Sunday, January 30, 2011

Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay (Pakistan, 1997)

Simply calling Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay "a Pakistani film" would likely send any serious minded booster of that nation's cinema into paroxysms of despair. The Pashto language film industry that produced Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay, which serves an overwhelmingly male audience in the country's northern border region, is considered to be pretty much the absolute gutter of Pakistan's film making culture. For Americans, you'd have to imagine meeting a person from a foreign country whose only exposure to American cinema was through seeing Manos: The Hands of Fate, and who tried to characterize the whole of the U.S.'s filmic output based on that.

Nonetheless, there are many Western cult film enthusiasts -- specifically those jaded lovers of trash cinema desperate for ever more depraved kicks -- whose sole experience of Pakistani films will likely be Pashto films like DKLS and Saeed Ali Khan's notorious Haseena Atom Bomb. And while I might high mindedly assert that viewers should sample the whole of Pakistani cinema before wallowing in its depths, I am also a shameful hypocrite. Because, faced with the choice of watching one of that country's Urdu language romances or historical dramas, as opposed to a film in which Sultan Rahi shouts a lot while gorily asserting his peasant dignity, or a Pashto atrocity like DKLS, I have time and again chosen from among the latter.

Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay is part of a wave of Pashto horror films that followed in the wake of 1991's successful Adam Khor. DKLS's female star, Shehnaz Begum, was also featured in Adam Khor, but in the intervening years had moved from merely acting and dancing in her films to producing and directing them as well -- something that I imagine was quite the rarity in such a morbidly macho environment. Still, the uninitiated viewer might have some difficulty identifying the female touch within DKLS, as it is nearly as redolent of sleaze and grotesquery as the previously reviewed Haseena. It has to be said, however, that it is indeed a woman's story, and that its heroine -- despite the presence of a couple mega-masculine, mustache farming male heroes -- proves herself throughout as being fully capable of fighting her own battles.

Despite being classified as a horror film, DKLS is in equal parts an ill conceived superhero tale, a mangy hybrid of Catwoman and The Incredible Hulk.  Its heroine, Banno, is a young woman who periodically transforms into a ferocious half cat, half human creature and prowls the night in search of rapists. In the opening scene, she catches one such devil in the act, and, after gruesomely mauling him with her knife-like claws, uses her telekinetic vision to spread his legs apart so that she may more easily ram a huge tree branch up his ass. Yow! In classic Pashto film tradition, this sequence is accompanied by abundant stock footage of thunder and lighting, a blaring and ceaselessly hectoring music track, and teeth rattling sound effects that include a heavily reverbed cat's yowl.

Banno's nocturnal adventures have apparently left a trail of finely minced male predators in her wake, and in the light of day we find that her trail has been taken up, not only by the handsome and determined police captain, but also by a local ruffian (Asif Khan) whose jacket has all kinds of knives hanging off of it. Into this scenario DKLS introduces a freakish gang of cackling punk rock inbreds who hide out in a graffiti covered sewer, among whom are a leopard print wearing guy with devil horns and a Freddy Krueger glove and a mohawked fellow with both a beak and a mustache. As absurd as they may sound, there is actually something really nightmarish about this group, as it is in those moments when they appear that Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay most seems like something created by an insane person.

Eventually, a flashback reveals that it is this gang who are responsible for the death of Banno's mother, who, pregnant and cast out from her home lo those many years ago, wandered out into the night and into their rapey arms. Traumatized and left to die, she went into labor and gave birth to Banno, who was in turn whisked away to safety by a black house cat who just happened to be hanging around. (I think; this flashback isn't really staged very clearly, nor is it apparent that it's supposed to be a flashback until after it's over, with it instead coming across more as random footage from some other movie that suddenly crops up in the middle of DKLS.) Not one to underestimate its audience's intelligence, DKLS entrust us with making the logical leap of seeing infant Banno in the proximity of a cat to understanding this as the reason for her later being able to physically transform into a monster. In this guise, she then goes about the business of wiping out the men responsible for her mom's death -- although it's not clear how she knows who they are. (Perhaps the cat told her.)

In describing Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay's narrative so compactly, I'm actually doing the film a service, as, in reality, it contains a lot of peripheral business that prevents it from being quite the freewheeling spectacle said description might lead you to think it is. Counted as part of that business, of course, are the movie's many, many, many song and dance numbers, all of which are of the character, unique to Pashto films, that has outraged and repulsed many a Western blogger with its crassness and crudity. Typically these involve very large women -- and by "large", I mean that even those solicitous souls among you who would scream "sizeist" at the faintest whiff of the pejorative in a discussion of weight would be left no choice but to describe them as "fat" -- in vacuformed outfits shaking their junk for the camera like butchers displaying choice cuts at a meat packers' convention. Among these are Shehnaz, who is no slouch in the girth department, but we also have a few other plus sized performers to take up the slack, as... well, did I mention that there were a whole lot of dance numbers?

As for Shehnaz's skill as a filmmaker, I have to say that DKLS shows a fair share of visual artistry, especially when considered in comparison to Haseena Atom Bomb, which, at this point, is the only other Pashto film I've seen. There is evidence of both style and technique, present in an array of weird camera angles and bizarre lighting choices. Her gifts as a story teller, however, are harder to gauge. The abuse that the few prints of these films suffer during their extended life on the Pashtun theater circuit makes it difficult to determine which of a film's narrative shortcomings are the result of damage and which are the result of sloppy editing and scripting. In this case, though, I suspect it's a little from column A and a little from column B.

Ultimately, Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay is one of those cult movies that's much more fun to read about than actually watch. It's also more fun to write about than actually watch. And for that reason, as the film becomes more widely available to the denizens of the internet, I suspect that we'll all be reading about it a lot more. For the time being, I would recommend that, rather than going to the trouble of tracking it down and viewing it, you instead read Tars Tarkas' hilarious, painstakingly detailed and illustrated review (with clips!) over at, and then proceed to Omar Khan's learned take over at The Hotspot Online. Of course, I know that, if you're like me, you will still want to see the movie, even though the combined efforts of Omar, Tars and myself have already told you everything about it that you need to know. But at least I can feel that I've honored my conscience by warning you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Zagor: Kara Bela (Turkey, 1971)

While I think I've done a pretty good job of communicating the joys of Turkish pulp cinema, I think I've been less successful in communicating its breadth. The completely hypothetical person who got all of his or her information about world cinema from 4DK might think that those movies consisted solely of comic book adaptations and superhero adventures. The fact is, however, that they covered a wide range of popular genres, including, as we'll see here today, westerns. Of course, the western that I've chosen to focus on is also both a comic book adaptation and a superhero adventure. But, hey, I can't change overnight, can I?

As the already reviewed Korkusuz Kaptan Swing evidences, Italian comics have enjoyed a good deal of popularity in Turkey, and perhaps none more than Zagor. So popular is Zagor, in fact, that a Zagor-themed fan event was hosted in Istanbul just this past November -- an event that not only saw a guest appearance by the comic's original artist, Gallieno Ferri, but also a live performance of a Zagor-themed rock concept album. In Turkey, popularity of this type on the part of a comic book hero invariably translates into him exploding onto the big screen in cheap but enthusiastically staged movies, and it is thus that Zagor became the focus of a trio of movies made between 1970 and 1971.

As created by Ferri and writer Sergio Bonelli in 1961, Zagor is basically a costumed hero in the tradition of Batman or the Phantom who has been transplanted to the old west, with perhaps a bit of Tarzan thrown into the mix for extra pop cultural resonance. The son of a white army officer and his wife who were slain by Indians, Zagor was raised by a trapper who taught him to be murderously handy with an ax, a task that would come in handy when he embarked on his planned mission of vengeance against his parents' killers. Upon reaching adulthood, however, Zagor discovered that his father had also been responsible for the deaths of many Indians, and that the moral line was not drawn as clearly as he had initially thought. (Needless to say, this is not the type of comic that we would have seen here in the U.S. back in 1961.) As a result, he vowed to become an equal opportunity protector of the oppressed, whether they be white settlers or Indians. However, lest you think that makes Zagor and the comic he inhabited sound just a bit too right on, he is also supplied with a fat, comic relief Mexican sidekick named Chico.

Zagor: Kara Bela -- or Zagor: Black Danger -- is the second of the Zagor films, but the first of two to star Levent Cakir in the title role. (The first film, 1970's Zagor, starred Cihangir Gaffari.) As he demonstrated in his role as Sleazy Batman in Bedmen Yarasa Adam, Cakir brings a considerable amount of acrobatic skill to his screen performances, and, as a result, the fight scenes in Zagor: Kara Bela are greatly enlivened by his energetic somersaults, back flips and cartwheels. Sadly, those action sequences prove to be more sparsely distributed than many viewers might hope, as director Nisan Hancer seems equally content to focus upon lame, mostly food-related gags involving Chico. (There is also a bit where Chico knocks himself out by stepping on a rake, and it's so deliberately paced and over-telegraphed that you might actually believe that the director thought we'd never seen it done before.) Kaptan Swing suffered from this same preoccupation with its comic relief characters, which makes me suspect that the problem is as much with the original source material as the films themselves.

The Zagor comic was known for incorporating science fiction and horror elements into its stories along with the western ones. Perhaps due to its fairly obvious budgetary constraints, this is sadly not the case with Zagor: Kara Bela. Instead, here Zagor and Chico are pitted against a masked, black clad killer who is gunning down Indians. Judging from his vocal delivery, this mysterious villain is intended to come across as an old west version of Kilink, which, I'm guessing, placed the far flung events of the film squarely within the comfort zones of audience and filmmakers alike. Aiding our heroes in their fight is an Indian brave played by Yavus Selekman, who is the only person ever to star as Santo (in 3 Dev Adam) who wasn't Santo.

Due to the prevalence of extracurricular business, this story apparently didn't quite have the girth to fill out Zagor: Kara Bela's running time. There is an apparent attempt to create some mystery around the identity of the masked killer, but, given I was able to figure it out without the aid of subtitles -- or even an understanding of what many of the characters' relationships were supposed to be -- it wasn't a too dedicated one. Still, director Hancer, having a lot of movies under his belt by this point, at least films everything nicely, although some lapses in competence might have actually made the sum total a bit more interesting.

Like Baytekin Fezada Carpinsanlar, Zagor: Kara Bela is one of those Turkish cult films unearthed by Turkish MTV, which means that it was presumably aired so that snarky, post-ironic Turkish teenagers could snicker incredulously at the entertainment their parents had to settle for in the days before the internet and cable. Yet, unless the dialog in the film is absolutely hysterical -- which it very well may be -- it's hard to imagine that an audience of that age would find much in it to hold their interest. Unless they were stoned, of course. (Ohhhh.) Also, based on the movie's abbreviated length -- and the fact that what little blood there is in it is blurred out in the broadcast print -- it appears that they are not even getting to see all of Zagor: Kara Bela, which is not to say I suspect the restoration of any excised footage would significantly change the quality of the film on evidence.

Levent Cakir would return to the role of Zagor once more, in the same year's Zagor: Kara Korsanin Hazineleri, the contents of which I will report upon to you at a later date, despite the fact that I was not exactly wowed by Zagor: Kara Bela. Admittedly, I'll have to allow myself a little forgetting time first.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


In order to keep the ball rolling on Teleport City's month long celebration of female fighters, I thought I'd "whip" up a supercharged version of my 4DK review of the Pakistani thrill-fest Hunterwali. You see what I did there? Boy, I even "crack" myself up sometimes. OH GOD, THE HILARITY!

Anyway, you can read the review here.

Tweet-a-thon 2011, the morning after

Thanks to everyone who followed along with, and participated in, the 2nd Annual 4DK Search Term Tweet-a-thon yesterday. I think you’ll all agree that the internet’s legions of furtive seekers of arcane knowledge and illicit thrills provided us with a very strong selection of search terms this year -- so much so that, rather than singling out one favorite, as I did last year, I’m going to have to hand out accolades divided by categories. And so it goes…

The “Don Van Vliet memorial ‘titles for Captain Beefheart songs that never were’” Award goes to:

cameltoe jetset

(1st runner up)

bomb making sexy drug ape killer

The “Insanity + typos + horniness = this” award goes to:

hideen shower espy flagrant of onanism

The “Really?” award goes to:

bob christo sex scene

The “I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or call the FBI” award goes to:

haw to kill my bose

The “I meant 'tard' as in TARDIS” award goes to:

how much does it cost to teleport to 12 dimension space rapture

(Tied with)

thing to know if you get teleported to accident rome

The “I desperately hope this exists” award goes to:

Hallooween costumes sultan rahi

The “What were you thinking, wait, don’t answer that” award goes to:

belly dancers pretending to die

The “International Studies” award goes to:

what pill in the Philippines can instantly kill

The “not that there’s anything wrong with that” award goes to:

feline gayness

And, finally, the coveted “WTF, celebrity edition” award goes to:

hugh hefner from batman dies

I was also very pleased to see other bloggers and webmasters contributing their own entries, among which were some real gems, including…

Tars Tarkas: kill the lady with a mokey hand

Cinema Chaat: permed hair 2010

Memsaabstory: the internet site
[Which, when you think about it, is like pulling into a gas station and asking for directions to that versy same gas station. Brilliant!]

The Horror!?: impressive mediocrity

Keep searching for the stars, everybody! Tweet you next year.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's the 2nd Annual 4DK Search Term Tweet-a-thon!

As I may have mentioned before, doing a survey of the search terms that bring people to your site can be the precursor to a real dark night of the soul. For instance, I really don’t need to know that a disconcertingly large number of the folks who come to 4DK do so in search of pictures of Aruna Irani feeding her breast milk to a snake. I also don’t want to be made aware of just how many internet users at any given time are looking for clips of rape scenes from Bollywood movies. Don’t they know that they’re just going to end up looking at that same stock footage of a thunderstorm over and over again?

But then sometimes you come across something like this,…

“bob christo sex scene”

…something that it is so awesomely random and unique that it bypasses your capacity for disgust and becomes something that you literally want to shout from the rooftops. “Bob christo sex scene?" Really?

As some of you may remember, my preferred method of shouting such gems from the rooftops is via Twitter. After all, what more appropriate forum for these haiku-like nuggets of raw human expression -- which, like much of the content on Twitter, range from chilling documents of obsession, to cries for help, to monuments to illiteracy, and even heart-tugging expressions of child-like optimism? (Come on people, an “Aishwarya Rai sex tape” is something that will never, ever, ever exist. Ne-ver.)

And so it is that, much as I did around this time last year, I will be tweeting the cream of last year’s crop of 4DK search term excellence over one 24 hour period. The fun will begin this Sunday, January 23rd at 5 pm PST and conclude at the same time on Monday. Those of you with your own pieces of internet real estate, please feel free to join in.

One note: I considered designating a hashtag for the Tweet-a-thon this time out, but then decided that, since I will only be tweeting search terms during that period (and for that reason, please don’t get bent out of shape if I don’t respond to tweets right away), it will be easy enough for those who want to to survey the lot by simply scrolling through. Also, that way it insures the likelihood that those not in the know will simply think that I’ve completely lost my mind.

See you Sunday! Perverts.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fighting Femmes, Fiends, and Fanatics Episode 5: Rani aur Jaani

It's time once again for Steve Mayhem's Fighting Femmes, Fiends, and Fanatics, once again hosted by that lovable scamp, Todd from 4DK! This time around I wax rhapsodic over the 1973 Bollywood action classic Rani aur Jaani, in which Aruna Irani and Jyothi Laxmi spend a good deal of time beating the living shit out of one another. Enjoy!

Pearl gone wild

This month over at Teleport City we're celebrating female stars of martial arts cinema, which gave me the perfect excuse to focus on madwoman Pearl Cheung Ling and her demented directorial effort Wolf Devil Woman.

Pearl is notoriously difficult to find information on, and, on a related note, I'd like to thank Durian Dave of the sadly now retired Soft Film blog for his help in culling what precious little biographical data on her that I could, and also my friend Wylen for his help with translation. You might think that's an awful lot of manpower to dedicate to a review of a film that's basically concerned with a woman with a stuffed animal on her head ripping chickens in half with her bare hands, and you'd probably be right. But what can I say? We live to serve.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Untuk Sebuah Nama (Indonesia, 1985)

With Michael Jackson fever unabated, and people more willing than ever to spend their money on products of even the most outrageously ersatz nature bearing his name, this truly may be Untuk Sebuah Nama’s time. Be advised, however, that while the film's credits play over a series of familiar publicity stills of the man to the tune of his hit "Thriller", Untuk Sebuah Nama (in English: For a Name) is not about Michael Jackson per se. Instead, it is a drama about the tribulations and triumphs of a Michael Jackson impersonator, here played by Mustafa Jackson, who -- if my Google Translator aided research serves me well -- actually won some kind of national Michael Jackson impersonator contest in Indonesia during the mid 80s and went on to have a modest film career as a result.

Our story begins with the music loving Mikki and Mary, inseparable young friends who are separated nonetheless. Mary, you see, is the daughter of the wealthy Mr. Broto (Zainal Abidin), for whom Mikki's sweet old ma (Nani Wijaya) works as a maid. Broto disapproves of the friendship between his daughter and the lowly Mikki, and when he fears they are becoming too close, has one of his henchmen frame him and his ma for robbery. As a result, Mikki and ma are forced to leave their hometown in shame.

Fast forward a dozen years or so and Mikki (Mustafa Jackson) is now a lanky young man with two gigantic caterpillars resting on his brow, busking in the streets and cafes of the big city with his loyal but tragically drug addicted pal Tommy (Baron Herman).

Mary, for her part, has gone on to become a big pop star, as we see when she performs her dazzling stage revue in front of a politely enthusiastic audience seated in what looks like a high school auditorium.

Also on the bill is Mary's soon-to-be ex boyfriend, the also mega-successful pop star Deddy (Dolly Marten), whose stage show is no less breathtaking than hers. Deddy, sadly, is a big jerk, a fact we will see demonstrated in a later scene in which he manages to completely alienate his well-intentioned manager Mus (Cok Sembara).

And it is somewhere around this point in Untuk Sebuah Nama that I began to get a distinct feeling of deja vu, as if I had seen all of this somewhere before...

...Although I couldn't quite put my finger on where.

Tommy eventually stumbles upon an ad for a big Michael Jackson impersonation contest and, reflecting upon the fact that his pal Mikki does indeed look quite a lot like a sort of mish-mash of Michael Jackson during every stage of his long process of deracination, encourages Mikki to sign up. Mikki goes on to sweep the contest with his lip sync routine to "Beat It", impressing Mus, who happens to be in the audience, in the process. The big time manager puts Mikki under contract, and, after a training montage set to "Sussudio", the youth, now dubbed "Mikki Jackson", has risen to national superstardom as Indonesia's number one Michael Jackson impersonator -- an idea that would seem preposterous, but for the fact that Mustafa Jackson's presence in this film is testament to it being somewhat based in reality.

And here I must say that, once again, I was nagged by that vague feeling of familiarity, as if I had seen all of these events play out in some other context. But where?


Eventually, Mikki's high flying Michael Jackson impersonation duties bring him back in touch with Mary, and the two rekindle their friendship, which soon leads to romance. One night, Mary brings her father backstage to meet Mikki, but Mr. Broto, upon recognizing Mikki's ma, flies into a rage and once again demands that the two be separated. Meanwhile, the loathesome Deddy, whose career has seen a sharp downturn since his casting away of Mus, has become so consumed with jealousy over Mikki's success that he is now willing to resort to criminal means to bring about his ruin.

And here it finally starts to dawn on me.... yes, I can almost see it... there it is... it's...


That's right, people. Untuk Sebuah Nama is an Indonesian remake of the bafflingly beloved Bollywood trash classic Disco Dancer, only here retooled as the fictionalized biopic of a Michael Jackson impersonator. It would even seem to be a pretty faithful remake of Disco Dancer, though to say for sure I would have to watch Disco Dancer again, and that is something I'm simply not prepared to do. Do you hear me? I'M NOT GOING TO DO IT!

To be honest, as much as its second hand nature would seem to make it ripe for ridicule, Untuk's substituting of Michael Jackson mania for disco-mania makes it come off as being a little more in touch with its era than its inspiration. As a result, it lacks that weird, time-warp quality that lends Disco Dancer so much of its broken appeal. This is not to say that Untuk isn't silly; it's just that it's silly more in the way that all pop music movies from the 80s are silly.

It's also not to say that there isn't, as with Disco Dancer, plenty of ludicrous costumery on display. At one point, evil pop star Deddy wears a baby blue bow and ribbon in his hair, along with a colorful football jersey that has the puzzling slogan "Lay-Out" emblazoned across its front. And Mary, apropos of the times, is freighted under both gigantic hair and sheath upon sheath of white lace. The production numbers also go a long way towards giving us just about as much of feathers and spandex as we could possibly desire. The whole film, in fact, could be seen as a plot by the unions to employ every overly exuberant backup dancer in Indonesia.

Of course, where Untuk Sebuah Nama really comes up lacking in contrast to Disco Dancer is in the absence of Bappi Lahiri's awful but undeniably catchy songs. These are instead replaced largely by tracks from Thriller and other English language hits of the day -- which is all fine, I guess, though you really don't need to track down an Indonesian Michael Jackson impersonator drama in order to hear those songs. If you are, however, determined to find a reason to watch this film, there's always Mustafa Jackson's extraordinarily weird face, which provides a source of endless fascination.

Although, granted, he still looks a hell of lot more normal than Michael Jackson did over the last decade or so of his life. Hey, I'm just saying.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hercules (India, 1964)

I think that my relationship with Dara Singh is one of those that maintains its longevity by acting out its own demise at regular, cyclical intervals. The passion’s not always there, and there are times when I walk away in frustration. But I always come back. And one of the reasons that I do is that, despite the relationship being sustained by its fair share of compromise and lowered expectations, there are also those times when Dara unexpectedly comes home with a nice bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates. Hercules is that box of chocolates.

One of the reasons that I chose Hercules to begin this latest chapter in Dara’s and my journey through life together is that –- like the previously reviewed favorites The Thief of Baghdad and Golden Eyes: Secret Agent 077 –- it is the product of the Bohra Brothers, this time with brother Shreeram Bohra directing and Ramkumar Bohra producing. As I have come to expect from these aspiring kingpins of the 1960s stunt film, the end product is cheap but exceedingly colorful, and shows a real enthusiasm for being as entertaining as possible within its means.

Hercules, like Samson, is also one of those Dara Singh films that shows most clearly the influence of the Italian peplums. Such influence is to be expected, since the popularity of Italian sword and sandal films in India goes back to the silent era, when the original Maciste films starring former dockworker Bartolomeo Pagano drew crowds in Bombay’s theaters, and in fact had a formative influence on the Indian stunt genre as a whole. (That information from Valentina Vitali's Hindi Action Cinema: Industries, Narratives, Bodies) So strong is that influence in Hercules that it could almost be mistaken for one of the Steve Reeves or Brad Harris joints of its era, with all of the boulder hurling, leopard print sarong wearing, and dinosaur punching that that implies. That is, of course, except for all of the singing, and, this being a Dara Singh movie, the inordinate amount of wrestling.

As with many of Dara’s movies, Hercules begins with a nation’s throne being unlawfully seized, though this time, for once, not from Dara. Nevertheless, Dara’s Hercules promises his old ma that he will fight to restore that throne to its rightful heir, a blandly handsome entity by the name of Jesson. Now in that seat is the evil Maliz, who is played by B.M. Vyas, an actor who, in the 1960s, seemed to play all of those types of roles that would be played by Jeevan in the 1970s.

Of course, this being Hercules, the task of restoring Jesson to the throne involves a series of grueling and increasingly outlandish physical trials, the first of which involves Herc battling a Hydra that is at once both rubbery and conspicuously inflexible.

That done, Hercules and his loyal crew -- who seem a little heavily skewed toward the useless comic relief end -- set sail on a quest to find some kind of magical whose-a-ma-whatsit. It is at this point that things really kick into high gear, starting with the group getting shipwrecked on an island where the men all find themselves enchanted by a tribe of amazons lead by Helen. It is then up to Hercules’ lady love -- who, confusingly, is also named Helen, but is actually played by the actress Nishi (thanks, Memsaab!) -- to break the spell and get the guys back on point.

That done, Hercules and his men continue in pursuit of their true target: Medusa! Unfortunately, as fun as it would be to see how the filmmakers might realize a character whose hair is made of live snakes, the Bohras here cop out by making Medusa merely a gray wigged old crone with a creepy little gnome for a sidekick. Fortunately, Medusa later makes up for her lameness by turning into a giant Cyclops.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Because, before he can take on Medusa, Hercules must first battle a giant ape person and a pair of green and red painted guys who laugh in the extremely loud and forced manner that you would only if told the world’s least funny joke by a man who had your scrotum trapped in a drill press.

And then our hero must face the worst monster of all, Dara Singh arch ring nemesis and world’s least fit athlete, Hungarian wrestler Emile Czaja, aka King Kong!

Happily, once Medusa, King Kong and the Cyclops, et al. have been vanquished, the viewer need not fear that the mad monster party is over. For -- just as they did with The Thief of Baghdad -- the Bohras and cinematographer/special effects man B. Gupta have worked overtime to insure that Hercules is a creature-fest of the most generous order. Thus, once back in Greece, Hercules must do battle with yet another largely immobile example of cryptozoology in the form of a salamander-like dragon who needs a conspicuous amount of help from his opponent in order to maintain his threatening demeanor.

Finally, Hercules ends up chained to what looks like a giant bust of Sigmund Freud, at which point Helen shows up again to do a dagger dance very much like the one she did in The Thief of Baghdad, about which I have no complaints whatsoever.

And then Dara breaks loose to perform the requisite climactic act of pillar pulling, not to mention an awful lot of wrestling. And, yes, I am indeed giving you a very shorthand version of Hercules. For instance, as she so often does in Dara’s movies, Mumtaz makes an appearance, albeit in an uncharacteristically tiny role as a dancing oracle named Diana. Also, Dara manages at one point or another to strangle almost every male cast member in the film.

But why should I do all of the work for you, when doing it yourself is so much fun? Granted, the VCD I watched it on made the film look like it was shot inside a septic tank (a title card before the start of the movie read “This is an old film, so please cooperate with us”), but only in the land of Greek mythology could we ask for a miracle such as an obscure old Indian B movie being presented to us in a format that didn’t make it look like complete shit. Simply consider this the trial you must endure in order to reap the many rich rewards that Hercules has to offer. Go forward, heroes!