Running Time: 92 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Format: Standard 4:3
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Languages: 2 English tracks (Original and Theatrical), French, German, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Region: 1
MSRP: $19.99

Own It!
Hercules in New York

Hercules (Arnold Schwarzenegger, billed here as Arnold Strong) wishes to leave Mt. Olympus and visit Earth. His father Zeus refuses, but Hercules runs off anyway. Ending up in New York -- in case the title failed to give it away – the demigod is quickly befriended by sad sack Arnold Stang. To make money, Hercules becomes a professional wrestler. In his spare time he engages in some extremely low-grade adventures as he makes new friends among the mortals. Meanwhile, Zeus vows to punish his errant son, while Zeus’ jealous wife conspires to bring about Hercules’ destruction.

This is a supposedly comedic feature, and hence much less funny than such supposedly straight Hercules pictures as the ones Lou Ferrigno made in Italy. The main delight here is to see an extremely early and cloddish performance by Schwarzenegger. Those who don’t believe he’s grown much as an actor would be well advised to check him out here. Moreover, his accent was so thick then that the producers employed another actor to dub over his lines. This, as you might imagine, adds an element of some humor for the modern viewer. Stang, meanwhile, plays the same smalltime loser he always plays. It’s indicative of the script’s ‘wit’ that his character is named Pretzi, because, you see, he sells pretzels.

Hercules is most often involved in some rudimentary fish-out-of-water situation, such as his misconstruing a demand for ‘bucks’ and ‘dough’ from an angry cab driver. In another long sequence he amazes some college athletes with his discus and javelin throwing, indicated by the actors moving their heads in an arc while pretending to follow the path of his mighty heaves. This is sorry stuff, and only partially redeemed by a hilarious battle with a man in a ten-dollar bear suit.

Also laughable is the appearance of a 35¢ paperback on mythology that keeps floating around in the film. Even so, it seems like the film’s scriptwriter might have profited from reading it. One of the movie’s odder traits is that aside from Zeus, Hercules and Eros, all the gods are referred to by their Roman counterparts’ names. Hence Hera becomes Juno, Hermes becomes Mercury, and so on. And if that’s not bad enough, Samson from the Bible later makes an appearance!

The film is presented in the full frame format. However, chances are that this was the aspect the picture was released in. In any case, no action seems to be trailing off the screen. The image occasionally appears a bit dark and/or grainy, especially in the scenes taking place in New York. Still, that’s probably due to the film elements themselves, given the apparent shoestring budget it was shot on. Despite this, chances are that the movie never looked this good before, even in theaters. The colors are sharp and I didn’t notice any artifacting to speak of. As for the audio, there’s sometimes a bit of background hissing, but all in all the sound is serviceable. Bottom line, it looks and sounds pretty decent for a disc you can generally pick up for under fifteen dollars.

A cynic might posit that this film was released on DVD primarily for those who enjoy digging up the cinematic skeletons of famous movie stars. Adding credence to this theory are the disc’s extras. First, it features the regular theatrical audio track, the one with Schwarzenegger’s dialog dubbed over. However, a second track restores Arnold’s incomprehensible line readings. Luckily, they were foresighted enough to include English subtitling, indispensable for those trying to follow what the hero is saying. ("My father is a diet," for example, translates to ‘My father is a deity.’)

Also included are two trailers. One is evidently for a re-release of the film after Schwarzenegger made his mark with later projects. (Despite this, we clearly hear the obviously dubbed over Arnold speaking.) Amusingly, the trailer includes sound and laser effects reminiscent of the Lou Ferrigno Hercules movies. Even more comical is that they seem to be trying to sell the movie as being a straight adventure flick. In furtherance of this, the film is marketed here as just plain Hercules.

The second trailer is a teaser, and seems to be operating on the same basis as the one above. Again, the impression is fostered that this is a straight action movie. The difference is that here they seem to be trying to push the film as being along of the lines of Superman. Hercules is described as "the original superhero" and the music sounds suspiciously John Williams-like, if you get my drift. Hercules is even described as coming from "out of the sky." One can only imagine the reactions of those who ran to their neighborhood theaters expecting another Conan the Barbarian.

Ken Begg, 2/2/01