Jurassic Gorilla https://jurassicgorilla.com
I’d never laid eyes on a Reg Park film until the other day when I indulged in the cinematic delight that is “Hercules in the Haunted World” (1961). I must confess that I’d always harbored the notion that the Steve Reeves Hercules movies, low budget as they were, would appear positively lavish compared to the later Reg Park entries, given that Park isn’t as well-known as Reeves in the realm of Hercules portrayals. Not to say that the Reeves Hercules flicks were ultra-low budget, but when juxtaposed with Hollywood’s grand productions like “Spartacus” and “The Ten Commandments,” they undeniably paled in terms of budget.
Surprisingly, “Hercules in the Haunted World” revealed itself as a cinematic spectacle boasting a respectable budget, rivaling the quality and allure of Reeves’ “Hercules” (1957) and “Hercules Unchained” (1959). As the fourth installment in the Hercules series that Reeves initiated, it upheld the cinematic legacy established by its predecessors. Interestingly, the third film in this series, “Hercules and the Captive Women,” was also released in 1961. Both of these entries were helmed by Italian director Pietro Francisci, who had the talented cinematographer Mario Bava by his side. Bava not only contributed his cinematographic expertise but also later stepped into the director’s chair for “Hercules in the Haunted World.” His career would eventually encompass a diverse range of genres, from giallo (Italian suspense/horror) to spaghetti westerns, and even the gritty Italian crime classic “Rabid Dogs” (1974).
Regarding the release year of “Hercules in the Haunted World,” it mirrors the release patterns of numerous Italian films, often staggered with initial showings in Italy. Subsequent releases in other countries, including the United States, could be spaced out over several years. This, in turn, might impact the timeline of an actor’s popularity and even influence the broader appreciation of a particular style or genre. A classic example is “Fistful of Dollars,” the inaugural film in Italian director Sergio Leone’s Clint Eastwood western trilogy. While it saw the light of day in Italy in 1964, it wasn’t until its 1967 United States debut that American audiences were exposed to this novel, edgier brand of western cinema, propelling Clint Eastwood to the zenith of his stardom. This delay in the American release of “Fistful of Dollars” also deferred, by a full three years, the surge in popularity and emulation of Italian westerns with their distinctive blend of brutality and surrealism.
Adding to the appeal of “Hercules in the Haunted World” is the presence of legendary Hammer Films horror star, Christopher Lee. In my view, his inclusion elevated the production value of the movie significantly, contributing to the allure of the film. It’s worth noting that Lee’s voice was dubbed for the English version, as was Reg Park’s, which was a common practice in Italian cinema.
It’s important to bear in mind that when you delve into many Italian films from the 1960s, they often exude a dreamlike quality distinct from their Hollywood counterparts. This dreaminess is particularly pronounced in genres such as giallo and spaghetti westerns. The latter, typified by Sergio Leone’s Clint Eastwood trilogy, had an air of surrealism, stemming in part from the fact that they were Italian films depicting American settings, history, and culture, shot in Spain, and featuring a multicultural cast of Americans, Italians, and European actors. The practice of dubbing added an intriguing layer, contributing to the otherworldly atmosphere. “Hercules in the Haunted World” is no exception to this Italian cinematic characteristic, with its vibrant sets, atmospheric mist, and Hercules embarking on one bizarre adventure after another. The film, with its distinct visual and narrative style, is undoubtedly an intriguing cinematic journey, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in its unique brand of storytelling. You can see it for yourself here and judge the extent of its trippiness:
Worldwide release dates for Hercules in the Haunted World
Italy………..November 16, 1961
West Germany….April 27, 1962
France……….May 9, 1962
Finland………June 8, 1962
Denmark………November 26, 1962
Mexico……….December 20, 1962
Sweden……….September 16, 1963
Argentina…….May 10, 1966