The Summer of '83: Hercules -

The Summer of '83

Mania Grade: F

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  • Starring: Lou Ferrigno, Sybil Danning, Ingrid Anderson, Willian Berger, Rossana Podestà and Mirella D'Angelo
  • Written by: Luigi Cozzi
  • Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
  • Studio: MGM
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Series:

The Summer of '83: Hercules

"Science! For the sake of science! "

By Rob Vaux     August 27, 2013

 Movie review ratings really aren’t meant for the likes of Hercules, which are patently awful but oh so much fun. If you derive entertainment value out of a ridiculously bad film, does that, in fact, negate its badness? We can’t give movies like Hercules an “A” because we really don’t want to put it in the same category as legitimately great movies. Yet giving it an “F” implies a panicky “stay away for the love of God” vibe, which isn’t quite fair either. No other grade can encapsulate the gloriously wonderful awfulness that this film encompasses, so what is one to do?

It’s probably safe to say that even the campy pleasure on display here are an acquired taste. It came from Cannon Pictures, a mid-80s operation run by a pair of batshit crazy Israelis who had great success in the fourth-tier action film market. In this case, they sought a revival of the old Steve Reeves movies, complete with an Italian crew and a gigantic slab o’ man in the lead. Lou Ferrigno, previously known for playing the Incredible Hulk, jumped at the chance to try on Reeves’ furry loincloth. His variation on the mythic hero battles the sinister King Minos (William Berger) whose bizarre adherence to “science” results in a lot of stop-motion robot monsters rampaging through the scenery. Throw in some cheap sets, a woefully anemic cast list, some heavy-handed lessons about the evils of technology, and legendary scream queen Sybil Danning wearing next to nothing, and you have a recipe for a midnight classic.

The essential harmlessness of the endeavor forms its greatest strength. Hercules was clearly intended for the undemanding kiddies, and its cheap larger-than-life heroics could only pass muster with the under-8 crowd. Poor Ferrigno never gets a chance to recite his lines, having been redubbed by another actor in postproduction. That only adds to the ridiculousness, of course, as do the sloppy fight scenes, cut-rate stop-motion beasts and profoundly bad acting on display from every level of the cast.

As I mentioned last week with Yor, it’s the painfully wrong-headed decisions that turn this into some kind of berserk masterpiece. They may be sending the locomotive straight over a cliff, but by God, they’re engaged in their task. The cast plays it straight, but also seems to understand that they’re selling the movie to kids, and uses over-the-top theatrics to make up for their lack of talent. The enthusiasm becomes infectious in a classic MST 3K way; we giggle and laugh with the same energy with which the filmmakers are trying to sell this giant ball of cheese, and in the process, a strange sort of affection develops. You can’t stay mad at these people. They’re not deliberately wasting our time and their efforts certainly produce some mutant form of entertainment for our enjoyment. You don’t finish Hercules flattened and depressed, with the feeling of time wasted and goodwill squandered. You finish it upbeat and peppy, still giggling under your breath and wondering idly if it would be just as much of a hoot the second time around.

Rest assured that this film is truly abysmal, assembled on the cheap by drive-in hucksters who – like every other filmmaker in August of ’83 – were trying to cash in on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newfound superstardom. But for the right sort, that’s a thing of wonder, delivering the kind of inspired awfulness that leads to bad movie immortality. The effort even produced a sequel, never released in the U.S. but which MGM thoughtfully put out on the quickie DVD release. As double-features go, you could do worse… by which I mean you couldn’t possibly do worse. Ponder the paradox as you enjoy this camp-tastic mess. It’s only one of the joys Hercules delivers with the guileless glee of a congenital idiot, one whose incompetence is matched only by an utter inability to hate it.


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Dazzler 8/27/2013 4:08:28 AM

I enjoyed it on cable a few months ago.  I don't agree with "F" rating.  Visuals alone should give it a "C" at least. 

monkeyfoot 8/27/2013 7:14:35 AM

Hercules is one of those really bad movies that I know is bad but still like. And its not even bad in that Plan 9 from Outer Space bad. It is everything you described but there is an affection in it for me. The effects are horrendous. The dialogue, the story, the sound effects-everything is awful. But the thing that fills me with fondness about it is good ole Lou.

After enjoying the Incredible Hulk TV series I had developed a strong liking of all things Lou. No, not in a sexual way. I just thought his life story was so cool. Because of his hearing loss he developed his body to the fullest and became a star not only in bodybuilding but then acting. Despite his thick voice he managed to do a number of movie and TV roles but most notably as the Hulk. But the one thing I always thought he was made for was Hercules and he finally got to do it.

Ferrigno's Hercules looks like the image I have in my head from reading the myths, even more than the classic Steve Reeves. He even looks like the Marvel version of the character. I was disappointed that they didn't use his real voice. Because of how awful the movie is I would also give it an F. But because of Lou and the kiddie friendly style it is done in I would also raise it to a C. I'd show it to any 6 year old.

ObiWannaJones 8/27/2013 7:45:32 AM

 Sybil Danning wearing next to nothing distracts from the rest of the lousy story.  This alone Raises it up to a B- 

ddamaged 8/27/2013 8:52:27 AM

 Did I miss a week? Is there a reason the biggest movie of the Summer of '83 has been left out? I mean we're scraping the bottom of the barrel when you bring up Hercules.


Wiseguy 8/27/2013 9:08:44 AM

Terrible film but just like Arnold's Hercules in NY, they're so bad they're good. Of course being a fan of both these guys and bodybuilding in general helped not to mention Lou's Incredible Hulk

blankczech 8/27/2013 9:21:25 AM

  I wasn't a big fan of this movie but I don't think there is anything wrong with liking bad movies. God knows I like lots and lots of bad movies (and books, and music). If something entertains you, who cares what others think. Don't let them tell you what you should or shouldn't like (it's personal). I just wish people would fess up and say I know it's bad but I love it anyway instead of trying to intellectually justify and apologize for the garbage they like. We get a lot of that (justification stuff) in the Mania comments.

mellowdoux 8/27/2013 10:24:19 AM

 I don't think Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus produced anything BUT bad movies, did they? LOL

I will always have mad love for Cannon's laughably absurd "Deathwish III". :)

thezillaman 8/27/2013 11:18:00 AM

 what a massive pile of horrible shit is was then and now, I love it..

DarkXid 8/27/2013 5:33:39 PM

 Oh FFS.

Give these pictures a "G" for -God damn it's so bad that it's good.  

DarthBob 8/28/2013 7:04:00 AM

Sybil Danning had some sweet cans in her prime.  I had no idea this was a bad movie because my eyes were fixed on Danning's assets through the entire flick.

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