Sometimes a movie has one scene, or sequence, that completely justifies the movie’s entire existence due to sheer awesomeness. This film has a scene of such magnitude: the Incredible Hulk throws a bear into space. He throws a bear…into space! Why are you still reading this review? Buy this movie and watch that scene right now! It’s gloriously stupid, impressively fun, and one of the best scenes in all of bad movie-dom. Yeah, it’s that kind of a film.
After the great success of “Conan The Barbarian,” hack director Luigi Cozzi (best known for “Starcrash”) continued that most noble of Italian film industry traditions: the cheap, quick knockoff. Before Lou Ferringo signed on to play the titular role, this was intended to outdo “Conan” on all fronts: more gore, sex, and carnage. But Ferringo wanted to preserve his family friendly image as much as possible, so the final product is very watered down. It most assuredly feels clumsily restrained, and on top of that, there’s a weird magical/sci-fi hybrid vibe throughout which all add up to quite an odd tone. Combine that with terrible, bargain basement special effects and costumes, and you have a bad movie that’s easy to love.
Ferringo, as Hercules, certainly looks the part. There’s a reason his most famous role is that of a gargantuan monster. But his acting here is Uwe Boll movie bad. When his dad is killed, the best Ferringo can come up with is sounding winded. It just makes him sound goofy, not grief stricken or angry. When he’s telling Princess Cassiopeia he loves her, he might as well be a dissatisfied gym teacher explaining how to jump rope for the thousandth time. He rarely has any inflections, but his enthusiasm during the climactic battle yields some decent results.
Cassiopeia (Ingrid Anderson) looks nice enough, even beneath the Burger King crown the costume designer gave her. She’s bland, though: never lively enough to make the audience understand what Hercules sees in her, nor make them care. Mirella D’Angelo plays the good sorceress Circe. To say her chemistry with Ferringo is akin to a plastic bag resting on top of a chair would be doing a disservice to the materials those fine items are made from. Neither sexy enough (presumably due to the newly restrained project) nor a believable romantic lead, she’s the worst actor here.
I’m not entirely sure what it is about bad movies that allow them to attract such crazily gleeful actors for their villains, like moths to a flame. But I am stoked that they do, because these crazy villains enhance their scenes at every turn. William Berger as King Minos is funny as hell. “Science! For the sake of science!” is uttered with the joyous exuberance of a school child telling their friends about the best Christmas present they received over the holiday break. While I would normally consider this an indication that he’s in on the silly nature of this venture, but I don’t buy that here. It appears Berger is only capable of expressing himself through crazy Nic Cage eyes and over enunciations of each and every syllable. It is dazzling!
Eva Robbins plays Daedelus, and she seems continually on the cusp of breaking character and laughing hysterically. Her contempt for the script is palpable and understandable. With such clunkers as “Soon, you (King Minos) will have to choose between science and the gods,” it’s not that surprising.
Movie, I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but Minos knows 100% that the gods exist, and performs rituals to curry favor from them. He also believes that knowledge is the ultimate power, so why must he choose between either? They co-exist throughout this entire movie, thus the endgame makes no practical sense. The script’s weirdometer doesn’t end there:
- Super Weird Thing #1: There are only three gods, and they live on the moon. Zeus, who creates Hercules out of star matter to balance out the sides of good and evil for the upcoming battle. Hera, whom is evil in this version because… because Hera never liked Hercules in the original myths. Her motivations are never clear. And Athena, looking like she stepped right off a Georges Méliès set, is just there; her characterization is weak to the point of being nonexistent.
- Super Weird Thing #2: One of the very few heroic deeds from the classical myths the movie kept is Hercules having to clean special stables. Because that’s the one deed everyone remembers Hercules performing. Not the killing of a lion with his bare hands, or his trek to the underworld to kidnap its guardian, Cerberus: the freaking cleaning of the stables.
- Super Weird Thing #3: The whole “throwing things into space” is a recurring theme throughout the film. Not only does a bear get thrown into the vast emptiness, but a chariot, a sword, and a rock also get tossed into the vacuum of the stars, in which humans can breathe just fine.
And the weird just keeps getting weirder. Daedalus dresses as if she’s an alien from a particularly cheesy 1950s sci-fi b-movie – which, granted, she kind of is. Her inventions are now robots, used to attack Hercules: there’s the bumble-bot, the hydra-bot, with only three heads which never grow back, and my favorite, the centaur-bot!
As briefly mentioned earlier, the special effects aren’t good. The space-thrown bear is just a guy in a terrible, ratty suit; it truly only enhances the glorious MST-ing that must happen while viewing this movie. The stop motion for the robots is clunky, and they’re plainly matted in via green screen. Pandora’s Jar (not a box!) from the opening is probably the worst effect of all. Obviously cheap molded plastic with holes cut out for lights, and it’s clearly sitting atop a glass pane in front of the space backdrop.
The craziest part of all is the pacing. The movie jumps from one set piece to another with little regard for filling the audience in on the story. It’s not until ten minutes or so from the end that we are brought up to speed. Thanks to a massive exposition dump, in what is easily my favorite set – the volcano temple on the planet of Atlantis (yes, you read that correctly, Atlantis is a planet in this movie) – things finally make some sort of sense. Upon repeated viewings, a few scenes are improved by having knowledge of the overall arc. Unfortunately, it’s organized in such a way that even then it’s too little, too late.
With bad special effects, worse acting, and a story that couldn’t be bothered to explain itself, this movie is bad. On the other hand: it has a centaur-bot, a minor deity dressed like she’s from a bad sci-fi movie, and most importantly, Hercules throws a bear into space to form the Big Dipper. I love this movie, and spreading its terribly fun, awfully good, so awesomely bad wonders!