Hercules And The Masked Rider (1964)

Director: by Piero Pierotti
Starring: Mimmo Palmara, Alan Steel, José Greci, Pilar Cansino, Arturo Dominici
Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino

The title to this feature is a trifle misleading. Hercules And The Masked Rider is not much of a Hercules film. In fact, Hercules (Alan Steel) is not the star of this movie at all. He is simply a strongman from a troupe of Gypsies, who are drawn into the story at a later stage. And even then, he is very much in the background. It’s almost as if Steel walked onto the wrong set and decided to throw around a few objects in the background. The star of the film is The Masked Rider (Mimmo Palmara), who is very much in your Zorro tradition. Despite the misleading title, Hercules And The Masked Rider is actually an enjoyable film.

A river divides the lands of the elderly Prince of Val Verde, Don Francesco, and the malevolent Duke of Madina. The Duke has sold half his population as soldiers and only has a few overworked men and women working the land for food and clothing. These overworked peasants, revolt against the Duke and try to flee over the border to Don Franceso’s lands. One couple, Phillippé and Delores make it across the border, but Duke follows after them anyway. Luckily Don Francesco intervenes and gives them sanctuary. The Duke isn’t happy and intends to take the couple by force, but changes his mind when Francesco’s daughter, Donna Blanca (the gorgeous as always, José Greci) arrives on the scene. The Duke is infatuated with Donna Blanca and backs down, offering the two peasants as a gift.

Meanwhile Don Juan (Mimmo Palmara) after a successful stint as a soldier in Flanders is returning home to Val Verde, and his sweetheart, Donna Blanca. But Don Francesco throws a spanner in the works, and the reunion doesn’t go quite to plan. Francesco realises the Duke of Madina is a cruel man, and a man of war. But Francesco is elderly and won’t be around to protect his people forever. His people are peaceful and would be crushed if a civil war broke out between Val Verde and Madina. In an attempt to broker a peace, Francesco wishes to marry off his Donna Blanca to Madina. She is not happy about it, but it is for the good of the people.

When Don Juan returns home, and hears of the Don’s plan, he objects quite vehemently. Don Francesco sees Don Juan’s objection as a lack of respect and casts Don Juan out of Val Verde. In fact Don Juan is banished as an outlaw.

With Don Juan out of the way, the Duke’s plans don’t stop at gaining a beautiful wife. No, he wants the lot! He wants to control both lands, so goads Don Francesco into a sword fight. Naturally, the elder Francesco is no match for his younger and more vicious opponent. Francesco is killed, and the Duke gains control of Val Verde.

Don Juan leaves the city, but in the country side adopts a new, secret identity as the Masked Rider. The Masked Rider wears a red mask, and is an amalgam of Zorro and Robin Hood. He joins a troupe of Gypsies, but before being accepted he has to prove himself worthy. This involves a fight with the Gypsie strongman, Hercules (Alan Steel). Surprisingly, Hercules loses – I told ya it was a Masked Rider movie. Once accepted by the Gypsies, Don Juan (or Masked Rider as he is now called) leads them against the Duke.

Hercules And The Masked Rider is a good little adventure movie. All the clichés are in place, but in these types of films, you expect that. In fact, you tend to notice the clichés more when they are missing. I’d love to see a pristine widescreen print of this film, as this print is pretty washed out. All in all, not a bad way to spend one and a half hours.

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