12/15/06

410 Hercules Against the Moon Men

(1964, Fantasy-Sword & Sandal, color)

Sing the praises of pants!

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

Hercules saves a Greek-ish kingdom from an evil queen and her extraterrestrial allies.

Summary:

The traitorous queen, allied with murderous anthropomorphic owls from the moon.A voice-over tells the tale of a meteor striking the earth, bringing terrors to the mountain of death. The unseen moon men in the mountain demand a sacrifice of children every third new moon, or else…they’ll do something really bad. That the quarterly slaughter of innocent children might already qualify as “really bad” doesn’t seem to occur to anyone.

Pony-tailed soldiers escort a line of prospective sacrificial victims (all of whom were probably children at some previous time in their lives) up the surprisingly horizontal mountain. They push the “children” into a glowing door and run away. A garrulous old man harangues the kingdom’s overdressed queen about sending their children off to be moon man food. He begs her to send for the mighty Hercules and ask him to exercise his renowned butt-kicking prowess on their tormentors. The queen tells him off and sends him away, knowing full well that he’s already sent for Hercules behind her back. She sends a bunch of soldiers to ambush and kill Hercules before he can make it to the city. Sighting his would-be ambushers, Herc cracks a smile, uproots a tree, and starts a-squishin’ Greeks.

In the city the old man whisks him away to the underground resistance through some booby-trapped tunnels. The booby-traps go off, impaling the old guy and forcing Herc to escape a slowly filling water chamber, fight a large hairy man with tusks, and bend metal bars with his bare hands. The old man’s beautiful daughter, Agar, finds him and leads him the rest of the way out.

The queen’s little sister has fallen in love with a young revolutionary prince, so the queen sends the prince on an errand to another kingdom, while arranging to have him killed on the road. Herc gets wind of it and takes care of the problem in his amiably violent way. He takes the wounded revolutionary back to their super-secret headquarters, only to learn that the queen has sent her little sister up the mountain for sacrifice. He runs to stop them only to be captured with what I assume to be some kind of anti-demigod net.

The queen tries to squish him in a big spiky vise, but the mighty Herc cannot be so easily impaled. So she invites him back to her room for cocktails instead, spiking his wine with love potion. Herc sees her do it and dumps it while her back is turned, playing up to her with a painfully transparent “I’ve fallen under your spell” routine. He gains her trust by suggesting the death penalty for Agar and the young revolutionary, so she spills the beans about her evil plot. Apparently, the moon men will use her half-sister’s blood to revive their ancient goddess, who looks exactly like her in a large, ugly hat. Herc thanks her for the information and proceeds to thrash everything in easy thrashing distance.

Outside in the city, the military has dissented from the queen’s rule and joined the revolutionaries. They all storm the castle only to discover that Herc has already trashed the place and has left to thwart the moon men. They all follow him up the mountain through a nearly opaque sandstorm that seems to take up at least twelve hours of screen time.

When, at last, the evil queen finally arrives to her allies, the moon men (who turn out to be silver-plated owl-men with oven mitts) turn their rock creatures on her. The barely mobile rock men walk slowly towards her, closer and closer together, until she squishes between them. Herc shows up soon after and throws rock men around on his way up to the altar. He pushes over a moon man, tears down an idol, and picks up the queen’s little sister. Agar arrives just as the whole mountain collapses around them. The next scene is an epilogue where Herc ends up with Agar and the young revolutionary ends up with the little sister, so I assume that somehow it all turned out okay.

Introduction:

They're a very freaky cast.  The kind you don't take home to mother.Tom and Crow run away to the other side of the Satellite. Magic Voice counts down to their return a few seconds later.

Host Segment One:

The Mads reveal Deep Hurting—a sandstorm sequence in the film that they compare to the interminable rock climbing from season two’s Lost Continent. Joel and the ‘Bots demonstrate Super Freakout with ridiculous clothing, large Afro wigs, and glittery confetti. Frank freaks out. Quoth he, “I am the button!”

Host Segment Two:

Joel demonstrates the booby trap illusion by skewering himself with plastic knives and then drinking water, which squirts from his trick vest.

Host Segment Three:

Fitted with muscle implants, the ‘Bots think of tough guy names like “Drake Tungsten” and “Russ Tile Floor.” Tom’s muscles reject him.

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots sing the Pants Song. “Nothing better shows my taste than what I wear below my waist. Sing the praises of pants!”

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots discuss Hercules’ frequent recasting, and the recasting of other key parts in various cinematic series. Crow offends Gypsy by pointing out that Richard Basehart was not the original actor in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Gypsy runs off crying while Joel punishes Crow. Left alone, Tom tries to read a letter, but can’t hold it up for Cambot because his arms don’t work. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester threatens Frank with Deep Hurting.

Stinger:

The old guy gets skewered.

Thoughts:

Is it clobbering time yet?For all its random killing and human sacrificing, this is a bright, cheerful film that would be entertaining to watch even without the MST3K treatment. Hercules obviously loves what he does. Like Ken from Fugitive Alien, he gets a big goofy grin on his face every time he uproots a tree, throws a rock man, or strangles a corrupt guard. He’s invulnerable and just about omnipotent, like Superman, so why on earth do people keep trying to kill him? You’d think that the ancient Greeks would have had, “Thou shalt stay the hell away from murderous demigods,” written into their religion.

Interestingly, while the women of the film dress somewhat modestly, the men wear skirts so short that they’re actually wide cloth belts. Thank heavens for loincloths. Also, the moon men somehow manage to be mouth breathers without even having mouths. The only painful bit about this film is the sandstorm at the end, which was every bit as irritating as the Mads promised it would be. It is one of the longest, most pointless scenes to which they (and we) have ever been subjected. The only MST3K scene I can think of that perhaps exceeds it is the dogfight scene at the end of Invasion of the Neptune Men.

The host segments are some of their best, marred only by the obvious and poorly executed booby trap sketch. The rest is hilarious, from the Mads with their menacing little pail of sand, to muscular ‘Bots, to the jubilant “Pants” song. Frank’s freakout scene is hilarious. “I am the button” is one of the funniest lines he has ever delivered.

Joel and the ‘Bots can’t help but being caught up in the cheerful spirit of the movie. They burst into song at least a dozen times during the film segments with such ditties as “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to death we go,” “See you on the dull side of the moon,” and “Shiny little heinie with the fringe on the top.” Herc’s odd apparel inspires the comment, “He’s wearing his thong upside down” (Tom). The rock men inspire, “Wanna get stoned?” (Tom), and “It’s clobberin’ time!” (Joel). By the time we get to the horrific sandstorm scene near the end, we’ve gotten at least two episodes worth of funny already, so it’s worth suffering through that wretched bit of film for the rest of this excellent episode.