Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hercules in New York

Directed by Arthur Seidelman.
1969. Rated G, 92 minutes.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Stang
Deborah Loomis
Ernest Graves
James Karen
Tony Carroll
Taina Elg
Richard Herd
Tanny McDonald
Harold Burstein

When Hercules (Schwarzenegger) becomes bored with Mt. Olympus, he decides he wants to visit Earth and have a little fun. This little revelation comes much to the chagrin of Hercules' dad Zeus (Graves). Argue, argue, fuss, fuss, and Zeus gets pissed and sends Herc to Earth anyway. Okay, fine. Our hero lands in the middle of the ocean where he's picked up by a naval ship headed to New York. In the Big Apple, he meets a pencil necked geek named Pretzie (Stang) who helps him become a big-time professional wrestler. Of course, he also meets a girl. Her name is Helen (Loomis). For all of the movie, our hero exhibits all the intelligence of a stack of bricks with the subtlety of said bricks cracking you upside the head. Even so, he's suddenly a smooth talker when she's around. No surprise there. Anyhoo, Pretzie gets mixed up with some gangsters over Herc's athletic pursuits. Meanwhile, Zeus and the rest of the gods are keeping a watchful eye and deciding how to deal with him. All things hilariously rotten ensue.

What do I mean by hilariously rotten? For starters, most things meant to be funny aren't while most things meant to be serious are funny. A number of things happen that are just too ridiculous for words and its lack of budget is noticeable throughout. On top of that, our cast is not quite Oscar quality, to put it delicately. Almost everyone sounds as if they're reading their lines. Arnie's co-star, Arnold Stang is an exception, but his character is just too annoying to build on that capital. One of the minor players who went on to a long career is James Karen. His list of credits is longer than my legs. I'm sure you've seen him in something. Arnie's leading lady, Deborah Loomis, is pretty. As for her acting, she's pretty. Of course, there's Ah-nuld himself. Yeah, I'm going to need to start a new paragraph for him.

This is The Governator's first acting role, eight years before the documentary Pumping Iron and thirteen before his next starring gig as the lead in Conan the Barbarian. It's so far back, he didn't even use his real name. He's listed in the credits as Arnold Strong. True Story. His accent was still so thick that when Hercules in New York was originally released, his voice had been dubbed over by another actor's. Thankfully, I got to hear it in all its Austrian glory as the original track has been restored on the DVD. I understand why they dubbed it in the first place. I could've used some subtitles from time to time. That he has the accent is something he couldn't help, but not something I knock him for. What I do have to point out is that even if his diction were perfect his performance would still be painful to watch. His facial expression almost never changes to the point where it makes Kristen Stewart seem overly animated. Then, he delivers every line as flatly as possible.

Even Arnie's fight scenes leave a lot to be desired. Not yet the man who would rule the box office during my youth, he just lumbers through them with all the grace of a toddler's first step. He's not helped by what I'll generously call a lack of creative choreography and the camera being entirely too close. Then again, it has to be in one scene where the filmmakers are hopelessly trying to disguise the fact that the bear Arnie is fighting is a man in a suit. Even I couldn't tell that by looking at him, the fact he walks like a monkey is a dead giveaway. I'm not joking. Well, at least he always shines when the plot calls for him to take off and flex. By the way, this happens on a number of occasions. After having seen almost all of his other movies, HNY gives me new appreciation for just how far he has come as an actor.

The bottom line is that this is campy and cheesy, both with capital Cs. Better yet, scratch those. This is just plain goofy. As noted, Arnie's is beyond awful, the cast around him isn't all that much better and the script is atrocious. But here's the thing: it's so ridiculous and there are so many unintentional laughs to be had that it's just damn fun to watch.

Normally, I don't do clips but I couldn't resist this one. This scene contains the best acting in the entire movie. for Arnie, he gets to do what he does best: get topless and flex. For Deborah Loomis, it might be the first time she's ever been that close to so much half-naked man and may have been genuinely turned on. Yes, the whole thing is just that silly.

Okay, let's wrap this up. If you've been here before, and you've been paying attention, you know where I'm going with this. It's so bad, it's awesome!

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