Sunday, November 18, 2012

Monster in HERCULES: Dinosaur or Dragon?

In HERCULES (1958), Jason has to battle with monster in order to get to the Golden Fleece in the tree. This scene polarizes a lot of viewers. Many find it odd for several reasons: in this scene Jason (seen at the bottom right corner) is the hero even though the film is about Hercules; is the monster a dragon or dinosaur? And for the monster's roar the film utilizes Godzilla's familiar roar. Some have said that the reason the Godzilla roar ended up in HERCULES was because the Italian film's US distributor, Joseph R Levine, also distributed GODZILLA, the version with Raymond Burr. But the Italian version or the one seen in Europe also utilizes the Godzilla roar and Levine wasn't involved in the film's distribution on the continent. Some also dislike it because they dislike man-in-monster-suit monsters.

But I like this scene. I actually like the Jason & the Argonauts twist in this story and I like that Jason briefly becomes a hero and I like the Godzilla roar and I like the man-in-monster-suit. I have NO problems with this scene. In fact, I think it's one of the best dinosaur/dragon scenes from a film made in the 1950s. Unlike other monsters this one is dirty and grungy and dark. Also, the monster looks like it's been there forever and it sorta looks lonely and angry. And it was shot outside not in a studio, which is a definite plus. I'm sure kids loved this scene back in the day. So this scene doesn't cause any major issues for me. The only 2 problems I do have are: first, the action with Jason is a bit sped up, which I never care for but it's not too bad here; and second, what is it supposed to be: a dinosaur or dragon?


Steven Lester said...

If it has wings, it is a dragon. If it ain't got them, its a dinosaur. There, the master has spoken. All argument is now decided.

Foxman said...

I really like this scene, too. The forced perspective shots with the man in the costume coupled with the full-size body and tail props really work well and look very realistic. I also like the sound: the echoing footsteps of the dinosaur/dragon and the "oooooo" electronic effect is quite atmospheric. I also like the little nuances they added: the big dust cloud that passes by when we first see the beast from afar; the way he cocks his head to the left; and the way he opens and closes his claws. The roar? Well, it works for me...somewhat otherworldly, somewhat primitive. This sequence was a highlight in the movie to me as a kid and is still effective today. The beast seems old, which begs the questions "Where did it come from and who sent it to stand guard and when?" Obviously Chiron hadn't noticed it and Jason seemed surprised it was there.

Steve R. Orsulak said...

This was one of my favorite monsters while growing up in the Fifties. I liked the scenes, but I think it should of ran a little longer with more action between Jason and the Dinosaur.

PEPLUM cinema said...

Steven, good point. But I have seen dragons, in paintings, books without wings too.

I knew this was a highlight for kids back then re Foxman and Steve's anecdotes

Richard Svensson said...

The most identifying feature for a dragon is the ability to breathe fire. As I recall it, this one doesn't. I always thought the Hercules monster had a resemblance to the Japanese Angilas aka Anguirus.

Anonymous said...

The life-sized prop looks like it was based on a actual species of dinosaur called Ceratosaurus to me.
Kenton C.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Carlo
Rambaldi had at least advised in
the making of the dinosaur prop in this movie.
Rambaldi did the 45 foot long dragon in the 1957 movie Sigfrido
from the Cincetti Studios.
Would you please post a photo
of the dragon from Sigrido
on a blog somewhere at peplum?
There is a dvd release of that movie.
Kenton C.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that the DVD
release of Sigfrido(1957) by director Giacome Gentilomo is so far only available as a import from Europe
and is a Region 2 encoding dvd and wont play on an American dvd player,
but its well worth checking out.

Anonymous said...

As far as Godzilla's roar at least the 1950's and 1960's version.
That sounded like the unmistakable roar
of a full grown charging African bull elephant(not to be confused with its trumpet,the roar always sounded it come from deep down inside the elephant, usually before its shot with an elephant gun.
I think they may
have mixed in a lion's roar too.