Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hercules conquers hearts in Atlantis

Hercules and the Captive Women (aka "Hercules Conquers Atlantis" and "Hercules and the Haunted Women") (1963)
Starring: Reg Park, Fay Spain, Luciano Marin, Laura Atlan, Salvatore Furnani, and Ettore Mani
Director: Vittorio Cottafavi
Steve's Rating: Six of Ten Stars

After the King of Thebes (Mani) receives a warning from the gods that a mystic doom is about to visited upon the city states of Greece, he travels to the distant land of Atlantis with his old friend Hercules (Park) and Hercules' son (Marin). Here, they discover the decadent and evil Queen Antenea (Spain) has created an army of supermen with which to conquer the world. She is motivated both for her own glory, but also for that of Uranus. Will our heroes stop her in time, or will Uranus be all in the end?

"Hercules and the Captive Women" is an Italian fantasy flick with all the cheesiness that implies, However, it also features to pretty cool sets, great costumes, and a fairly decent plot. It even features monsters and foes that won't make you giggle when Hercules and the other heroes fight them.

Hercules is actually a real character in this movie--he starts out wanting nothing more than to stay at home with his wife, Deinaria, and after he gets shanghaied by his son and the king into the mission to Atlantis, he initially refuses to help at all with amusing results. Later, as he believes his son to be dead, we see more depth in the character than I've seen in any other movie of this type.

Another aspect that makes this movie interesting is that there's less emphasis on muscle-men in skirts doing stupid strong-man acts than is typical and quite a bit of time spent of developing the civilization of Atlantis. I've always been keen on any films and stories that feature Atlantis, and this is one of the better ones I've encountered. The evil priests and spellcasters, the decadent queen so obsessed with power that she is willing to kill her own daughter (played by the very cute Laura Atlan), and the brave and virtuous heroes struggling against the tide of evil reminded me very much of my favorite Atlantis novel, "The Lost Continent."

I think fans of fantasy movies and fiction will find much to like about this film, assuming you can be patient with the goofier elements. Even if you can't, "Hercules and the Captive Women" features better battle scenes and a faster pace than most films of this kind--it is definitely one of the best "sword & sandal" films. Further, the 10-year-old boy who resides in all of us (even you women out there) will also get a kick out of the film, given it features lines like "This day is dedicated to Uranus" and "Uranus will rule the world!")

And for you true film snobs out there who might think this sounds interesting but need a conscience-soothing reason to check it out: If Roman Polanski has a favorite Hercules movie, I bet it's this one. See if you can figure out why from the content of this post.

To check out the classic novel "The Lost Continent," as well as the original writings where Atlantis was first invented, click here to visit The Fiction Archive at my website.

You might consider checking out "The Mistress of Atlantis," an undeservedly obscure movie that is not as wild as "Hercules and the Captive Women," but which is a fascinating early fantasy film nonetheless. Click here to read my review at Shades of Gray.

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