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CANNON'S LOU FERRIGNO HERCULES DOUBLE FEATURE

year: 1983
HERCULES: If you don't fully enjoy a scene where, after Hercules' human (though not at all related) father gets mauled by a bear, followed by Lou Ferrigno as the title character... With limitless strength, a muscular build and his voice replaced by a cheesy sounding, low pitched, tough guy monotone... not only killing the furry brute but hurling him, free-floating into outer space...

If this doesn't suit you, then you're reading the wrong review, because while being cursed with an extremely low budget as CANNON FILMS were competing with pretty much every studio that had more money for special effects, which in this case are just plain "special" and yet the story, catapulted by a Moses-like Hercules baby floating down river, being rescued and, after the infant battles a two-headed serpent, eventually becomes the full-grown half-human child of mega god, Zeus: his despised and hunted son traveling from one adventure to the next and, this vehicle is surprisingly enjoyable and visually entertaining including three super low budget metallic monsters (in separate scenes) that resemble model toys so much, you would expect a child's hand to start moving them around...

Lou Ferrigno in two Cannon Films HERCULES flicks
Actually, one celestial hand belonging to Zeus does in fact reach into a waterfall, saving his kid and, in a number of other instances, he's playing a rigged game: no matter how many male and female antagonists (led by a bearded pontificating grouch) are trying desperately to kill the demigod before he ultimately gets a mission to...well let's put the somewhat convoluted plot aside, having to do with a gaggle of disgruntled vixens... including the iconic Sybil Danning in an underused role, trying her best to make it count, as usual... and just realize that what makes an entertaining movie is how it climbs from one level to the next, and HERCULES, despite all that's said about it, including being loathed more by Ferrigno himself than the critics, who probably ignored the piece altogether, actually has a creative, neatly balanced screenplay that lacked the funds to make it seem, well, realistic... but is mesmerizing enough to allow you to simply give in and enjoy the spectacle.

Metal Stop Motion Monstrosity
In one scene, as Hercules is slowly spinning a slave wheel, it's an obvious attempt by CANNON to bank in on Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou's former and far superior PUMPING IRON rival who was directed by John Milius in the popular CONAN THE BARBARIAN, which, of course, is more legitimate but somehow, HERCULES is way more fun to watch, not saturated with an overlong, morbid vengeance tale that can turn an otherwise pulpy adventure into a searing epic melodrama. And one scene where Zeus turns his son into a growing giant version of himself, thus separating the continents of Europe and Africa, actually looks... well... not too shabby.

year: 1985
THE ADVENTURES OF HERCULES: With new producers tricking Lou Ferrigno into not thinking this was a sequel to the original, manned by CANNON FILM moguls Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, whom he, and nearly everyone involved in the documentary ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, obviously thoroughly detested (although this is often known as THE ADVENTURES OF HERCULES II), we begin with the plot right up front... a group of rogue gods, mostly gorgeous vixens, are gathered in an outer space mountainous "island" of sorts, having already stolen seven lightning bolts belonging to Zeus, which must be returned: Yet before this unfolds, during the opening credits, scenes from the previous movie, including those metallic stop-motion beasts, are shown in-between a kind of SUPERMAN THE MOVIE style credit sequence as the actor's names unfold in space while the world's creation story is repeated from the original: as if this vehicle were the first episode following a pilot that miraculously became a series, and there's an even cheaper misuse of effects in colorful, laser-like animation.

Hercules and one of his ladies
The original bearded villain (a wannabe Shakespeare style actor) returns with the teleported lifeforce of a dead god and, wielding an important sword, gains more power than the renegade goddesses who reanimated him to exterminate their despised muscular foe, for good. Meanwhile, below on Earth, Hercules traipses around with two beautiful, helpful and scantily clad young ladies he saved from being sacrificed: the gals providing exposition about what's supposed to happen and what's about to happen and why it's going to happen before each and every battle, deleting the spontaneity while a perpetual blanket of animation, from flying balls of light to cartoon monsters, consisting mostly of outlined shapes (that become important later on, as you'll soon read), is the main result of post-production.

Added Animation rules this venture
Effects aside, for the true cult flick enthusiast, there are a few scenes using actual costumed beasts, included an army of rudimentary foes referred to as Slime Monsters that, resembling Wookies with Komondor "mop dog" fur combined with a SWAMP THING aestetic and hissing like LAND OF THE LOST Sleestakes, use resilient Ninja skills and give Hercules some good old blood and sweat fights against palpable villainy. And the process of stop-motion makes a slight return as the former film's clunky metal is replaced with old school clay wherein Medusa, starting out as yet another sensual temptress, turns into a surprisingly cool, nightmarish version of Ray Harryhausen's CLASH OF THE TITANS Medusa, whose body is half scorpion and, alas, hardly lasts a minute of screen time.

So as the story moves along, the plot-informed audience easily keeping count on how many stolen lightning bolts are recovered after Hercules defeats an eclectic barrage of wicked monstrous gods hiding them, the conclusion occurs underwater, the animation process returning in spades as Hercules actually turns into what looks like a line-drawn/outlined cartoon that morphs his own figure into a giant ape, battling a likewise T-Rex that quickly changes into a serpent, an obvious nod to both the 1933 and 1976 KING KONG films and, overall, is far more bizarre and dreamlike than the original that attempted to, like already mentioned, compete with CONAN THE BARBARIAN using muscular brutality occurring in spontaneous, testosterone driven, ultra-violent battles compared to this somewhat youth-friendly science-fiction vehicle with more sorcery than swordplay, while each conflict seems like the result of a short paragraph following continuous cliffhanger endings of longer, dialogue driven chapters, ultimately more anticipated than actually experienced.

Bizarre homage to 1933 KING KONG
And according to sources, Ferrigno despised the first movie's script so much that he threw it across the room. Perhaps, this time around, seeing tons of dialogue on each page made him feel a bit more "covered" with plot over violence and exploitation, which this has its fair share amount of, too, and, whether or not Lou agrees, ADVENTURES falls short of its maligned yet far more grounded predecessor.

OVERALL RATINGS:
HERCULES: ***1/2
ADVENTURES OF HERCULES: ***
TRIVIA: Like Ferrigno's voice was replaced in both films; years earlier, in HERCULES IN NEW YORK, the original version had a voice-over change for the Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger, with a similar sounding monotone American actor speaking each word clear and precisely... And as a fan of that movie since childhood when it played repeatedly on Channel 13, the fact they switched it back to Arnold's real voice on the official DVD actually hinders what was one of the greatest things about it. Which also includes a man-in-bear-suit that makes the 1983 HERCULES bear seem legitimate.
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