The Adventures of Hercules
Released 1985
Cannon Film
Directed by: Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates) Running Time: 88min 1.85:1 PG
Cast : Lou Ferrigno, Milly Carlucci, Sonia Viviani, William Berger, Carlotta Green, Claudio Cassinelli.
No, the mud men aren’t jumping on Hercules. Not at all. You see, Hercules is such a badass that merely striking a pose sends mere mortals flying.
Okay, granted, this is a low budget movie and granted this trio is listening to an off screen character give a speech, but is it really too much to ask that they not look like mannequins?
I was tempted to use a glowy rotoscoped effects shot for all of my screen captures just to demonstrate the ridiculous abundance with which it was abused ... but my desire to insert variety won out.
I have to be honest. I frickin’ love this. A sexy woman chained to what resembles one of those giant exercise balls? Kinky! It looks like one of the twisted images I would draw.

Review by Jay Wilson

On the commentary for one of the early seasons of The Simpsons, show runners Al Jean and Mike Reiss explained a theory of comedy they abide by. A gag that’s funny, if continued, gets funnier. Continue the gag even longer, it stops being funny. But if you keep it going and drag it out beyond the bounds of common sense and good taste ... it becomes really funny as demonstrated with the Side Show Bob rake gag in the season five Cape Fear parody. A similar principle works with bad movies. A bad movie can be entertaining (Half Past Dead and Torque, for example). A movie that sinks even deeper into the abyssal depths of dreck gets even more entertaining (any movie by Ed Wood.) If it continues its trek into inexplicable excrement, it then stops being entertaining (two words: Uwe Boll.) But if a movie lets go of all pretense, embraces overkill, and makes shlock cry out “who’s your daddy?” then you have something so bad it’s friggin’ awesome.

Adventures of Hercules is the sequel to plain vanilla Hercules released two years prior, and while that movie does, indeed, crash and burn, it does not compare with the epic train wreck of its sequel. Oh yes, it’s bigger. It’s badder. And by the way, the original tried to make Hercules into Superman, and I’m not speaking metaphorically either. Nope. Mount Olympus is on the moon. Yes, the moon. Not some abstract utopian vision of the moon that would actually tie in with the Greek belief that such constant celestial bodies remained forever above and beyond the reach of man. No, the actual barren, crater-impacted, lifeless surface of the moon we all know from NASA photos. And from this botched interpretation of the inner solar system, Zeus assumes the role of Jor-El and sends his son to Earth to win the final battle between good and evil. Not just evil, but evil science and their miniature Go-Bot minions. So, how could the sequel possibly top that? By turning Hercules not only into Superman, but also Tron.

Buckle up boys, we’re taking a trip to rotoscope hell!

What is rotoscoping? It’s an animation technique where an artist traces over live action imagery for various effects such as the lightsabers in Star Wars, the lasers in The Terminator, and the pulsating costumes in Tron. There’s other uses for rotoscoping, but as far as Adventures of Hercules is concerned, it’s mainly employed to light up the screen with glowing human silhouettes, a glowing arch way off in the background, glowing rings to symbolize telekinesis, glowing auras around the Gods, and if I listed them all, we’d be here all day. Let me put it this way—and in fairness, I don’t know for sure if it’s rotoscoping—but they felt the need to enhance fog in post production. Yes, fog.

Four rebellious gods have stolen Zeus’ (rotoscoped) thunderbolts, and thus sent the moon spiraling towards Earth and total destruction meanwhile innocent women are being sacrificed to the (rotoscoped) fire beast who curiously looks more like animated lightning dancing. Two of the ladies to be sacrificed, Urania and Glaucia, seek counsel from the little people. No, not Leprechauns—don’t be silly—those are mythical creatures, and this movie wants to go the sci-fi NASA moon route, remember? Oh wait. Nevermind. No, “little people” refers to pixie-like spirits of some kind represented by a mess of post-production effects (awe, we could have had Leprechauns!) The answer to both Zeus’ and the damsels’ problems are one and the same: the invincible Hercules! “But he hasn’t been seen or heard from in ages!” Yes, another excuse to rotoscope!

Oh yes, we have stop motion monsters too. They threw everything and the kitchen sink into this movie. There’s even an establishing shot featuring an animated bird flying into the distant sunrise, but I can only cram so many screens into one review.
I am resisting the urge to make a giant head pun regarding Minos’ secret lair. It doesn’t help that it’s penetrating a white cloud of—er, wait, I mean ... damn it!
Yes. Oh yes. Your eyes do not decieve you. Hercules and Minos turn into fucking King Kong and a t-rex and battle it out (rotoscope style) IN SPACE!

But the rebellious gods have their own secret weapon. No, not their newly acquired thunderbolts which they stole from Zeus. Why, King Minos, the evil scientist from the first movie who failed to kill Hercules then ... and wants to overthrow magic and the gods and rule undisputed over all creation with science. Chaos too. Science and chaos. He has a fling with Dedalos who is a goddess/demi-goddess/something of chaos/ darkness. Nevermind. Flora, Hera, Aphrodite, and Poseidon resurrect Minos (with a rotosc—oh, I give up) to stop Hercules, but he has other plans. And, you know, I genuinely like the return of Minos in part because it’s something they did right. Coincidentally enough, the Superman series illustrates my point. Superman: The Movie and Superman II had Lex Luthor, a man with no powers, lots of money, and dreams of dominating the globe. Superman III replaced Lex Luthor with some guy with no powers, lots of money, and dreams of dominating the globe. The only thing lamer than bringing the previous villain back unnecessarily is bringing him back under a different name.

I mean, seriously, do you really think Greeks in space is going to properly introduce and develop a new villain not only go toe to toe with Hercules, son of Zeus, but also top the previous villain and escalate the conflict to higher stakes as sequels demand? Hell no.

Besides, there’s something loveable and charming about William Berger’s performance. He fearlessly tackles the role of Minos and doesn’t hold back. Cheese and ham be damned. Laughing maniacally like the best of supervillains, delivering his lines with power-crazed intensity, and somehow selling his interactions with the subpar special effects weapons he’s supposed to be wielding, but he never winks at the audience. He plays Minos straight. Over the top ... way over the top ... orbiting Neptune over the top, but straight none-the-less.

Watching the rest of the cast, I get the feeling they don’t know what they should be doing. Their body language resonates with an indecisive emptiness. Move here. Stand there. Pick up the item. Point. Gesture. Talk. Now sit down and shut up. There’s no underlying subtext to guide the subtlety to their posture, movements, or actions while waiting to deliver their lines or fight the next wave of monsters. And let’s be clear: I’m not expecting these people to deliver a layered, nuanced, and mesmerizing soliloquy. I just want them to have more of an ongoing presence than a ventriloquist’s dummy. Minos, despite the silliness of the entire movie around him, comes across as a fully formed character with thoughts that exist between the speaking and action segments. Granted this fully formed character is an exaggerated megalomaniacal psychopath who belongs in a comic book, but I told you from the get go this movie aspires to be Superman so it actually feels at home here.

The last thing I like about Minos is that he does precisely what you expect him to do: continue with his plan to bring down the gods including the four who brought him back to life. What can I say? I love the metaphorical deal with the devil—any time there’s a character so demented other villains hesitate to interact with him, and when they go against their better judgment and strike that bargain, their worst fears manifest as they lose control and pay the price. That and there’s something strangely satisfying about watching a couple of dumbass gods bite the dust from something any idiot mortal could see coming. And watching these gods try to flee on foot after forgetting they can teleport is just icing on the cake (oh, and we get ice cream too as Hera forgets she’s a goddess and allows Minos to tie her up with rope.)

You know you’re watching an awe-inspiringly ludicrous movie when this is not the most unbelievable part.

So what about the seven stolen Thunderbolts? They’re hidden in the bellies of seven monsters thus giving Hercules something to do throughout the running time since story and character development were never expected to make even a cameo. Hercules and his two female sidekicks spend most of the movie fighting monsters at point A, and then traveling to point B to fight more monsters, that is, after finding out where point B is from the little people located at point C but strangely it never feels like they make any progress. Their whole quest feels like busy work assigned to kill time until Minos is ready for them. Come to think of it, gods sit around and die, Zeus mopes about hoping things turn out okay, and Hercules chases lightning on a hamster wheel going nowhere. No wonder I like Minos the best. He gets things done.