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
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
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
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
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
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