Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hercules Against the Moon Men – review

dvdDirector: Giacomo Gentilomo

First released: 1964

Contains spoilers

Ahh… Italian sword and sandal movies. We have had them here before, in the form of Hercules in the Haunted World. Of course, the big difference between this and that was that Haunted World involved the talents of Mario Bava.

This, unfortunately, did not. When it comes to vampiric aspects we are primarily concerned with Selene (Delia D’Alberti), Queen of the Moon Men. She has definitive vampiric overtones, as we will later see, and whilst she is barely in the film as a character, the entire point of the plot is her resurrection.

Jany Clair as Queen SamaraThe film explains, at the beginning, how a fiery rock fell from the sky and hit a mountain, carrying with it a monstrous life form that the people of the fair kingdom of Samar now have to offer sacrifices to, in order that they might survive. Current ruler of Samar is the originally named Queen Samara (Jany Clair) and her advisor Gladius (Nando Tamberlani) suggests that there is one man who can save them.

Sergio Ciani as HerculesSamara is dismissive, expressing a belief that it is too risky to court rebellion against their oppressors, but we soon discover that she is a baddy. Her loyal soldier tells her that Gladius is due to meet Hercules (Sergio Ciani) anyway. We see Hercules travelling and he is attacked by thugs (who are actually Samara’s guard). He defeats them with his mighty arms (and a tree he uproots).

the moon priestSamara is visited by a creature with a masked face – that I’ll describe as a moon priest. He is semi-transparent, so I guess it was a projection, and he tells her she has failed as Hercules is still alive. It becomes clear that she is to sacrifice her sister, the Princess Billis (Delia D’Alberti). Billis – who I swear I spent the film thinking was actually called Phyllis – is in love with her royal cousin Darix (Jean-Pierre Honoré) and they wish to marry.

Anna Maria Polani as AgarHercules is met by Agar (Anna Maria Polani), daughter of Gladius, who takes him to her father. Hercules, of course, agrees to help against the moon men. Gladius is showing him to the rebels, by secret passage, when Agar realises that Samara has spied on them. She goes to warn the men but it is too late, traps are triggered and her father is spiked, and as for Hercules…

I bend barsWell, he kind of falls down a pit but who knows where it was as it took Agar forever and a day to find him. The pit fills with water and so, rather than floating upwards, Hercules breaks down the wall of the pit and then bends metal bars to escape. Unfortunately there is a monster there so he kills it too. Agar finds him and gets him away.

behold the power of my manly armsThere is a backwards and forwards then with Hercules captured eventually. Once captured Samara has him executed in the most convoluted way – he is in a spiked piece of apparatus that he can push back on as slaves try to close it! As it is, the equipment breaks due to the power of his manly arms and, at that point, Samara decides she wants him. For his part, Hercules decides to fake love and then avoids drinking the love potion she gives him. Once she spills the location of the (by that time) kidnapped Billis he escapes and goes off to the rescue.

cut wrist, spill blood... resurrect moon QueenSo, why Billis? It turns out that she is a dead ringer for Selene who is dead but preserved. Her blood, on a certain night when the planets are aligned and the moon can be brought crashing into earth, will restore Selene’s power, resurrecting her. So we do have a blood aspect to all this – indeed, the moon priest cuts Billis wrist and lets it drain down onto the Queen. There is also a pulsing rock seen in this scene, who knows what that was for (potentially pulling down the moon).

rapid agingBizarrely, as well as bringing the Moon Queen back to life, Billis’ blood also seems to cause flowers to grow around the Queen’s head. Luckily for Billis, Hercules rescues her (not really a spoiler, it was obvious he would) and the main reason for mentioning this is the interruption in the process causes the Queen to rapidly age and die – so we had life through blood and rapid aging on death. It is also said to Samara that she would be made like the moon people, in order that she is able to survive once the moon crashes into the earth; whether they meant she would be like the Queen or the minions is moot as the transformation doesn’t happen.

behold, moon men!Now the rapid aging is a rather good effect, surprising given the other effects – especially the moon men which were big rock things. The acting was, well it is difficult to say (though it seemed cheesy) smothered as it was by the blooming awful dubbing. The version I saw was completely washed out colour wise and all in all it wasn’t a great film. There is a bit when Hercules is going to rescue Billis when all I could think was “get on with it”, bored as I was by the endless wandering through wind-machine buffeted fake fog. 1 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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