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Anchor Bay presents
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys—Season Three (1996-1997)

"This is the second time now that you've turned your back on me and my family!"
- Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) - to Zeus

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: April 07, 2004

Stars: Kevin Sorbo, Michael Hurst
Other Stars: Bruce Campbell, Robert Trebor, Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, Liddy Holloway, Kevin Smith, Jeffrey Thomas, Alexandra Tydings, Tawny Kitaen, Joel Tobeck, Sam Jenkins
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains violence, but is suitable for most audiences)
Run Time: 16h:11m:40s
Release Date: March 23, 2004
UPC: 013131261899
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-B+B+ A-

DVD Review

Following five television movies and two solid seasons, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys had attained remarkable popularity in the fall of 1996. However, the overwhelming success of its spinoff, Xena: Warrior Princess, threatened to overtake this lighter show. That series tackled darker themes, and the emotional relationship between Xena and Gabrielle grabbed many audiences. Hercules' second season did include several great episodes, but it also provided far too many throwaway tales of dull silliness. Apparently challenged by its companion show's popularity, the writers bore down and crafted a collection of unforgettable stories.

This third-season DVD release includes all 22 episodes, from arguably the show's best season, within attractive fold-out packaging. Nearly eight years after the initial airing, Kevin Sorbo, Michael Hurst, and others return to provide input, which shows their enthusiasm for the product. These tales often touch on Hercules' difficulties in moving beyond his grief for Daineira and his children, who died two years earlier. We also gain more perspective on his relationship with Iolaus (Michael Hurst) and meet a new love for our noble hero. The episodes also flow a bit better into each other and address a few past events, which didn't happen as much during the second season. Hercules still encounters a decent share of nasty monsters, but even those entries often incorporate a human side into the battles.

The familiar group of Hercules' friends once again appear, including his best friend Iolaus, the money-hungry but well-meaning Salmoneus (Robert Trebor), Herc's doting mother Alcmene (Libby Holloway), her husband Jason (Jeffrey Thomas), and the silly "King of Thieves" Autolycus (Bruce Campbell). Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor also take a break from inspiring young women to provide assistance when Hercules loses his powers. The enemies waver between oafish warriors and nasty creations of his constantly irritated stepmother Hera. Some of the more inventive villains include a mummy, a second enforcer, a fire-breathing dragon, the crazed Xena enemy Callisto (Hudson Leick), and the charming God of War, Ares (Kevin Smith), with his silly underling Strife (Joel Tobeck).

In my past review of Season Two, I described the best and worst episodes of that year. This discussion will follow a different route and more closely inspect a smaller group of episodes. These descriptions will present both the positive and negative aspects of the stories, which represent some of the most pivotal entries of the third season. I hope to provide an effective overview of the series through the comments about a small group of stories.

Mercenary
While transporting a prisoner (Jeremy Roberts) to stand trial for murder, Hercules is shipwrecked on a deserted island with the formidable mercenary. Nursing a badly injured arm, he battles the deft enemy and learns that perhaps his adversary may be nobler than expected. Hercules must join forces with the mercenary to survive against nasty underground worms who kill without warning. This rough, violent episode immediately shows evidence of a grittier season. Hercules' arm wound is surprisingly brutal, and the fights lack the typical ridiculous nature. Jeremy Roberts gives one of the year's best guest performances, and it never seems ridiculous that he can stand up to Hercules. The worms serve the purpose of uniting the duo, but they also bear a close resemblance to the creatures in the Kevin Bacon film Tremors. However, the battle of wills between the two leads makes this flaw only a minor drawback.

Not Fade Away
Hera has created the red-haired Enforcer II (Cynthia Rothrock) to eliminate Hercules once and for all, and her flame-aided powers appear very difficult to overcome. After she delivers a vicious beating to Iolaus, Hercules receives help from an unexpected source—the original Enforcer (Karen Shepard) from last season. Jason and Alcmene make appearances and find themselves also facing extreme danger from the Enforcer II. This episode's primary goal is to deliver energetic fight scenes between the two female enforcers, which is always a welcome sight. However, it also shows Hercules struggling with thoughts about his deceased wife and children. The new Enforcer is actually pretty obnoxious and utters stupid lines to Hera, but she does offer a chance for Hercules to encounter some personal issues. Additionally, Iolaus meets his estranged father and gains some closure. These emotional moments combine well with the fight scenes to generate a memorable episode.

Surprise
Iolaus, Iphicles, Alcmene, Jason, and Falafil arrange a surprise birthday party for Hercules, but the celebration is halted by the arrival of the notorious Callisto. Making her first appearance on this show after numerous stints on Xena, the warrior makes a deal with Hera to escape Hades and forces Hercules to join forces with her. They journey to a labryinth of traps to capture an apple that restores life (and possible imparts immortality), with the lives of Herc's friends in the balance. The stunning Hudson Leick once again chews up the scenery while tormenting our hero about an array of subjects. This is not one of her better appearances, but it still showcases how a guest star can energize an episode. Moving seamlessly between the two series, Callisto makes her appearance understandable because the storyline comes directly from the most recent Xena tale. While not one of the best episodes, this story showcases Leick and opens the door for several returns in the upcoming seasons.

Encounter/When a Man Loves a Woman/Judgement Day
This "Golden Hind trilogy" brings drastic changes to Hercules' life that will affect him for a lengthy period of time. The story progresses nicely across three episodes that could stand alone but work much better as a collective unit. The opener has Iolaus and Hercules trying to save the Golden Hind from the grips of Prince Nestor and his band of poachers. They also meet a gorgeous young woman named Serena who immediately catches Herc's eye. She possesses remarkable healing powers that raise suspicions about her true nature. When it's revealed that she actually is the Golden Hind, Hercules must deal with his emotions while protecting her from Ares. The middle part continues this tale and enhances his relationship with Serena. While Ares and Strife plot against the son of Zeus, he plans to marry the girl. The concluding episode includes guest appearances by Xena and Gabrielle as they try to save Hercules. His strength is gone, a personal tragedy has occurred, and it appears that the enemies will be victorious.

These three episodes mark the high point of the season for the writers, who have crafted an intriguing saga of both happiness and despair. Sam Jenkins (who eventually married Kevin Sorbo) works perfectly as Serena and makes us understand how Hercules would fall in love so quickly. The emotional weight of their relationship is surprisingly effective, and his sacrifice to marry her is especially high. Ares and Strife keep the tales enjoyable with their silly conniving that appears unstoppable. It's also great to see Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor involved, as the four heroes make an impressive team. This trilogy is easily one of the highlights of the series' entire six-year run.

End of the Beginning
Bruce Campbell returns as Autolycus ("The King of Thieves") and steals a rare stone with remarkable powers. While Hercules battles some typical bullies in the town nearby, Autolycus accidentally stops time completely, which confuses the son of Zeus. The item also allows him to travel back in time, which he quickly uses, but Hercules tries to stop him and also makes the journey. Events become complicated when our hero discovers Serena alive and well (though played by a less-effective actress). He once again battles Ares for her fate, which could alter the events of the Golden Hind trilogy. Bruce Campbell would become a more common contributor in the next season, and he always adds plenty of entertaining moments. He even recreates some Evil Dead moments here with his younger double in the past. This episode nicely recalls the trilogy and provides a moral dilemma for the usually logical Hercules. Its combination of emotional weight and silliness provides a perfect example of the series' considerable success.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys—Season Three retains its original full-frame transfer and provides an impressive visual presentation throughout the entire season. Spread across eight discs, the 22 episodes don't face the complications of some television seasons that appear in a more-cramped fashion. Each disc has plenty of memory to provide bright colors and pictures that are usually free of defects. There are limitations to the original source material, but it rarely becomes apparent on these transfers.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This release utilizes a Dolby Digital 5.1-channel transfer that presents the rousing score and fight effects in solid fashion. The audio stays fairly centralized, but that probably relates more to the limitations of the original soundtracks than any flaws with these discs. Each transfer offers an impressive experience that should please fans of the series accustomed to the lesser teleivision sounds. Anchor Bay has done a nice job in bringing Hercules to the home video market once again with these audio presentations.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 110 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Kevin Sorbo and Wayne Rose on Mummy Dearest, Surprise, and Encounter; Michael Hurst on Mercenary
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
8 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus CD-ROM disc with Hercules Chronicles, Bios, Trivia, and Mythology
  2. Cast and Crew Interviews on Love Takes a Holiday, Not Fade Away, Prince Hercules, Long Live the King, Judgment Day, Les Contemptibles, End of the Beginning, and Atlantis
  3. Photo Galleries
Extras Review: Once again presented with impressive fold-out packaging, this collection provides fans with a nice array of extra features with the series' stars. Commentary tracks exist for four of the year's more memorable episodes and provide entertaining material. Kevin Sorbo and Wayne Rose return for three tracks and seem to enjoy reviewing the shows. They sometimes veer towards plot summary because neither has viewed these episodes since their original airing. While bringing a relaxed freshness to the discussions, it also limits their scope. Michael Hurst provides the other commentary for Mercenary, which he directed, and his statements focus more on the filming aspects. This is the most interesting of the four tracks, and Hurst provides plenty of worthwhile details.

The other major extra is a group of cast and crew interviews focusing on specific episodes. These segements often provide more compelling material due to their shorter length and greater focus. Rob Tapert also appears intermittently to provide informative comments about the show's direction. The interviews generally run about 10 minutes and contain discussions with an array of cast and crew members. Stars Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst often appear during these features.

The remaining supplements include photo galleries, web links, and a bonus CD-ROM providing all types of material. This disc contains cast and crew biographies, series trivia, mythological explanations, and the Hercules chronicles. It should provide even more interesting details for the show's many devoted fans.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Anchor Bay has struck gold once again with a remarkable DVD collection matched by few other television series. This season improves considerably over the preceding year and gives Kevin Sorbo, Michael Hurst, and the other stars significant room to shine. Viewers less familiar with Hercules: The Legendary Journeys couldn't choose a better season to discover this memorable series.

 


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