Hercules the Avenger is by far the best single entry in the muscleman genre I can recall. The charge against it made by critics - it is a cut and paste of two previous Hercules films, with some added new material to make it appear fresh - misses the fact that this cut-and-paste approach solves one of the central problems of the sword-and-sandal movies. With most of these films, the middle third sags horribly - usually involving a sappy love story or arcane political intrigue or both (queen falls in love with Hercules and her evil brother plots against them, etc.) It's often hard to hold on through this to watch the exciting finale. Hercules the Avenger cuts all that crap from the source films, and adds a rather brisk narrative of a Hercules impersonator bullying his way into power. (It should be noted that this episode also functions as a distant but pointedly critical remark on the rise of Fascism in Italy.) This also sets up a fine final wrasslin' match between the real Hercules and his impersonator.
In a narrower focus, I might also add that further editing has improved individual scenes borrowed from the other films. For my money, the mutiny scene here is much better than it first appeared in Hercules and the Captive Women, since it has been tightened with the reduction of several characters and their plot complications.
There are also floppy monsters, creepy underworld atmospherics borrowed (literally) from Mario Bava, an entire city destroyed, and the usual amount of lovely babes in revealing gowns. Since no one expects any of these films to compete with The Seven Samurai - or even with The Magnificent Seven - it seems a bit picky to hold the film's borrowing from other films against it.
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