Lady Summerisle (strange_complex) wrote,
Lady Summerisle

32. Hercules Returns (1993), dir. David Parker

Still trying to catch up on reviews, and this one is a quick win, because I don't have all that much to say about it. I think I'm reviewing it a bit out of sequence, because I actually watched it in late August, when I spent a few days in Warwick with my sister and her family, and I have definitely already written up several films which I've watched since returning from that visit. But never mind.

I took this film down with me because Charlotte was spending quite long stretches of time breast-feeding Christophe, so she suggested bringing a few DVDs along so that we could settle down and watch something nice while she was doing it. And this one had been on my 'to-watch' pile for quite some time, since somebody recommended it to me at a conference on receptions of Hercules which a colleague of mine held. They had waxed lyrical about how incredibly funny it was... but I'm afraid we weren't entirely convinced.

The basic plot is that a guy working for a huge corporate cinema chain in Australia gets fired for contradicting his control-freak boss, and decides instead to re-open an old-fashioned single-screen picture palace on the other side of town. He pulls together a team, consisting of himself, a friend and a young lady whom they meet in a bar, and they decide that for their opening night they will show the last film screened in the same cinema: the Italian Hercules movie Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili. In other words, it is basically an early '90s Australian remake of The Smallest Show on Earth (1957), which tells much the same story of small, independent, old-fashioned cinema vs. the mega-corporate conglomerate.

Where this take on the notion differs, though, is in what happens when the opening-night movie is screened. Just as their excited patrons are streaming through the lobby, the team realise that the copy of Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili which they have acquired is in undubbed, unsubtitled Italian. So they have to do the only thing they can do in the circumstances - over-dub the film in English from the projection box, even though they've never seen it themselves and don't know the plot.

On paper, that certainly has potential, and for a while it was quite funny. But Charlotte and I both agreed that the joke wore a bit thin after a while. Looking at the running times for both films, I can see that the original Italian film must actually have been edited down to fit within the Australian film, since the Italian one is 94 minutes long, whereas the Australian one is 82. But nonetheless, from about 20 minutes into the Australian film until about 5 minutes short of the end, you are almost constantly watching a second-rate '60s peplum movie over-dubbed with jokes which basically revolve around giving the characters names like Labia and Testiculi, and making the plot be about which of the muscley strong-men will be able to give the best performance at the local night-club.

It's not that it was awful, but after ten minutes or so, we kind of stopped laughing at the 'satirical' over-dubbing, and agreed that the establishing story about the guy getting fired and the team re-opening the old cinema had been a lot funnier. From time to time, the story broke out of the over-dubbing set-up, to show what was going on in the projection booth - in particular, the team's increasingly ludicrous efforts to reproduce the right kind of sound effects for the film being shown on the screen, such as creating the appropriate sound effects for a hog roast by, well, roasting a hog in the projection booth. But those moments were too few and far between for us, and on the whole we weren't particularly impressed.

Maybe if you were watching it without the inevitable occasional interruptions caused by a small baby, there would turn out to be all sorts of incredibly clever and subtle plays around the relationship between 1990s Australia, 1960s Italy and the ancient Greek world, but if so they were largely lost on us. That said, the whole thing is available for free on Youtube if you want to make up your own mind. Knock yourself out.

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Tags: classical receptions, comedy, films, films watched 2014, hercules, reviews, sister

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