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By Daniel O’Brien (auth.)
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Extra info for Classical Masculinity and the Spectacular Body on Film: The Mighty Sons of Hercules
I am wary of making too direct a link between Reeves as Hercules and the multifaceted US presence in post-war Italy. It is, however, arguable that the latter facilitated, to whatever degree, Reeves’s acceptability as an example of high-profile Americanisation 30 Classical Masculinity and the Spectacular Body on Film Fig. 1 Steve Reeves promotes Hercules (1958) both benevolent and powerful. Newsreel images of Reeves working out include shots with Italian youths exercising in the background (fig.
As noted, Greco-Roman tradition had long been evoked to contextualise and legitimise the display of the male physique. Robin Osborne Hercules Unchained 33 cites classical Greece as ‘the cultural reference point by which the public display of the naked male body is justified’ (Osborne, 1998, p. 80). As a static image emphasising both the body and the ‘noble’ profile, this illustration could be compared—however speciously—with a classical painting or statue. The cover model is billed as ‘Bud Counts, California Hercules’, another appeal to classical tradition and a direct identification with a hero of Greco-Roman myth.
In their first scene together, Bey watches as Dar polishes his sword blade, symbolism verging on the parodic. Both men are bare-chested, emphasised with framing and cross-cutting. Bey then grips Dar’s arm to make the latter face him and appreciate his knife skills. As Dar leaves to resume his rescue mission, Bey, framed in medium close-up, sighs, ‘You won’t get rid of me that easily’. A later sitdown discussion about adventuring together reinforces Dar’s wariness of this relationship. In the final scene, Bey, whose blue tunic contrasts with the leather and armour of other male characters, leaves Dar like a spurned lover (‘I don’t care if I never see you again’).