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Hercules on screen

Hercules on screen

Presented by Arthur Pomeroy, Programme Director of Classics, Victoria University of Wellington

While the myths of Hercules had been a subject of numerous artistic depictions throughout the ages, he was a late comer to the screen. In part this is because there is no single linear myth of the hero, but numerous separate tales. Hercules (1958: Le fatiche di Ercole), starring Steve Reeves, introduced the muscleman hero, not as all-powerful but as coming to terms with his own mortality. This is far from the Nietzschian Superman or the fascist strong man played by Mussolini. The success of this action movie launched a whole series of films set in the ancient world featuring stars from the world of body-building. Perhaps the most interesting of these films are ones where Hercules is no longer an adventurer, but a reluctant participant in grand actions, such as the British bodybuilder Reg Park in the films of Bava and Cottafavi who paved the way for the comic Bud Spencer of later spaghetti westerns. The peplum craze was, however, brief (1958-65)

It wasn’t until the 1990s that the character of Hercules was revived in Hercules: the Incredible Journeys. This is a new Hercules, less reliant on strength than on his sense of morality, less tied to Greek mythology than to cinematic genres. Upstaged again more recently by Xena Warrior Princess, the modern hero of Hercules has become a much more ambiguous figure whose lack of historical authenticity gives her multicultural presence in both western and eastern antiquity.

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Professor Arthur Pomeroy will delve into the history of Hercules (Herakles) on screen, accompanying his presentation with movie excerpts, television clips and anecdotal stories from the history of film, to explore how the character of Hercules has adapted and changed within the evolving context of the moving image.

Adam Art Gallery
Thursday 12 November 2009

Source Material
Five Conversations with the Past
17 October—18 December 2009 / 19 January—7 February 2010


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