Sunday, December 1, 2019

mary beard.

Been stuck in the house this week with a horrendous cold which means that I've gotten sod all done as everytime I try to work I end up covering the paper, my computer screen, the kids etc. with noxious green slime that seems to be constantly exploding from my nose.

Which is currently bright red and swollen.

Anyway in my weakened state this was the only movie I could reach to watch.


Hercules in the Haunted World (AKA Ercole al centro della terra, 1961).
Dir:Mario Bava.
Cast: Reg Park, Christopher Lee, Leonora Ruffo, George Ardisson, Marisa Belli, Ida Galli, Mino Doro, Gaia Germani, Franco Giacobini, Rosalba Neri (probably) and Ely Drago.

You know, I didn't think Hades would be anything like this.




After literally dozens of fantastically exciting (offscreen) adventures, legendary nappy clad strongman Hercules (English bodybuilder, businessman, actor and dad of Darth Maul, Park) is returning home to catch up with his girlfriend Princess Deianira (Ruffo from Pietro Francisci's fantastic Star Pilot where she plays the saucy space vixen Kaena) for a wee kiss and a cuddle.

And maybe a biscuit.

Custard Creams no doubt.

Yum.

But things are amiss in the city of Cleftpate - Deianira has been struck down by a mysterious malaise and her father has died leaving her uncle Lico (Lee, slumming it for fag money) to reluctantly - aye right - to take the throne.

And Hair styling tips from Dario Argento by the look of his barnet.

Fringe benefits.

Hercules, never one to give up so easily (ask your mum) quickly heads off to ask the saucy masked oracle lady Medea (Germani) for help.

Obviously Ms Teletext was busy.

And wouldn't you believe it, it turns out there's a cure for Deianira's condition (tho' not for her dad's obviously, Hercules isn't really that bothered about that tho' as he didn't want to fuck him), unfortunately it can only be found in the Underworld.

And by that I mean Hell, not the bar that used to be by Glasgow Central Station.

Tho' I did once bump into a man that looked like Christopher Lee in the toilets there once.

Or was it Christopher Plummer?

But that isn't important, unlike the fact that no mortal man has ever returned from that dreadful place.

Again it's Hell I'm talking about, not the Glasgow bar.

Or even the London one.

Born slippy.



Hercules as we know is no mortal man and eagerly agrees to take the challenge.

But first he'll need to get a crack team of heroes together to help.

Unfortunately everyone is busy so he's left with Aryan stud muffin - cum future sex criminal the way he's carrying on, it was a more innocent time etc. - Theseus (Ardisson, best known for Agent 3S3: Passport to Hell and Zorro the Fox) who, when we first meet him is busy trying to stick it in the ever more despairing Jocasta (Drago best known for playing a tourist in Avventura a Capri - aye me neither) and former animated kid sidekick and peeping tom Telemachus (comedy god Giacobini) who has been busying himself perving on Jocasta and Theseus as they go about their - dirty - business whilst telling anyone who'll listen that she is in fact his fiancee.

Honestly it makes more sense when you watch it.


"Are you looking at my bra?"



With his team assembled the first thing Hercules needs to do is find a magic ship capable of traveling to Hades and as luck (and dodgy plotting) would have it the local fisherman Brian has just such a vessel so Telemachus volunteers to go speak to him.

Comedy hi-jinks and almost bodily dismemberment ensues (turns out that Telemachus once tried to fuck his missis) resulting in Brian leaving the boat unguarded as he chases his beloved horses giving the team ample opportunity to steal it and sail to adventure.

Little do they realise tho' that Lico is actually the evil force behind the whole plot and he'll stop at nothing to make sure our heroes fail and secure his right to the throne.

Luckily his back up plan seems to involve leaving them to it whilst he struts about in a cape shouting in a badly dubbed American accent.





"Is it in yet?"

Their first port of call is a strange land ruled by purple tissue paper clad ladies who guard a magic apple that will allow Hercules to descend to Hell, luckily they don't seem to have a problem with him taking it and point him in the direction of the - albeit huge - apple tree in order to let him pick it.

Unfortunately tho' it's a magic tree protected by lightning and stuff that no-one has ever survived.

Hercules is made of stern stuff tho' and after telling his companions to go for a wee lie down he decides to climb the tree and grab the apple.

The girlie tribe tho' are ruled over by the evil Pluto who demands a sacrifice on occasions like this so sends Procrustes the giant rock monster to kill
Theseus and Telemachus whilst they sleep.

Gah.



"It could be you!"


As the rock monster (very) slowly approaches our prone pair Hercules is having trouble of his own, the lightning bolts keep breaking the branches he's holding on to and the small size of the set means that he appears to keep climbing up the same bit and never getting any higher leaving him - and the effects crew - no other option than to fashion a vine catapult capable of firing a polystyrene rock at the apple in the hope it'll fall down.

No, really.

Surprisingly this works first time and the lady boss excitedly tells Hercules that seeing as the apple is no longer on the tree that Pluto has no power over them and the ladies are now free of the patriarchy and the like.

If only it were that easy.

And as a thank you she explains that a rock monster is about to butcher his pals so Hercules heads off to save them, which he does by effortlessly lifting the beast and chucking it at a shoddily constructed wall which collapses, revealing the entrance to Hell.

Sorted.


"I am Groot."


Telemachus, being a wee bit more sussed than he lets on, volunteers to guard the entrance whilst Hercules and Theseus forge ahead soon coming across (not in that way but to be honest it's tempting) a naked lady chained to a tree begging for help.

Or at the very least a bucket to piss in.

Theseus is eager to help but Hercules reminds him of the oracles advice - 'believe not what you see'.

No me neither.

But there's no time to think about it as with that she disappears in a puff of smoke.

Which is a shame really as I'm sure she was portrayed by Rosalba Neri from Lady Frankenstein.

I mean according to various sources she is in the movie it's just that no-one seems to know where.

It's like Where's Wally but with nicer blouses.

Oh well.

What your mum really gets up to on bingo night.

This advice also helps when the pair are confronted by an imaginary but oh so terrifying - sea of flames blocking their path to the island of the magical stone of forgetfulness but not so much when they have to shimmy across a lake of molten lava as that turns out to be real when Theseus falls into it.

Don't get too worried tho' as by some bizarre quirk of fate Pluto was so annoyed at losing control of the ladies earlier that he totally missed Theseus dying so our (other) hero ends up safe and well in a paper-mache cave in the company of the beautiful Persephone (Galli AKA Evelyn Stewart from Fulci's The Psychic as well as Bava's The Whip And The Body) the mysterious and lonely daughter of Pluto.

It seems that she's bored of her pitiful existence and wishes to live in the mortal realm, much to her father's chagrin, and after falling madly - and quickly - in love with Theseus vows to accompany him home.

Theseus is sure Hercules will object so quickly stuffs her in his sock for safe-keeping whilst awaiting Hercules' triumphant return with the magic stone.

Look, it's not like we think he isn't going to succeed is it?

I mean fair enough they do try to add a touch of excitement by having the stone a wee bit hot so that Hercules burns his fingers every time he  tries to pick it up but he soon sorts this out by punching it till the glowing bit breaks off then wrapping it in his underwear to carry it.

Like I said, they tried.

There is such a thing as too much colour.

With apple and stone acquired it's time for our hero to head back to
Telemachus, stopping quickly to join up with Theseus - whom he just happily accept didn't burn to death in a lava pit for 'reasons' and then it's ship ahoy! for the trip home.

Theseus tells Hercules that he's very tired after his near death experience and retires below deck to 'sleep' leaving poor Telemachus to act as navigator, bosun and cabin boy as Hercules stands on the bow gazing into the middle distance whilst trying to move his nipples using only the power of the mind.

Luckily the crashing waves and howling winds cover the slurping noises coming from below as Theseus and Persephone go at it like (PG friendly) rabbits.

All this stormy weather is a bit worrying for Hercules as the purple ladies from earlier told him that the apple would grant him safe passage home, this is confirmed by Telemachus who surmises that there must be something/someone else onboard that shouldn't be there before dismissing this and going to ask Theseus for advice.

Theseus, wiping his engorged member on Telemachus' togo reckons it's nowt to do with him sneaking Pluto's daughter onboard so proceeds to throw the apple away which surprisingly does the trick and they make land without any further delay.

Phew.


"Oh Vic...I've fallen."


But something is wrong, the local populace are leaving their lands as it's become dry and arid, their livestock is dying and a sense of fear perminates the whole area. Superstition has it that Pluto is angry with the mortal world, almost as if something has been taken from him.

Hercules doesn't seem to care tho' as he's more interested in getting his end away, as does Theseus so the pair head back to the city leaving Telemachus to get back to stalking Jocasta.

It's a hobby I guess.

With the special stone sought and delivered Deianira is soon back to her normal - albeit still wooden self - and eagerly planning her wedding to Hercules but Lico has other ideas, for during the upcoming lunar eclipse - due in part to Pluto's wrath - he plans to sacrifice Deianira to the god of darkness (or Dave as we call him), drink her blood and rule the world with the aid of a curtain clad zombie army he has hidden in the basement.

Hercules can't fight him alone but with Theseus busy having 'the sex' how can our hero convince his friend that the old adage of Bro's before hoes isn't actually just childish sexism but the key to saving the world?

Poster.




Hot off the heels of his first 'official' film as sole director - the magnificent Black Sunday - genre god Mario Bava was hired to direct (as well as do the special effects, double as director of photography and no doubt make the tea) the second of the Reg Parks starring/ Achille Piazzi produced Hercules movie providing he could do so whilst keeping the budget under 30 quid and shooting it in a (fairly large) shed.

Bava always up for a challenge agreed on the proviso that he could shoot at least a few scenes in the local park and that they'd supply the Quality Street wrappers he'd need for the FX sequences.

Luckily for fans of quality cinema Piazzi said yes and the resulting movie is a triumph of pizazz over pennies with all the charm, ingenuity and stylish set-pieces that became trademarks of the directors output present and correct, the movie could be nothing else but prime Bava and he knows it.


"It was THIS big...I couldn't walk for weeks!"


And it's Bava's absolute confidence in his directorial - and design - abilities that makes the movie such a joy to watch, raising it head and - muscular - shoulders above its contemporaries -  whether it be scenes of Hercules holding back four wild horses in a classic strongman pose or the gorgeously framed aftermath of the handmaiden's murder as the camera calmly pans from her throat to a pool of blood, revealing Lico’s reflection within (later homaged by Argento in Deep Red) almost every frame could literally be a work of art.

Seriously, say what you like about the - at times minimal - acting style and admittedly paper thin plot cos the whole thing looks bloody gorgeous and you can see only two films in to his illustrious career why Bava was and is still regarded as The Master.





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