Hercules Returns

Dir: David Parker, 1993



Brace yourselves for one of the funniest films you could ever see.

I say could because, criminally, it’s such a rare film in the UK. It had a limited release at the cinema and was made available on video but, to the best of my knowledge, has never been shown on television and definitely doesn’t have a DVD run outside of it’s native Australia.

This is so deserving of a special/ultimate edition DVD/Blu Ray or whatever release packed with extras. There must be deleted scenes and outtakes. A commentary wouldn’t go amiss, either. It’d be interesting to hear the thoughts of the people involved. If I had the chance I would go to town on it!

Written by Des Mangan, “Hercules Returns” is based on his hit live show “Double Take Meets Hercules”. Mangan doesn’t appear in it but he takes centre stage with his hilarious array of voices.

Brad McBain (David Argue) is an employee at Australia’s largest cinema chain, The Kent Corporation, headed by Sir Michael Kent (Michael Carman).A film buff he is frustrated at the current output of rubbish being shown. With titles like “Rambo Meets Rocky” and “Rambo Meets Bambi” who could blame him?

Intent on restoring cinema to what it used to be, Brad buys an old cinema, quits his job and stages a grand opening showing the last film played, Italian sword and sandal epic “Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili (Hercules, Samson, Maciste, and Ursus the Invincibles)” aka “Samson and His Mighty Challenge”. Aided by his projectionist friend, Sprocket (Bruce Spence), and publicist, Lisa (Mary Coustas), McBain is excited about the new venture.

But Kent has got wind of what Brad is up to and so deliberately has the opening sabotaged the opening by getting the Italian language track of the print sent instead of the English dub and there are no subtitles.

Faced with an impending disaster the trio spontaneously choose to dub the film themselves live as the film is playing.

Cue lots, and I mean LOTS, of belly laughs.

The opening set up is pretty boring and not funny. It kind of makes you impatient to get to the actual dub itself. A better option might have been to rid the picture of the plot and just released the in movie on it’s own, dubbed.

But, nevertheless, what we have got is a rib breaking, side splitting, un-PC comedy of crudity and vulgarity.

Alas, in the 23 years that the film was made cultural sensitivities have deepened and, no doubt, some of the humour will be frowned upon by joyless idiots with an agenda to rid the world of anything funny.

Being a film about muscle men it’s a fairly common jibe to have tough guys as homosexuals talking in a high pitched and campy tone. Des Mangan does just that here and it’s a scream.

People will kick off about it being homophobic and making fun of the LGBT community but they shouldn’t because it’s not. It’s just the opposite of what you would expect which is part of the reason why it’s funny.

Characters depicted as being camp go back years, even before the “Carry On…” films or “Are You Being Served?”. Bugs Bunny used to dress up as a female rabbit and kiss Elmer Fudd ! See? It’s nothing new. It’s good old fashioned humour that still makes people laugh. Of course you’ll still get the argument “times have changed” but stuff ’em! Funny never changes. Funny will always be funny no matter what year it is.

Thankfully, Australians are made of steel and don’t get offended by the slightest thing so can easily get away with this. The rest of the world, on the other hand, believe we should be wrapped in cotton wool and protected from “naughty things”.

Their fearless approach to humour is what makes the so recalcitrant in the face of what the nanny brigade say is right or wrong. If only other countries would follow suit.

It’s a shame that Des Mangan never wrote another film or did anything like “Double Take” again. The genius on display makes you want so much more from him and I’m positive that he’s more than capable of delivering the goods.

And leave the credit’s running at the end of the film to hear Mangan’s hysterical “Hercules Rap”.



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