American Hercules:Steve Reeves

Born in Montana on January 21, 1926, actor and bodybuilder Steve Reeves moved to California at the age of ten with his widowed mother. He cultivated an interest in bodybuilding while in his teens; by the time he was 17 years old, Reeves had developed quite a Herculean build. After graduating high school, Reeves entered the Army during the latter days of World War II. Upon his release, Reeves decided to enter bodybuilding contests and soon blew his competitors away, winning the titles “Mr. Pacific Coast,” “Mr. Western America,” and “Mr. America” in 1947. He won the “Mr. World” contest the following year, and in 1950 he became Mr. Universe, beating Reg Park. While a success in the sport of bodybuilding, luck with Reeves’ other interest, acting, seemed elusive. He enrolled in acting classes and nearly landed the role of Samson in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949), a part that was eventually won by Victor Mature. Reeves would have to wait nearly ten years before his second shot at stardom.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Steve Reeves made a number of local and national television appearances. His TV career first started in 1949, when he starred in a 15-minute pilot titled Kindar, but the show was never picked up and did not go to series. Reeves then took guest roles on established TV shows, such as Topper, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.

Reeves in a 1952 appearance on Burns and Allen. See The Steve Reeves Gallery for bodybuilding photos of Steve Reeves
It seems odd that Reeves’ first film appearance came in Ed Wood’s Jailbait. Jailbait (1954) finds Steve Reeves playing cops and robbers with Dolores Fuller and Lyle Talbot. In fact, since so many of Reeves’ movies are dubbed, Jailbait is one of the few opportunities to actually hear the voice of the future Hercules star. Incidentally, Reeves had only good things to say about his first film director, Ed Wood: It was a pleasure to work with a director like Ed Wood. He was patient and understood how to make new and inexperienced actors feel at ease and get the best performance out of them. (from Nightmare of Ecstasy by Rudolph Grey, 1992, p. 50). Reeves’ second film, the 1954 MGM musical Athena, was a box-office disappointment. Starring in Athena were Debbie Reynolds, Linda Christian, and Jane Powell. Also, Mr. America 1954 Dick DuBois was cast in the film, billed as Richard Sabre. Quick eyes can also spot Ed Fury, Bert Goodrich, Joe Gold, and Irvin ‘Zabo’ Koszewski.

Interestingly, Reeves turned down a number of roles that made the careers of other actors. For example, Reeves said no to Albert Broccoli’s offer of $100,000 to star in Dr. No (1962; with Sean Connery and Ursula Andress) as James Bond because he was earning $250,000 per picture in Italy. In addition, he also refused the role that eventually went to Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Due to shoulder injuries suffered while making several of his films, Reeves went into retirement in 1964. However, Reeves longed to make a western, which he did in A Long Ride from Hell, his final film which was released in 1968.

Reeves saved the bulk of his hefty salary and retired from acting in 1968. He bought a ranch outside of San Diego, California, where he and his second wife Aline lived for many years. Aline Reeves passed away on July 24, 1989, after a stroke. Steve Reeves passed away on May 1, 2000, after a battle with lymphoma. He left no immediate survivors.

Athena [DVD](1954) DVD
Unusual MGM musical extravaganza follows the romantic adventures of seven daughters of a health-conscious family who are named for heroines of Greek myth. Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Virginia Gibson, Edmund Purdom, Vic Damone, and Louis Calhern star; songs include “Love Can Change the Stars,” “I Never Felt Better,” and “The Girl Next Door.” 96 min. Widescreen (Enhanced); Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; outtakes; theatrical trailer.

Jail Bait [DVD](1954) DVD
A hard-as-nails gangster film, Ed Wood-style. A hood on the lam shoots his partner, then forces the guy’s surgeon-father to change his face. The stars include Lyle Talbot, Dolores Fuller, Timothy Farrell and a young Steve Reeves; don’t miss the “hilarious” blackface minstrel sequence! 75 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; theatrical trailer.

Hercules [DVD](1959) DVD
The original “swords, sandals and sweat” spectacle stars Steve Reeves as the muscular Greek demigod who asks to be made mortal so he can share in the adventures of humans. Herc’s earthly exploits include falling in love with a beautiful princess (Sylva Koscina) and going on a perilous journey with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece. 107 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English (dubbed) Dolby Digital mono.

Hercules Collection [DVD] DVD
Four-disc set includes “Hercules” (1958), “Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules,” “Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops,” “Giants of Rome,” “Hercules and the Captive Women,” “Hercules, Prisoner of Evil,” “Hercules and the Black Pirate,” “Hercules the Avenger,” and “Hercules and the Princess of Troy.”

Goliath And The Barbarians (1959)/Goliath And The Vampires [DVD](1963) DVD
He’s colossal! He’s stupendous! He looks an awful lot like Hercules! But this time, Steve Reeves plays strongman Emeliano (Americanized to “Goliath”) in “Goliath and the Barbarians,” and proves a worthy adversary to the brutes responsible for razing his village and killing his father. Bruce Cabot, Giulia Rubini co-star. AKA: “Terror of the Barbarians.” Next, former Tarzan Gordon Scott plays daring gladiator hero Maciste (again, changed to “Goliath”) in the Italian-made spectacle “Goliath and the Vampires,” in which he battles a bloodsucking mastermind who turns slaves into zombies. With Gianna Maria Canale. AKA: “The Vampires.” Widescreen; Soundtrack: English (dubbed); photo gallery; theatrical trailers. Dubbed in English.

Terror Of The Barbarians (Goliath And The Barbarians) [DVD](1959) DVD
There’s swords and sandals aplenty in this classic actioner starring Steve Reeves as a man bent on getting revenge against the evil barbarians who were responsible for his father’s murder. Enlisting the help of his followers, he embarks on a stunning mission of vengeance. With Chelo Alonso, Bruce Cabot, Giulia Rubini. 82 min. Widescreen; Soundtrack: English (dubbed); theatrical trailer. Dubbed in English.

Hercules (1959)/Hercules Unchained [DVD](1960) DVD
Standard; Soundtrack: English (dubbed) mono; biographies; photo gallery; poster gallery; trailers.

The Giant Of Marathon [DVD](1959) DVD
Steve “Hercules” Reeves plays the musclebound hero who defends Athens from Persian forces. A horse with incredible stamina, a double-crossing siren, epic land and sea battles and Reeves’ amazing physique highlight this sword-and-sandal winner directed by Jacques Tourneur (“Cat People”). 85 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English (dubbed). Dubbed in English. Plays All Regions.

The Film Crew: The Giant Of Marathon [DVD](1959) DVD
90 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital stereo; audio commentary; featurette.

The Last Days Of Pompeii [DVD](1960) DVD
Steve Reeves flexes his pecs once more in this epic retelling of the sin and treachery that occurred in the ancient Roman city, under the shadow of the awakening volcano called Vesuvius. Christine Kaufmann, Barbara Carroll also star. This special edition also includes the silent 1913 version. Standard; Soundtrack: English mono.

Hercules Unchained [DVD](1960) DVD
Steve Reeves returns as the mighty Hercules in another saga of muscles, maidens and monsters. Robbed of his memory, Herc is a prisoner of the lovely Queen of Lidia and must compete in the Contest of Giants for his freedom. 101 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English dubbed mono.

The White Warrior [DVD](1961) DVD
Unusual casting finds strongman Steve Reeves in a story by Leo Tolstoy as Hadji Murad, who leads his mountain warriors against the army of Russian ruler Nicholas I while battling a rival for his girlfriend’s hand. Georgia Moll, Renato Baldini also star; photography by Mario Bava. 88 min. Widescreen; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; theatrical trailers; scene access.

The Slave [DVD](1962) DVD
Promoted for his loyalty and field heroics, centurion Steve Reeves is tasked by Caesar (Ivo Garrani) to journey to Egypt and keep an eye on the machinations of Crassus (Claudio Gora). The expedition fatefully brings him to discover that he is the son of the slave revolutionary Spartacus. Will he renounce his allegiance to Rome to fight for his legacy? Sword-and-sandal stunner also stars Gianna Maria Canale, Jacques Sernas. 102 min. Widescreen (Enhanced); Soundtrack: English (dubbed) Dolby Digital mono. Dubbed in English.

The Avenger [DVD](1962) DVD
The majestically muscular Steve Reeves slings a lot of bull (literally) in this action-filled tale of a fight for freedom between Etruscan slavedrivers and oppressed Trojans. The bull stampede is not to be missed. AKA: “The Last Glory of Troy.” 100 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English (dubbed). Plays All Regions. Dubbed in English.

The Trojan Horse [DVD](1962) DVD
Muscles, mythology and history mix in this exciting epic starring Steve Reeves as Aeneas, a Greek warrior who battles leader Paris, tries to find his kidnapped, pregnant wife Creusa and joins fellow fighters in the famous Trojan Horse. With John Drew Barrymore, Juliette Mayniel and Mimmo Palmara. 105 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English (dubbed).

Sandokan, The Tiger Of Mompracem [DVD](1963) DVD
Steve Reeves stars as the ferocious Sandokan in this riveting adventure. After his father, the Sultan of Muluder, is kidnapped, he embarks on a perilous mission to rescue him. Leading a band of warriors through a steamy jungle to locate and save his pop, Reeves faces an incredible challenge that will push him to his breaking point. With Genevieve Grad, Rik Battaglia. Soundtrack: English (dubbed). Dubbed in English.

Sandokan, Pirate Of Malaysia (Sandokan And The Pirates Of Malasia) [DVD](1964) DVD
In this rarely seen sequel to his title turn in 1963’s “Sandokan the Great,” Steve Reeves returns as the heroic East Asian privateer, helping a deposed rajah regain his throne from a greedy British officer. With Jacqueline Sassard, Mimmo Palmara; directed by “Sandokan the Great” helmer Umberto Lenzi. AKA: “Pirates of Malasia.” 97 min. Soundtrack: English (dubbed).

Sandokan, Pirate Of Malaysia (Widescreen Version) [DVD](1964) DVD
In this rarely seen sequel to his title turn in 1963’s “Sandokan the Great,” Steve Reeves returns as the heroic East Asian privateer, helping a deposed rajah regain his throne from a greedy British officer. With Jacqueline Sassard, Mimmo Palmara; directed by “Sandokan the Great” helmer Umberto Lenzi. AKA: “Sandokan and the Pirates of Malaysia,” “Pirates of Malaysia.” 106 min. Widescreen; Soundtrack: English (dubbed). Dubbed in English.