Hercules in New York

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Hercules, at Olympus, berates his father Zeus for not allowing him to leave the gods’ abode to adventure on earth. Eventually Zeus sends Hercules, on a beam, to the land of men.

After some strange encounters in the air and at sea, Hercules arrives in New York City, where hilarity ensues in the form of interactions with various New Yorkers, who regard him as physically superior but socially awkward. He meets a skinny little guy called Pretzie (Arnold Stang). Hercules becomes a successful professional wrestler.

Zeus, watching Hercules from the heights, becomes irritated with Hercules’ antics, which he feels are making a mockery of the gods, and calls on Mercury to stop Hercules. After Mercury makes an unsuccessful attempt to bring Hercules home, Zeus orders Nemesis to see to it that Hercules is consigned to the infernal regions ruled over by Pluto.

However, Juno instead convinces Nemesis to poison Hercules with a poison that would strip him of his divinity and then talk to Pluto. Nemesis informs Pluto of what is happening and he bets a large sum of money against Hercules in an upcoming strongman competition with Hercules’ gangster manager.

When Hercules loses the strongman competition his friends try to lead off Hercules’ angry manager’s henchmen, but Hercules follows them to save them.

Meanwhile, Zeus uncovers the truth from Nemesis as to what is happening but only intervenes at the last minute to restore Hercules’ divinity, not wanting any son of his to die at the hands of a mortal.

Hercules defeats the gangsters and realizes that he has been disobedient and returns to the heavens shortly after, only saying good-bye to Pretzie over a radio after he leaves.

In the heavens, Zeus tells Juno and Hercules that he is not going to punish Hercules for his behavior as they ask him about it and then asks to be left alone. They leave him alone, and upon their departure, Zeus sneaks out of the heavens and descends to earth, scaring a passenger jet on his way down.

REVIEW:

Before he was The Terminator, Governator, or any other -ator, Arnold Schwarzenegger was nothing more than a new muscle-bound face in Hollywood. Hercules in New York is his first US film, I believe, as he is only 22 years of age and had just beaten Lou Ferrigno (you know, Th Incredible Hulk from TV) for the title of Mr. Olympia, Universe, or whatever the bodybuilding title is. Arnold’s muscles were a thing of beauty, but were they enough to carry an entire film?

What is this about?

Long before he became governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger (billed as Arnold Strong) starred as the titular god in this comic adventure. Bored of life on Mount Olympus, Herc is zapped by a lightning bolt into 20th-century New York. He befriends a pretzel vendor (Arnold Stang), tears through Times Square in a chariot and crosses paths with the mob and a shifty wrestling promoter before Zeus (Ernest Graves) orders him to return home.

What did I like?

Sidekick. What is a good action film without a nerdy sidekick, right? In this one, we get a guy who must have been an inspiration for Rick Moranis, because many of his mannerisms remind one of good ol’ Rick. I would wager no one known who Arnold Stang is. Even I don’t know much about him other than he appeared in an episode of The Cosby Show (the one with Sammy Davis, Jr.) and was the voice of Top Cat, Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, and various other characters and commercials. His pairing with the giant, muscle-bound Schwarzenegger is odd, to say the least, but it also genius. Remember, in about 15-20 years after this, Arnold teams up with another man of diminutive stature that you would never guess he’d have chemistry with, Danny DeVito, in Twins. We all know how well that one ended up, right?

Ye Gods. Originally, I thought this was going be some movie where a guy wakes up in a museum and realizes he’s Hercules, but in New York, and the only mention of the gods would be in passing here and there. That wasn’t the case, though, as they are major parts of the plot, especially Zeus. As a matter of fact, there is almost this Clash of the Titans vibe with their gathering on Olympus that I really enjoyed.

Strong look. Apparently, finding someone who has the look of how we all think Hercules should appear is next to impossible, but Schwarzenegger pulls it off. Then again, the guy is a bodybuilder, what do you expect? Take a look at the upcoming Hercules movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and he is about the same size, if not bigger. There is always the Disney version and Kevin Sorbo’s take in the PS3 game, God of War III that also seem to be very similar. All this is to say, with everything else about this film, Arnold had the look.

What didn’t I like?

Action. I was watching something one day and it showed what some of the most iconic scenes in film would look and sound like without the score behind them. Most were painful to watch because of the silence. That is what happens to this flick whenever there is an action scene. Not only does the music cut out, but so does all the sound! Come to think of it, I don’t think there was much of a score to this film! Who had that bright idea?!?

Mixology. Last I checked, Zeus, Juno, and Samson weren’t all in the same belief. Hercules is a Greek demigod, so all the other deities should have been Greek, as well. So, why was Hera called Juno? Why was Samson, a character from the Bible, called in? It was all quite confusing! Stick to one or the other. I would make an exception for Pluto, because some people get offended when you say Hades, but they say hell in the movie, so no excuse for not calling him Hades!

Petulant child. In Thor, we meet an immortal of immense strength, royal lineage, and a bad attitude. The same thing applies to Hercules. Similarities between him and Thor abound, but the thing that sticks out the most is how much more Hercules seems to not care about anyone but himself. At least Thor showed compassion for his compatriots. Hercules just came off as a brat throughout most of the picture.

Dubstep. At this time in his career, Schwarzenegger’s English was not so good, so the filmmakers decided to dub his voice. The problem with that is that it is obviously not Arnold’s. At least with kung-fu and Godzilla films, when the Japanese is dubbed, we English speakers get a chuckle of how bad the dub is because the words don’t line up with the mouths. That isn’t the case with Schwarzenegger, as the dubbed voice sounds as pretentious as this version of Hercules appears to be. This isn’t the first time Hercules has been dubbed, either. If I recall, I believe Mickey Hargitay was dubbed in Hercules vs. the Hydra and Arnold was again dubbed in his next major release, that I know of, Conan, the Barbarian. Those were better dub jobs, though.

Whoever thought it was a good idea to put Hercules in modern-day, mix him up with some gangsters, and attempt to give him a rather average looking love interest needs to be drug out into the street and shot! There is a reason this is considered one of the worst films ever made. Still, I’ve seen much worse. Do I recommend it? If you’re a die-hard Schwarzenegger fan, especially when he was young and even more muscle-bound than we have grown to know him being, then yes, but don’t expect greatness. This is one of his first films, after all, and he doesn’t even deliver the lines (unless you happen upon the version that isn’t dubbed). Otherwise, best to avoid this at all costs!

2 out of 5 stars

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