Hercules and the Captive Women, also known as Hercules Conquers Atlantis to English speaking audiences, is a 1961 Italian/French international co-production and was Reg Park’s debut as Hercules as well as his first movie role.
After knowing for years that Reg Park was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s idol and inspiration and that he first became aware of Park by watching this and other Park Hercules movies, it was interesting to finally watch a Reg Park movie. Here’s a quote from Schwarzenegger that’s a testament to Park’s influence on him:
“I knew that would be me. I would look like Reg Park. I studied every move he made, every gesture. From that point on my life was utterly dominated by Reg Park. His image was my ideal. It was fixed indelibly in my mind…”
The quote is interesting because, although Schwarzenegger studied Park’s every move and gesture, I don’t see any similarity between any moves, gestures, etc.. that Park or Schwarzenegger have made in real life or in movies. Other than Schwarzenegger building his physique similar to Park’s, he doesn’t come across as Park-like at all.
As an actor and bodybuilder, Steve Reeves has greater name recognition than Park. Perhaps they both could have become bigger stars if they played it a little differently. Reeves, at one point, was the highest paid actor in Europe but he also turned down both the role of James Bond and the part that eventually went to Clint Eastwood in a Fistful of Dollars. Speaking of Eastwood, like Reeves and Park, he got his big movie break in an Italian production. Fistful of Dollars, like all Italian movies at the time, was dubbed, but Clint Eastwood wrote down each line he delivered right after he spoke it so he could participate in the film’s English language version’s dubbing and have his mouth movements match up with his exact words spoken. That’s two things Eastwood did. He recorded on paper exactly what he said on screen but, more importantly, he participated in the dubbing. Park and Reeves did not, and there’s a certain disconnect with their performances. American viewers know that its not their voices. Dubbed movies come across as foreign to Americans. Fistful of Dollars was dubbed, or more precisely used “automated dialogue replacement” (ADR) since the three main stars, who are American actors, rerecorded their own voices. Hearing a different actor speak all the main actor’s lines in the exact same language makes the main actor come across as second class. Would Brando have allowed another actor to dub him in English in The Godfather? Its acceptable to be dubbed if its in a language the actor does not speak.
America was, and is, a huge movie market and having the audience hear the actor’s actual voice is important. Reg Park was from England but later moved to South Africa. He spoke English with a British accent and if the producer’s needed an American English accent, like Park’s voice double in Hercules and the Captive Women, there is no reason that he couldn’t have been coached to pull it off. He was an actor, after all. British actors seem to pull off American accents pretty well, at least better than vice-versa.
The Italian Hercules movies are not bad films but both the Reeves and Park versions have appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K, a tv show where characters crack jokes and mock the movies screened as they sit in a theater watching and commenting for the entire film. The disjointed voices of the dubbed actors may contribute to the “bad” movie perception.
Watch Reg Park and American actress Fay Spain, as Queen Antinea of Atlantis, in the full version of Hercules and the Captive Women here: