Hercules - The Legendary Journeys - Season 1 - Part 1  [DVD]
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(Oct 20, 2003)
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The first three episodes of the first season of 'Hercules - The Legendary Journeys' with Kevin Sorbo in the title role and Anthony Quinn as Zeus, plus all five full-length action-packed movies. In 'Hercules and the Amazon Women', Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) comes to the aid of a village being plagued by unseen monsters. 'The Lost Kingdom' sees the strongman accompanied by the beautiful but stubborn Deianeira when he embarks on an epic quest. In 'The Circle of Fire', evil goddess Hera hatches a plot to bring about mankind's destruction, and only Hercules can stand against her. 'Hercules in the Underworld' sees Hercules forced to journey into Hades when he attempts to save the home village of beautiful virgin Iole. Finally, in 'Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur', Hercules has to track down and defeat the escaped Minotaur, a hideous creature which was previously imprisoned by Zeus for defying the gods and now wishes to enslave the world.
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Amongst these were four eighty seven minute long [approx.] films that were a new take on the legend of Hercules. Films that reinterpreted greek myth into a version of ancient Greece with influence from other cultures. Where everyone spoke like people from the twentieth century.
And where the gods were just as petty and cruel as the legends have always had it.
Hercules, son of Zeus and a mortal woman, is the only man who dares to stand up to them. And to travel the land, fighting the good fight and helping people in need. No matter how much Zeus's wife Hera wants to kill, Hercules will never give up doing good.
Starring Kevin Sorbo as Hercules, with appearances from Anthony Quinn as Zeus - an excellent performance from the acting legend as a god who would clearly just love, if he only could, to do nothing but spend time with his half human son - Hercules was the hit of the action pack.
A series - and a spinoff - followed.
This dvd contains, spread over four discs, all five [more on that in a moment] of the original tv movies, and the first three forty three minute long [approx.] episodes of the tv series that followed, and which ran for six years.
The discs are in one bigger plastic box, and this is contained in a cardboard slip case.
Disc one contains the first two movies:
Hercules and the Amazon Women.
Hercules and the lost Kingdom.
Disc two contains the next two:
Hercules and the circle of fire.
Hercules in the underworld.
These are all good fun action fantasy escapism. They show a programme in it's infancy, and like most shows in it's early days, it's not quite yet found itself. The first two films also feature Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, and Robert Trebor, who would all play regular roles across the Hercules and it's spin off Xena franchise, in entirely different parts to the ones they would become famous for.
The show hasn't quite found the level of humour in these early ones that it would manage as time went on, although early appearances from Michael Hurst as Herc's best friend Iolaus do show what a great partnership they would become in due course.
In addition to being fun escapism with excellent fight scenes, and [eventually] good humour, Hercules is also a very moral show. About a man who tries his best to do good and help others. And in that respect, it's pretty inspiring. All of which adds to how great it is to watch, because it makes the leads really sympathetic. Added to which, Kevin Sorbo was perfect casting. Laid back, laconic, good and very human throughout. To many, he will always be the definitive Hercules.
The third disc contains the fifth tv movie. Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur. This is a curious affair because although only four were originally commissioned, the popularity of them led to a fifth being ordered. And this gets round having to be made in a hurry by being a clip show. Roughly a third of it's running time - also eighty seven minutes - is made up of flashbacks to the first four films.
There's some astonishingly lazy writing in here, as one character remembers something that they shouldn't actually be able to. But the non clip show parts are really good. So watch those, and fast forward through the rest.
Disc four contains the first three episodes of the aforementioned regular series which followed. The first of these changes the status quo of the movies in order to launch the series, and is an effective pilot in that respect. The other two are again, a show in it's dawn, but they do have their moments.
Disc three also contains an eighty minute long documentary about the show, with forty five minutes of Kevin Sorbo, Michael Hurst and the director of two of the movies reminiscing. Then thirty five minutes of the director and Kevin Sorbo chatting together. This is an excellent watch because all three are superb interviewees.
The dvd has no subtitles, and the only language is English.
Hercules tended to get overshadowed in due course by it's spinoff Xena; Warrior Princess. Which is probably why there's never been any more region two dvd releases of the show beyond this in Britain. Which is a shame. Although you will find European region two copies on amazon if you search. But it deserves to be remembered better. Because just like Xena, it was great escapist fantasy entertainment. So if you want some of that, this box set is well worth getting.
There are also the first 3 episodes of the TV series - the episode with the She-Deomn, the not so good episode with the Cyclops (which includes Sorbo's fun and informative commentary) and the nice episode with the Stymphalian Bird and Hera's weird mole-men!
And as a bonus there are some lengthy interviews with Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst looking back on the time they spent working on the show.
This DVD set takes me back to when I first started watching the show on Sky 1, and was instantly blown away by it. It fired up my imagination then, and I still look fondly back on these movies and episodes, even though the show became pretty weak in its later days.
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