Saturday, 23 July 2011

Luigi Cozzi’s Hercules (1983)

Luigi Cozzi’s 1983 Hercules is certainly not your average sword & sorcery movie. In fact it’s one of the most truly bizarre experiences that cinema has to offer.

How many Hercules movies can boast bears hurled into orbit? How many have Hercules battling gigantic mechanical children’s toys? Which just shows how pitifully inadequate previous Hercules movies were.

The madness is there right from the start in this movie. It begins with a prologue, giving the viewer an overview of Greek mythology. Except that there’s very little an ancient Greek would recognise - this
is Luigi Cozzi’s own private mythological cosmogony, where the Olympian Gods live on the Moon.

Then we move on to the actual plot. Hercules, after witnessi
ng he deaths of both of his adoptive parents, travels to Thebes where he attention of the evil King Minos and his equally evil daughter Ariadne (Sybil Danning). They were responsible for the deaths of his biological parents, the rightful king and queen.

Hercules falls in love with the beautiful Cassioppea (Ingrid
Anderson), and of course he has to be set impossible tasks, in this case to cleanse the fabled stables of 1,000 horses, stables that have not been cleaned for years. He does this in the simplest possible way, by changing the course of a river. This impresses Cassioppea considerably. Useful dating tip for guys: if you really want to impress a girl on your first date then changing the course of a river should do the trick. Well it worked for Hercules anyway.

By falling in love with Hercules Cassioppea provokes the anger of both King Minos and sundry goddesses. She is imprisoned by King Minos, who intends to sacrifice her to the firebird he has trapped in a volcano on the island
of Thera. To rescue her Hercules finds an unlikely ally - the witch Circe (Mirella D'Angelo). She looks like an old lady but when Hercules retrieves her lost talisman for her he makes a surprising discovery. She is not an old lady at all. In fact she’s a total babe. His heart belongs to Cassioppea but in the meantime he’s happy enough to hang around with the bodacious and scantily clad sorceress.

Meanwhile King Minos has unleashed his secret weapon to destroy Hercules. He has employed the services of Dedalos. In Greek mythology Dedalos was a man and an inventor of genius. This is pretty boring, so Luigi Cozzi
makes Dedalos a woman and a total babe, and also completely evil. She’s a kind of evil disco princess/mad scientist. Her specialty is mechanical toys. Mechanical toys that can be made gigantic and that are armed with things like death rays.

This is not the end of the craziness of this movie. There’s also the chariot. Circe and Hercules find a magic chariot but not the magic horses that go with it. No problem. Hercules simply get Circe to use her magic to tie a rock to the chariot, then he hurls the rock into space. The chariot, with its two passengers, then becomes a flying space chariot.

As you might have gathered the plot is not the main attraction here. You watc
h this movie for Cozzi’s insane imagination and for the assorted visual treats on offer.

Apparently Olympian goddesses usually dressed as if they were just about t
o go to the disco. They were also heavily into 80s big hair. The costumes are as mad as everything else. The special effects are often bad but they’re always entertaining and weirdly effective. There’s no nudity although some of Cassiopea’s costumes are very scanty indeed.

The acting is B-movie standard but fun. The absurdly muscle-bound Lou Ferrigno works well enough as Hercules. Sybil Danning as A
riadne and Eva Robins as Dedalos have fun as B-movie beautiful but evil villainesses.

Luigi Cozzi was the man behind Starcrash, the 1978 movie that stands as one of the must outrageously enjoyable space operas ever made. Hercules is much much stranger but just as enjoyable. We’re talking Alfonso Brescia levels of cinematic insanity here, but I certainly don’t have a problem with that. This is the sort of delightful weirdness you only get in Italian science fiction.

MGM have released this piece of movie mayhem as a double-sided DVD with the sequel, Adventures of Hercules, on the flip side. As usual with MGM releases there’s a lack of extras but it’s a lovely print. Highly recommended as long as you have a taste for high camp extravaganzas.

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