Details to know:
- Released in 1994, filmed in New Zealand.
- Directed by Bill L. Norton
- Produced by Sam Raimi
- Music composed by Joseph LoDuca
- Fourth film of five total in a mini-film-series that takes place just before Hercules: The Legendary Journeys show
Whenever a problem arises, you got two options: fight or flight, right? What if I told you there may be a third option? Ever thought about using kind gestures as a means to end a feud? Sometimes all it takes is someone understanding to come at an enemy with love to be swayed into being docile. After all, “love has the power to move mountains”, as they say…
Growing up, Hercules has always been trained to deal with opponents using physical punishment rather than words. In the last movie of Hercules (just prior to this film), Hercules learnt how to use his mind as well as his body. But he still hasn’t learnt how to use his heart. Which, in my opinion, should be the first trait (and most important not to mention) that every hero should have. Without heart, heroes would act like villains – they’d lack the best quality that separates a good guy from a bad guy. Allow me to elaborate…
Our story begins in the village of Gryphon, when the ground begins to shake apart and green smoke arises from the openings, zapping the life force of anyone who goes near it. Meanwhile, our hero Hercules (played by Kevin Sorbo) is seen playing with his children while his loving wife, Deianeira (Tawny Kitaen), looks on from afar. In a village nearby a boxing ring is set up and bets start taking place against Eryx the Boxer. That is, the undefeated Eryx the Boxer, a large man who would tower over Hercules, starts killing every opponent he throws himself at. A young boy is sent to retrieve Hercules and have him stop the giant; the boy makes haste.
He arrives at Hercules’ house and without a doubt, Hercules agrees to help him. Unfortunately, by the time Hercules arrives to his village, most of the men have been slain. The poor guys never had a chance, but Hercules does. Reaching to only the giant’s chest, Hercules puts up a good fight. However, he gets quite a beating himself – almost to the point where you begin to wonder if he will prevail. Eryx the Boxer falls to his death by landing on a pole through the chest.
The mighty Zeus (played by Anthony Quinn) watches the spectacle among the crowd, dressed in disguise of course. The boxing announcer presents Hercules with a gift for becoming the champion – a peacock feather, a symbol of the Goddess Hera. Hercules refuses it, becoming irritated at the sight of it and storms off. He goes to find Hera’s offering grounds and asks Hera for a truce. No can do. Hera denies his request in an instant. Very well! Herc’s got no problem ruining her little settlement then, to which he does with ease.
Zeus warns Hercules that this has made matters worse for him. Hera will be vengeful. But Herc cares not – there’s just no pleasing her he thinks.
Hercules returns to home to his beautiful family and all is well. Welding in their shed-house, Hercules and Nessus (his caretaker, who happens to be a centaur: half human/horse) overhear that a young blonde woman is approaching steadily towards the house. Exhausted, she faints in Hercules’ arms. The young woman wakes up to reveal that she is Iole (Marley Shelton) from Gryphon, the village being torn asunder, and she needs his help.
As Iole rests for the night, Nessus drinks vigorously all while proclaiming his love for Deianeira and his disgust for the “mighty” Hercules to fellow bar drunkards. The-oh-so-great-Hercules who is always leaving behind his family – leaving them behind for him to take care of. Hercules doesn’t deserve Deianeira – he does. Later, he confronts Deianeira telling her that Hercules may not be the great man she thinks him to be. She should be weary of Hercules’ faithfulness. Deianeira seems quite bothered by his words; only her face inspection in the mirror was what gave it away.
Next day, Iole leads the way with Hercules and Nessus accompanying her. But before departure, Iole gives Deianeira a beautiful blue stoned necklace. It’s a present she says. Shopping in the market later, an old woman approaches Deianeira to offer her condolences. Confused, Deianeira explains her husband is alive and well. The old crone goes further to explain that it’s too late for him then. His fate is sealed. The necklace, which she also owns, is only given by maidens, trained to woo men from birth, when their objective is to lure husbands to their death.
Deianeira won’t accept her husband dying if she can do something about it. With her kids in the hands of a neighbor, Deianeira packs and journeys to find Hercules. When she finds him, Hercules reassures her that nothing will happen to him. He will not be tempted for he loves her. Herc then requests Nessus to walk her back home.
But Nessus has got plans of his own. Filling her head with ideas of deceit and betrayal done on Herc’s behalf. He then attempts to be forceful with Deianeira but Herc returns to prevent such horrid things by shooting an arrow landing straight in the chest. Upon his dying last breath, Nessus tells her to gift her now blood-stained cloak to Hercules. Due to his blood stains (which disappear), it has the power to make Hercules think only of her.
So Deianeira does just that, she gives him her cloak telling him to think only of her while wearing it. Off he continues on his journey with Iole the fair maiden. After a long distance, both decide to stop into town, but trouble seems to be brewing inside the local inn. A raging lunatic is throwing a disastrous fit, and Herc ready for a fight comes in with fists ready but Iole intervenes. Her soothing words of understanding were able to identify the problem. The poor man burnt his mouth from the hot soup; all he needs is cold water to drink. Kindness is all you need at time, she expresses to him. Ah love…sweet love.
Rather impressed by what he just witnessed, Herc takes careful note. The pair arrive to her hometown to find it a graveyard of skeletons. The townspeople have set up camp just outside the town. Eventually during the night, Zeus appears to tell Hercules that the hole opening up in the ground is the Underworld. To enter would be deadly for Hercules; for it’s now confirmed – Hercules is not an immortal. Chilled by the weather, Hercules wraps himself in Deianeira’s cloak for warmth and it begins to entangle him almost completely. Struggling for freedom, he reluctantly throws it across the ground and it transforms into a peacock feather. In a rage, Hercules leaps at full speed into the treacherous hole.
No need to fret! Our hero still lives! Meanwhile, in the Land of the Living, a messenger informs Deianeira of Herc’s death caused by a cursed cloak driving him mad into the Underworld pit. Guilt drives her to commit suicide by jumping a cliff. If only she knew the truth…
Back in the Underworld, Herc finds himself at the River Styx ferried by the boatman, Charon. Although Herc may lack the funds, he manages to persuade Charon using intimidation. Reluctantly, he arrives across the way safely but with Cerberus (the three-headed guard dog of the Underworld) on the loose, danger could be lurking anywhere.
On his way, he encounters some deceased rivals, including Nessus, who informs Herc of his wife’s suicide. Deianeira now resides in the Elysian Fields (a serene place for benevolent souls). Nessus proves this by showing Hercules a visual portal; to which Hercules jumps through to transport himself to the Elysian Fields. He finds her in a blissful state of mind – but no recollection of him at all. His kiss however triggers her memories.
Just then, Hades (the God of the Underworld) pops up to make sure Deianeira stays, down here where she belongs – since she’s dead. Cerberus causes ruckus however, distracting them which gives Hercules the perfect idea. A deal is struck between the two to where IF Hercules can capture Cerberus, then Deianeira can return with him to the Land of the Living.
Wandering through the Underworld, he finds the beast at last. But what’s this? He uses sweet gestures and words to soothe the beast? Cerberus cooperates willingly and Hercules proves to Hades’ soldiers that kindness is the key. The deal is sealed when Cerberus is chained up yet again. Deianeira appears instantly and they return home to live their routine lives. A happy ending after all!
Now what have we learned from all of this? I’ll tell you what! Wise words from Albert Schweitzer: “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Clearly, kindness goes a long way – it’s best to think before you act. It wouldn’t kill ya to try.