Mystery Science Theater 3000: Experiment 1108
Written by Joel Hodgson et al
Directed by Joel Hodgson and Robert Cohen
Ah, Hercules. If there’s a MST3K pantheon, he is surely right up there at the top, right along with Gamera and Prince of Space. He has been portrayed alternately by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno, Kevin Sorbo, Alan Steel, and of course the granddaddy of them all, Steve Reeves. This week, we get what may be the only Hercules to get the job because of his wife.
Cold open this week, and the crew are binging on the 90’s sitcom Wings and ramchips (binary flavored, natch). One opening later, and the ‘bots present the Fried Turkey Dunk Tank, allowing you to drop a turkey into a pot of hot frying medium while being plenty far away from the splash zone. The Mads counter with a Mexican Jumping Bean Bag Chair, which is…not up to its usual bouncy self, unfortunately, due to Max’s germophobia. Hijinks ensue.
Now, about that Hercules. Miklós “Mickey” Hargitay is a former Mister Universe who originally came to America from Hungary to avoid the draft. He did a little stage work with Mae West, where he eventually met Jayne Mansfield, and in time became her second husband. Italy was going through its big sword-and-sandal phase then, and Jayne was asked to star in one of their movies. She agreed, on the condition that Mickey be given the role of Hercules. This was to be his only time essaying the role.
It’s very much a true-to-form tale in the classic mold of Herc running around beating up monsters and wooing women. In this case, Queen Dianira (Mansfield), who has inherited the throne from her father, is the object of his affections. It seems her father had Herc’s village slaughtered while he was away, including his wife. The old king’s assistant, Licos, immediately turns around and slaughters him as well, part of a scheme to cut his way to the throne. Hercules comes back, gets framed for murder, fights a bad animatronic hydra, gets ensnared by the Amazons (with Mansfield doing double-duty as Hippolyta and Wonder Woman nowhere to be found), goes charging back into town and leads the rebellion to put everything right. As these movies go, it’s a pretty typical example of the genre, and remarkable only for its casting. One suspects said casting was also the primary expense of the budget, judging by how the rest of it looks.
In the first host segment, the ‘bots reproduce a scene from the movie in which a character is put through a trial by ordeal. This consists of tying Jonah to a wall and throwing things at him. It’s very high concept.
In the second one, the ‘bots argue over the ethics of monster slaying. Jonah, munching his Grown Man Bowl Cuts Cereal(tm), goads them on. Between them, they manage to touch on so many tropes of your standard internet
argument discussion that it’s like having your own little comment section in your TV.
The third one has the crew all dolled up as Amazons, lounging around and gossiping when suddenly, they get a visitor! Readers of earlier recaps will remember that I have speculated when new ‘bot M. Waverly (operated & presumably voiced by Grant Bacaiocco) was going to show up. Well, finally he got his big chance. Is it too much of a surprise to say the bots gave him an immediate and severe pummeling? I somehow don’t think so. Not sure if he’ll be coming back, but I guess we’ll find out with time.
Post movie, the SOL crew and Deep 14 have what could only be described as a sort of musical groan-off, everyone vocalizing at the top of their lungs in honor of the movie’s soundtrack. No sign of M. Waverly, though.
Well. This was very much a one-off in the Hercules movie saga. Various Italian & American companies have put out literally dozens of the demigod’s adventures, taking just about every possible take on the subject matter it’s possible to have. The movies are (more often than not) cheesy as all get-out, but they retain their popularity nonetheless. In this viewer’s opinion. that might be Herc’s mightiest labor of all.
What do you think, sirs?
Kelly Luck would just like to say this episode is also the one where her name appears in the closing credits. Cool. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.