste Against the Monsters" to "Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules" ([url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/journal_view.php?journalid=245672&entryid=494818&view=public"]review here[/url]). With THIS film, they made Hercules his own son... or something. I really have no idea what they were thinking when they slapped this film into their "Sons of Hercules" series. At least the British showed some literary and historical insight by simply translating the title literally.
But, enough about idiot marketeers and the titles they create. What about the movie itself?
"Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules" is a film that's weaker because of the sum total of its parts. It's a meandering mess that will leave you wondering if you nodded off during portions of it--but trust me, you didn't. The film really IS that disjointed.
It starts out promising enough, with Hercules capturing Ulysses just as he's about to end his long, often-interrupted trip home from the Trojan War (thus putting the beleagured king on yet another sidetrek). Ulysses doesn't stay captured for long, because, true to Greek myth, he is the smartest guy around. Hercules isn't willing to just let him go, and the two are still doing the hunter and hunted bit when they are captured by a bizarre group of birdmen who are rule by a sexy blond who is barely wearing a feather outfit that looks like it'll fall off of one of those feathers tickled her nose and caused her to sneeze. Naturally, she wants to sacrifie them to a vulture god that watches over her people... but in an unexpected twist for this kind of movie, she does NOT want to enchant Hercules/Herakles and keep him as a love slave.
[i]Ulysses (Georges Marchal) tries to sweet-talk the Queen of the Bird People (Raffaella Carra)
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But, Ulysses devises an escape plan, and the pair are on their way again, and this is where the movie starts falling apart. As if one strange society wasn't enough, they are soon embroiled in a war between a peaceful nation led by a weak king and a cave-dwelling people who likes to kidnap their women. The beleaguered nation is home to Herakles' love (who is promised to one of the slimiest villains to ever appear barechested on film).
The disconnect between the bird people adventure and the second half of the film with the cave-dwellers is so strong that the film almost feels as if it were two movies that have been edited togetehr into one, and edited badly at that. Furthermore, the cave-dwellers and their leader are nowhere near as interesting as the bird people. Finally, the big battle between the army of peaceful nation and army of the cave-dwellers (during which get to see the obligatory feats of strengths from Herakles) does not come across as epic as it should due to the film's obvious budget constraints. There are bigger crowds at Wal-Mart on Friday mornings than at the battle scene here. All this adds up to a pretty useless second half of the movie, even if some of its best moments are found here. (Ulysses some hilarious interchanges with the king of the cave-people, mostly centered around making a pair of wings for him, and there's a very tense scene where Ulysses is about to be crushed in a death trap. But these moments are too few to save the film.)
One thing it does get right are the personalities of Ulysses and Herakles, and I congratulate the script writers for that much. Ulysses is every bit as smart and cunning as he comes across in the source material--to the point where he sometimes is too smart for his own good--and Herakles is every bit the dimwitted muscle man. This helps the film greatly, and it adds some nice interplay between the two characters as the film unfolds. But, again, it's not enough to keep the film from being dragged down in its second half.
"Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules" starts out with promise of the magnitude that might have made it one of the best entries in the Italian fantasy boom of the 1960s, but a lack of focus in the script robs it of that promise as it unfolds. It's still worth seeing for fans of the genre, and it might be a good film to screen during a Bad Movie Night, but otherwise it can be left on the shelf.
(Although... another group of people who might like the first half of the film are fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs' work. There's a La/Opar vibe during the sequence with the birdmen and their sexy queen. I even found myself wondering if artist Joe Kubert might have been inspired for his look for La in his adaptation of "The Return of Tarzan" from this movie. The designs are that similar.)
Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules ("Ulysses Against Hercules")
Starring: Georges Marchal, Michael Lane, Raffaella Carra, Gianni Santuccio, Alessandra Panaro, Dominique Boscher, and Raf Baldassarre
Director: Mario Caiano
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