Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (English Translation: Hercules at the Conquest of Atlantis) is a 1961 Italian / French international co-production film directed by Vittorio Cottafavi and starring Reg Park in his film debut as Ercole/Hercules. It was originally released in Super Technirama 70.
The film is also known as Hercules Conquers Atlantis in the United Kingdom, and Hercules and the Captive Women in the USA where the film was not only retitled but edited, rescored and given a title design by Filmation. As Hercules and the Captive Women, it was featured on a fourth season episode of the Comedy Central series Mystery Science Theater 3000.
When strange atmospheric events occur in the disunited city states of Ancient Greece, a forum debates what action to take. As there is no agreement, Androcles King of Thebes seeks the assistance of his friend, the legendary Hercules. Hercules, now married to Deianira with a son named Hylas, does not wish to leave the comfort of his family, though Hylas is keen for adventure.
Androcles takes matters into his own hands by drugging and kidnapping Hercules and placing him aboard a ship manned by a disreputable collection of former slaves and criminals. The only members of the expedition Androcles can trust are his sidekick, Timoteo the dwarf and Hylas who has to hide below deck from Hercules lest he face his wrath for leaving home. Rather than being angry, Hercules merely lazes away on deck without offering any assistance.
When the supply of fresh water is sabotaged, the ship lands on an island to replenish their supply. The crew mutinies by attacking Androcles but Hercules turns the tide. The crew is left stranded on the island, however, Hercules discovers Hylas on board.
Continuing their voyage, a storm wrecks the ship and separates all of them. Hercules sees a vision of Androcles begging for his help. Coming ashore on a mist-shrouded island he sees a woman held captive: not only chained to a cliff but gradually becoming a part of the rock formation. When he rescues her he has to fight Proteus a god able to change form into various creatures. Defeating Proteus, Hercules discovers the woman he rescued is Princess Ismene, daughter of Antinea, the Queen of Atlantis, where he has landed. Hercules soon discovers his son Hylas and Timoteo and bring the rescued Princess to Antinea.
Though welcomed at first, Ismene discovers that she has been selected for sacrifice: a prophecy foretells that if she is not killed Atlantis and its population will be destroyed. The death of Proteus has already stripped Atlantis of its protective fog that keeps it unseen by the outside world. Ismene is recaptured and taken for execution. Antinea denies all knowledge of Androcles; his memory has been taken away and he is hidden from his friends. During a celebration, Hercules discovers that children are selected and taken away from their parents for an unknown reason.
Things fall into place when Hercules and his companions not only rescue Ismene but a large group of prisoners in a pit. The rescued prisoners explain that children are taken to a special stone that either transforms them either into blonde supermen or disfigures the weak ones who are then placed in the pit. A priest explains that the stone is made from the blood of Uranus. The power of Uranus’s stone has created Antinea an invincible army of black-uniformed blonde supermen with which she plans to conquer the world.
The rescued prisoners attack Antinea's palace but all are killed by her army. Hercules confronts Antinea and begins battling with her army, but he falls into a pit where he is reunited with Hylas. Hercules and Hylas escape, and Hercules tells his son to flee the island while Hercules attempts to destroy the stone of Uranus.
Hylas finds Timoteo, who says Ismene and Androcles are to be sacrificed. Hylas and Timoteo rescue Ismene and Androcles and flee the island by ship. The high priest of Uranus tells Hercules the stone can be destroyed by the rays of the sun. Hercules smashes a hole into the top of the stone's cave and flees. Hercules swims out to the ship, as the sun's rays finally strike the stone, causing Atlantis to erupt in explosions and get destroyed.Reg Park as Ercole (Hercules)
Fay Spain as Queen Antinea of Atlantis
Ettore Manni as Androclo, Re di Tebe
Luciano Marin as Illo
Laura Efrikian as Ismene
Enrico Maria Salerno as Re di Megara
Ivo Garrani as Re di Megalia
Gian Maria Volontè as Re di Sparta
Mimmo Palmara as Astor
Mario Petri as Zenith, prete di Urano
Mino Doro as Oraclo
Salvatore Furnari as Timoteo
Mario Valdemarin as Gabor
Luciana Angiolillo as Deianira
Maurizio Coffarelli as Proteus the Monster
Nicola Sperli as Dyanaris
Leon Selznick as Narrator of the U.S. Version
An imaginative entry in the sword and sandal genre, Cottafavi called it "Neo-Mythology". The film was made at the same time of George Pal's Atlantis, the Lost Continent with the American release of the film dropping all reference to Atlantis in the film's title.
Christopher Frayling noted the film's slapstick violence at the beginning as a link to the Spaghetti Western; Frank Burke in an essay in the book Popular Italian Cinema noted the film's depiction of Nazi Germany and the atomic age and Park's depiction of the Italian quality of "sprezzatura" in his portrayal of Hercules.Hughes, Howard (2011). Cinema Italiano - The Complete Guide From Classics To Cult. London - New York: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-608-0.