Before he was the Terminator (1984), before he fought the Predator (1987), and even before he was Pumping Iron (1977), Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in his first movie, the low budget crap fest Hercules in New York (aka Hercules Goes Bananas, Hercules: The Movie, 1970). Calling it a crap fest so callously does do it some injustice as it is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
The film begins on Mount Olympus, as Hercules whines to his father Zeus that he wants to have adventures with the mortals below. Zeus gets annoyed with Hercules’ discontent and launches him to Earth by blasting him with a lightning bolt which hurdles him off the mountain. After scaring old women on an airplane, Hercules lands on a naval ship and somehow gets enlisted. He then promptly throws another fit, beating up the entire crew as it docks in New York City. There in New York, Hercules befriends a schlub of a pretzel vendor named, aptly, Pretzie (played by veteran character actor Arnold Stang). Pretzie persuades Hercules to become a professional wrestler to pay for their hotel bill, and then the two start to get muscled by the mafia. All the while, hilarity is ensuing.
This is film is widely considered to be one of the worst films of all time, and it certainly understandable why people why people may give it that lofty, overused title. First of all, even though the original poster claims it was completely filmed in New York, a cheap model of New York is used for most exterior shots of the city and “central park” is a little unconvincing. Mount Olympus looks the steps of a local library and an escaped bear, portrayed by a man in a ridiculous looking costume rental, attacks Hercules while on a date in the park.
But Arnold’s voice is what really makes this film weird, terrible, and engaging. Arnold was probably just learning English when the film was made, and if you thought his accent was rough in, say, Conan then wait till you hear him in this. The dialog becomes completely indecipherable at moments, and many versions of the film overdubbed Arnold with a typically flat sounding American voice. But there are some of the great Arnold one-liners in here; at one point Hercules says in a thick Austrian accent “this is a fine chariot, but vere are your horses!” as he tries to commandeer a forklift.
The Trimark/Lion’s Gate DVD, released in 2000 and sill widely available, not only has the dubbed track found on most copies of the movie, but also the original Arnold track, which is clearly the superior and most fun of the two. It also includes two trailers, both from the 1980 theatrical re-release which tried to cash in on Conan‘s success.
So if you’re an Arnold fan with a good sense of humor or an avid fan of train wreck cinema, go out and buy a copy, as its great for repeated viewings. This movie may make you wonder how Schwarzenegger became such as huge star as his acting was amazingly way more deadpan and vacant then, but one thing is still the same; that motherfucker is jacked.