Hercules Against the Moon Men - 1964
Some nice production visuals and stunt work highlights this tale of Hercules (Alan Steel) fighting against the tyranny of the scheming Queen Samara (Jany Clair) who is being used by the Moon Men (who live on the "Mountain of Death" nearby) to prepare the earth for their intergalactic domination. She's a double-dealing ruler who has been promised limitless power if she can just get rid of their last obstacle: Hercules. But where is he? Turns out he's on his way to meet her elderly advisor Gladius (who the Queen's henchmen will shortly murder). The Queen sends a band of soldiers to ambush Hercules, but this proves a waste of manpower as this barely slows down the advancing hero.
The script (that is, the English dubbed version) helps itself at times to dialogue that seems to be derived from DeMille's Ten Commandments. Much of the script contains lines that are as simplified as a Scooby Doo cartoon, but nonetheless keep the adventure moving along quickly and keeps the matter clear - the Moon Men need human sacrifice to resurrect their dead Moon Queen. At their Moon Man headquarters on the Mountain of Death they are able to draw the moon closer and closer to the earth, which causes an extended sequence of stock footage showing volcanos going off, wind storms, psychedelic water motion and clouds rushing across the sky in speeded-up frame rates (at first this seems like a reasonable way to demonstrate their power, but then it just goes on far too long and obscures what exactly is happening, probably the only place in the film where director Giacomo really loses track of his pacing.)
The fight scenes - - and there are plenty of them - - gives Hercules/Maciste chances to fight his own peculiar way, which means uprooting trees and hurling them onto attackers, or to simply outfight bands of soldiers (who look to be in modified Roman Soldier outfits, though our tale is - - in the English language version - - supposed to be Irakles fighting for justice in ancient Greece) by thrashing them to the ground with whatever is handy. A gigantic Bill Finger-sized torture machine is used on Hercules and he defeats it, and pretty soon Queen Samara realizes force is useless and she needs to try a different tactic, so she starts fluttering her eyes and smiling as if she has discovered who should be her new boyfriend. But as Gladius' daughter Aga (played by Anna Maria Polan) says "I'll do anything in the fight for liberty and freedom," and that's exactly how Hercules feels, too, fooling the Queen with a faked drink of her slavery-inducing potion. With Hercules now in her power (she thinks) and laying around her royal apartment gazing at her as if she's a movie star (well, that's certainly legitimate) Samara soon monologues about the secrets of the Moon Men and the glorious future she and Hercules share working for these blood-thirsty alien invaders.
This information gives Hercules just the edge he needs to defeat them, especially their army of Rock Soldiers who sucker punch Hercules when he's not looking. He defeats many of them by pulling a Samson and knocking down a pillar within their cavern, causing it to cave in on their advancing horde (though, incredibly, not a single fragment drops onto Hercules). This doesn't end the battle because there are more Rock Soldiers elsewhere in the central chamber, a place that makes the alien army seem more like a pagan death-cult, and doesn't really explain why they're slowly reassembling their Queen Selene who looks like a slightly hefty Elizabeth Taylor. Questions abound: why do the Moon Men look like rocks in the first place? And why is their leader a guy in a conical Darth Vader mask without the helmet?
Can Hercules win against the Moon Men? The hero played by Alan Steel is boundless in his energy and is frequently smiling as he crashes through his enemies: a warrior this chearful just can't be stopped.
Original Page August 2018
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From former screen legends who have faded into obscurity to new revelations about the biggest movie stars, Valderrama unearths the most fascinating little-known tales from the birth of Hollywood through its Golden Age.
Winner of the 2020 Peter C. Rollins Book Award
Longlisted for the 2020 Moving Image Book Award by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation
Named a 2019 Richard Wall Memorial Award Finalist by the Theatre Library Association