Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Great Movie Deserves a Great Title

Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)
directed by Mario Bava
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

Harryhausen effects aside, there's something a little cheap in American sword-and-sandals stalwarts like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. From what I remember, it's the cinematography: garish on costumes, makeup (lots of heavy blue eye shadow in that genre), and fishbowl-bound ocean sets. Hercules cost some thrifty Italian producer less than a pretty penny, but if Christopher Lee can transcend the globetrotting actor's curse of bad dubbing, surely Mario Bava can be the sort of cinematographer a world of storybook nights demands.

I've never enjoyed a movie about Roman mythology more. Surely this is the thrill my father gets reading Prince Valiant each Sunday, or why everyone treasures The Adventures of Robin Hood. Reg Park is no Errol Flynn, but their laughs and their verve come from similar perspectives on the role of a movie star. Be Mr. Universe and Hercules together.

Bava, who I finally like as much as I've always wanted to, gets a great silhouette of a sorcerer carrying an unconscious woman in a long white dress in his arms. Every movie should have one. Around them, the haunted world is all light and color, and no sharp lines except the high cheekbones and pretty noses on those beautiful Italian girls.