He retitled the film simply Hercules and concocted a massive marketing campaign, flooding theatres with prints of Hercules while advertising heavily in newspapers and television. The movie became a surprise smash and Levine fared even better with a sequel featuring the same stars called Hercules Unchained. Seen today, it's hard to comprehend Hercule's massive success and impact on the industry--it spawned dozens of imitations as well as a genre known as "sword and sandal epics."
|A iconic image from the film's climax.|
|Steve Reeves and Sylva Koscina.|
Still, the scenery is attractive, both the landscapes and the two stars. Enzo Masetti's music score hits all the right notes, except for a weird electronic theme employed whenever Herc is about to display his exceptional strength. Visually, Hercules is often stunning, which is no surprise given that its cinematographer was future director Mario Bava (Black Sunday).
|"Hercules" at a Boston theatre in 1959.|
Steve Reeves was born in Montana and had earned several bodybuilding titles before trying his hand as an actor. He was offered many similar roles after Hercules, with his best film probably being Duel of the Titans, the tale of muscular brothers Romulus and Remus (former Tarzan Gordon Scott). According to some sources, Reeves turned down the roles of James Bond and The Man With No Name, although it's hard to imagine him in either part (though he did make a Spaghetti Western called A Long Ride from Hell). Reeves retired from acting in 1969 and spent the remainder of his life at his ranch in California. He died from lymphoma in 2000.