Reg Park was one of the best known bodybuilders the world has ever known. He was born in England and took up the sport at an early age. After winning several major titles such as Mr. Britain and Mr. Universe, he moved to South Africa where he based his successful fitness and health equipment business.
In the late 1950s fellow bodybuilders such as Steve Reeves and Gordon Mitchell went to Italy to star in the current trend of Sword and Sandal films. They were based on ancient mythological tales which centered on strongmen such as Hercules and Maciste. Reg seized the moment and soon found himself in Rome starring in his own string of box office hits.
Although he only made a few movies, when compared to the output of some of the other stars of that era, a couple of Reg’s efforts are always rated at the “top of the heap” of the hundreds of titles that were made during that time.
Even though Reg found success in many fields, I personally will always remember him through his films and his unforgettable screen presence.
The films of Reg Park
Hercules and the Captive Women
Aka: Hercules Conquers Atlantis
1961, Directed by: Vittorio Cottafavi
Also stars: Fay Spain, Ettore Manni, Luciano Marin, Mario Petri and Ivo Garrani.
Originally filmed in Technirama 70 (70 mm rather than the usual 35mm).
A strange unseen evil force holds all of Greece in peril. The menace comes from across the sea past the Pillars of Hercules (today called the Straits of Gibraltar). Hercules joins with a small force of heroes and tries to find the menace and destroy it so his homeland can be saved.
After rescuing the maidens from the title, he kills a monster and an army of cloned super warriors in order to defeat the evil rulers of Atlantis. With its source of power destroyed, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions send the island to the bottom of the sea. Hercules and his companions then head home after a job well done.
Park’s awesome physique and physical presence are enough to carry the movie in spite of the otherwise feeble plot. A true blockbuster in every sense, the movie was a huge financial success all over the world. Reg Park now added the title of Movie Star to his list of other accomplishments.
Now available on video and DVD from several sources.
Hercules in the Haunted World
Aka: Hercules in the Underworld, Hercules in the Center of the Earth, Hercules Against the Vampires
1961, Directed by: Mario Bava
Stars: Christopher Lee as the Vampire, Georgio Ardisson, Leonora Ruffo and Ida Galli.
Hercules and his friend Theseus must enter the depths of Hell in order to save a Princess who has fallen under an evil spell. They must first fulfill some of the original Herculean Labours from mythology on their way to meet the Vampire from Hell. Hercules defeats the evil forces, rescues the Princess and returns to the sunshine with his friends.
The graphic display of vampires and dead corpses attacking the heroes was considered extreme for 1961. Although no connection was ever established, Michael Jackson’s Thriller Video looks like it was copied directly from the final scenes in this movie.
The movie played the Drive-in circuit for years after its initial release and was another huge financial success. Available from many sources on DVD and video.
Maciste in King Solomon’s Mines
Aka: Samson in King Solomon’s Mines
1964, Directed by: Martin Andrews
With: Wandisa Guida, Dan Harrison, Eleonora Bianchi and Carlo Tamberlani.
Filming in Reg’s homeland of South Africa adds a definite note of realism to the outdoor jungle scenes in this tale which centers on a power struggle for control of the mines once owned by the biblical King. Various tribes claim ownership to the riches and will stop at nothing to possess them. It is only when Maciste’s friends are threatened that our hero swings into action only to be trapped into performing several feats of strength. His strength prevails and justice and peace return to the land.
Although it was never released to theaters in North America, the movie did play on TV a few times. It is available on DVD as part of the “Warriors 50” set and from movies collectors.
Hercules: Prisoner of Evil
Aka: Ursus: Terror of the Kirghiz, The Erotic Life of Ursus
1964, Director: Anthony Dawson
Stars: Mirelle Granelli, Ettore Manni, Maria Teresa Orsini and Furio Meniconi.
Hercules annihilates an evil werewolf from the dark beyond. Throw in a witch, a few curses and lots of action and most fans of this genre will be very satisfied with this obscure entry.
It was never released to theaters in North America and had sparse TV play. Only available from serious collectors.
Hercules the Avenger
Aka: Challenge of the Giants
1964, Director: Maurizio Lucidi
With: Ken Wood, Gia Sandri and Audrey Amber.
Hercules sets out to clear his good name when he hears that someone is using the name “Hercules” while imposing their evil will on a neighboring city-state. The Hercules imposter turns out to be Anteaus, son of the earth goddess. The real Hercules hunts him down and the challenge of the giants begins.
Anteaus is played by Ken Wood who started his career as Steve Reeves’ double and later developed his own full standing as an actor. Ken Wood makes a believable opponent for Reg as the two battle it out in this surprisingly good entry into the series.
Recently released on DVD.
I had the good fortune of meeting Reg Park in 1988 during a dinner given in his honour. Many of Reg’s fans gathered at a country club near Toronto to pay tribute to this great man. I had time to chat with Reg about the films he made in Italy and enjoyed the various “on the set” stories he had to tell.
Sadly Reg Park died on November 22, 2007 at the age of 79. For me Reg Park will always live on in his movies.
Submitted by Larry Anderson