Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Hercules hits theaters this weekend, but it’s far from the first time the hero has appeared on the big screen. Hell, it’s not even the first time this year. In January, The Legend of Hercules opened to scathing reviews and a minuscule box office. This new one is directed by Brett Ratner and actually has a 71 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’ll probably fare slightly better.
In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, the Italian film industry churned out Hercules movies at a pretty staggering rate, sometimes even three a year. They’ve since been labeled “sword and sandal” movies, and they were eventually displaced by Spaghetti Western films, which have aged significantly better. Many of the Italian Hercules movies were relatively low budget and are rather painful to watch these days without the help of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In 1992 and 1993, Joel and the ‘bots were forced to endure four of them.
Midway through the fourth season they watched 1961’s Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis, which was re-titled Hercules and the Captive Women. The episode is particularly noteworthy because Gypsy sits in the theater for the first few minutes and comments on the movie. For those not in the MST3K cult, Gypsy is the slender, dimwitted, Richard Basehart-obsessed robot that runs the “higher functions” of the satellite where Joel and the robots live and watch bad movies against their will. She eventually can’t stand the horrible film and bolts.
The entire episode is now on YouTube and it’s a great way to spend 90 minutes.