Movie Monday: Hercules the Avenger
Hercules the Avenger (La sfida dei giganti, dir. Maurice A. Bright, 1965), with Reg Park as Hercules, Giovanni Cianfriglia as Anteo, Gia Sandri as the Queen, and pretty Luigi Barbini as Hercules' son
After last Monday's bout of cinematic nostalgia, my friend Jason reminded me of this fine peplum adventure that retells the story of the son of Zeus's epic battle against Antaeus, the son of the earth (Gaea) and a reputedly undefeatable wrestler. The movie happens to be a part of my DVD collection. Despite a weak beginning, the movie does a nice job of building up to the epic wrestling match--in a cave beneath an erupting volcano (top that, McMahon!). The screenwriters complicate the narrative by mixing in subplots lifted from the Orpheus story (in this case Hercules is attempting to save his dying son Xantos) and the Odyssey (with Queen Leda fighting off the attentions of unwanted suitors, much as Penelope did).
Reg Park was arguably the most herculean of all the movie Herculeses, his rugged handsomeness and stalwart physique closely resembling Greek and Roman statues of the demigod. Giovanni Cianfriglia was Steve Reeves' stuntman in the original Hercules, so it's ironic that his Anteo poses as a counterfeit Hercules in Hercules the Avenger. As in the myths, Anteo/Antaeus cannot be defeated so long as any part of his body touches mother earth, so Hercules must raise him off the earth to choke him out. The fight here is a strong contrast to the one in the earlier Hercules, Samson, & Ulysses. The HS&U fight occurs in the bright light of day, whereas the one in HtA is shrouded in darkness, and whereas Hercules and Samson become allies, Hercules and Anteo fight to the death.