20 April 2008 | Bunuel1976
HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN (Osvaldo Civirani, 1964) *1/2
This peplum, set in Inca country, is one of a handful which tried to give novelty to the tired formula by changing the locale (or the era) in which they were set: similarly freewheeling entries in the genre took place in China (including Riccardo Freda’s SAMSON AND THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD ), another in full 17th Puritan atmosphere (THE WITCH’S CURSE , coincidentally also by Freda), etc.
However, it’s not enough to alter the background if the plotting remains the same old juvenile nonsense! In this case, Hercules is shipwrecked and immediately clashes with the locals yet helped by their rivals (led by Giuliano Gemma, still a year away from attaining genuine stardom with the first Ringo Spaghetti Western). Apparently, for all their architectural know-how, the Incas are still a backward people when it comes to warfare (given the surprising number on display here, they’re seemingly more interested in raising llamas than anything else) – so that it takes Hercules to update their weaponry and organize the surprise attack on the usurper!
As always, the faded pan-and-scan print and English dubbing do the film no favors – but it’s hurt all the more by a threadbare narrative (which extends merely to a princess being rescued from the sacrificial altar, naturally falling for the strapping foreigner at first sight, and the obligatory battle at the climax) padded with a couple of idiotic dances (which are interminable, to boot), and lifeless handling. Incidentally, the Hercules in this one – Mark Forest (who had already played the role in Vittorio Cottafavi’s minor but delirious GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON ) – is atypically clean-shaven: apparently, the film-makers thought his customary bearded look would jar with the generally exotic ambiance!
For the record, I was unfamiliar with director Civirani or, for that matter, leading lady Anna Maria Pace – the former’s work here doesn’t indicate anything more than a journeyman talent but the latter, at least, has the (agreeably darkened) looks to counter a rather stilted performance! Another ‘fault’ I regularly notice in this type of low-brow entertainment (but which, more often than not, translates into a fun booster for the viewer) is that the action sequences tend to come across as unintentionally comical – in the enthusiasm, or lack thereof, displayed by the extras or stunt people!