Color, 1961, 95 mins. 9 secs.
Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi
Starring Reg Park, Fay Spain, Ettore Manni, Luciano Marin, Laura Efrikian
The Film Detective (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Retromedia (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Studio Canal (DVD) (France R2 PAL) / WS (2.20:1) (16:9)

Among the many, many sword-and-sandal ("peplum") films that flooded theaters in the wake of Hercules in 1959, a few notable muscleman stars emerged along with the most Eegah!famous of them all, Steve Reeves. For example, English bodybuilder and multiple Mr. Universe winner Reg Park was well remembered for making only five of them, most famously Mario Bava's psychedelic fantasy extravaganza, Hercules in the Haunted World. Eegah!That film's American distributor, Woolner Brothers Pictures Inc., was successfully importing and modifying Italian genre films in the first half of the 1960s following AIP's model with such notable titles as Blood and Black Lace and Castle of Blood, so it made sense for them to jump on another film Park made back to back with Haunted World: Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide, which was first circulated in English in Europe under the title Hercules Conquers Atlantis. Originally intended as a Super Technirama 70 widescreen spectacular, the film was substantially reworked by Woolner as Hercules and the Captive Women for its 1963 stateside release including a replaced stock music track (ditching the original one by Planet of the Vampires' Gino Marinuzzi Jr.), new animated opening credits courtesy of Filmation, and added narration to get the film moving faster during its tavern brawl opening. (Interestingly, they also ditched the narration at the end that was in the European version.) Clocking in at 95 minutes compared to the 102-minute Euro cut, the film became another popular peplum entry that's become a home video and TV staple ever since.

Settled down and trying to be a family man but still extremely strong, Hercules (Park) is pressed into service by Androcles (Manni) and, against his will, stuck on a ship along with his own adventure-seeking son (Marin), to find out what's causing extreme weather pandemonium in Greece. After a catastrophic storm, Hercules takes a break from his busy nap schedule and Eegah!ends up on an island where he rescues the chained Princess Ismene (Efrikian), whom a Eegah!prophecy decrees must be sacrificed to avoid the destruction of her kingdom, Atlantis. As it turns out, her mother, Queen Antinea (Spain), has more than the preservation of her land on her mind; she's also selectively bred a super army for mysterious reasons involving a Uranus-worshiping sect.

If you're a peplum fan, this one ticks off all the boxes: musclebound men fighting and flinging monsters around, foggy psychic visions, beautiful Italian actresses in gold-lined costumes, and lots of rocks and temples. The English track here is better than usual (and matches Park's own English line delivery), while American actress Fay Spain (still fresh off of The Beat Generation) cuts a striking figure as the monarch of Atlantis with relatively complex motivations for this subgenre. The very prolific gun for hire director Vittorio Cottafavi (who had just done the programmer Goliath and the Dragon) keeps things moving without too much muss or fuss and makes sure the wide frame is constantly filled with opulent sights, even if it doesn't come close to delivering the bevy of captive women promised by the title.

One of those quasi-public domain films that's been floating around for ages, this one made its DVD debut in 2007 from Retromedia Entertainment in a pretty good widescreen transfer paired up with a bad cropped transfer of yet another Park film, Hercules, Prisoner of Evil. The European English version was released in an Italian-language, French- subtitled DVD edition by Studio Canal, but good luck getting your hands on a copy now. In 2021, The Film Detective presented the film on Blu-ray for the first time (along with a separate DVD) with a fresh scan from the camera negative of the U.S. version; though obviously not as visually dynamic as the it would likely be from the European source, this is the best Eegah!viewing option around by far with nice detail and an earthy but sometimes colorful look that functions well when projected, too. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is perfectly clean and functional for Eegah!what it is without any significant issues (with optional English and Spanish subtitles). A new audio commentary by Tim Lucas is packed with info as usual and serves as something of a crash course in all things peplum and Woolner, with notes on many of the actors and production crew. (In a nice touch, optional English and Spanish subtitles are provided for the commentary, too. The track isn't as dense as usual for him with a lot of silent gaps (as well as a surprising gaffe identifying the briefly seen Gian Maria Volonté as the villain from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), but as always it's a sturdy and solid accompaniment to the main feature. The new featurette "Hercules and the Conquest of Cinema" (19m28s) from Ballyhoo, narrated by Larry Blamire, takes a fun look at the evolution of the peplum from Hollywood ancestors like Quo Vadis through a lengthy string of successful Italian exports that used scope and handy local geography to dig through any potential Greek and Roman myth within reach until it was wiped out by the spaghetti western. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode (91m59s) devoted to this film is also included in its standard def entirety, and it's still an amusing one with Joel and the bots getting some extra mileage out of all the pompous declarations about Uranus. The show's Frank Conniff also appears for a video intro (3m2s) about the appeal of tackling films like this during the show's run, with these titles providing a nice change of pace from the usual monster fare. The disc also comes with an insert booklet featuring liner notes by C. Courtney Joyner, who provides biographical overviews of Reeves, Park, and Gordon Scott while placing them in context as the holy trinity of peplum cinema.

Reviewed on March 30, 2021.