Hercules and the Captive Women (1961): Special Edition [Blu-Ray]

Also known as “Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis,” and “Hercules Conquers Atlantis,” Vittorio Cottafavi’s is not a total disaster of a Hercules installment. Surely, it’s a weird, bizarre, and occasionally dull picture, but if the sword and sandal films (or “Peplum”) are your bag, this might whet you’re appetite. With its American title, The Film Detective releases Reg Parks’ Hercules debut from Italy in its full form, restored from the original 35mm negative and in crystal 4K clarity.

The bold and daring Hercules encounters Ismene (Laura Efrikian) when he must save her from a shape-shifting creature – and that’s just the beginning. Ismene brings Hercules to Atlantis where they come face to face with the evil Queen Antinea (Fay Spain), Ismene’s mother, and tries to prevent her dreams of world conquest with her army of browless, very blond warriors.

“Hercules and the Captive Women” is set after the Steve Reeves “Hercules” movies but isn’t technically considered a sequel, so much as just another of the titles from the brand. Cottafavi is no stranger to the sub-genre, and here he’s in his element. Much of the “Hercules” movies loved to depict Hercules as a muscle bound man with a thick goatee and short hair. While Reg Park is not as good Steve Reeves, he certainly wears the look well, and plays the role as heroic if somewhat foolish. There’s a funny recurring plot element of Hercules loving to sleep.

Oddly, he’s often reduced to duking it out with random soldiers and evil wizards while playing somewhat second fiddle. While Park is fine in the role, he takes kind of a backseat to the role of his son. Basically it feels like “Old Man Hercules” where he doesn’t get the girl at the end of the movie, and spends so much of the movie doing the bare minimum. Who knew Gladiators loved to sleep so much? Cottafavi offers up pretty much all the peplum tropes including evil queens (Fay Spain is very sexy), busty damsels, weird puzzles, and battles with rubber monsters, et al. There’s even the patented stock footage padding the run time, and a weird dwarf.

 The new Blu-Ray from Film Detective includes the complete, hilarious episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) with their version of the film, released in 1992. Additional special features includes a three minutes introduction by MST3K writer, co-creator, and co-star Frank Conniff. There’s an audio commentary by film critic and screenwriter Tim Lucas, and Hercules and The Conquest of Cinema: A Swords and Sandals, a twenty minutes long documentary from Daniel Griffith at Ballyhoo Motion Pictures that chronicles the evolution of the sub-genre. As for physical assets, there’s “The Duel of the Titans,” a 12-page, full-color booklet insert with an essay from author and historian C. Courtney Joyner.