Blu-ray Review: Hercules in the Haunted World | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, July 3rd, 2020  

Hercules in the Haunted World

Studio: Kino Lorber

Nov 12, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Though he's known primarily for his work in horror films, Italian director Mario Bava tried his hand at a number of genres throughout the years. Despite that variety, though, there's a clear throughline in Bava's films: his penchant for sumptous, painterly imagery. His is a richness of palette that at least rivals that of Antonioni, yet Antonioni's movies are generally considered the province of cultured adults, where Bava's are often treated as puerile or at least "good GENRE films". C'est la vie, I guess, but anyone who ignores Bava's work because they're "not into horror" is missing the hell out.

While perhaps less influential than its moody, career-defining gothic horror predecessor Black Sunday, Hercules in the Haunted World, Bava's 1961 entry into the "sword-and-sandal" genre popular at the time, is even more of a visual marvel. Bava's sense of color, lovingly displayed in this restoration, is revelatory, even proto-psychedelic; the lighting does a great deal of heavy lifting, too, helping to create a dreamlike sense of mythical drama. The storyline, a very loose adaptation of the Hercules mythology wherein the titular character (Reg Park) takes on vampires and embarks on a beautifully rendered visit to Hell, is admittedly silly and a bit rambling — akin, in its way, to Ray Harryhausen's epic fantasies from the same era — but it more than makes up for this with its considerable wealth of visual wonders.

The transfer on this edition is lovely, leaving little of note to be desired. There's a bonus here for Bava scholars, too, in that this two-disc set contains three separate edits of the film, its original Italian release and US and UK edits with dubbed English. All versions have their pros and cons: it's nice to watch the US edit when one can't give the subtitles their full attention, sure, but in doing that you miss out on Christopher Lee's stentorian original delivery as the vampire King Lico. Regardless, there's options available, which is nice.

Bava may always be brushed off by some as a genre director, but whatever. As long as films like Hercules in the Haunted World are made available to curious eyes, they'll find an appreciative audience.



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