Known internationally as HERCULES VS THE HYDRA, THE LOVES OF HERCULES is a 1960 adventure fantasy directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia. The screenplay, such as it is, is by Luciano Doria. This Italian outing is mostly renowned for starring an expectant Jayne Mansfield and her then-husband Mickey Hargitay. The latter has the distinction of playing a rather feeble version of Hercules. He also whinges about his suffering, only not in that cool Mark Forest way.
THE LOVES OF HERCULES begins on strong footing as the army of Ecalia is destroying Hercules’ town. They even kill his wife. Licos (Massimo Serato) lures our hero into conflict, but Queen Deianira (Mansfield) ruins his scheme by taking the blame. She must customarily endure Herc’s wrath via axe-throwing. She survives and falls in love with the dude, who moves on awful quick-like from his departed spouse. Hercules and Deianira set off together, only to encounter monsters, a murder frame-up, more monsters, and an Amazon queen (Tina Gloriana) who turns her exes into screaming trees.
THE LOVES OF HERCULES is a silly movie and it benefits from being top-loaded with monsters. This differs from HERCULES UNCHAINED, which was lean on the monsters but heavy on the court intrigue. THE LOVES OF HERCULES has plenty of intricate plotting, but it’s bogged down by Licos’ insistence on fashioning the most complicated plans imaginable. He moves from trying to get the queen killed to trying to have Herc framed for murder to eventually launching a coup.
Hargitay’s Hercules isn’t as striking as other incarnations of the hero. It doesn’t help that the star has all the charm of a dead tree, which coincidentally sheds a little contrast on how wild the living dead trees are. There is some sure eccentricity in Bragaglia’s movie, but the performances are sluggish and the plot is baffling. Even the tottering hydra sequence – theoretically a joy of raw camp – is a bore until Herc hacks one of the heads off. And that’s to say nothing of Mansfield, who is out of her element in more ways than one.