And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
ERCOLE ALLA CONQUISTA DI ATLANTIDE (HERCULES
CONQUERS ATLANTIS) (1961)
"Antinea has finally harnessed Uranus curse, and
Director: Vittorio Cottafavi
Synopsis: Evil omens predict a threat to Greece from over the seas to the west. Androcles, King of Thebes (Ettore Manni), tries to organise his fellow rulers to meet the threat head on, but they will not help him. Androcles turns to Hercules (Reg Park) for help, but he has promised to stay home with his family. Undaunted, Androcles conspires with Hercules son, Hylas (Luciano Marin). The pair drugs Hercules and take him on board their ship, setting out for the west. When Hercules awakes he is not angry, but refuses to give any assistance until a violent storm occurs. Androcles is washed overboard, and the ship is destroyed. Regaining consciousness and finding himself drifting on a portion of the shattered ship, Hercules has a vision of Androcles imprisoned and calling for his help. Hercules calls upon his father, Zeus, for help, and soon finds himself on an island. There he finds a girl trapped within living rock, who tells him that she is a prisoner of the god Proteus. Proteus appears first as a man, but shifts shape several times as he and Hercules battle to the death. Proteus is defeated, and the rock imprisoning the girl fades away; it too was part of Proteus. The girl, Ismene (Laura Efrikian), was sent to the island as a sacrifice and is fearful that her rescue will bring disaster to her people. On Atlantis, young boys are being sacrificed to Uranus in order to maintain the mists that screen the land from mortal eyes. Hercules interrupts the ceremonies, giving Ismene back to her mother, Antinea (Fay Spain), Queen of Atlantis. Antinea pretends to be happy, but is secretly furious: prophesy states that should her daughter outlive her, Atlantis will be destroyed. Alone with her daughter, Antinea tells Ismene that she must die anyway, and has her soldiers take the girl away to be sacrificed. Meanwhile, a strangely altered Androcles is watching Hercules from the shadows .
Comments: If youre prepared to park your brain in neutral, this passable sword-and-sandal offering isnt a bad way of passing the time. Reg Park makes a convincing Hercules, possibly one with his mortal side showing rather more than his god side, but able to carry the role with some authority. None of the other male actors in Hercules Conquers Atlantis makes much of an impact, while the female roles suffer from the eras inevitable attitudes. First we meet Deianira, Hercules wife, who despite having been deserted by him for most of their marriage "could more easily light a fire under the sea" than stop loving him. Hercules tells her hes very sorry hes made her suffer, and promises to spend more time with her; a resolution that lasts precisely ninety-five seconds of screentime. As the evil queen, Fay Spain is pretty harshly treated by the script. Antinea could easily have been a complex character, having to choose between sacrificing her daughter and her country, but the soft option is taken by making so consumed with ambition that she is able to order her childs death with merely a shrug. Not surprisingly, however, Antinea is infinitely more memorable and likeable than the films "good" girl, Ismene, who whimpers and cries and is useless in a crisis, existing only in order to give the men something to rescue. (There is a remarkably satisfying moment when even Hylas, Hercules wimpy son, gets fed up and snaps, "Quiet, stupid!" at her when she squeals his name at an inappropriate time.) While Hercules Conquers Atlantis is short on plot and logic, there are plenty of fight scenes to liven up the story. The set designs are excellent, particularly the temple, and there is a wonderful scene when Antineas soldiers remove their helmets to reveal that theyre all descended from the god Uranus. The films less than impressive special effects add quite a lot to the fun. Hercules battle with the shape-shifting god, Proteus, is nothing short of ludicrous. Proteus initial appearance as an inanimate lump of rock turns out to be his most impressive. From there, he transforms into an old man, fire, an eagle, a snake, and then into a "savage" lion. The feline in question, clearly a cinematic veteran, keeps its claws fully retracted and merely blinks patiently as Reg Park pretends to strangle it. Finally, Proteus turns into a monster. As monsters go, hes pretty tragic, looking distinctly like something that wandered in from an AIP film; and he is easily defeated when Hercules pulls his horn off. (Hmm. I wonder if that was intended symbolically?) Viewers may well recognise several sequences from the destruction of Atlantis, which have appeared in numerous Italian movies.