Schwarzenegger Month: Hercules in New York

For no reason other than that I feel like it, I hereby declare this to be Arnold Schwarzenegger month at Missile Test. His Arnoldness has 54 acting credits to his name on IMDb. I’m going to watch a whole boatload of them and write some reviews. I’m looking forward to hours upon hours of explosions, gunfights, and rough accents. The first flick has only one of those, but it depends on which print a viewer manages to see.

Hercules in New York marks the debut performance of Arnold Schwarzenegger. What a gloriously stupid movie. Having watched it, it’s amazing this man became one of the most famous actors of all time. Sure, everyone has humble origins, but I can’t think of a star’s early work being quite this humble. George Clooney had a role in Return of the Killer Tomatoes. Matthew McConaughey was once in a shitty Texas Chainsaw flick. Paul Rudd was in an awful Halloween movie. Hilary Swank, she of the double Oscar, was once kicking ass with Pat Morita as The Next Karate Kid. But one thing these three all had in common was that there was budding talent on display in their bad movies. This movie, in no way, makes it seem that Arnold is a decade or so from making a run as a big time movie star.

The movie opens on Mount Olympus, in Zeus’s garden or some such place. It’s an interesting locale. The opening credits announce, almost proudly, that the movie was shot entirely in New York City. They weren’t kidding. Zeus’s garden sounds like it’s about three blocks from the Henry Hudson Parkway. That’s not this movie’s only adventure with sound.

Arnold has an accent. We all know this, and have grown comfortable with his unique take on English pronunciation. But when this movie was filmed, he was still learning. I had an easier time understanding Bane than I did Arnold in this movie. No, just kidding. Bane was worse. But Arnold was still almost unintelligible, to the extent that the original cut of this film had his voice overdubbed. Not the cut I saw. I got to watch, and hear, Arnold in all his raw glory. Pay close attention and one can also hear the sound of the camera clacking in some scenes (something I cannot ever recall hearing in a movie before), and the sound of the camera operator walking on a creaky floor.

Oh, man. This film revels in cheapness in a way I never thought was possible. Zeus’s lightning bolts are bent lengths of rebar spray-painted silver. I shit you not. I love it.

So, back in Zeus’s garden, Hercules (Arnold) is arguing with Zeus, who is his father. It’s been a while since he walked the earth, and he would like to visit. Zeus is against the idea, but in a fit of rage chooses to punish Hercules for his insolence…by sending him to earth. It’s one of the most epic caves I’ve ever seen a parent make, but without it, there would be no movie.

Hercules finds his way to New York City, circa 1969. He befriends a local, Pretzie (Arnold Stang). Pretzie is the Chester to Hercules’s Spike, his Ratso Rizzo to Arnold’s Joe Buck, only not nearly as depressing. Because, unlike Midnight Cowboy, this movie is fun. Hercules in New York is a colossal piece of shit, but at no time does it take itself seriously. I think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but I’m fine with it just being silly.

The plot, once Hercules reaches New York, is pretty thin. It’s mostly just Arnold rolling around the city doing strong things. There are some mafia guys sprinkled in for drama, too. But my favorite scene has to be when Hercules wrestles an escaped bear from the Central Park Zoo. Only, you guessed it, it’s just a guy in a bear costume. And by ‘bear costume,’ I mean something a furry would wear. Did I mention that I love this movie?

It’s probably a good thing that the plot wasn’t pounded home too hard. This isn’t that tough of a film to sit through, but any weight would have made it quite a slog. It’s a dog, but what else was it going to be? Alien: Resurrection is a better movie than Hercules in New York.