The Adventures of Hercules/Hercules II (1985)

The Adventures of Hercules (1985)‘The little people speak in the words of Zeus, and we must do what they say.’

Renegade gods have stolen the seven thunderbolts of Zeus, unleashing the forces of chaos on the universe. Hercules is tasked with recovering these objects of power, and his quest takes him to distant lands where he faces many dangers…

Sequel to the epic cheesefest that was ‘Hercules’ (1983) with ‘Incredible Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno returning in the title role and Luigi Cozzi back in the writer-directors chair. It’s another production of Cannon Films and the partnership of cousins Golan and Globus, but there are even closer links to the first film than all that.

Like the previous story, this one starts with some gaudy 1980s SFX purporting to show us the creation of the universe. However, rather than it being the result of some old piece of pottery exploding, this time the stars, planets and moons come from the goddess Imperia and her ‘seed of fire and light.’ Nice to hear a different take on the big bang theory, I suppose. The opening credits follow, accompanied by clips of Ferrigno’s labours from the first film. Eight minutes in, we actually get some new footage.

Evil priests are sacrificing the maidens of Fajesta to the god Anteus. He looks kind of like the monster from the Id taking a holiday from the ‘Forbidden Planet’ (1956) and doesn’t seem like good husband material. Concerned sisters Urania (Milly Carlucci) and Glaucia (Sonia Viviani) talk it over with some brilliant time-wasting exposition, courtesy of our writer-director. Carlucci decides they need some guidance from ‘the little people’ who ‘speak in the words of Zeus’. They turn out to be poorly-animated angels (played by Christina Basili) who float about in a fire. More exposition follows, and Carlucci collects Viviani and heads for ‘The Forbidden Forest’ where they will meet the Champion of Zeus.

🎵In the jungle, the mighty jungle…🎶

And, finally, with just over 17 minutes of the film gone, here’s Ferrigno in some new footage! He rides through a forest before being attacked by a stuntman in some kind of dog costume! Sadly, men in monster suits have replaced the stop-motion effects from the first film, and it’s no more evident than in this feeble fight scene.

Next, we meet the cabal of renegade gods, led by the evil Hera (Maria Rosario Omaggio). Her partners in crime are the lovely Flora (Laura Lenzi), Aphrodite (Margie Newton) and Poseidon (Ferdinando Poggi). Together they revive the villainous King Minos (William Berger) who you may remember as the best part of the previous film. Of course, he renews his partnership with the questionably clad Dedalos (Eva Robins), and together they unite to stop Ferrigno.

From then on, it’s the usual episodic story of quest after quest as Ferrigno seeks out the thunderbolts, but let’s stop here for some production information. You could be forgiven for thinking that this new adventure looks suspiciously like outtakes of Ferrigno, Berger and Robins from the first film cobbled together with footage of new actors standing around and providing exposition to link it all together. Sure, Claudio Cassinelli is back as Zeus, and he has a new Athena (played by Carlotta Green – actually, Lou Ferrigno’s real-life wife), but it all looks distinctly second-hand. But the truth turns out to be a little more complicated than that.

The Adventures of Hercules (1985)

Some days being Miley Cyrus’ stand-in was no fun…

The original ‘Hercules’ (1983) was shot back-to-back with ‘The Seven Magnificent Gladiators/I Sette Magnifici Gladiatori’ (1983) which also starred Ferrigno and was directed by Bruno Mattei. The story goes that, unhappy with that film, Golan and Globus hired Cozzi to shot some additional scenes. So impressed with the results were the cost-conscious cousins that they told Cozzi to carry on shooting, intending to use the new material to create a ‘Hercules’ sequel without telling Ferrigno what was going on! I don’t know why they kept it a secret from him, but I think it’s a safe bet that money might have been involved.

There are some guilty pleasures to be had in all this, of course. Ferrigno is attacked by slime people who seem to have worked harder on their gymnastics than their fighting ability. There’s a lousy recreation of Ray Harryhausen’s medusa sequence from ‘Clash of the Titans’ (1981). The monster from the Id is all-powerful but can’t stand up to a straight right delivered into the camera. Wacky sound effects blip and zap, and Berger and Robin’s double act is as entertaining as ever.

The Adventures of Hercules (1985)

Err…. probably best not to ask…

And then there’s that ending… Ferrigno and Berger fight, only for some reason they become animated, and I mean in the cartoon sense of the word. Berger becomes a T Rex, and Ferrigno eventually transforms into King Kong! It’s beyond cheap, beyond awful, and as hilarious as hell.

How composer Pino Donnagio must have laughed when he found out that his superb musical score from the first film was used again here. I wonder if he got paid.

By all reasonable notions of film criticism, this is truly an appalling picture. But it is a lot of fun.

Hercules (1983)

Hercules (1983)‘lt spits cosmic rays of deadly fire! Do you know what that means?’

Zeus bestows superhuman strength and intelligence on the infant Hercules. When he reaches manhood, he finds himself being used as a pawn in the power games of the goddess Hera and her mortal follower, King Minos, who ordered his parents slain when he was still a child…

An enjoyable retelling of the legend of Heracles (Hercules to you and me) directed by Italian Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates). Television’s ‘Incredible Hulk’, Lou Ferrigno takes the title role, and the movie was a product of Cannon Films, who were owned by cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. They invested heavily in the home video market of the 1980s, and the shelves of many a high street rental store were packed with tapes of their often less than stellar productions.

This film begins (as all films should) with the creation of the universe, which was apparently caused by pieces of Pandora’s exploding jar. The gods have taken up residence on the moon (roomier than Mount Olympus, I guess) where Zeus (Claudio Cassinelli) holds court with the scheming Hera (Rossana Podestà) and goody-two-shoes Athena (the wide-eyed Delia Boccardo). By ‘holding court’ I mean they stand around and talk about the fate of humanity. Apparently, the race is facing its ‘hour of decision’ between good and evil, and Boccardo is concerned that the struggle is an uneven one. At her suggestion, Cassinelli attempts to redress the balance by bestowing an infant prince with the power of light which will give him a body ‘forged in the furnace of a thousand suns’ when he grows up.

Hercules (1983)

‘Blimey! Look at the Glutinous Maximus on that!’

And it’s not a moment too soon! A few seconds later, the youngster’s royal parents are butchered in a palace coup by the forces of the evil Minos (William Berger) and his sexy daughter Adriana (Sybil Danning). Thanks to a loyal servant, the child escapes the bloodshed but is cast adrift in an open boat. Cassinelli lends a helping hand (literally, thanks to some ropey SFX) and that doesn’t sit well with Podestà. She uses her animated finger lightning to set a sea creature on the child, but he tears it apart (with his strangely adult hands!)

Fast forward via an hourglass spinning in space and the little brat has grown into the massively muscular Hercules (Ferrigno) while Berger has somehow aligned himself with Podestà. Ferrigno knows nothing of his past, but Berger is fully clued up and summons Daedalus (Eva Robins) from Chaos (which is somewhere beyond time and space apparently) to help out. I’ve no idea who she is, but she certainly rocks a golden headpiece with bat-wing ears. Robins probably should have had a word with the wardrobe department about the rest of her ensemble, though. Anyway, she sends stop motion mechanical toys after Ferrigno which grow to giant size in Earth’s atmosphere (because of …science), and one of them kills his adoptive mother before he can chuck a pole at it.

Hercules (1983)

‘Does my bum look big in this?’

Searching for answers, Ferrigno enters a contest of strength to select a champion for King Augeias (third-billed Brad Harris in a one-scene cameo). The prize? To escort the lovely Princess Cassiopeia (Ingrid Anderson) to Athens. Of course, Ferrigno wins and completes a couple of tasks, or labours if you will, along the way. Just as predictably, Ferrigno and Anderson spar for a couple of minutes and then fall in love. But Ferrigno is betrayed by royal lackey Dorcon (Yehuda Efroni) and thrown into the sea wrapped in chains. When he breaks free, he runs into sorceress Circe (Mirella D’Angelo) whose youth and beauty he inadvertently revives by providing her with ten drops of his blood. In return, she answers a lot of his questions, and the two set out to defeat Berger and his minions via the gates of hell and Atlantis.

Yes, this is the sort of movie that barely stops to take a breath, Cozzi throwing everything at the screen that his limited budget can muster without any trace of apology. Atlantis appears courtesy of terrible model work that’s tinted bright green, a mechanical Hyrda shoots scarlet laser bolts from its eyes, and Ferrigno and D’Angelo visit Hades by walking across a rainbow. Almost everything that happens is accompanied by an endless selection of wacky electronic sound effects, and Cozzi’s script is full of frequently laughable dialogue with characters making important declarations and pompous speeches. Our old friend, Voiceover Man, tries his best to give proceedings some gravitas, but his constant repetition of things that the audience already knows isn’t really the best way to go about it.

Not surprisingly, the story isn’t all that accurate to the original mythology. There’s no mention of Hercules’ killing his sons or his inclination to general murder and mayhem. The legend as we know it today is an assembly of bits and pieces from several different sources, so, if you want to give the movie a break, I guess you could say it was written in the same spirit!

Hercules (1983)

‘I thought I told you to cancel our Netflix subscription.’

The chief joy here are the villains, of course, and Berger in particular, who plays everything with a knowing twinkle in his eye. His King Minos is laughably vague and idiotic, building a city on a live volcano and forcing the legendary phoenix to make its nest inside. A sound piece of town planning, I must say, although probably in contravention of several applicable health and safety regulations. Still, he does offer the bird a virgin bride from time to time to keep it happy. The underemployed Danning is also delightfully wicked and deserves props for managing to remain inside her costume for the entire run time when a wardrobe malfunction looks imminent at any moment. And Ferrigno? Well, his physique is certainly very impressive and, if his acting isn’t in the same league, he shows an easy charisma at times which could have been developed if he’d been given more opportunities. Sadly, such possibilities were limited due to a speech impediment resulting from his impaired hearing, meaning that he’s dubbed by a voice actor here.

If Harris’ appearance seems odd in its brevity, then this film was shot back-to-back with ‘I sette magnifici gladiatori/The Seven Magnificent Gladiators’ (1983) where he also appeared with Ferrigno. Director Cozzi is chiefly remembered for triumphantly silly ‘Star Wars’ (1977) knock-off ‘Starcrash’ (1978) starring Caroline Munro, a young David Hasselhoff and Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer. Cozzi began his career with bizarre science-fiction piece ‘Tunnel Under The World’ (1969), and further projects included Giallo ‘L’ assassino è costretto ad uccidere ancora’ (1975) and tatty ‘Alien’ (1979) copycat ‘Contamination’ (1980). Most infamously, he was involved with the hideous, colourised version of ‘Godzilla’ (1954), which was released in 1977.

Hercules (1983)

‘Have you ever seen a Valkyrie go down?’

Podestà first came to prominence in the title role of Robert Wise’s ‘Helen of Troy’ (1955), which also starred Stanley Baker and Brigitte Bardot. Working steadily until the mid-1960s, she finally hit paydirt with popular caper ‘Seven Golden Men’ (1965) and its sequel. Stardom (on the continent, at least) must have been within her grasp after those performances, but she only appeared sporadically afterwards. Danning has long been a cult cinema favourite. Her career began in Europe with sex comedies before she started getting supporting roles in bigger-budgeted Hollywood films like Richard Lester’s star-studded ‘The Three Musketeers’ (1973), and the hilariously inept ‘The Concorde… Airport ‘79 (1979).  A prominent role in Roger Corman’s ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ (1980) proved pivotal and she went onto alternate between guest slots on hit Network TV shows and exploitation titles like ‘Chained Heat’ (1983), ‘Reform School Girls (1986) and ‘Young Lady Chatterley II’ (1985) with Adam West. She also starred in the title role of ‘Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch’ (1985), a film which almost has to be seen to be believed. 

If you’re looking for high-quality entertainment, then this is not the place to look, although it’s only fair to point out that Pino Donnagio’s rousing orchestral soundtrack belongs in a far better film. However, there is much to enjoy here; from the cheerfully ridiculous moment when Ferrigno flies a chariot through space to the scene-stealing Berger who plans to eliminate the gods for ‘Science! For the sake of science!’

Apparently, Cozzi and the producers originally intended the film to be far more adult in content, but Ferrigno violently objected after reading the script, insisting on a more family-friendly approach. It’s interesting to speculate on what Cozzi’s original vision for the project was like, especially considering the sheer number of beautiful women in the picture!

1980s video store cheese at its finest.

Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989)

Sinbad of The Seven Seas (1989)‘Not Prince Ali, nor Sinbad, a man I hate more than hate itself, will stand in the way of me and my heart’s desire!’

Sinbad returns to the city of Basra, and finds his old friend the king enslaved by the evil court vizier Jafar. The wizard also has designs on the blushing bride of the sailor’s good friend, Prince Ali, and has scattered some magic crystals to the far corners of the kingdom. Sinbad must quest for the gems before he can return to Basra and put Jafar in his place. For some reason.

This movie started life as a 4-part TV mini-series with Luigi Cozzi (‘Starcrash’ (1979)‘Hercules’ (1983) with Lou Ferrigno) slated to direct. But he walked away for reasons unknown and the project fell into the hands of Enzo G Castellari, a low-budget filmmaker since championed by director Quentin Tartantino. What happened next isn’t confirmed but it seems highly probable that financing collapsed after production began. What is known is that the footage gathered dust on a shelf for a couple of years before Cozzi was rehired to try and salvage something out of it. Fortunately, he had both a beginning and an ending, both of which had been shot on the impressive palace sets. Also the principal actors had already looped a lot of their dialogue. Unfortunately, the middle section was fragmentary; completed scenes that made no narrative sense whatsoever.

So what was Cozzi to do? Bring in Voiceover Man of course! Or Voiceover Woman in this case: Daria Nicolodi, who Cozzi filmed in a wrap-around sequence where she tells the tale as a bedtime story to her young daughter. Unfortunately, the device is so over-used that it quickly becomes very annoying; Nicolodi often providing a running commentary on what we’re seeing on the screen. Sometimes she even talks over the actors, but that was probably because they had never looped those particular scenes. Cozzi also inserts some footage from a 1964 Hercules movie to help explain the plot and slaps a ‘based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe’ credit on the finished article. This isn’t actually as silly as it sounds, Poe did write a ‘Sinbad’ story (‘The Thousand-and-Second Tale’) – it just wasn’t this one. Rather brilliantly, Castellari knew about none of this, and only became aware that the film had been released at all when he found it in his local video rental store!

Obviously, these are all problems enough, but, even worse, is the inconsistency of tone. Is it supposed to be a comedy? It’s a hard question to answer. The main point in favour is the dialogue. The film was obviously shot in English and, although you expect some gags and banter in a Sinbad movie, what you don’t expect are modern American colloquialisms and phrases. ‘No dice, huh?’, ‘You missed one hell of a party’, ‘Have you taken your medication today?’ and ’Don’t you worry, I’ll give it a shot’ are just a selection of what we get here. It’s hard to believe this wasn’t deliberate, but it simply plays like a poor translation of something written by a non-English speaker. A translation that was done in a hell of a hurry and never rewritten. There’s also some head scratching non-sequiturs which give weight to this theory. Also coming down on the side of the comedy explanation is the performance of John Steiner. His Jafar is a glorious mixture of incredibly silly faces, and a ridiculously over emphasised delivery. He looks like he’s having the time of his life.

Sinbad of The Seven Seas (1989)

‘And the Oscar goes to…’

And thank god we have Steiner because the rest of the principals are a dull bunch. Sinbad is ‘Incredible Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno who flexes his pecs and tries hard in poorly staged action scenes, including a fight with skeletons cribbed from ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ (1963). Unfortunately, he’s saddled with a silly 1980s mullet, cheap cartoon SFX, and a crew of the usual suspects;  handsome prince, Kung Fu Charlie Chan, cowardly brain box, and (supposed) comedy dwarf.

Wilting princess Alessandra Marrtines married famous French director Claude Lelouch, 26 years her senior, and had a successful acting career on the continent, taking the lead in ‘The Cave of the Golden Rose’ movie series and playing Elise opposite Jean-Claude Belmondo in ‘Les Miserables’ (1995). After her divorce from Lelouch, she settled down and had a second family with a man 20 years her junior.

A film that will puzzle you (what were they thinking?), bore you (shut up, woman!) but make you laugh out loud too, thanks to Steiner who is simply on fire. It’s a strange combination to be true but well worth a look for lovers of bad film.

Desert Warrior (1988)

Desert_Warrior_(1988)‘You and Cortaz will get married so we can have some children who are not contaminated.’

After World War 3, what remains of the Earth is a devastated wasteland, poisoned by radiation. Some scientists have managed to remain unaffected in an underground complex, but the impulsive daughter of one of their leaders becomes a prize fought over by warring tribes out in the wilderness…

A one-eyed Lou Ferrigno saves the world on his motorised tricycle! Yes, it’s the original Incredible Hulk himself flexing his pecs whilst teams of stunt men dive off cliffs and smoke bombs go bang. This Italian cheapie wants so badly to be ‘Mad Max’ but is doomed to fail, not least because the production only has about half a dozen cars, and none of them seem capable of doing much more than 30 miles an hour.

Ferrigno is Zerak, who fights a nasty, oriental man in a tatty, cut-price Thunderdome on behalf of his tribal chief, whose actually more interested in finding an uncontaminated woman to knock boots with. Just for procreative purposes, of course. After all, the future of the human race is at stake, ain’t it? And things are looking up when spoilt blonde Shari Shattuck and her boyfriend quit the scientists lair to travel across ‘The Zone’ (just some desert really – oh, and a quarry!) We don’t really know why she makes him take her on this trip, and he is killed almost at once, but she’s the heroine so let’s just forget about it. It doesn’t matter. Taken prisoner by bandits, she’s rescued by Ferrigno, who sports a nifty eye patch and not much else. The electricity between them leaps off the screen immediately. Well, let’s pretend it does, anyway. In reality, they look at each other a little bit.

Desert Warrior (1988)

Bom To Be Mild

At Science Central, her father petitions the ruling council for a rescue, but they’re not keen. In fact, they make one lame-brained decision after another. The Security Chief has ‘Stupid Generic Villain’ stamped on his forehead and everyone looks like an ice cream man because they all wear white (they’re not contaminated, see?) Next door in ‘The Zone’, lots of smoke bombs go off, and stunt men jump off hidden trampolines and get machine gunned. To a pounding synthesiser score, of course.

Films like this stand or fall on their action scenes, but these are unimaginatively staged and very repetitive. Ferrigno doesn’t bring a lot of presence to the leading role, and Shattuck is an unsympathetic partner. The plot disintegrates over the last half hour into total stupidity, as the chief scientist discovers a treatment for radiation poisoning which he tries out on Ferrigno. This consists of using some kind of hand-vacuum to suck all the gunk off his face. Will it work? Will everyone realise they should be working to together to rebuild the world as brothers, after an ‘inspiring’ speech by our hero? Or will the camera pan slowly across a field of broken corpses because ‘we never learn’? Will Ferrigno and Shattuck walk off into the sunset together for a really, really long time? Or will we be left to contemplate the futility of existence and the inevitability of mankind’s coming oblivion? I couldn’t possibly comment.

This is really quite feeble stuff; a few familiar ingredients thrown hurriedly together to create a dull, generic ‘entertainment’ that trades on the name and reputation of its star without making much of an effort to do anything else.