"Hercules Unchained" (1959) pits the legendary hero's muscles against seduction and sorcery. As the story begins, we learn that Hercules (played by bodybuilder Steve Reeves) has been recently chained—that is, married. Traveling with his new wife, Iole, and a youthful Ulysses, he accepts a mission from a distraught Oedipus to mediate between two of his sons who are at war over the right to rule Thebes. While on his diplomatic errand, a sip from a magic spring separates him from his memory and puts him in the clutches of Queen Omphale of Lydia.
The frame of the story—Hercules and allies fight the son of Oedipus who breaks a vow to share the throne with his brother—loosely follows the plot of "Seven Against Thebes", a tragic play by Aeschylus. The Omphale plotline is borrowed from another story involving Hercules. The child of a mortal woman and Zeus, Hercules is driven crazy by Zeus' wife, the goddess Hera, and he murders his wife, Megara, and their children. When he comes to his senses, he seeks a path to redemption at the Oracle of Delphi, who tells him he must submit to a year in the service of Omphale.
Iole, is yet another figure from legend, though she was never married to the Hercules in legend. In fact, he was married to Deianira, who suspected his affections were wandering from her to Iole. Believing the vial of centaur's blood she'd obtained in an earlier adventure was a cure for a wandering husband, she had a servant take her husband a cloak soaked with the magical stuff only to discover it was a caustic toxin of such power, it could—and did—kill even the demigod Hercules.
Dr. Maria NewtonDr. Maria Newton, Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Utah, discusses Hercules as portrayed in film and psychosocial aspects of fitness.
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