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MAKING OF: HERCULES RETURNS

ANDREW L. URBAN goes to the Palais theatre in Melbourne, not to see a play, but to watch a film crew at play, sending up a movie that was made decades ago, with a new one made like instant mash potatoes – instantly. Just add water… (you’ll have to see the film to get the joke)

They're rubbing oil on the pink, flabby muscles of two semi naked extras in the foyer of the Melbourne Palais, as they hold their spears erect for the thronging party guests. A hundred extras in evening dress practice stardom, girls in ancient Grecian see-through lace cloths carry drink trays, and the gaffers are busy setting up the lights for the next shot.

"There is an element of excitement present.."

The scene is hardly orgiastic, but there is an element of excitement present: it's the final night of shooting for one of the most absurd, low budget, spoofy, camp, message-less and funny movies ever made in Australia: Hercules Returns, (featuring Double Take).

The title role of Hercules is played by a thirty year old Italian-Spanish co-production, a film made in the sword-flashing era of miniature epics by muscly Italians who paved the way for Arnie.

This neo-Herculean new Australian comedy tells the story of the gala opening night for Brad McBain's new, independent little cinema, the Picture Palace - played by the Palais. Brad - played by David Argue - decides to open with Hercules - the very last film shown at this abandoned house of entertainment, which he has lovingly renovated.

"These sword-and-horse movies are all the same."

But as the guests take their seats, Sprocket, the slightly out of synch projectionist - played by Bruce Spence - discovers the film is the un-subtitled, Italian version. The only thing to do is dub the voices live; the audience won't notice, these sword-and-horse movies are all the same.

That's where Double Take comes in. Des Mangan and Sally Patience have travelled the country - and some of the world - performing their unique show, Double Take, to great acclaim. And good houses; they've grossed over a million dollars to date, with shows in all capital cities. It was launched in Sydney in 1986, in a modest sort of way, but two years ago the show settled as a resident of Melbourne.

They put words into people's mouths; new words that LOOK as though they belong on the screen, but in fact have jumped from Des Mangan's rampant, ribald, risky and often riotous imagination.

Heaven knows what Hercules was doing in the original film, prancing about outside a large building with tall columns, but in this version he appears to be trying to gain entrance to the place, which is in fact, he suggests, a nightclub. (Watch for the Hercules Rap single and video clip.) In this mad version, Ursus is a Scottish bouncer.

"If Hollywood can 'do' JFK, we Aussies can tackle Hercules."

The question of historical veracity is not addressed head on. After all, it's just a movie. If Hollywood can 'do' JFK, we Aussies can tackle Hercules.

Producer Phil Jaroslow was struck by the audience reaction to Double Take's live version of Double Take Meet Hercules a couple of years ago. "I was at the Brighton Bay cinema watching 430 people killing themselves laughing. Hey, I said to myself, that's a good idea." He liked it so much he bought the company, sort of thing.

Jaraslow, an American born Melbournite and previous owner of the Jarrah coffee brand, watched the end credits and began his search for the owner of the rights, an agent in Italy; he also acquired Mangan's script. Then he hired David Parker, cinematographer and film maker, to help write a story to 'wrap around' Double Take's routine. And now, he has financed the film out of his own pocket. (Well, his own bank account.)

"A shooting schedule of just eight days"

Parker, making his debut as director, is having a great time, and is bringing this film within a film to completion - on time, and on budget. This is no mean feat, since the budget is well under a million dollars, yet uses over 200 extras, some of the top talent in Australia, from the cast to the crew, and had a shooting schedule of just eight days.

Mary Coustas (Effy in Wogs at Work) co-stars as Lisa the publicist for Brad's new cinema, and Michael Carman plays Kent, the big bad boss of a large cinema chain who tries to kill off his new comptetitor - and ex employee.

The film has been invited for a special midnight screening (on January 28, 1993) at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival - at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah.

The Cannes midnight screening launched Strictly Ballroom, perhaps this is Hercules' turn. The Sundance festival, founded by Robert Redford, is a showcase for mostly new American film makers, with rare foreign entries. Last year, Australia was represented by Proof.

"Hercules is a delicious dingbat of a guy, and you'll laugh at him all the way."

The Sundance program reviews the film with pleasure: "Parker makes his debut ... and he hits the high camp bulls eye with each shot. Hercules is a delicious dingbat of a guy, and you'll laugh at him all the way."

Hercules will be unchained in March (1993) around Australia, and the producer says he also has interest for an American release. With typical showbiz optimism, Phil Jaroslow's company, Philm Productions, is now working on a possible sequel or two: Des Mangan's script to go with the cult movie, Attack of the Killer Bees is in the wings, as it were, to be followed by Astrozombies.

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HERCULES RETURNS

Director David Parker with movie critics Margaret Pomeranz and the late Ivan Hutchinson, who make a cameo appearance in Hercules Returns, with Des Mangan out of shot, but resting his head on Ivan's shoulder.


Mary Coustas and Bruce Spence - Lisa and Sprocket do demented dubbing.

FIRST REPORTED: 17/12/92

Cappuccino opened in Sydney on December 15, 1989 followed by Canberra and Melbourne in January 1990, other cites in February.

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6th IN NEW SERIES:
30/7/98: The Making Of … is a unique and historic series of articles on a selection of Australian films – such as this one – that were made BI (Before Internet), or at least before Urban Cinefile was launched. All the films covered in this series can be found in the FEATURES ARCHIVES menu page, listed alphabetically under MAKING OF

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Australian Film Commission in helping to publish this series.

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Making of BLOOD OATH

Making of
STRICTLY BALLROOM

Making of BLACK ROBE

Making of ANGEL BABY

Making of CAPPUCCINO

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