Monday, June 07, 2021

Number 2528: “...or if you want something visual that’s not too abysmal, we could take in an old Steve Reeves movie.”

Hercules here is the Hercules whose movies were made in Italy, starring the American body builder Steve Reeves. They were dubbed into other languages, including English, from the late '50s into the sixties. I never saw any Hercules movies in theaters, with an explanation why in the next paragraph.

I saw some of the movies on television, long ago. What I remember most about Italian muscle movies dubbed into English is that producer Joseph E. Levine, who was an exploitation specialist, bought the rights to the Italian production Hercules for $120,000 (a lot more money, obviously, in the late ’50s than it would be today), after it was turned down by American studios. Levine put up a massive advertising campaign on television, got his name in newspapers a lot and the movie became a box office hit. My mother had a saying, “The more a movie is advertised the worse it is.” That would explain why she didn’t drive me into town to the theater playing the film.

I don’t have the Dell Comics version of the original Hercules, but I have the follow-up, Hercules Unchained. Forgetting all of the hyperbole and Joseph E. Levine’s selling of the movie in many TV commercials, the comic book is exceptional because of the artwork of Reed Crandall and George Evans. Crandall is credited with penciling, and both Crandall and Evans are given credit for inking. The adaptation of the screenplay of Hercules Unchained was done by Paul S. Newman, and is Dell Four Color #1121, from 1960.


Daniel [] said...

I believe that the first cinematic adaptation of Greco-Roman mythology that I saw was Jason and the Argonauts (1963), in a theater. Of course, after that, the others were weak tea (unless one wanted beefcake). The oddest adaptation that I've seen is Hercules and the Captive Women, which is Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (1961) re-editted and rescored for the American market; it has Hercules confront Benoit's Antinea.

I'm not sure that “Hercules Unchained” were “only good fun”. Buncha people got kilt dead, and there's this business of anthropotaxidermy.

I have a great deal of admiration for much of the work that Crandall did, but I've never cared for what I've seen of the work that he did for Gilberton, for Pflaum, or for Dell. It has the look of material sold in that era to parents as for the edification of their children.

Rick said...

"My mother had a saying, “The more a movie is advertised the worse it is.” mother used to say the exact same thing. And you know something...they were right.

Pappy said...

Rick, of course our Moms were right. "The more a movie is advertised etc" makes sense because it's true. People are still getting fooled when they pay for over-hyped events or entertainment, because they didn't listen to Mom.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I saw Jason and the Argonauts when it came out, and it is still one of my favorite movies of the decade. It also inspired me to read about Greek myths, and from that it lead to interest in folklore in general.

And I'll bet Ray Harryhausen was just trying to make a fun movie! Well, it was fun, and a lot of other things to me.

Duel of the Titans was the only movie I remember seeing Steve Reeves in. He and Gordon (Tarzan) Scott were Romulus and Remus, and a couple of friends and I saw it on a double bill with Gordon Scott, and a pre-James Bond Sean Connery in Tarzan the Magnificent.

I am not sure what happened to Reed Crandall's artwork, which doesn't measure up to his work in the '40s. My main complaint was in the later years, with the stiffness of his figures, which is something I haven't “figured” out. Yuk yuk.

Crimson-Blue-Green said...

"I don’t have the Dell Comics version of the original Hercules, but I have the follow-up, Hercules Unchained." You can always get the scans of the first Hercules comic from Comic Book Plus, where you got the scans for this one.