Hercules and the Captive Women (1961)

a.k.a. - Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (ITA) Hercules Conquers Atlantis (UK)

Reg Park debuts in a daft but highly enjoyable Peplum from director Vittorio Cottafavi. Retromedia US R0 DVD.

The Film

After a warning from the heavens of impending distruction, a number of Greek journey to find the source of the threat and kidnap the reluctant Hercules (Reg Park) to join them. When the ship is wrecked, Hercules finds himself washed up on an unknown island where he saves a young woman who is being sacrificed to some strange beast. He returns her to her home city he discovers that things are not what they seem, particulary when he finds that his friend who he thought was drowed is still alive but seemingly a completely different person...

From Peplum regulars Vittorio Cottafavi and Duccio Tessari, Hercules and the Captive Women is a perfect example of a Traditional Peplum and has a pretty typical storyline, with Hercules finding himself in a land ruled over by evil and setting out to destroy it. Fortunately the script is strong enough to keep this particular Peplum interesting, in particular the setting in Atlantis which allows for some unusual sets and costumes (although oddly this is only briefly mentioned by name in this English dub and removed from the title of the US release). There are a number of rather surreal sequences - particularly the opening warning from the heavens - which contast with several light hearted moments, but there is none of the painful comic relief that plagued many Traditional Pepla, although the over-use of the word Uranus (pronounced in the good old fashioned way) in the English dub is bound to cause a number of school-boy laughs. Smartly paced and never too predictable the film builds to a neatly dramatic conclusion.

Vittorio Cottafavi had already helmed five Pepla and gives a strong showing here, aided by an obviously larger than normal budget which allows for some good looking sets and a big cast of extras, that are often missing in the fantasy Pepla. Of particular note is the armour sported by the Queen's guards - very nicely designed and menacing it creates a suitably unearthly feel for Atlantis. There are a few rather obvious model shots in the boat scenes but they are certainly not as bad as in some other titles. For the American release a rather odd mix of library music was used for the background score - with some distinctive electronic themes being a welcome change from the traditional orchestral accompaniment.

British muscleman Reg Park does the honours this time round, making his first of five genre appearances. While not quite as confident as Steve Reeves he does seem to be a little more mellow as suits this slightly older version of the character and he gives a good show. The American B-movie vixen Fay Spain in one of her later productions plays the evil queen while genre regular Ettore Manni plays Hercules' friend and Mimmo Palmara dons heavy make-up to play the blonde-haired assistant to the queen.

Certainly not the most original of the Traditional Pepla, and with a rather misleading American release title, Hercules and the Captive Women would be easy to overlook, but it is a good solid film with an effective script, fine acting and above average production values - all Peplum fans should check this one out. Recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Reg Park - the musclebound Brit who appeared in five Pepla, including Hercules the Avenger (1964)
Directed by anyone interesting? Vittorio Cottafavi - an experienced genre director who also helmed the impressive Peplum drama Messalina Venere imperatrice (1960) and the more traditional Goliath and the Dragon (1960) with Mark Forest.
Any gore or violence ? Quite bloody in a few scenes
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? One for all Peplum and Reg Park fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
Print quality is generally good with good colours and detail, although some minor print damage throughout.
Audio English - sounds good and is well dubbed.
Subtitles None
Extras None
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability Only available as part of a double-film release with the fourth Reg Park Peplum Hercules Prisoner of Evil (1964)
Other regions? Also available on DVD in Spain as La Conquista de la Atlántida listed as including English and Spanish audio but only a fullscreen print. Previously avaialble in France as Hercule à la conquête de l'Atlantide, no English options.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut. The print used is the English langauge print.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 2nd March 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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