When your God tells you to beat the shit out of somebody, you do it. That's what religion is all about!

Made: Australia, 1993
Directed: David Parker
Written: Des Mangan

Main Roles:

Plot number one:
Brad McBain, flunky to Kent (the power-hungry owner/overlord of a huge movie theatre chain) gets sick of the money-grubbing attitude of his boss, and quits, with plans to refurbish an abandoned cinema as an old-fashioned customer-friendly theatre. With Lisa and Sprocket as his staff, he decides to celebrate opening night by showing the last film to be shown there - Hercules.
Kent attempts to sabotage McBain's cinema by substituting a tape of Hercules in Italian - without subtitles. McBain, Sprocket and Lisa are forced to improvise, and dub the voices and sound effects themselves.

Most of the movie then consists of the 1964 movie "Hercules, Samson and Ulysses" - with incredibly funny dubbing:

Plot number two:
Roughly: Hercules is sent on a quest by his father Zeus to sunny Climidia. On the way, Hercules rescues the lovely Labia from drowning. Returning her to her parents ("what is that man doing with his hands on my Labia?) he discovers that they run the Pink Parthenon nightclub, and are short on acts.

Will Labia wed Hercules or the handsome Testiculi? Will the 3rd chicken ever remember its lines ("cluck, cluck...aaaawww...fuck, missed me cue")? Will Delilah let Sampson out of the house on his own, and will Machismo's voice ever break?

The movie "Hercules Returns" evolved from the cabaret "Double Take" - a show by Sally Patience and Des Mangan - where the duo improvised voice-overs to movies. Beginning in alternative theatres in Sydney where they rescripted "Astro Zombies" live, they went on to play to sell-out crowds in the Arthouse Theatre.

In Hercules Returns, most of their best lines have been put into movie form. Sally and Des still do most of the voices, and the film would in fact stand alone without the 20 minutes or so of "feeder" plot.

The secondary plot of the three cinema fans versus the evil boss of Kent Corporation is simultaneously a strength and a weakness of the film. The cutaway shots showing chaos in the sound room as the trio desperately try to create sound effects, culminating in a sword fight between Kent and McBain as Kent tries, again, to sabotage their efforts, are fantastic. They also allow for a gorgeous little cameo by Margaret Pomerantz from the iconic Australian television program "The Movie Show" - reviewing the film as she exits the theatre, giving it a well-earned "five".

On the other hand, the body of the movie is quite obviously carefully dubbed, with several gags relying on the actors' next moves ("I refuse to fight you unless you lower your nipples"..."Ok, now, I'll hit you, then you stumble back, that's right"). As you watch, the fiction that the dubbing is being done live and ad-lib just doesn't hold water. But, hey. We aren't watching this for the perfectly balanced suspension of disbelief, we're watching it for the coarse humour, the silly voices, and the oh-so-quotable punchlines.

Hercules Returns is hilariously funny (not always in the best taste, the acting isn't wonderful, but who cares?) and eminently quoteable. It's still to be found in various video hire places - and I thoroughly recommend it.


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