Saturday, November 17, 2012

El Professore Movie Reviews: Hercules in the Center of the Earth (aka Hercules in the Haunted World)

Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Reg Park, Christopher Lee
* * *

Rarely has someone done so much with so little throughout his career as Mario Bava. Originally a painter (which explains why nearly every one of his low budgeters look so gorgeous), turned cinematographer, Bava finally got his big break in 1960, where he got to direct his first film, the gory, gothic masterpiece, 'The Mask of Satan' (better known here in the States as 'Black Sunday'. It was a shocking (for it's time) hit that showed Bava a master of B/W horror. For his followup, he tackled the Peplum genre that was peaking in Italy at the time and lensed 'Hercules in the Center of the World' (better known in the States under it's more exploitive title of 'Hercules in the Haunted World'). This film showed he was equally adept filming in color.

Full review after the jump.

Upon his return from one of his many adventures, Hercules (Reg Park), finds his beloved Princess Daianara out of her senses. Seeking advice from the oracle Madea, Herc learns that the only cure for Daianara is the Stone of Forgetfulness. Unfortunately, it is located square in the middle of Hades. No problem; Herc and his two trusty companions, Theseus and Telemachus take on the quest to find said Stone. Herc is unaware however that Daianaro's guardian, King Lico (Christopher Lee) is in fact the one behind her condition and plans to wed her himself after reviving her. To get Herc out of the way, he has aligned himself with the dark forces of Hades who have laid all manner of traps for our intrepid trio.

Filmed on practically no budget to speak of (including sets that would be redressed and reused multiple times), 'Hercules in the Center of the Earth' still manages a creepy, dream-like quality that is often intoxicating. The film is far from perfect as it contains some eye rollingly bad comedy relief (in the form of one of Herc's trusty companions) and poor pacing for a film that's well under ninety minutes. However it's visual pleasures are many, including Herc's boat journey into Hades complete with water colored skyline, bleeding tree branches and a way cool looking rock monster that gives one of oor heroes' a good stretching. The finale where Herc must battle Lico's army flying (!) zombies is one of the most memorable moments in the entire genre (this sequence was edited into the Lucha Libre pic, 'Santo and Blue Demon in the World of the Dead').

Overall, 'Hercules in the Center of the Earth' ranks as one of Mario Bava's better (but not quite best) films and easily one of the best Peplums of the '60s.

No comments:

Post a Comment