Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis (1961)

Known elsewhere as Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis, this is the film debut of Reg Park as Hercules, or Ercole as he’s referred to in the Italian title (Ercole alla Conquista di Atlantide).

Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi, this had a complete retitle, re-edit and rescore* — as well as a title design by Filmation — before playing in America.

Strange things are happening in Greece, but Hercules — now married to Deianira with a son named Hylas — is content and comfortable with his family life. However, his son feels the call to adventure that his father once did.

That means that Androcles must take matters into his own hands, drug Hercules and take him on his ship as Hylas stows away. After refusing to take part in heroics, Hercules finally consents and battles a god named Proteus and rescues a princess of Atlantis.

But man, Atlantis is messed up. They plan on murdering the princess to keep the fog that hides them from the rest of the world. They also have this weird ritual where children are taken from their parents and forced to touch a stone made from the blood of Uranus that either transforms them into blonde-haired superhumans or makes them mutants that are cast into the pit. With an army of these Aryan-looking demigods, Queen Antinea (Fay Spain, who somehow has shown up in both this movie and William Gréfe’s The Naked Zoo) plans on conquering the universe.

The only way to stop all of this? Hercules has to tear the top of a cave off and blow up Atlantis real good. Of course, none of this has anything to do with the real myth of Hercules, but such is Italian cinema.

I read that Hercules exemplifies the characteristics of sprezzatura, or studied carelessness, or even the ability to do something extremely well without showing that it took any effort. That’s an intriguing way to look at him, especially as until midway through this, he really wants nothing to do with anything, but by the end, he’s willing to die for the men he has journeyed with and his son, who has found his way to the pit filled with the castoffs of Atlantis’ Faustian bargain with the gods.

You can download this from the Internet Archive or watch it on YouTube. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 version is also available on Tubi.

*There is a noticeable steal from Creature of the Black Lagoon in the American music.

 

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