Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon (1964)
This might be shorter than usual. I've reviewed a lot of Italian sword and sandal epics in the last month or so, and I'm getting pretty burned out on them. I think after this one I'll move on to something different for a while.
And now on to our show...
This installment of the Hercules series takes us to the ancient kingdom of Babylonia, a fairly advanced civilization in what's now Iraq and Iran. The time is about 1,000 BC, during Babylon's heyday.
As we open, the King has recently past away. Babylonia is now ruled by three siblings, who divided the kingdom up into equal parts when their father the King died. They all three rule from the city of Babylon, technically on equal footing, but there's naturally a great deal of backstabbing, court intrigue and general sibling rivalry between them. Each would really love to be the sole ruler, but none are powerful enough to dispose of the other two. The ruling three are two brothers and a sister.
The oldest brother is Azzur, played by fiftysomething Tullio Altamura (star of Death Has No Sex, The Spy Who Loved Flowers, Adultery Italian Style). He's a graying old man with a sharp mind and a bit of an edge on the other two as he's been around the longest. He looks like that Amish guy who fixed my roof last winter.
The middle brother is Salman Osar, played by 41-year old Livio Lorenzon (star of God Will Forgive My Pistol, Chrysanthemums for a Bunch of Swine, Torture Me But Kill Me with Kisses). He's balding, ugly and the one voted most likely to murder anyone who stands in his way. He's by far the most irrational and hotheaded of the three and is nominally in charge of the kingdom's military defenses.
The younger sister is the stunningly attractive Taneal, played by 32-year old German-born Helga Line (star of Wild Nurses in Lust, House of Insane Women, Hot Fantasies, and Madame Olga's Pupils). Taneal is a Cleopatra-esque exotic beauty with an eye-burning body and sexy black hair. She's also ruthless, dangerous, and bloodthirsty in her pursuit of power (me likes!). When she glides into a room, dressed to kill and dripping with power, I want nothing more than to stabilize a worm-hole, travel back in time and have sex with her. A lot.
Now a big kingdom like Babylonia needs a lot of labor to get things done, crops raised, buildings up and armies equipped. The easiest way to get all that labor is to enslave everyone you come across. Babylonia does this better than most, and the two main cities of Babylon and Nineveh run on the blood and sweat of thousands of slaves. The army spends a lot of time going on expeditions into the frontiers looking for more slaves.
Recently, however, rumors are making it back to the leadership of a single man breaking up these slaver raids, besting seasoned army troops like they were school kids. The rumor is true, there's a lone man out there freeing slaves and kicking soldier butt. Well, not really a man, but a demigod. Hercules has come to Babylonia from Greece, on a mission to find a missing person, and while he's here he is righting some wrongs and doing some good deeds.
Our movie's Hercules is played by 32-year old Peter Lupus, a corn-fed beefy American from Indiana, here going under the awesome stage name "Rock Stevens". Lupus is mostly known from his television work in America, gaining fame for playing Willy Armitage in all 154 episodes of Mission: Impossible. He was also Norberg in Police Squad!, which is much cooler. His outfit for this movie consists of a skimpy loincloth, wrestling boots, and a healthy sheen of body oil and Bryllcream.
The person who Hercules is looking for is none other than the Queen of Greece! It seems that she and a number of her female attendants were captured by Babylonian slavers and are now somewhere in the kingdom. Clearly, the slavers didn't know who she was (still don't), seeing her as just an another body for the salt mines. Hercules has come on his own to look for her and bring her home. Oh yeah, and they're lovers, but that really doesn't play into our story much.
Jumping a bit out of sequence here, we go now to the Greek Queen, looking pretty ragged out in the hot desert sun doing manual labor. The Queen's name is Asparia and she's played by Anna Maria Polani (star as Revenge of the Living Dead, A Virgin for the Prince, and In a Colt's Shadow). She's not the prettiest woman in the show, with that dirt artfully smudged on her cheek and that Kirk Douglas-cleft in her chin. Still, it's hard to look good when you're force marching to backbreaking slave labor everyday, so I'll cut her some slack.
The Queen of Greece.
Now the Greek Queen knows she has to get word to Hercules somehow (she just knows that he's out there somewhere looking for her). Defying logic and reason, we see that the Queen and her attendants have managed to keep a homing pigeon secret for all these months (!). This bird is trained to return to the Queen from where ever it's released.
The trick is to somehow get the bird to Hercules so he can follow it back to her. So they arrange for a single slave to escape while they create a diversion (girl cat fight!). This man takes the bird and runs off into the desert. How he has even the slightest clue where to find Hercules is not stated, but somehow he does.
Unfortunately, he's being pursued by four Babylonian soldiers! They catch and stab the poor slave, but are then pounded upon by Hercules, who arrives just seconds too late. Hercules runs back to the dying slave, but is unable to learn in which city the Queen is being held (Babylon or Nineveh). He finds the homing pigeon, however, and knowing what it's for, sets it free. The bird flies off to the south, a clear indication that the Queen is in Babylon.
Back in Babylon, we see that a royal visitor has arrived. This is the King of Assyria, a very powerful and rival kingdom to the northwest in modern day Syria and along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. He's a short man with a frizzy afro who looks more like an auto mechanic from Nashiville, Tennessee than the king of a great nation.
The King of Assyria.
The King is here with an unusual offer for the leaders of Babylonia. It seems he wants to trade them a small fortune in gold for all the slaves in the city of Babylonia! Yes, all of them, the whole lot. He won't say what he wants all of them for, and after he's shown to a guest room, the three leaders discuss what is going on.
None of them trust the Assyrians, so the pick Taneal to go and use her considerable sexual charms on the Assyrian King and try and find out his secret. With a potent combination of her sultry eyes, a low-cut dress, and a goblet of drugged wine, Taneal gets the King to admit that he is looking for a certain woman amongst the slaves. He's also looking for the Queen of Greece, so he can either marry her or ransom her to the Greeks and thus gain advantage with his powerful rivals to the west across the sea.
"Hey, buddy, eyes up here."
Afterwards, the three leaders discuss their own plans. They first need to take care of the Assyrian King, after they take his gold. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, they need to find that Greek Queen and fast.
To do so they gather up all the female slaves in the city and torture them! Someone has to give up the Queen eventually, they just have to apply enough pressure. The girls don't break, however, and eventually the leaders let them all loose, having gained some respect for their toughness. As well, the Queen's homing pigeon returns to her, buoying her spirits with the knowledge that her man Hercules is near.
Ok, let's leave that for a minute. We join the Assyrian King as his column is heading back northwest to his own land. In the frontier they're ambushed by a large force of Babylonian soldiers! Dressed in uniforms consisting mostly of white bed sheets and Shriner fezz hats, they gallop in on horseback and start stabbing people. The Assyrians are in danger of being overrun and slaughtered when Hercules magically appears and starts kicking ass. He saves the King, busts some heads, and forces the surviving attackers to flee, leaving the field littered with bodies and discarded weapons.
Hercules then goes with the Assyrian King to his camp (still in Babylonian territory) and discuss what just happened. The King confides in Hercules that he's looking for the Greek Queen, but has no way to find her without paying the Babylonians for all the slaves. However, he says, Hercules can sneak into the city and find the Queen amongst the thousands of slaves, because he alone knows what she looks like. He's aware that Hercules is most certainly here for the same purpose (it would an amazing coincidence if he just happened to be in the area for a different reason). Hercules agrees to the King's proposal, though he has his own agenda. He's not about to turn over the Greek Queen to the Assyrians, but he's not telling them that.
The city of Babylon!
Hercules and a small band of Assyrian soldiers reenter the city, disguised as merchants. There they're contacted by an old man named Christophisis, who is a former slave who recently escaped (or was released, not clear) and promised the Greek Queen that he would stay in the city until Hercules arrived (he was sure to do so eventually). Now that they have met, the old man takes Hercules to a secret entrance to and even more secret network of caverns and tunnels beneath the city of Babylon.
It's though these tunnels that Hercules is able to find a way into the slave quarters and be reunited with his love, the Greek Queen! They hug and kiss and everyone is overjoyed, but Hercules has to leave her here for now until he can plan an escape. With that, Hercules and the old man head back topside through the tunnels.
While going back up, however, they overhear voices and go to look. They find a most curious sight, in a large underground cavern is Taneal! She's standing next to this big horizontal wheel with chains attached to it, radiating off from the spokes. I know, what the fuck? Well, it seems that way back in time, when the legendary god of the Babylonians built the city of Babylon, they put this big wheel beneath the city and attached chains to the foundations of the walls and the biggest buildings. Thus, if you turn the wheel, the chains will pull tight and the city will fall down upon itself! Nice!
Taneal is down here with a military general whose both loyal to her and in love with her. Hercules overhears them talking about Taneal's nefarious plan to be rid of her brothers. She's going to take all the gold she can haul, the general is going to pull out his troops, and she's going to get the slaves down here to turn the big wheel and demolish the city, killing her brothers in the process. Wow!
Herc, turning the wheel at the end, bringing down the house.
Alright, the leaders know that Hercules is in the city and invite him in to chat. Hercules accepts, planning on playing all sides against each other until he gets his Queen out. Taneal talks to him in private (wearing this body-hugging green dress that blurred my vision and made every pore in my body sweat) and tries to get him to help her become the sole leader. Hercules plays along for now.
Ah, but we learn that the oldest brother (Azzur) has figured out which slave is the Greek Queen and has her tied up in his chambers. Hercules and the Assyrians who came with him rush to bust her out, precipitating a big fight with Azzur's guards. Swords are swung, big iron doors are tosses, and people fall down a lot.
While that's going on, Azzur is trying to convince the Greek Queen to marry him and unite the two empires (she's not biting). Suddenly, in stumbles his obviously drunk younger brother (Salman Osar)! He kills Azzur out of rage for plotting against him! The Queen screams a lot and then escapes, running into Hercules and his men, who are still fighting outside in the hall.
Hercules and the Queen, along with three Assyrians, fight their way out of the palace and escape. Wowza, look at the Queen's boobies bounce as she runs! I need help. Hercules tells the men to take the Queen to safety, he's going back to finish the fight. Hercules goes back down into the caverns to that big wheel with the chains, and starts to turn it. Remember this will bring down the city. Above, Taneal is getting out while the getting's good. Loading up a bunch of treasure and loot, she runs.
Nice, very nice.
Alright, let's wrap this up, it's getting late and I have to work in the morning. The city crashes, plaster and cardboard miniature sets crumble convincingly, the brother dies, Hercules escapes, the Queen is captured by bad guys who we all thought were good guys, the Assyrian cavalry shows up, every horse and rider in Italy is hired to run in waves down a dirt road, a bunch of freed slaves attack them, lots of stuntmen fall down and scream, Hercules engages in single combat with the Assyrian King and kills him, he is reunited with the Greek Queen, the lovely Taneal drinks poison rather than surrender, her breasts heave magnificently as she expires, Hercules and his Queen go back to Greece and make one-quarter demigod babies.
One more time.
Written in March 2007 by Nathan Decker
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