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Entertainment, Movies

Hercules in New York

So here it is.
Stepurhan’s guest review of Hercules in New York.

Diabolical DVDs – Watching the Worst, So You Don’t Have To

Hercules in New York

The Stats
Year of Production : 1969
Running Time : 87 Minutes
Writer : Aubrey Weisburg
Director : Arthur Allan Seidelman
Leading Actors : Arnold Scwarzenneger (Hercules), Arnold Stang (Pretzie), Ernest Graves (Zeus)

The Cover Always Lies

There is a big full-face shot. There is a set of city blocks with a big explosion behind them. Both of these are set against a black background. This is all sounding vaguely familiar somehow.
If you bought this thinking you were buying Die Hard, I understand your mistake. You should still take someone else with you when you go DVD shopping in future.
Assuming you are able to tell your Arnie from your Bruce, what does this cover tell you? Obviously this is one of Arnie’s famous action films, like Eraser or Commando. No doubt we can expect lots of macho posturing, gunfights, stuff exploding for no clear reason and the trademark one-liners as Arnie offs another thug.
If you were thinking this when you bought the DVD, then congratulations. You’ve just been sold a bigger pup than Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World.
Unless you got the cover showing Arnie as a ghost, which is just downright bemusing.

The Thing We’ll Call a Plot

Hercules (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is apparently much like a bratty teenager, arguing with his dad Zeus (Ernest Graves) about how Zeus never lets him have any fun and just doesn’t understand him. Tired of his offspring’s behaviour, Zeus thunderbolts Hercules, throwing him out of Olympus and landing him on a boat bound for New York. Once there, after a ham-fisted knockabout fight with his shipmates, he hooks up with Pretzel vendor and amiable shyster, Pretzie. Soon he is using his god-like strength to embarrass high-school athletes, fight escaped bears and start a wrestling and weight-lifting career. He also hooks up with a professor’s daughter who is possibly slumming it but, judging by most of her scenes, more likely has simply not inherited any of her father’s intellect. But then Juno, through the agency of Nemesis, takes away Hercules’ demi-godhood, and enlists the assistance of Pluto, lord of Hades to bring Hercules down. When his missing strength makes him lose a contest, the campest fight of Arnie’s career ensues with “the boys” of a gangster backer.

Scenes that make no sense

Zeus’ argument with Hercules revolves around the fact that Zeus won’t let him leave Olympus to go to Earth. When Hercules persists, Zeus loses patience and throws a thunderbolt (of sorts. See Props to the Props Department) blowing Hercules out of Olympus and down to Earth, just what Hercules was after in the first place. He then lets Hercules stay there for what looks like weeks until he sends someone to tell him to come back. Great mixed messages you’re giving your son there Zeus. Add the fact that the thunderbolt could have resulted in infanticide and Zeus Is not going to be up for any good parenting awards any time soon.
Falling to Earth Hercules waves at a passing plane. This would be fine were it not for the fact he gently floats past, right next to the cabin window and grinning like a lunatic. Perhaps, as a demi-god, he’s made of some really light material.
The bear escapes the zoo at night, strolls across the park at dusk, and then attacks a horse-drawn carriage travelling in broad daylight. As we flick back between these three view-points several times during this scene, it would be fair to say that continuity must have had the day off. The bear then does a little bit of gentle disco dancing before attempting to hug Arnie in quite an affectionate looking way. Arnie obviously does not appreciate the sentiment as he pummels the bear senseless.
Having to pursue some gangsters who are after his girlfriend in a car, Hercules commandeers a Greek chariot. That’s right, a Greek chariot just happens to be sitting on the street when he needs a vehicle. Even more bizarrely, the owner of the chariot, who’d just stopped off to get a hot dog, appears to be wearing a caveman costume. He must be quite fit though, as he pretty much keeps up with the horse-drawn chariot on foot in the subsequent chase. The hot dog vendor must be equally fit, as he pursues his caveman customer so he can put the onions on top of his hot dog.
The dancing biceps!!! Can anyone tell me how to erase Arnie’s dancing biceps from my memory?

Location, location, location

Picture Mount Olympus if you will. You’re probably thinking of grandiose temples poised high on a mountain top. The air is clean, the landscaping magnificent and the whole thing has a sense of wonder and majesty to it. What you are probably not thinking of is an area that looks like it’s near the toilet blocks in one of the seedier municipal parks. This is, however, what the location the makers of this film chose looks like. For that really authentic Olympus feel, you can even hear copious amounts of traffic noise in the background.
Hades. Underworld of magnificent caverns, dramatic stygian vistas and great fiery pits. Truly this would be an astonishing and awe-inspiring sight. Unfortunately all we get to see is the wrought-iron entrance gate and a bit of mist. (See Dire Dialogue for the justification of this).

Props to the Props Department

Go to your local discount toy store. You know the one. The one that sells cheap knock-offs of popular toys such as Transformoids or Tickle-Me-Alma. Somewhere in this store there will be a bucket of items even they think are too tacky to sell at more than a pittance. Toys that look like they are swarf cut off from other toys rather than toys in their own right. Pick out and purchase a vaguely zig-zagging piece of grey plastic. You are now the proud owner of a lightning bolt about as convincing as the one Zeus wields in this film.
This is not the only mighty tool at Zeus’ disposal. He also has a giant glass ball, possibly an upside-down goldfish bowl stuffed with cotton wool, which allows him to see events elsewhere. They don’t even bother projecting scenes on it. They just zoom in and fade to white.

Sack the Head of Casting

Arnie himself was, at this time, most certainly not an actor. Whether he has become one over the intervening years is a matter that is still open to debate.
Without wishing to be ungentlemanly, the lady chosen to play Venus, epitome of love and beauty, is not the most attractive woman in the world. She’s not even the most attractive woman in the film. For that matter, she’s not even the most attractive woman in the Olympus scenes that she appears in.

Dire Dialogue

[Opening Narration] – When myth and history merged into mystery.
[Hercules- Having been asked for cash in two different ways by a cabbie] – Bucks? Doe? What is all this so illogical talk about male and female animals?
[Pluto – Explaining why we’re not seeing the Underworld in all its glory] – I’d ask you in, but it’s a mess.
[Hercules – Reminding Pluto of his most important duty] – Who is feeding Cerberus?
[Pretzie – Reflecting on Hercules last message to him]– Any time you need me. Any time you want, just think of me and I’ll be there for as long as you want me to. Yeah. I think…….. I think I’ll eat an apple.

Extras! Extras! Watch All About It.

Scene Selection – Because there’s nothing like being able to watch the worst bits again whenever you feel like it.
Trailer – Watch this. Get a taste of how awful the film is. Hope the minimal resulting wear on the DVD means you can get a refund.

Why Might You Still Want to Watch It?

You’re an Arnie completist – If you managed to sit all the way through Junior and Jingle All the Way, it won’t take much more endurance to make it through this.
You’re a connoisseur of funny accents – Arnie himself is magnificent for this (the original release had him dubbed, taking a lot of the fun out) but Arnold Stang’s Pretzie also has to be heard to be disbelieved.

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"Thoughts of an idle mind." Information Security professional.

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