Hercules In New York (1970): Breakdown by Kain424
The Greek half-god grows bored and descends from Olympia to live among humans. After a series of hilarious (read as completely unfunny) hijinks, he learns what it is to be human and understand his place in the universe.
Far in the deep past, when myth and history merged into mystery, when the gods of fable, and the primitive beliefs of men, dwelt on ancient Mount Olympus in antique Greece. A legendary hero walked, godlike, upon the earth… Sometimes.
These words, read aloud with class and dignity by our unseen narrator, are immediately shattered by the familiar tone and voice of acting newcomer Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his first starring role.
“Why can’t I go?”
And so begins the film, an embarrassing mockery of every Schwarzenegger flick to follow. Arnold (billed here as Arnold Strong) has stated that he has tried for years to make people forget about this movie. Well, I’m here to remind you.
Schwarzenegger, who had grown up seeing people like Reg Park and Steve Reeves as his heroes, cultivated his fame the same way his predecessors had: bodybuilding. Eventually, Arnie was able to live and train with Park in South Africa. It was the former Hercules actor himself who convinced “Mr. Universe” to accept the role upon arrival in the States. So here, at age 23, is Arnold. He mumbles through every scene so badly he was dubbed over. When I first saw this film, in fact, it had some other actor dubbing Herc. The odd thing is someone actually thought that dubbing the main character would somehow make this a better film.
Hercules In New York is filled with bad jokes, bad dialog, bad action, and bad actors. It’s truly grueling to sit through, with its only value being a freakish curiosity to show one’s friends. The whole thing looks like it was shot around a park (the poster for the film excitedly tells us it was “filmed entirely in New York!”), with the actors occasionally glancing at the camera or offscreen, probably looking to make a break for it. I could have sworn I heard a dog barking in the background during one of the scenes on “Mount Olympus”. Humorously enough, several of the poor attempts at humor will be used time and time again by Hollywood at the end of the next decade and the decade after that, all in strong man comedies with bigger production values. Sure, there are some scenes worth mentioning, but all in all it’s not worth watching.
Young Schwarzenegger is probably at his biggest here. At first this may seem like a great idea, but it only serves to make matters worse. Arnold is so big (“How big is he?”) when he stands next to normal people he makes them look like shriveled children. At no point can you follow a guy that looks this freaky. At least not as a main character. It’s no wonder he spent much of the next decade in small parts, as either a gym jockey or a thug. Also, at such a young age Schwarzy has yet to completely develop the keen wit and personality which would make him famous only a few years later. Here, he just comes off as your average meathead, a stereotype in full form, big muscles, no thought process, and an overstated arrogance that literally pisses off the gods.
My conclusion: stay away. I’m a huge Schwarzenegger fan and even I am put off by this film. Looking back, I’m amazed the Oak ever decided to try comedy ever again after this disaster. Hercules is not even the zany fun it clearly aspires to be, and barely the “well, it’s something we can make fun of” kinda fun. If you want a re-cap of the best/worst moments in the film, simply read on. It’ll take up less of your life than actually sitting through this atrocity.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Arnold Strong is Hercules, son of Zeus
Hercules is portrayed as a single-minded jock-type, arrogant and completely ignorant. He has all the self-deserving ways of a spoiled rich kid with a legacy scholarship. Still, in his backstory he strangled two serpents as a baby and in the film he subdues a 600 lb. bear with his bare hands. Bad-ass though? I’m not gonna give it to him.
[THE BODY COUNT: ZERO]
I’ve seen this movie three times now, and I’m pretty sure not a single person dies. The mobsters at the end might die under all the debris, but I’m pretty sure they just gave up on fighting. It fades to black, so I guess we’ll never know.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING]
Arnold fights a bear. And wins. Yeah, ok, so it’s a guy in a suit. And it’s really obvious, but whatever. It’s all this movie’s got. I’m actually surprised they had the presence of mind to shoot the scene in low light. Not that it helps.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
I think Arnold Stang’s character may be obsessed with Hercules, but perhaps that is just because he is a sad leech of a person. There’s a moment, before a weightlifting competition (go figure, right?), where Stang is rubbing Arnie’s muscles around. It’s a bit creepy, but it doesn’t even get to first base.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Zeus treats Juno as an annoying, stuck-up wife (though probably not to the degree that an attempted child murderer deserves), always berating her and telling her he doesn’t want to hear her opinions. Still, this movie doesn’t bother too much with characterization, so women aren’t even treated like objects. It’s too shallow for that.
…With the exception of Zeus’s groupy bitches.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Though I would never use the word epic to describe much of anything in this film, I would say that, other than the bear fight, the Hercules vs. College Athletes scene probably comes the closest. Hercules shows up on a college campus and challenges the best athletes at each of their sports. He stomps them (and ludicrously so) in every category, including discus throwing, javelin tossing, and the running long jump.
The one-liner occurs after a cabbie tells Hercules, using the slang terms “bucks” and “dough” to describe currency, that he owes money for the ride he has just taken.
Hercules: “Bucks? Doe? What is is all this illogical talk about male and female animals?”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Know your place, listen to your parents, and be careful about picking your scripts.
[THE SIGNS OF SCHWARZENEGGER: 2 outta 5]
[X] Performs A Ridiculous Feat(s) of Strength
[ ] Says, “I’ll be back.”
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[ ] Unnecessarily Violent Opponent Dispatch
[ ] Wields A Big Gun or Sword With One Arm
[THE CHECKLIST: 12 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation*
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[ ] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
*I’d say a chariot is pretty manly.