Tuesday, November 13, 2018

By the Gods!

Dina Loy and Kirk Morris in FALCON OF THE DESERT (1965)

A fun film in which Kirk keeps his clothes on. Fans of shirtless Kirk might be disappointed but the movie doesn't suffer from this little detail. Dina only made 17 or so films, all during the 1960s. Like so many other actors who appeared in PEPLUM films, she disappeared from the face of the earth. For some odd reason, Google describes it as a Spaghetti Western. It's not.


ANCIENT HISTORY magazine published an article on THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. Graham Sumner, the writer of the article, provided it to me after last week's profile I made on the film. I asked him if I could feature the first page of the article. Here it is, as an addendum of sorts. Very interesting article. Producer Samson Bronston filed for bankruptcy after the failure of the epic film.

You can check out their website: ANCIENT HISTORY magazine

Monday, November 12, 2018

By the Gods!

Wandisa Guida and Michel Lemoine in THE PRISONER OF THE IRON MASK (1961)

I finally got a nice copy of this rare film. As you can see, this was shoot at the famous Monte Gelato waterfalls seen in so many PEPLUM movies. It stars Wandisa, which is a plus, and it also stars Jany Clair, which is an additional plus. This was a breakthrough role for Lemoine, as unlikely as an action star as he was. Good looking production. Now I have to find an English copy of this.

Movie Poster Mondays

Original Italian poster of THE QUEEN OF THE TARTARS (1960)

Also known as THE HUNS. Directed by Sergio Grieco. So, an over-the-top poster for an over-the-top film.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

By the Gods!

Christopher Plummer, as Commodus, in a dual to the death with Stephen Boyd in THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964)

This scene is great. Brilliantly executed (if a bit too short). The design and camerawork are tops. A great ending to, imo, a clearly uneven film. When released, the Anthony Mann directed movie was a major box office dud. I don't necessarily blame it on the quality of the final product (even if at 3 hours it was overlong) but having been released right after the equally overlong CLEOPATRA (1963), moviegoers' interest in stories set in Antiquity greatly diminished because of the Elizabeth Taylor epic. Both films were a one-two punch that finally killed the PEPLUM craze.

I hope you enjoyed this week's profile on THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. I'll be making more of 'weekly profiles' in the future.

Lobby cards: FALL OF ROME (1963)

Lobby cards set for FALL OF ROME (1963), here under its British title, ROME IN FLAMES (not to be confused with FIRE OVER ROME or CARTHAGE IN FLAMES). This is from the UK. Good set, with nice selection of images with actors. The downside: it's in black & white. But still nice. Remarkably enough, this film preceded the massive Hollywood epic, THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964).

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

By the Gods!

Steve Reeves as Hercules in HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)

I found a rare VHS copy of this film on Youtube. It's from a channel that's 'dead,' meaning there hasn't been any new uploads there in 4 years. The owner must have abandoned it. This copy of HERCULES UNCHAINED was uploaded 7 years ago. It's in English and though it's in 4:3 aspect ratio, it actually included more (compressed) screen info and I was able to un-compress it and make it semi-widescreen. Click here to see the difference. Cool stuff. Youtube is trying to close all of these old channels, including mine. This upload of HERCULES UNCHAINED only has 1600 views...in 7 years. The channel is most likely hidden and I came upon it by accident.


Here's some behind the scenes footage of Omar Sharif talking about his role in THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

By the Gods!

Omar Sharif and Sophia Loren in THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964)

The two characters married for political reasons (he's the king of Armenia) but we see very little of this relationship. Omar's role is basically a cameo, which is a shame because he was a great actor. Sophia had top billing. This seems a bit odd since there were rumours of her being difficult during the filming of EL CID (1961), also directed by Anthony Mann. If she was so difficult to work with why would Mann want to work with her again? I like Sophia in this. She brings a certain humanity that's often missing in a story populated with dozens of characters. My only problem with Sophia is she didn't seem related to Alec Guinness (father) and Christopher Plummer (brother). She's very Mediterranean while Alec and Christopher are clearly not.

Steve Reeves as Hercules at Cinecitta

An artist created a mural at Cinecitta celebrating Steve Reeves as Hercules. Created in 2017. Pretty cool. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

By the Gods!


This short film, in which the dialogue is entirely in Latin (but the voice over is in English), was shot using the sets from THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964). The film is in the public domain.

Movie Poster Mondays

Italian poster of THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964)

I don't like the posters from the US for this film. The Italian poster, though better, makes it look like your average PEPLUM film.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

By the Gods!

Duncan Regehr as a gladiator in the mini-series, THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1984)

I tried watching this mini-series all the way through and I still cannot do it (it's over 5 hours long). I remember watching it back when it was shown on TV for the first time and enjoyed parts of it but not all of it. Fast forward to today, and I still hold the same opinion: the excellent production, even solid on same level but way overlong. Too many dull sub-stories. The fun thing about this is that there are Italian actors who starred in PEPLUM films of the Golden Era, like Franco Nero and Marilù Tolo. The gladiatorial scenes were good but oddly enough, they looked more outdated (or less authentic) than those from old Italian films. Someone should take this and re-edit it down to a tight 2 hour long film. It would be great.

Lobby Cards set : CLEOPATRA (1963)

US lobby cards set for CLEOPATRA (1963). Distilling the entire 4 hours into 8 lobby cards was an impossible task. There were two sets of lobby cards, known as the blue and the pink sets. The cards in the pink set were almost identical except for 3 cards. I included 2 more with the blue set. I like it and it does give an impression of the colorful film but the film is too expansive and a lobby card set could never perfectly capture the scope of he film. Good but not great.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

By the Gods!

Alan Young, as Androcles, and Jean Simmons in ANDROCLES AND THE LION (1952)

Are there any fans of this film? I rarely read or hear anyone mention this early PEPLUM film anywhere. It was co-directed by an uncredited Nicholas Ray, who would make more prominent films in the 1950s after this one. This was Jean's first PEPLUM movie, before THE ROBE (1953) and others. PEPLUM star Victor Mature is also in it, as well as Robert Newton. Great cast and director, adapted from a George Bernard Shaw play, but seemingly few fans.


Director William Wyler and Charlton Heston have fun with a camel while filming BEN-HUR (1959)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

By the Gods!

José Greci in GOLIATH & THE SINS OF BABYLON (1963)

José is one of my favourite actress of the PEPLUM genre. Every time she's in a film, I know it's going to be good. She adds so much to every film, acting or presence. The odd thing about this particular movie, which I like but not enthusiastically, is how plain José looks in it. I always find her beautiful but in this Michele Lupo directed movie, she's plain as can be (and she's the only major female in the entire thing). I don't know if it's the wig, or the lighting, or the costume but she's not shown in her best way. Unflattering angles and close-ups are nothing new in Lupo movies but she worked with the director in two other of his films and appeared much better in those productions. It's an odd thing to see someone as attractive in one film and not so in another. And she's not the only example (men or women). BTW, I tried to find the most flattering scene to take here.

Unique Arena Sets

One of the cool aspects of PEPLUM films is seeing films with scenes set in the arena with elaborate set-ups. Here are just a few examples. These don't include scenes with standard gladiatorial arenas but just those with added themes or contraptions.

A mock fortress surrounded by a moat in FABIOLA

In SPARTACO : SINS OF ROME, a full ship with oars in a pool of water

An elaborate elevated fighting area in BARABBAS

GLADIATORS 7 : An elevated catwalk area to fight, with wooden spikes waiting below

A bizarre leveraging thingamajig, with Hercules (Dan Vadis) trying to keep his mate (Marilu Tolo) from being killed. It's hard to describe. From TRIUMPH OF HERCULES

Monday, October 29, 2018

By the Gods!

Alan Steel in SAMSON (1961)

Though this film is considered a Brad Harris film, and Brad plays Samson and is the lead with more scenes than Alan, I always think of this as an Alan Steel movie. In France, it was titled SAMSON CONTRE HERCULE in which Alan was Hercules. In the US version, Alan's name was Millstone and not Hercules. As good as Brad is, IMO, Alan steals (haha!) the show. Physically, he's never been more cut. He's impressive. This screenshot was taken from the Italian trailer, which, remarkably, has more screen information and differences in scenes than the same moments in movie itself. This tells me that all versions, including the very popular Spanish version that's in circulation everywhere, has an incorrect aspect ratio. I wanted to include this Italian trailer in the small compilation of Alan Steel trailers I posted below but the trailer was copyrighted.

Movie Poster Mondays

Spanish poster of HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN (1964)

Great poster. One of the best!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

By the Gods!

Gordon Scott, as Kerim, is ordered to be whipped by Alberto Farnese and Moira Orfei in KERIM - SON OF THE SHEIK (1962)

When filming this, Gordon Scott was probably thinking: why am I always stuck in these positions? Gordon was often whipped, chained and surrounded by spears. Scott's story didn't end well (maybe I should include him in the tragic stars page?). From what I've read, he wasn't too fond of the PEPLUM genre. This attitude is sorta reflected with almost every actor who had acted in PEPLUM films: they generally didn't like them, or making them. They were physically demanding productions. I recently read a new article of an actor who was a PEPLUM star and he admitted that he preferred doing other films. For a brief second, I thought that I might contact this actor for an interview but after reading the article, and his disinterest in the genre, I thought it wouldn't make much of a difference. The PEPLUM genre gets no respect, even from people who worked on them. I'm still looking for the Egyptian version of this film.


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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

By the Gods!

Carla Marlier, Charles Band and Steve Reeves in WAR OF THE TROJANS (aka The Avenger; 1962)

Charles Band's character in the English version was named Julio. Since he's the only prominent child actor in this film, it's obvious that's him but the film credit information listed out there is confusing. Band is still alive today and wrote an tiny article in The Fantastic Fifties magazine about his experience. While making the film, he realized he hated acting.


Preston Foster and David Holt look at some film stock during the making of THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1935)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

By the Gods!

Maciste (Kirk Morris) thwarts guards with a pole in TRIUMPH OF MACISTE (1961)

In this scene, Maciste causes an accident (left hand side of screen) by grabbing the heavy pole, which he tries to take care of immediately after but is then surrounded by even more guards with spears. This is one rare scenes in which we see the Hero recklessly causing a mishap by trying to overcome baddies by using whatever object around him as a weapon but backfiring badly on him. I wish there were more scenes like this in PEPLUM movies, where Heroes are sometimes a source of problem on innocent bystanders because of his desire to do good with his powerful strength. It makes the film look less cartoonish. It grounds the Hero. A true classic PEPLUM!