Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Hercules in New York (1970)

Director: Arthur Allan Seidelman
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnold Stang

Everybody’s got to start somewhere, even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger. Starting from humble beginnings in rural Austria, he eventually came over here and started doing body building and winning Mr. Universe contests with his incredibly muscular physique. He also started acting with a little movie called Hercules in New York. And…it’s pretty much no different from the body building stuff, as clearly there’s no attention to good acting, cinematography or storytelling here! What’s the deal with this misguided, softheaded little movie from 1970? Well, let’s find out. Put on your sunglasses, because his shiny steel biceps might just blind you.

The movie begins with an introduction that takes us around the Earth from outer space, while a voice tells us that before myth and history became mystery (…that’s a weird pun…), there were the Gods and Goddesses of Athens, Greece, who ruled over the land. Then it…just decides to show us these Gods and Goddesses, who are still doing their dealings today. Right off the bat we see Schwarzenegger, uh, showing off his huge muscles while talking rather woodenly (because you can’t really call that acting) to a goat-like old man with a beard that looks like he probably bought it from some tourist stand in Florida.

This is supposed to be Zeus, and I guess what’s going on is that Arnol---I mean Hercules, is tired of seeing the same people and things all the time, and wants to go explore the Earth. Or that’s what it says on his cue card, at least. He and Zeus argue and shout at each other for a few minutes in very dull conversation. I mean seriously, can’t you move on with it? We get it! Hercules wants to leave Olympus and Zeus thinks he’s not ready yet. Why? Well, just watch any of Arnold’s social interactions with literally anybody else in this damn movie and you’ll see exactly why. It’s not like you have to be a fucking detective for that one, folks.

Hey, somebody tell them to get their crappy renaissance fair out of here...oh, wait, that's the real set, isn't it?

So Zeus finally gets tired of Hercules’ bitching, too, and zaps him out of Olympus, sending him to Earth like he wants. An old lady sees him falling from the sky naked and freaks out. Then he’s found in the water swimming by a ship of sailors, who give him some clothes. He basically just kind of wanders around and talks about how great he is…while having absurdly large muscles. That basically boils down to a lot of this movie, really. Him saying “Hercules bows to no man” or some other such phrase while the camera accents his muscles.

Sigh. Just go with it; the movie will be over faster that way. Probably.

For some weird reason, he tries to get off the ship when they dock in New York, and they won’t let him. Why? Did he unknowingly sign some kind of contract to stay on as a crew member? Did they just want him to stay for their daily afternoon gay orgy in the back of the ship? What, movie? What?!

They all chase him off the ship as he leaves and start attacking him as a team, resulting in some truly ridiculous fight scenes and camera angles. Like I love the part where they’re all just pushing on this big wooden plank and trying to shove each other down. I think I played that game in elementary school! I mean, seriously…how would you even do that? In what kind of warped-ass fight scene would this kind of thing happen? It boggles the mind.

And another thing; you know what? This whole thing is starting to look like it could have just been Arnold’s real story of how he got to this country! They just added in some bullshit story about Greek gods and bam! Hercules in New York. Couldn’t you just picture that? It’s exactly the kind of badass way of arriving that only Schwarzenegger would inspire.

So after that scene, he gets picked up by this dweeby guy who is worried for his safety. I’m sorry, what? Worried for his safety after HE just kicked the asses of like five or six guys all by himself? Something doesn’t add up here. The guy’s name is Pretzie, because he sells pretzels by the ocean – I’m glad apt character naming was a priority for the filmmakers. Pretzie and Arnold take a cab that Pretzie says can drop them off on the side of the road at a random intersection by some trees. So he just wants to be dropped off at some arbitrary location on the side of the road? Oh yeah, just the finest of New York culture for these guys! The side of the road; it’s a classic tourist spot!

…oh, wait, no it’s not.

Hey, kids, did you ever wonder what would happen if you put an Austrian that barely knows English with two guys from New York who speak in nothing but slang, talking about money? Well, for the 0.0002% of you that did, that’s exactly what happens next. I mean seriously, these bozos stand there for like a full three or four minutes going back and forth with the cab driver about paying the money, which Schwarzenegger is appalled he has to pay for simply riding in a “chariot”! I’ve been refraining from any jokes about Schwarzenegger’s political career throughout this review for the sake of length, but how do you think it would fly if he tried to reinstate these political ideals in the modern day?

Somehow I don’t think it would go too well. But I promise that’s the last joke about his governor career that I’ll make in this review.

So then they go to the closest baseball field to the middle of nowhere and Schwarzenegger finds that he can do so much better than any of the guys warming up on the field. He throws a discus in the most wobbly and off-kilter way possible, and this amazes the token rich guy and his token hot daughter Helen in the crowd so much that they invite Schwarzenegger and Pretzie to lunch at their house the very same day. Don’t look at me; I didn’t write this movie.

At the rich peoples’ home, Schwarzenegger kisses Helen’s hand, and when she leaves, this prompts Pretzie to jump into a lecture about how you shouldn’t treat ‘dames’ that way. Yeah. Just because he kissed her on the hand politely, Pretzie thinks he’s being out of line. But then, this is also the guy who thought they were talking about drugs when they invited him for tea time, so I guess we can’t really expect groundbreaking logistical circles from him. Can we even expect the most basic of consistent manners with him? No. Hell no! This is Hercules in New York, bitches!

Ahem. So after that, Schwarzenegger meets the other guest that Helen has brought over, a handsome guy who he assumes is her ‘mate.’ When they rightfully express confusion at this outdated terminology and rash assumption, Schwarzenegger does the obvious thing and…picks him up and starts spinning him around over his head. This is starting to look like something that would appear on Jerry Springer.

This botched escapade for some reason attracts Helen, who I guess always likes large, socially awkward men who have muscles the size of ocean liners and speak in absurd ways and hurt the people she cares about. They just turn her on like no tomorrow! So the two of them go out again, this time alone, and find that they’re quickly attracted to each other by way of a lazily written script. They ride a carriage through the park when they’re attacked by…an actor in a very, very, very, very, very fake looking bear suit. He hobbles around like some weird goblin out of middle Earth. And Arnold has to fight it to get it away from the carriage.

Ugh…you know what, I’m not even surprised anymore. There is no point in acting like I’m surprised at a movie like this after some point. I’m just going to roll with the punches.

"This will sell the movie, my dearest, and someday we will rule this land!"

So because Arnold is gaining notoriety for being a crazy motherfucker who fights bears and stuff, he and Pretzie are in business as a pro-wrestling/weight lifting team. The mob cracks down on them and makes Pretzie sign over the rights to Arnold’s career – which he does with very little persuasion; what a great friend, right? Up in Olympus Zeus wants Hercules back, so he sends Mercury to go get him. When Hercules still doesn’t come back, Zeus then sends Nemesis after him, but Nemesis is stopped by Zeus’ wife Juno, who has a vendetta on Hercules and tells Nemesis to poison him and take away his godlike strength. Nemesis does this by slipping a drug into his drink at a restaurant.

…Really? That’s the best this Greek goddess could do? The equivalent of slipping him a roofie? What’s next, are they going to distract people by tapping them on the shoulder from the other side of them? I just can’t wait to see what’s next for these oh-so-divine gods and goddesses!

Okay, so the movie slips into a very boring spot here – yes, a movie called Hercules in New York becomes dull; I can’t believe it either. A lot of stuff involving Pluto the God of the underworld happens, and we see Pluto decked out in a suave black suit that makes him look more like he belongs in a night club rather than the eternal night. Arnold suits up for a big weight lifting contest, which of course he’ll have more trouble with seeing as his strength is going away! And…look at this. Isn’t it just about the gayest thing you’ve seen all week? C’mon, guys, can’t you put on some pants at least? Would it kill you? Oh. It would, then. I see.

So after Hercules loses, the mob starts chasing them, and Helen and her father split up with them and get into a car, fooling the mob into chasing them instead. Hercules and Pretzie steal a carriage with horses and everything and start THE BEST CHASE SCENE YOU’LL EVER SEE IN THE HISTORY OF SCHWARZENEGGER FILMS! Seriously, Terminator and Terminator 2 got NOTHING on this shit!

Just every day life for Mr. Schwarzenegger circa 1970...

When they start fighting in the warehouse Hercules starts to lose real quickly, and off to the side in Olympus, another goddess secretly calls for Atlas and Samson to go help beat the bad guys, even though Samson has nothing to do with Greek mythology. Isn’t having a biblical figure in a movie about Greek myths kind of a slap in the face? It’s like having a WalMart built over your house only for salespeople to come and try and pitch you various items from the WalMart! That’s just insensitive, in the funniest way possible.

And I also love how Zeus reacts to Atlas and Samson coming in. Does this guy have like, no control at all over anything in his empire? First he didn’t know that Juno went behind his back to trick Hercules, and now this. He’s completely clueless!

Okay, this has gone on for long enough. Hercules and Pretzie beat the bad guys, and then Hercules decides to leave. In a strangely reflective twist, we see Pretzie going back to his lonely apartment and thinking sadly about all the good times he had with Hercules, saying that he will never forget him as long as he lives. Which is…touching in a creepy way, I guess, except for one little detail. In all of the little flashback scenes shown here, it’s not stuff the two of them did together. It’s stuff Hercules did while Pretzie just stood around and watched! Yeah, real deep friendship there, right?

Maybe we’ve all been misjudging this movie. It’s not just a campy and poorly made 70s movie. It’s a veiled character study on a lonely and depressed man named Pretzie, who had no friends at all and had to cling to the only person he could find who would ever waste his time with him…a socially awkward, Austrian-accented Greek god who had no idea of any kind of human culture.

Well, after putting it like that it just sounds dumb. This movie is just…I don’t even know what to say. The title pretty much sums up the entirety of the plot, since most of the movie is nothing but a showboat for Arnold’s gigantic muscles. There’s really nothing else to it. But I can’t help but think the film does have a certain innocent charm to it, a magical, transcendent quality to its stupidity…let’s just call it moldy 70s shlock.

All images Copyright (c) their original owners. Except for the Enquirer picture, I used Paint to make that in like 2 minutes.