Hercules in the Haunted World

Hercules in the Haunted World (Italian: Ercole al centro della terra, lit. "Hercules at the center of the Earth") is a 1961 Italian sword-and-sandal film directed by Mario Bava. British bodybuilder Reg Park plays Hercules while British actor Christopher Lee appears as Hercules' nemesis Lico. Shooting at Cinecittà, director Mario Bava used some of the same sets from the earlier Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis which had already starred Reg Park.[5]

Hercules in the Haunted World
Italian film poster for Hercules in the Haunted World
Directed byMario Bava
Produced byAchille Piazzi[1]
Screenplay by
Story byMario Bava[1]
Music byArmando Trovajoli[1]
Edited byMario Serandrei[1]
SpA Cinematografica[3]
Release date
  • 16 November 1961 (1961-11-16) (Italy)
Running time
93 minutes[3]
Box office398 million[4]


Upon his return to Italy from his many adventures, the great warrior Hercules learns that his lover, Princess Deianira (Daianara), has lost her senses. According to the oracle Medea (Gaia Germani), Daianara's only hope is the Stone of Forgetfulness which lies deep in the realm of Hades. Hercules, with two companions, Theseus and Telemachus, embarks on a dangerous quest for the stone, while he is unaware that Dianara's guardian, King Lico, is the one responsible for her condition and plots to have the girl for himself as his bride upon her revival. Lico is in fact in league with the dark forces of the underworld, and it is up to Hercules to stop him.

The climax has Hercules smashing Lico with a giant boulder and throwing similarly large rocks at an army of zombies.



Hercules in the Haunted World was released in Italy in November 16, 1961.[3] It received a theatrical release in the United States in April 1964.[3] Christopher Lee's voice was dubbed by another actor for the English-language version of the film.[5] In the Italian version, Lee dubs his own voice.[6]

Critical reception

In a contemporary review, The Globe and Mail referred to the film as a "particularly awful Italian movie", specifying Reg Parks' acting and the film plays "havoc with the mythology".[7] The review also noted the English dub which was described as "corny almost beyond belief"[7]

From retrospective reviews, the Monthly Film Bulletin stated, "Bava's film today contrives not to look too much like a cheap imitation of itself. Partly this is thanks to the resourcefulness with which the director creates a visual splendour from little except smoke and light, and partly it's the result of an almost arrogantly complex plot from which fragments of meaning seem to escape in all directions."[2] Allmovie wrote "Hercules in the Haunted World is about as good a film as could be made on a budget in the 'mythic hero' subgenre of action films. If that sounds like faint praise, it isn't intended to be, for while overall Hercules can't totally rise above the many limitations of its genre (and budget), it nevertheless will thrill fans of such movies and even give non-devotees a number of very worthwhile elements to ponder."[8] In his book Italian Horror Film Directors, Louis Paul described the film as "a colorful combination of the athletic muscleman peplum revival and Bava's own fascination with gothic imagery."[9]


The film started a short-living subgenre of films trying to combine the peplum genre with horror elements. Films considered belonging to this subgenre include Riccardo Freda's The Witch's Curse and Sergio Corbucci's and Giacomo Gentilomo's Maciste contro il vampiro.[10]

The Opera Theater Oregon commissioned composer Patrick Morganelli to write a companion piece to the film, Hercules vs. Vampires, which premiered in Portland in 2010.[11] In April 2015 the work was staged by the Los Angeles Opera.[12]



  1. Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 89.
  2. "Ercole al centro della terra (Hercules in the Centre of the Earth)". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 53 no. 624. British Film Institute. 1986. p. 17.
  3. Kinnard & Crnkovich 2017, p. 90.
  4. Pohle Jr. et al., p. 109.
  5. Hughes, p. 8f
  6. Johnson & Miller 2009, p. 111.
  7. Morriss, Frank (September 10, 1964). "Castle of Blood Fraying To Nerves". The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail. p. 11.
  8. Craig Butler. "Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)". Allmovie. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  9. Paul 2005, p. 22.
  10. Paul 2005, p. 23.
  11. James McQuillen (May 17, 2010). "Opera review: 'Hercules vs. Vampires' shines light on link to low-budget film genre". The Oregonian.
  12. Simon Williams (April 25, 2015). "Hercules vs. Vampires: Los Angeles Opera". Opera News.


  • Hughes, Howard (2011). Cinema Italiano - The Complete Guide From Classics To Cult. London - New York: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-608-0.
  • Johnson, Tom; Miller, Mark A. (2009). The Christopher Lee Filmography: All Theatrical Releases, 1948–2003. McFarland. ISBN 1476608962.* Kinnard, Roy; Crnkovich, Tony (2017). Italian Sword and Sandal Films, 1908-1990. McFarland. ISBN 1476662916.
  • Paul, Louis (2005). Italian Horror Film Directors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8749-3.
  • Pohle Jr., Robert W.; Hart, Douglas C.; Pohle Baldwin, Rita (2017). The Christopher Lee Film Encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780810892705.
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