12/15/06

412 Hercules and the Captive Women

(1961, Fantasy-Sword & Sandal, color)

Today is dedicated to Uranus.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Hercules and his son Hylus rescue a comatose king from the evil Atlantean queen.

Summary:

Gypsy's head blocks more of the screen than the other three combined.Hercules (played by the greased-up Reg Park, looking vaguely like MST3K’s own Kevin Murphy on steroids), his son Hylus, their friend King Androcles of Thebes, and their pet dwarf Timmy wander from bar to bar and get in fights, all in the name of fun and good-natured, manly Greekness. Between bars, someone appears behind a nearly opaque red-filtered fog to deliver a dire warning of an indeterminate nature. They head to the local prophet Terisias for clarification, but he can only offer more ambiguous portents of doom.

The kings of the local city-states gather to debate the new threat, whatever it may be, but nothing seems to get done until Herc jumps up and smashes Androcles’ throne. In retaliation, Androcles drugs Herc and shanghais him out to sea with a disreputable crew, searching for the unknown threat. Herc shrugs and takes a nap for the rest of the voyage.

For some reason, the crew slashes the water supply, kidnaps Androcles, and maroons Herc on an island while he’s taking a nap. Herc has a weird dream where Androcles calls out for help from a smoke-filled prison, and somehow wakes up on a raft at sea. He drifts through some mist and sees a strange island with a girl trapped in the stone. The young woman waffles between begging him to kill her and urging him to leave. A shape-shifting being called Proteus appears and does battle in the form of a weird steamy lizard, fire, a snake, a lion, a turkey, and then a weird steamy lizard again. Herc kills it by breaking a bit of horn off its nose.

The grateful girl praises the titan god Uranus [insert crude bodily humor here] and takes him home to Atlantis so that he can meet her evil queen mother. The evil queen mother complains about her daughter’s survival and sends some of her men sent out to sacrifice her again. In the meantime, Androcles’ ship has wrecked on the shores of Atlantis and the only survivors were Androcles, the stowaway Hylus, and Timmy. Androcles was captured and had his consciousness steamed away while we weren’t looking. Now Hylus and Timmy save the clueless daughter from sacrifice a second time.

In what seems to be a repeat of every other Herc movie I’ve seen, the evil queen makes several passes at Herc and then tries to drug him. Herc pretends to be drugged until everyone turns their back, and then bends some of the bars on the window to escape. The guards just happen to be passing by with the unconscious Androcles. Herc follows them, and Hylus et al. follow him.

They all meet by a pit of diseased worker captives and set them free, taking out a couple dozen guards in the process. One of the workers tells Herc about a rock touched by the blood of Uranus [insert…you know…here] that changes small children into undefined evil things. He goes on a delirious rant and proves that the rock is evil by jumping on it and exploding. A good priest appears and tells Herc how to destroy the rock (expose it to sunlight) but warns him that doing so would destroy the entire island.

Meanwhile, the former slaves decide to destroy the evil queen. She calls out her evil super-guards and slaughters all of them except for Hylus, her daughter, Androcles, and Timmy. She puts Androcles and her daughter on a sacrificial ship, to be burned as it sails away, and sends Hylus down into the steamy cell to lose his consciousness. Herc discovers the secret of the evil super-guards (they’re all blond with prosthetic eyelids) and jumps down after Hylus. He lifts the roof off the cell and they climb to safety. Hylus grabs a discarded super-guard uniform, picks up Timmy, and saves the daughter and Androcles. Herc painstakingly bores a hole in the mountain to let the sun onto the evil rock. He swims out to the sacrificial boat, where Hylus et al. are waiting. They all share a hearty laugh while Atlantis goes down in flames.

Introduction:

A good-natured brawl's jolly aftermath.Gypsy begs Joel to let her watch the movie. Quoth Joel, “Joel created you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Gypsy promises that all her chores are done, so Joel lets her come watch the movie over the other ‘bots strenuous objections.

Host Segment One:

Frank “sings whenever he sings whenever he sings” while he completes his latest invention, the Lawn Baby. It’s a lawn mower with a baby seat mounted to the top of the spinning blades. Dr. Forrester refuses to put a real baby in it. Joel has invented the Womb Mate—enormous headphones that go over a pregnant belly and entertain the unborn fetus with various musical compositions and self-help books on tape.

Host Segment Two:

Joel and the ‘bots wonder if there really is such a thing as “good-natured brawling.” They maim each other gleefully, sharing a hearty laugh through their bandages when they’re done. Quoth Crow, “I want Joe Frazier.”

Host Segment Three:

Crow reads a history of Hercules to Tom and Joel, mostly dwelling on Herc’s dysfunctional relationship with his son, Hylus.

Host Segment Four:

Tom and Crow have invented a Hercules action figure. It lies down to take many, many naps. If you pull the string it says, “I’m so sleepy, I can barely keep my eyes open.”

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots celebrate the end of the final Hercules movie with several backhanded eulogies. Tom sums it up for everyone when he tells Herc, “Bite me.” They read a letter. Down in Deep 13, the Lawn Baby runs over TV’s Frank, spreading bits of him everywhere. Quoth Dr. Forrester, “Looks like I’ve got some raking to do.”

Stinger:

Herc dreams of the imprisoned Androcles.

Thoughts:

So THAT'S their secret!So, Proteus battles Herc, working his way from form to form—Herc’s beaten him as fire, a snake, and a lion—and the best follow-up he’s got is the mighty wild turkey? Why not a tiger, a rabid dingo, or even a diseased ship rat? Maybe he was hoping Herc would kill him, eat him raw, and come down with a severe case of Salmonella. Also, what’s with the evil identical blond super-guards? Do they get their super-strength from their massive prosthetic eyelids?

Up until this point, all the Hercules movies I’ve seen have made sense. Sure, they were all big, dumb, and brawny, filled with mangled mythology and oily, heaving man-bosoms, but they flowed easily from point A to point B and from there to point C. This movie starts at point negative Z, hides point A behind thick red fog, and then moves directly to point D, hinting that it might have visited points B and C while we weren’t looking. It’s not as confusing as Star Force II, or even (heaven forbid) Mighty Jack, but continuity-wise, it left a lot to be desired.

The title “Hercules and the Captive Women” is something of a misnomer. Maybe half-a-dozen women appear on screen over the course of the movie, but only one of them gets captured with any regularity. There were lots of captive men, but the title “Hercules and the Captive Men” would probably have given the film a level of homoerotic creepiness to rival Joel Schumacher’s modern rubber-nipple-and-codpiece epic, Batman and Robin.

The Lawn Baby might not have been a good idea for an infant, but I’m sure my two-year-old would love it, so long as I only did short bursts, and strapped her in securely. Gypsy’s admission to the theater was good, as was Joel’s pseudo-religious spiel identifying himself as the robot’s god. The Herc (non)action figure was appropriate, but my favorite segments were the good-natured brawling, and the history of Hercules’ dysfunctional family. From the eulogies for the final Hercules movie, it’s clear that the cast wasn’t expecting to do another Herc film in season five.

Gypsy’s stint in the theater is short but memorable, mostly exclaiming obvious things such as, “Look at that dumb name, that’s so stupid.” She does get off one good comment when a chariot rides into thick red fog and she says, “They’re steam-cleaning the horses.” She quickly leaves when she figures out that the movie’s really bad. Many of the other comments are similar to Tom’s, “Maybe if they pull up anchor, the plot will move,” and Joel’s, “This’d be really exciting if I knew what was going on.” They have a great deal of fun with Atlantis’ patron god (Uranus) and Herc’s freakishly oiled physique. The movie’s big, brash, and fun, but it’s impossible to follow. It’s worth a night’s entertainment.