Hercules and the Captive Women (original Italian title: Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide [Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis]; also known as Hercules Conquers Atlantis and Hercules and the Haunted Women) is a 1961 Sword and Sandal film directed by Vittorio Cottafavi, starring British bodybuilder Reg Park as the titular demigod and Fay Spain as the Evil Queen antagonist.
It is a follow-up to The Revenge of Hercules, and the fourth entry in the film franchise started by Hercules (1958) — which franchise this film is technically a part of (despite the wholesale cast change), as Steve Reeves was expected to continue in the role but decided to drop out after Hercules Unchained; furthermore, this actually is a Hercules movie, not just a Dub Name Change like Hercules Against the Moon Men. note The plot of the movie also borrows, uncredited, from Pierre Benoit's novel L'Atlantide which had been filmed multiple times. From this novel, the concept of Atlantis under the rule of evil Queen Antinea and her horrible practices was lifted wholesale.
Witness to an ominous vision concerning an imminent attack by an unknown force which threatens all of Greece, Androcles the king of Thebes attempts to organize a "pre-emptive strike" expedition, but the other Grecian nobles refuse to participate; even Hercules declines, choosing instead to retire with his family. Androcles and Herc's son Hylus note conspire to trick Herc into the journey anyway, and off they go with a crew of mercenaries and ne'er-do-wells — the only help Androcles could scrounge. Soon, a storm wrecks the ship, leaving Hercules stranded alone on a small island where he finds a girl encased in rock; she is a Human Sacrifice to the demigod Proteus. Herc's having none of that and kills Proteus, freeing the girl who reveals that her home is on the nearby island of Atlantis.
In Atlantis, Hercules reveals to Queen Antinea that he has rescued the girl and "freed" them from the domination of Proteus, then asks for help in locating his missing comrades. Antinea pretends to cooperate, but she has a hidden agenda — the girl is her own daughter, and prophecy states that should the queen's daughter outlive her, Atlantis would be destroyed. (Also, in case you couldn't guess, Atlantis is the source of the threat which got all this started, but they don't dwell on that a whole lot.) Now Hercules has to find a way to rescue the girl (again!), find his missing companions and save Atlantis and the whole of Greece from the bloodthirsty Antinea.
Reg Park would go on to do three more Hercules movies (Hercules In The Haunted World, Hercules Prisoner Of Evil and Hercules The Avenger) and one Maciste movie (Maciste in King Solomon's Mines), as well as mentor another up-and-coming bodybuilder, one Arnold Schwarzenegger, though Arnold only ever played Hercules once.
Hercules and the Captive Tropes:
- Albinos Are Freaks: The Sons of Uranus have been effectively mutated into albinos. They're also evil.
- Always Save the Girl: When warned of approaching soldiers, a beached Hylus seems content to let well enough alone — until he hears the added detail that they have a Damsel in Distress with them.
- Ambition Is Evil: Herc calls Antinea's desire to Take Over the World "a mad dream!"
- Badass Normal: Hylus appears to not possess his father's Super Strength nor any other form of divine gift; but he is brave and fairly clever, and pretty good in a scrape.
- Bar Brawl: The film opens with a good-natured fight in a Theban pub, with dudes merrily ganging up on their own king.Androcles: Take your hands off me; I'm the KING OF THEBES!
Dudes: [continue whaling on him]
- Beta Couple: As is distressingly common in Hercules films, Herc and his wife Deianara have only one scene together and spend the body of the film separated, reducing them to Beta Couple. The film's primary romance (not counting Queen Antinea's seduction attempts) is between Herc's son Hylus and Antinea's daughter Ismene.
- Big Word Shout / Say My Name: During the aftermath of the rock quarry prisoners' failed attempt at Storming the Castle, Hercules barges into the Atlantean temple bellowing "ANTINEA! ANTINEA!!!"
- Bittersweet Ending: Antinea is defeated and the threat to Greece neutralized; but Atlantis and all her people (including the innocent citizenry) are lost. Poor Atlantis just can't catch a break.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Reg Park portrays Hercules as a very fun-loving guy.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Androcles ends up suffering this at the hands of Antinea, and briefly tries to attack Hercules.
- Cataclysm Climax: Hercules exposes the Seat Of Uranus to sunlight, causing it to explode — and, with it, all of Atlantis.
- The Chains of Commanding / Closest Thing We Got: Androcles can only hire mercenaries, criminals and other sordid types to man his expedition. Even Hercules is aghast at this.Hercules: But I thought you were the King Of Thebes!
Androcles: I fought against the soothsayers, the Senators, the commanders of the army... Arent you always saying that democracy is —
Hercules: Okay, never mind.
- Damsel in Distress: Ismene could be the poster child for this trope.
- Distressed Dude: Androcles spends the entire third act unconscious and being lugged around.
- The Dragon / Mook Lieutenant: Astor, the Queen's right-hand albino. When the Elite Mooks remove their helmets to reveal their true appearance, they all look exactly like Astor, implying that he was the first "successful" Son Of Uranus.
- Dressing as the Enemy: At one point Hylus steals the uniform of an Elite Mook.
- Elite Mooks / Faceless Mooks: Antinea's private army, the "Sons Of Uranus". Oddly, they remain faceless (after a fashion) even after removing their face-concealing helmets.
- Exact Words:
- Hercules promises that no one will sit on Androcles' throne while he is off on his adventure. He then proceeds to rip the throne off its base and smash it. Androcles is not amused.
- See also You Have Failed Me, below; the soldier captain promises Antinea that he won't fail a second time. She agrees that this is so... and has him executed.
- Facial Dialogue / Meaningful Look: When Antinea has her Love Potion brought in for Hercules, one of the handmaidens shoots him a stern glare, apparently warning him.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Antinea is a conquest-happy harpy who practices You Have Failed Me even as the mook is begging for a chance to redeem himself. She performs mystical experiments on her own subjects; those who succumb as she desires "disappear" to become her Faceless Mooks, while those who resist are thrown into a rock quarry for the rest of their lives. She is constantly trying to kill her own daughter (though that, at least, is due to The Prophecy). And she's about a million times hotter than Hercules' wife.
- Guile Hero: Subverted. Androcles tries using charm, and then shame ('I will go to face this threat, leaving my throne unattended to defend all of yours!'), to persuade the other rulers to join his expedition. It doesn't work. See also the dialogue quote under The Chains of Commanding, above; his attempts (and failures) extend to the Grecian Senate and Armies, the prophets, and even to the populace when it comes time to hire a crew.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: At one point Androcles' mercenary crew plot to steal his ship for their own purposes and strand him on an island. Herc turns the tables and leaves the mutineers stranded instead.
- Human Sacrifice: Antinea's attempts to murder Ismene are staged as this.Soldier Mook: Why wait until sunset? Why not just kill her now?
Soldier Captain: Orders.
- Little People Are Surreal: Downplayed with Timotheus, a heroic dwarf who comes on the voyage. He's a bit of a comic relief character, but he's very much portrayed as a regular guy.
- Load-Bearing Boss:
- According to the prophecy that Antinea quotes, Atlantis will be destroyed should the Queen be outlived by her daughter. Given the type of film it is, you know Antinea won't live to see the closing credits, sooo...
- Also Proteus, given that his little islet is actually a part of him; when he dies, it starts breaking down immediately.
- Love Potion: Antinea, apparently taking a cue from previous Hercules movies, gives Herc a drugged drink. This time around, Herc is quick to catch on and holds the drink in his mouth, pretending to succumb then spitting it out as soon as she leaves.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: Double (maybe triple?) subverted; Hercules instructs the newly freed prisoners to stay put while he goes to deal with the problem. The moment he's gone, the prisoners decide to attack the city. It doesn't end well for them.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Antinea and her cult of the Sons of Uranus definitely bring the Nazis to mind with their desire to create a "better race" of people who are all, naturally, blond. Likewise, the power of Uranus (uranium?) is coded as a Fantastic Nuke, with its mutagenic powers and civilization-destroying capacity. And an early line from Androcles implies that Herc himself is a big proponent of this thing called democracy, making the whole movie oddly modern in its themes for a Sword and Sandal fantasy flick.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Herc spends a pleasant evening with Antinea, who (for now) is pretending to be helpful.
- Non-Indicative Title: Hercules and the Captive Women (plural) - there's only one captive woman, Ismene; granted, there were other women apparently held captive on Proteus's island, but by the time Hercules arrives, said women have all died from being sacrificed.
- Hercules steps into the shaft of light from the Seat Of Uranus and emerges unscathed, proving himself capable of defeating Uranus.
- Downplayed with the rock quarry prisoners; they resisted being changed by the "Blood Of Uranus", but it did scar them up pretty bad.
- Offing the Offspring: Antinea is constantly attempting this with Ismene, due to a prophecy that dooms Atlantis should the Queen die before her daughter does.
- Punch-Clock Villain: High Priest Zenith is technically on the side of the Atlanteans; but he happily tells Hercules how to destroy the Seat Of Uranus — at least, once Herc has proven himself worthy by resisting its effects himself.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:
- Androcles' crew for his ill-fated mission is composed of assorted brigands and mountebanks.
- Atlanteans who are exposed to the "Blood Of Uranus" but resist being changed by it are thrown into the local rock quarry and treated like animals.
- Red Right Hand: Exposure to the "Blood Of Uranus" changes a person (when it works, anyway) into an albino with heavy-lidded eyes. It also gives them Herc-level Super Strength.
- Refusal of the Call: Hercules initially wants no part in the adventure, and spends most of the early part of the movie napping or else just goofing around. It's only when he realizes that Hylus is in danger that he starts to take everything seriously.
- Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Hercules pulls out a support pillar whilst running through some caves; the Elite Mooks chasing him (including Mook Lieutenant Astor) are buried by the cave-in.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Hercules tells Antinea that he has defeated and killed Proteus, he is told in turn that Proteus was protector of Atlantis and son of Uranus the patron god of Atlantis, and that killing him has brought the wrath of the gods upon them all. Herc counters that had it not been for the help of the gods, he could not have defeated Proteus in the first place.
- Stealing the Credit: Inverted; when Androcles finally wakes up in the Dénouement with no memory of the adventure, Hercules tells him that he (Androcles) saved all of Greece.
- Storming the Castle: The prisoners from the rock quarry are understandably unhappy and try to take on Antinea's army directly.
- Take Over the World: Antinea's ultimate goal.
- Those Two Guys: Hylus and Timotheus have this sort of dynamic.
- Trojan Prisoner: Hylus uses Dressing as the Enemy to smuggle himself and Timotheus onto the ship where Ismene is to be sacrificed (yet again!), then bumps off the guards and rescues her.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Proteus changes into various animals both real and imaginary while fighting Hercules. He even seems to be an Elemental Shapeshifter, given that he transforms into fire at one point and that the island itself seems to be part of him.
- We Can Rule Together: Antinea offers Hercules to join her in her conquests, with her as Queen Of The World and him as its god.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Hylas calls Ismene "stupid" to her face.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Antinea confides that her underlings had advised her to kill Hercules early on.
- You Have Failed Me: When the captain of her guard reports back that he failed to kill Ismene, Antinea has the man thrown into a vat of acid.Captain: Give me another chance; I promise it won't happen again!
Antinea: You're right; it won't happen again.