Monday, January 31, 2022

Hercules in the Haunted World – Kino Lorber (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1961
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Sandro Continenza, Mario Bava, Francesco Prosperi, Duccio Tessari
Cast: Reg Park, Christopher Lee, Leonora Ruffo, George Ardisson, Marisa Belli, Evelyn Stewart (Ida Galli), Rosalba Neri, Ely Drago

Release Date: December 17th, 2013
Approximate running times: 84 Minutes 11 Seconds (Hercules in the Haunted World), 81 Minutes 33 Seconds (Hercules at the Center of the Earth), 85 Minutes 55 Seconds (Ercole al centro della Terra)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Versions)
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono English (Hercules in the Haunted World, Hercules at the Center of the Earth), LPCM Mono Italian (Ercole al centro della Terra)
Subtitles: English SDH (Hercules in the Haunted World), English (Ercole al centro della Terra)
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $34.95

"Immediately following the success of Black Sunday, Mario Bava was recruited to direct (and photograph) the second of Reg Park’s Hercules films for producer Achille Piazzi. Freely departing from Roman mythology, the film gave Bava the opportunity to reimagine the sword-and-sandal genre. On its surface a jovial comedy adventure, Hercules in the Haunted World features a striking use of color, which would become one of Bava’s directorial hallmarks. But this playful peplum is tinged with a sense of genuine foreboding, voiced by a masked oracle Medea (Gaia Germani) in one of the film’s most stunning sequences. When Hercules descends into the depths of hell and confronts Lico (Christopher Lee), who has the power to call forth corpses from their tombs, the film plunges into the eye-popping, bone-chilling horror for which Bava had recently become famous." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5 (Ercole al centro della Terra), 4/5 (Hercules at the Center of the Earth, Hercules in the Haunted World)

Here’s the information given about the source of the transfers: "2K restoration from the original camera negative." Given that there are three versions, from three sources, it seems that quote is for the version titled Ercole al centro della Terra, and the other two versions seem to be sourced from 35mm prints.

This release comes with two Blu-ray discs.

Hercules at the Center of the Earth and Ercole al Centro della Terra come on a 50 GB dual-layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 36.4 GB

Feature: 15.4 GB (Hercules at the Center of the Earth), 16.4 GB (Ercole al centro della Terra)

Hercules in the Haunted World comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 15.6 GB

Feature: 15.2 GB

That being said, the version titled Ercole al centro della Terra is the best looking of the three versions included as part of this release. Colors are nicely saturated, image clarity and black levels stay strong throughout, and there are no issues with compression. Not that far behind are the other two versions, which have minimal print damage, color, image clarity, and black levels look strong, and they have no issues with compression.

Audio: 4.25/5 (Ercole al Centro della Terra), 4/5 (Hercules at the Center of the Earth), 3.5/5 (Hercules in the Haunted World)

Each version comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English for Hercules in the Haunted World and Hercules at the Center of the Earth and a LPCM mono mix in Italian for Ercole al Centro della Terra. Though the source used for Hercules in the Haunted World has a few minor instances of background hiss (most noticeable during the pre-credits opening scene), the dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. The source used for Hercules at the Center of the Earth is in good shape; the dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. The source used for Ercole al centro della Terra is in great shape and it is the strongest of these three audio mixes. Subtitle options include English SDH for Hercules in the Haunted World and English for Ercole al centro della Terra. There are no subtitle options for Hercules at the Center of the Earth.

Extras:

Extras on the disc that contains Hercules at the Center of the Earth and Ercole al centro della Terra include U.S. theatrical trailer (1 minute 33 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), UK theatrical trailer (3 minutes 7 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), an interview with actor George Ardisson and film historian Fabio Melelli titled Teseo in the Haunted World (25 minutes 57 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava – All the Colors of the Dark for Ercole al centro della Terra.

Extras on the disc that contains Hercules in the Haunted World include U.S. theatrical trailer (1 minute 33 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles).

Summary:

Mario Bava is a name that’s become synonymous with Italian horror cinema. He was a multifaceted director and gifted cinematographer who left his indelible mark on every genre he worked in. That being said, one must not overlook his contributions to the peplum genre. which includes, as cinematographer, Hercules, Hercules Unchained, The White Warrior, The Giant of Marathon, and Esther and the King. And as a director, Hercules in the Haunted World was his only contribution to the peplum genre.

There’s no denying that Peplum’s can be an acquired taste. And like most genre cinema, the mechanisms that are key to the genre almost become more important than the story at hand. Fortunately, for those who have embraced Peplums, this flaw is easy to overlook because, above all, Peplums are about spectacle.

Content-wise, though, Hercules in the Haunted World has all the core elements that have become synonymous with Peplum cinema. The result is a film that sets itself apart from other Peplum films. And nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to this film’s use of Gothic horror elements.

Front and center in every Peplum is a muscular hero who uses his might to defeat an evil nemesis. And though this genre’s most famous hero is Hercules, Other notable Italian Peplum heroes include Goliath, Maciste, and Samson.

Without a doubt, Peplum’s cinema’s most recognizable actor is Steve Reeves, who rose to fame in the role of Hercules. He would star in a total of ten Peplums (twice in the role of Hercules). And though there were several actors who followed in his footsteps in the role of Hercules, None would ever eclipse his iconic portrayal.

Reg Park, who took over the role of Hercules in Hercules and the Captive Women, is the only actor who could even be considered as a successor to Steve Reeve’s Hercules. In all, Reg Park would make a total of four Hercules films. Hercules in the Haunted World is his most notable film in the role of Hercules.

Performance-wise, Reg Park more than fulfills the psychical attributes of Hercules. And out of all the actors who portrayed Hercules, he’s the one that most resembled Steve Reeves. With his portrayal of Hercules in Hercules in the Haunted World, standing shoulder to shoulder with Steve Reeves in the two Hercules films,

Other notable cast members in Hercules in the Haunted World include Christopher Lee (Count Dracula, The Wicker Man) in the role of Lico, a sorcerer who commands an army of vampires, Ida Galli (The Bloodstained Butterfly) in the role of Persefone, and George Ardisson (The Long Hair of Death) in the role of Teseo, Hercules' womanizing sidekick.

From a production standpoint, Hercules in the Haunted is yet another in a long line of impoverished films that Mario Bava directed. Once again, Mario Bava rises to the challenge and delivers a film that far exceeds its anemic budget. With Hercules in the Haunted World, its greatest asset is its picturesque cinematography, which is overflowing with atmosphere. Another area where Hercules in the Haunted World excels is its use of optical effects and miniatures.

One of the most interesting aspects of Italian cinema is how various regions of the world often get their own versions or impose changes to suit their market. like alternate scores, adding, subtracting, or rearranging footage. And this Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber offers three versions of the film: the U.S. theatrical release titled Hercules in the Haunted World, the UK theatrical release titled Hercules at the Center of the Earth, and the Italian theatrical release titled Ercole al Centro della Terra.

Out of all of cinema’s genres, the Peplum (Italian Sword and Sandal films) has become the most neglected genre on home video. Most of the Peplum home video releases are either compromised because of altered aspect ratios or they’re missing footage. Reportedly, the reason this genre has fared so poorly on home video is that most of these films have fallen into the public domain, and it’s proven difficult to track down quality film elements for most of these films. Fortunately, there are companies like Kino Lorber who are willing to go the extra mile, and they’ve put together what is arguably the best home video release that any Peplum film has received to date. Overall, Hercules in the Haunted World gets a solid release from Kino Lorber, highly recommended.

                                            Ercole al centro della Terra Screenshots.






                                      Hercules at the Center of the Earth Screenshots.






                                        Hercules in the Haunted World Screenshots.






Written by Michael Den Boer

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