Body builder Steve Reeves won the title of Mr. America in 1947 and the title of Mr. Universe in 1948 and again in 1950. He then moved into show business, making a couple of largely forgettable movies in the US (Jail Bait and Athena) before breaking into the European film industry.
In 1957 he played the role that would make him one of the biggest stars in the world: Hercules. He would play Hercules twice, in Hercules (1957) and Hercules Unchained (1959). Both films are beautifully shot by Mario Bava, and while they may operate on a simple level, they are fun in a way that more polished films rarely are. These two films would later get the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, but while they are eminently mockable, they are hardly in the same category as, say, Manos, the Hands of Fate.
Hercules spawned legions of imitators, and Steve appeared in many of them, but eventually he moved on. Steve would go on to play practically every character any 12 year old boy has fantasized about being: The roguish thief (The Thief of Baghdad), a pirate (Morgan the Pirate, Pirates of the Seven Seas), and, in his last movie, a cowboy (A Long Ride From Hell).
Because he appeared almost exclusively in Italian films, I've probably never heard his real voice. As far as I know, he may have been an awful actor. But in his best films he projected his enjoyment of playing larger than life characters straight to the audience. All other actors who aspire to be muscle-bound action stars follow in his sandal prints.
- Scott Hamilton
Our small tribute:
His obituary on Yahoo
His IMDb filmography
This website is devoted to Steve Reeves: The Ultimate Hercules
See Opposable Thumb Films' review of Warrior Queen, which includes a picture of Steve Reeves entirely by accident.
Read our review of The Last Days of Pompeii