Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)

Genres - Adventure, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Adventure, Mythological Fantasy, Sword-and-Sandal  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - Italy  |  
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Hercules in the Haunted World is about as good a film as could be made on a budget in the "mythic hero" subgenre of action films. If that sounds like faint praise, it isn't intended to be, for while overall Hercules can't totally rise above the many limitations of its genre (and budget), it nevertheless will thrill fans of such movies and even give non-devotees a number of very worthwhile elements to ponder. First and foremost, Hercules is a Mario Bava movie. Not a name that means a great deal to mainstream moviegoers, but fans of Italian cinema and/or fantasy flicks know that with Bava at the helm, there's bound to be plenty of goodies. Bava is in especially good form for Hercules, as it was his first color film and he seems to have relished the opportunity to let his camera play with this new palette. While many of Hercules' sets -- especially its backdrops -- are quite phony, Bava uses lighting to create marvelous mosaics, dramatic pictures that create a hyper-reality of their own. The director gets a bit stodgy in some of the talkier scenes, perhaps trying to get as much in one shot as he can to accommodate the lack of funds; but when he gets to let loose, Hercules come sto vivid, exciting life. Reg Park looks the part of the title character, and his acting is perfectly fine for this sort of thing. Christopher Lee is on hand as well, but unfortunately not with his own voice, which is a disappointment. The script is silly but contains plenty of action, but Bava makes the most of it.