Hercules the Avenger (1965)

a.k.a. - Sfida dei giganti (ITA)

Reg Park stars in an interesting but distractingly stock-footage heavy Peplum. Retromedia US R0 DVD.

The Film

In the Kingdom of Syracuse the Queen has recently lost her husband but despite attention from six suitors has no interest in re-marrying and plots to find Hercules who she can claim is her protector and scare them away. Meanwhile Hercules (Reg Park) is enjoying a break from his adventures when he gets called to save villagers from some dangerous lions. His son volunteers instead but is attacked and wounded - however Hercules discovers that the physical injuries are minor compared to the mental wounds - the Godess Gaia has captured his soul and imprisioned it in the underworld, hoping to lure Hercules in. He decides it is worth the risk and sets off to save his son. Meanwhile Gaia sends her son Antaeus to the surface world to replace Hercules and he runs into the Queen of Syracus who takes him to her kingdom as her proector but soon finds that he cannot be gotten rid of too easily...

One of the last of the Peplum films, Hercules the Avenger was produced with a low budget in mind and therefore makes extensive use of sequences from earlier Pepla. Quite a number of the later Pepla had made use of stock footage, but this was usually of battle scenes and exteriors, such as the oft-reused battles in Hannibal (1960), to up the scale of the action scenes. Here the stock footage is actually used as a main part of the narrative.

The story takes inspiration from the Ancient Greek legend of Antaeus, son of Gaia, and his fight against Hercules - creating the idea of Antaeus being almost an anti-Hercules who was put in to take his place, an idea which works particularly well. The film seems to have been written specifically around the use of the stock sequences - borrowed from Hercules in the Haunted World and Hercules and the Captive Women - and they are generally well combined, so that a viewer new to the films would probably not realise that they were stock shots. However, continuity problems do appear at times and the script does sometimes seems to stretch to be able to fit in the selected sequence. Generally the pacing is good and the film does build to a quite decent wrestling match face-off and a rather fitting ending, considering that it was Reg Park's last Peplum.

Director Maurizio Lucidi shoots the original sequences for this production and they do form at least half of the runtime. Obviously on quite a low budget he can never match the opulence and scale of many of the earlier Pepla, but the interior scenes look good. The stock scenes are edited in reasonably well, although it is quite clear that a dialogue scene supposedly onboard ship has been added with newly filmed footage of actors standing by the sea (you can see breakers behind them).

Reg Park only gets a few original scenes this time around, but he is on his usual decent form - much of his work comes from the stock shots from his earlier films. The little known but widely travelled actor Giovanni Cianfriglia plays Antaeus and looks perfect for the part - an unpleasant version of Hercules. There are a couple of other familiar faces in the cast including Franco Ressel (Sabata (1969)) but no acting to write home about.

Hercules the Avenger boasts a quite interesting storyline that could have been made into an effective film - however with the genre declining in the face of the Spaghetti Western, the film becomes little more than a 'best of Reg Park' showreel thanks to the use of extensive scenes from his earlier films and for anyone who has seen those films it becomes rather distracting. Peplum and Reg Park fans might enjoy this film but it is certainly not recommended for newcomers (watch the two original films first).

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Reg Park - Three time Mr Universe, best known in film circles for Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)
Directed by anyone interesting? Maurizio Lucidi - a little known Italian director who worked on a selection of forgettable Euro-cult films, including Spaghetti Western La Pił grande rapina del west (1967) and crime film Gli Esecutori (1976) with Roger Moore.
Any gore or violence ? Some blood
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Of interest to fans of Reg Park and the Peplum, but more a curio than a full film.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
Print quality is average - there are lots of speckles and print damage including some distracting flickering in several scenes. However, the print is always watchable and the colours are decent. The stock shots are generally the same quality.
Audio English mono - sounds okay with a little hiss in a few scenes but always understandable.
It does seem to be comprised of two sources, leading to the characters switching between refering to Zeus and Jove (Jupiter).
Subtitles None
Extras None
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability Only available as part of a double-disc release with the Alan Steele Peplum/swashbuckler cross-over Hercules and the Black Pirate (1964) set in the 17th Century. A poor but not unwatchable full-screen print.
Other regions? Not otherwise available.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is French language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 25th May 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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