Sunday, February 13, 2011

When Men "Were Men as Men Should Be"

I saw it as The Son of Hercules
in the Land of Darkness.
While growing up in North Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s, I frequently watched the Sunday afternoon movies on WSOC Channel 9 in Charlotte. That's where I first saw all the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies as well as the Charlie Chan series. It was also where I watched--for what seemed like countless months--the Sons of Hercules movies. Each film would start with a male chorus singing:

The mighty Sons of Hercules
Once thundered through the years
These men of steel could never feel
The curse of a coward's fears

The Mighty Sons of Hercules
Were men as men should be
They burned with dreams
 And turned their dreams into history

A hundred giants, brave and bold
They ruled the world in days of old
The Mighty Sons of Hercules

You can listen to this classic song on YouTube. I didn't have to--I can still remember the tune and the lyrics. After all, these guys were "men as men should be" and that's pretty manly stuff.

Kirk Morris as Maciste...probably.
Because he was blonde in some movies,
he's also known as the "Blonde Hercules."
There are at least a dozen of these Sons of Hercules movies, pitting the title character against Medusa (who looked like a rubber tree), the Devil of the Desert, the Mole Men, Fire Monsters, the Terror of Rome, and more! Most of the time, the hero was played by an unknown Italian actor, but sometimes the lead went to better-known, second-tier muscle men like Kirk Morris, Dan Vadis, and Mark Forest. Made in the early-to-mid 1960s, these films weren't very good...but I still watched them and my Dad even joined me occasionally (I swear...there's something hypnotic about that song).

Here's the kicker, though. Years later, when my wife and I were doing some film research, we learned that there were no Sons of Hercules movies. These films were actually about Maciste, with an occasional Hercules or Goliath movie tossed in. A savvy producer had simply packaged them for TV, retitled them all so they appeared to be a Sons of Hercules series, and added that catchy song.

Yes, I was disillusioned. I consoled myself, though, by humming the famous theme song. It didn't matter if the hero was really Maciste or Goliath or even the original Herc. They were all "men as men should be."

(Heck, for those who really want to hear the song, here's the opening of The Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules. Dig that guitar!)


  1. Rick, you remind me of myself at times--a good theme song will make me watch some pretty bad stuff, too. I don't think I've seen any of the Sons of Hercules films/series, and I suspect I might never. Yet, it was nice to read about your experiences with these films. Some films we would otherwise forget sometimes find a special place in our memories because of who we watched them with or what was going on in our lives at the time.

  2. I did not feel inspired to be a man as men should be, mainly because I am a girl. Those movies didn't do a thing for me (Those giant pecs and no neck muscle men just aren't my type). But Kim is so right -- special memories have nothing to do with how good or bad a movie or TV series was. I think it is wonderful that you remember that theme song so well -- I couldn't help but think of my sons, who absolutely adored Godzilla movies and the cartoon TV series. That cartoon theme song is in MY head too, indelibly etched:

    Up from the depths (thundering music)
    Thirty stories high
    Breathing fire
    His head in the sky
    Godzilla, Godzilla, Godzilla!
    (Then came the part that my sons hated):
    And Godzu-u-uki-i-i (cute, lilting music)

    Fun post, Rick!

  3. I love theme songs like this. The trick is to have a chorus of people singing the title and/or have it sung as a refrain. It makes it nearly impossible to forget the show's title! I can't remember any of the lyrics to the DJANGO theme song, but I certainly know how to sing, "Djan-goooooo!"

  4. I really enjoyed reading about men as men should be on Valentine's Day! This was a fun post, Rick! And it is fascinating what will stay with us over the years.

  5. Now that's a theme song! These movies were regular mainstays on Channel 32 on Saturday mornings in the Chicago area. They were all hard to keep straight, save for "Medusa Against the Son of Hercules" thanks to its most unique Medusa. Haven't seen it in decades, but I remember that Medusa.

  6. That's funny, Kevin, because Medusa is the only one I can remember, too!

  7. Rick, I have seen these Sons of Hercules movies too. The theme song is awesome and I hum it to this day. I cannot find it on iTunes so I enjoyed listening to it!! These movies are cheesy but hey, I like cheesy movies with fake background scenes and silly plots. If one of the Sons of Hercules movies was on TV tonight, I would watch it in a minute. My husband would laugh but he is a good sport and would watch it with me. Thanks for the memory of these mighty men. Enjoyed your review. PS...I will coming back to your post from time to time to listen to the theme song!