When the opening line to a film is “When myth and history merge into mystery” you know you are in for a good time.
I came across Hercules in New York when a friend pointed it out to me in a branch of the now defunct Woolworths. It kick-started my love of bad films so I hold it dear to my heart. It was the screen debut of a certain Arnold Schwarzenegger, then known as Arnold Strong (Mr Universe at the time). Over the course of the seventy five minute epic Arnie Flexes his mussels, fights a bear, throws a javelin, uses Greasy chat up lines and beats up a boat full of men.
Plot-wise Hercules is cast as a bored little brat wanting to go to earth to have some fun. Sick of his constant whining his dad, Zeus, in a fit of rage… sends him to earth, thus granting his wish.
After beating up everyone on the boat the picked him out of the ocean (including John Candy) he buddy’s up with Pretzie (Arnold Stang, voice of Top-cat!), a pretzel seller by the dock. It’s essentially a buddy movie between an ethereal prick and a walking stereotype. Pretize looks like he was created during a game of Pictionary and the words “A Jew” were on the card. I personally feel slightly offended by the lazy stereotyping of this Jewish character, and I’m not even Jewish. Anyway they team up and “Herc” becomes a wrestler and money start rolling in. The world’s least threatening mafia boss turns up (he looks like Bob Hoskin’s and Jimmy Carr’s lovechild) and “Herc” loses his powers at one point blah, blah, blah… you really don’t need to know the plot. What you need to know is Arnie flips over a taxi then fights a bear.
“Herc” also gets his shirt off as many times as possible, at one point during the middle of talking to Mercury (yes he is a Roman god but attention to detail is not HINY’s strongpoint) proclaiming “I have to take a shower”. Arnie was only 22 at the time and he still had a strong Austrian accent. For the theatre release Arnie’s voice was dubbed over but thankfully restored on the DVD. It sounds like Schwarzenegger is doing an impression of Rainier Wolfcastle (the Arnie parody character from the Simpson’s) doing an impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie and his rudimentary English skills (he was only 22) get to work with such great dialog as…
“Bucks? Doe? What is all this zoological talk about male and female animals?”
“Ha, ha, ha. You have strucked Hercules.”
The Guy who plays Zeus spends 97.6% of the film pissed off with his son, scowling for almost all of his scenes. Mount Olympus seems to have serious traffic congestion problems judging by the amount of honking car horns you can hear, and the Greek gods had a fondness for red brickwork as opposed to white marble (picking Central Park as the set was probably not the best location in hindsight).
Arnie openly admits regretting doing this film, and that’s from a man who played Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. Thankfully for Arnie this was not the end, he was well on his way to stardom by 1982 (Conan the Barbarian), and well on his way to being in charge of the world’s 8th biggest economy (seriously how the hell did that happen?). The director Arthur Allan Seidelman also went on to hit personal highs by directing episodes of Magnum P.I. and Murder She Wrote. Still Hercules in New York Remains his Magnus opus.Oh and did I mention that ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER FIGHTS A BEAR!!!