Hercules in New York (1969)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnold Stang, Deborah Loomis, James Karen, Ernest Graves, Tanny McDonald, Harold Burstein, Merwin Goldsmith, George Bartenieff, Taina Elg, Michael Lipton

Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman

Expectations: Pretty high. I’ve never seen the whole movie and I expect it to be fun.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:

OK, I’m not going to try to pull anybody’s chain here, Hercules in New York is pretty fuckin’ awful. Thanks to the presence of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and the DVD release from 2000 that restores his original audio (Arnold’s voice was dubbed out in the theatrical edition, the horror!), Hercules in New York is actually watchable, but every moment it continues makes the task harder and harder.

The first half moves fairly quickly as there isn’t a lot of plot to speak of other than Zeus and Hercules have an argument and Hercules is sent to Earth. What follows is more of an episodic structure than a traditional film, and this is easily my favorite part of the film. Here we are treated to a cavalcade of random occurrences that beset our muscled hero and I took to naming them in the style of the Hercules films of old. So in no particular order we have: Hercules vs. the Athletes, Hercules vs. the Intellectual Socialites, Hercules vs. the Hercules Poster, Hercules Sightseeing in New York, Hercules in Love, and last but certainly not least Hercules vs. the Escaped Bear. If we’re being specific it should read: Hercules vs. the Guy in the Bear Suit. That should be enough of a recommendation right there and if that didn’t get you pumped for Hercules in New York then nothing will. OK, he body slams the bear! C’mon!

Oh, but goddamn is this movie shit! It’s painfully slow, with the scenes set in Mt. Olympus being the worst of all. Perhaps this was due to the general lack of Arnold in these scenes, but it’s probably more due to the horrid acting and the meaningless, lengthy dialogue. At least Zeus was waving around a rebar lightning bolt more often than not, and that gave me a modicum of fun.

I’ve never seen this one all the way through before and over the years I’ve heard many things about how this was one of the worst movies ever and all kinds of bullshit hyperbole. No matter how bad it is, it’s a far cry from the worst ever. Just the mere presence of Arnold raises it up, but I must remember that I speak from the future with the miracle of actually hearing Arnold’s thick, sometimes undecipherable accent at my disposal. I honestly can’t imagine watching the film without it, and perhaps if I had I would agree with the worst ever statements.

I don’t think the film’s sense of humor is purely unintentional either; it’s clear in many scenes that they’re going directly at the humor. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t, but it’s still an absolute must watch for the die-hard Arnold fan, if for nothing else than to see him body slam a dude in a bear suit. And stick around for the closing moments as Arnold’s buddy reminisces about his time with Herc and you get to see some great alternate footage of the bear fight.

The film also features a couple of great lines not spoken by Arnold. The first is from the opening moments as the camera flies through the clouds on its way to the home of the Gods. The narrator tells us that we will be hearing a story from a time “when myth and history merged into mystery.” Whatever the fuck that means, but I love the wordplay. The second comes later in the film, during some scene where Arnold was elsewhere (and therefore I kinda zoned out). A man who Arnold previously picked up and twirled around (during Hercules vs. the Intellectual Socialites) speaks to the girl Hercules has been courting and has this to say about our favorite demigod, “I like him even if he did crack two of my ribs.” Despite the inherent humor in the line, it is an accurate description of the film. Despite Hercules in New York‘s insistence on being a fucking awful film, I still kinda like it.

Original Trailer with Dubbed Dialogue

DVD Re-Release Trailer with Arnold Dialogue

8 comments to Hercules in New York (1969)

  • I love it! Great review Will. Very fun to read. I agree that this movie is shit, and some of the intentional humor falls way too flat. But most of the enjoyment I reap from this movie stems from just watching how willing those guys were to peddle any lame-ass joke off, no matter how cringeworthy.

    Also, as much as folks love to shit on Arnold’s accent and acting, this movie really proves just how much better they both got over the years. Some of the lines he utters are just indecipherable, like you’d need to drag out the Rosetta Stone or something just to follow along. Compare Arnold then to Arnold now and he sounds like Orson Welles.

    And the bear scene is classic. Right up there with him getting high and punching the giant snake in the face in Conan. I like to pretend that the bear is Sarah Connor while Arnold is just wailing away on it. BAM! Terminated!

    I hope you continue to do the Arnolds. I know you’d have a really interesting take on Total Recall, plus I’d love to see you do Pumping Iron considering what a gigantic douche he was in that film.

    • Thanks, man! You’re so right on about Arnold’s accent and acting. He’s remarkably better in the later films, so much so that I was shocked into speechlessness in his first scene here, because I couldn’t believe just how far he came over the years. I really don’t get those that call him a shitty actor. He’s perfect in the movies he’s in, and no one else could pull off the shit he does in his best films.

      HAHAHAHA, I like your idea that the bear is Sarah Connor. That definitely puts a different spin on it!

      Yes, I plan on getting to all the Arnolds. I will definitely be re-watching Pumping Iron at some point. I can’t ignore a movie with one of the most classic Arnold quotes of all time, the one where he talks about cumming in the gym. You know the one.

  • Mrs. Jasper

    If your going to do the “Arnolds”, Kindergarten Cop, Junior, True Lies, and Twins are a must! Arnold kicks ass and takes no name. I love it! I don’t care about the acting, I just want to feel good and laugh (and that is guaranteed w/ Arnold. For 2 hours I forget that he is a cheating, womanizing bastard.

    • I will definitely be getting to all those in due time. I totally agree that a good time is guaranteed with virtually all Arnold movies, as long as you don’t go too late in the filmography. I haven’t seen Kindergarten Cop since I was a little kid so I’m really looking forward to that one. OK, I’m looking forward to them all as I was the biggest Arnold fan growing up, but that one I’m especially excited for. A cheating bastard he is, but damn I love his movies!

  • Great review, man. Truth be told, I’ve never seen this film, and your review makes me want to change that. It looks badly hilarious! Any film which needs the descriptive “it’s fun!” to get people into the cinema is probably NOT really that much fun, but I guess that depends on your sense of humor. Love it, man!

    If you get a chance, if you’re after weird low-budget films to enjoy, can I recommend a little-seen Aussie film called “Hercules Returns”…. it’s one of those “let’s redub the old footage to make it funny” kinda films. I think it’d be right up your alley!

    • Thanks Rodney! You should totally check it out if you’re big into Arnold films. It’s not good by a long shot, but it’s got a ton of fun stuff in it as long as you don’t take it seriously.

      Hercules Returns sounds interesting, I’ll have to add it to the never-ending list. Thanks!

  • Peter Nielsen

    Hey Will
    This is the kind of movie where you leave ALL intellectualism at the door and just enjoy the hell out of it. I mean, that’s what an Arnold flick is supposed to do. Nothing more, nothing less! And this one is so bad that it actually turns good, and I’m using the word “good” in the loosest possible way here.
    Great review! 🙂

    • Indeed! You really have to just lose yourself in the film and enjoy it for what it is. Some films require you to slow down and work them out in your mind, this type of movie actually requires the opposite. Thanks, Peter!

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