Hercules in New York (1970)
DIRECTOR: Arthur Allan Seidelman CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnold Stang, Deborah Loomis
What else can be said about Arnold Schwarzenegger? Bodybuilder, Terminator, Governor, environmental advocate, Starlord’s father-in-law…and it all began 50 years ago when Arnold started his film career as a Greek demigod in the Big Apple, as Awfully Good Movies tackles its first ever Arnold movie–1970’s HERCULES IN NEW YORK!
Much like his Mr. Olympia competitor Lou Ferrigno, Arnold first flirted with movie stardom by playing the superstrong superman after being encouraged to audition by his fellow bodybuilder and former cinematic Hercules Reg Park, with Arnold’s agent telling the producers that he had years of “stage experience”…without mentioning that he was referring to the bodybuilding stage.
But Arnie’s lack of acting prowess was hardly a problem for this low budget production, as the producers would change their star’s name to the more pronounceable handle of “Arnold Strong” and dubbed over his thick Austrian accent with an uncredited voice actor, and while the film’s initial release may have come and gone in the blink of an eye, it grew more successful after being rereleased in the wake of Arnold’s success as Conan the Barbarian and the Terminator the following decade. And with Arnold’s original audio track finally being unveiled on the movie’s DVD release, we can finally come to appreciate the staggeringly sucky debut performance of Mr. Schwarzenegger–his monotone line delivery, his dead lifeless eyes, and his nearly incomprehensible mangling of the English language.
However, while Arnold’s debut role may be a masterclass in unintentional hilarity, the movie around him is aiming to be an actual comedy and fails in ways previously thought impossible, as Hercules walks about New York with the help of a wisecracking pretzel vendor played by old-timey comic actor Arnold Stang, whose bug eyed reactions towards Herc’s feats of strength will have you missing the subtlety of Danny DeVito. And as the film tries developing something of a plot involving Hercules falling in love with a professor’s daughter, becoming a famous wrestler and getting tied up with some fedora-wearing gangsters, it fails even harder at proper film production than it does at comedy, as its on-location shoot in New York City obviously didn’t involve a lot of permits, and we find Hercules beating up a bear that’s clearly just some guy wearing his AnthroCon costume.
Oh wait, did I say he beats up a bear? I sure did, folks, and though it’s nowhere as epic as Lou Ferrigno throwing a grizzly into space, it is just as hilarious. So wherever the next 50 years of Arnold’s career take him, he can rest assured that his career can’t end any worse than it began…unless, of course, he decides to do yet another TERMINATOR reboot.
Unless you want a 73-year-old Austrian man to come to your door and break your goddamn spine, you’d better put that cookie down and check out these past episodes of Awfully Good Movies…
And check out my voice cameo in 47cartoonguy’s excellent video history of Hanna-Barbera cartoons RIGHT HERE!