Friday, October 23, 2020

By the Gods!

Yôko Tani as Princess Ila in URSUS IN THE TARTAR PRINCESS (1961)

A Japanese actress born in Paris, France. She starred in a handful of PEPLUM movies, including this one. She's mostly known for FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS (1960). I like her. Good actress. These screen grabs were taken from a HD version of it. It's very nice. Not as spectacular as the recent CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER one but a definite upgrade from previous versions.

Ettore Manni starred along with Yôko

At the movies...

THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965) playing at the Warner Cinerama theatre in NYC.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

By the Gods!

Jean Simmons is a slave in SPARTACUS (1960)

Simmons was a rare PEPLUM star in Hollywood in that she made a good number of genre films. ANDROCLES AND THE LION (1952), THE ROBE (1953), THE EGYPTIAN (1954) and this one. Aside from ANDROCLES, all other films were big productions and casting her in SPARTACUS made sense. She was a familiar face in such pictures. But she would slowly stop working after this epic, only starring in 6 films in the 1960s after the year SPARTACUS was released. In this story, she's the catalyst in that Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) revolts against the Romans after she is whisked away from the slave camp.

What do you think of her? Any fans out there?

Behind-the-Scenes

Victor Mature takes a photo with one of the extras, who happens to be Ed Fury, during the making of DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

By the Gods!

Giacomo Rossi Stuart and Ferdinando Poggi in THE MYSTERY OF THUG ISLAND (1964)

Rossi Stuart plays Tremal Naik. In our politically correct times, this movie, and other of its kind, are blasphemous. Better save them on your hard drives before TPTB bans them forever. I know the actors are not the right race but both actors look tanned, not in brown or black face. The two look almost identical. 

Rhonda Fleming, R.I.P.

Rhonda in REVOLT OF THE SLAVES (1960)

Hollywood star Rhonda Fleming died on October 14 at the age of 97. Though she didn't star in many PEPLUM movies, those that she did star in were big titles, at least in regards to the genre itself. She was an actress, singer, and dancer (in Las Vegas). One of her earliest roles was in Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (1945). She would eventually become lead actress in many movies during most of the 1950s. A lot of her movies are not PEPLUM movies per se but have elements of the genre such as A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT (1948). Her biggest roles would be in SERPENT OF THE NILE, QUEEN OF BABYLON and REVOLT OF THE SLAVE. May she R.I.P..

Rhonda in LITTLE EGYPT (1951). Not a PEPLUM movie but she had a memorable belly dance in it.


Rhonda with Sterling Hayden in THE GOLDEN HAWK (1952). She was the star of the movie, with her name above the title.


THE SERPENT OF THE NILE (1953)
Rhonda as Cleopatra
 
Rhonda starred in this William Castle directed movie made for Columbia Pictures. Raymond Burr co-starred with her. Fun film.





Rhonda in a publicity photo for YANKEE PASHA (1954). Not a true PEPLUM movie. A combination Western/Arabian Adventure. The story takes place in the 1800s and Rhonda's character is kidnapped and sent to Arabia to become a dancing girl in a harem.


QUEEN OF BABYLON (1954)

Rhonda went to Italy to star in this sorta big PEPLUM movie with a 'cast of thousands.' It was quite an ambitious production, an early PEPLUM shot in color. It also starred another Hollywood actor, Ricardo Montalban. Is it accurate in regards to Babylonian culture? Not really but it's fun, sorta influential PEPLUM since it was made way before all the upcoming titles of the late 1950s.

Ricardo, playing Amal, with Rhonda, as Semiramis, in this improbable and yet fun PEPLUM


Rhonda dances up a storm in a massive ceremonial scene.


Semiramis (Fleming) is to be burned at the stake. Big production.




REVOLT OF THE SLAVES
(1960)

6 years after going to Italy to make QUEEN OF BABYLON, Rhonda return to Rome to shoot her best PEPLUM yet: REVOLT OF THE SLAVES. I think it's an overlooked PEPLUM movie which finally got the Blu-ray treatment. One of those PEPLUM movies I watch over and over.

Rhonda Fleming with her co-stars: Dolores Francine, Ettore Manni, Wandisa Guida, and Fernando Rey. Great cast.

Rhonda's character is during the climax imprisoned along with Dolores Francine.


Lang Jeffires and Rhonda in a publicity photo. Both were married briefly after the production was completed.

Rhonda with Serge Gainsbourg and Van Aikens. Serge would become a legendary crooner after his stint in PEPLUM movies.


Monday, October 19, 2020

By the Gods!

Leo Valeriano, Gigi Bonos, and Robert Malcolm in SINBAD & THE CALIPH OF BAGHDAD (1973)

I have so many copies of this movies, it's unreal. And yet finding the perfect one is nearly impossible. Above is a copy in widescreen. Below is another copy I got from a great source. The clarity of the image is better but it's not in widescreen. There is a widescreen version and in English on Youtube but the channel is a scummy one so I won't link to it.

This was Pietro Francisci's last movie. For those who don't know, Pietro directed HERCULES (1958) which started the whole PEPLUM explosion. I like it but some might not. Robert Malcolm makes for an interesting Sinbad, different than all others. Robert made just a couple of movies and disappeared from the face of the earth, like so many other PEPLUM stars. I've read on some forum that he's married and lives in Florida.



PEPLUM Movie Poster

French poster of SWORD OF THE EMPIRE (1964)

Great art. Another one for my collection.

PEPLUM TV Official store





Saturday, October 17, 2020

Rhonda Fleming

It was announced yesterday that Rhonda Fleming died on October 14. I'll have more on her career in PEPLUM movies next week.



Friday, October 16, 2020

By the Gods!

Roland Carey and Gabriele Antonini are pursued by the Praetorians and hold Maria Grazia Spina while the men pass by in REVOLT OF THE BARBARIANS (1964)

Got a nice print of this often overlooked movie. I already had some nice prints, including one Fan Dub, but this print, though not quite HD, is very beautiful. I like this movie. It's a 'real' PEPLUM.


BEN-HUR board game

There was a BEN-HUR (1959) board game. Who knew? It sorta looks like the SON OF HERCULES board game. I'll look out for it on eBay. If it's not too expensive, I'll buy it. Of course the game centres around the movie's most famous scene, the chariot race. 

Is Jesus and leprosy part of the game too? 








Thursday, October 15, 2020

By the Gods!

Archimedes (Rossano Brazzi) learns a secret from Diane (Tina Louise) in SIEGE OF SYRACUSE (1960)

This is definitely Pietro Francisci's biggest movie. It's lush, expansive and beautiful to look at. I watched the French version of it last night (I don't have to read subs) and I really like it. The French dub is excellent unlike Tina Louise's other PEPLUM film, SAPPHO. The French dub is horrendous for that title. The English version is still missing in action. Will it ever surface? I like watching it in Italian with subs but watching without subs is a definite plus. I can't wait to get a hold of the English dub. IMO, the only liabilities I can make towards this excellent production is the episodic script. It takes place during decades and the movie sorta loses focus at one point. Also, the color of Rossano's hair is terrible. What were they thinking? But that's it. The rest is top notch!

Lobby Cards Set: MY SON THE HERO (The Titans)

US lobby cards set of MY SON, THE HERO (1962) starring Giuliano Gemma, Serge Nubret and a host of other actors. Fun set of lobby cards. The set showcases almost everything that's good about it and leaves the weak stuff out (mostly about the love story). Only card #7 is weird: I don't know who she is and what she's doing in the set. It's basically a publicity shot of an extra but the other cards are good.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

By the Gods!

Miriam (Dolores Costello) is about to be sacrificed in NOAH'S ARK (1928)

This movie has many spectacular scenes, including this one and yet it's rarely brought up when the subject of spectacular scenes from movies set in Antiquity comes up. It's one of the most overlooked films of the era. It's probably due to the fact that the film takes places in different eras, scenes set during modern times to contrast with those set in the past. Dolores, one of the most popular actresses of the silent period, was the mother of future PEPLUM star John Drew Barrymore.

Then & Now: Angela Lansbury

Angela in SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949); A recent photo of the actress

Monday, October 12, 2020

By the Gods!

Giulio Brogi as Aeneas in AENEID (1971)

A mini-series from Franco Rossi who also directed THE ODYSSEY (1968) TV mini-series, which is more known than this one. 7 one hour episodes. A massive undertaking, for the makers and the viewers. Aeneas is a giant in Italian culture/history but almost unknown elsewhere. He is the ancestors of Romulus and Remus, who were the founders of Rome. Aeneas was exiled to Italy after the fall of Troy. The mini-series looks great but more 'groovy' than THE ODYSSEY. Some dated costumes and style. The locations are stunning, many of which were destroyed by ISIS. So there's something truly valuable about this production. The series is in Italian without English subtitles....yet.



PEPLUM Movie Poster

Lebanese poster of REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS (1964)

This is n amalgamation of different posters with some artwork from the movie itself

PEPLUM TV Official store







Friday, October 9, 2020

By the Gods!

Gianna Maria Canale and Claudio Gora in SON OF SPARTACUS (1962)

A TV show in Italy (2018) in which the cast (below) try to recreate scenes from SON OF SPARTACUS, including the one above. I know very little of this but I assume it's a reality TV show of sorts. That's all I can about it. 


The TV show shows clips of SON OF SPARTACUS, including this one with Steve Reeves


At the movies...

KING OF KINGS (1961) playing at the Alouette cinema in Montreal, Canada. The cinema was demolished a long time ago.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

By the Gods!


SON OF SAMSON (1960) starring Mark Forest (Maciste), Chelo Alonso (Queen Smedes), Angelo Zanolli (Pharaoh Kenamun), Carlo Tamberlani, and Vira Silenti. Directed by Carlo Campogalliani. Italian title: Maciste nella valle dei Re (Maciste in the Valley of the Kings).

Evil Queen Smedes (played to perfection by Chelo Alonso) wants to control the throne. She casts a spell on the ruling Pharaoh (Angelo Zanolli) in the form of a powerful necklace with a scarab. The Queen and her evil men are set to control the Kingdom but the appearance of Maciste makes this coup not as easy as it should have been since the Pharaoh, with bow and arrow, saved Maciste's life by killing a lion who was about to attack the sleeping/sunbathing hero. The ever grateful Maciste and the Pharaoh form an instant deep bond and Maciste's eventual infiltration of the Kingdom puts the Queen's plans into turmoil. She sets her eyes on the muscular Maciste. When Maciste refuses to help her she tries to kill him by tossing him in a pool with crocodiles. 

This is a great PEPLUM, one of the best. It looks great on all fronts: cast, locations, production, etc. Directed by Carlo Campogalliani, who had directed Steve Reeves in GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS (1959), sets up the stage for a spectacular PEPLUM and a spectacular return of Maciste, who hadn't appeared in a movie since the silent era. The movie was a smash hit and dozens of other Maciste movies were made in its wake.

Chelo Alonso as Queen Smedes. One of her most memorable roles.

The movie is filled with clichés, Feats of Strength, everything that a PEPLUM fan like me looks for in a PEPLUM movie. On this aspect alone, the movie rocks. It doesn't disappoint. Campogalliani doesn't shy away from showcasing Mark Forest and his physique in a plethora of scenes where his body is the main focus. Forest appears only in his yellow loincloth-style wrap throughout the movie. At one point they even make fun of this by covering him up as he infiltrates the city since his body made him stand out from ordinary citizens. But the cover don't last long and Maciste takes it off quickly saying "I don't want to wear a mask!". Aside from Steve Reeves movies, and Kirk Morris in MACISTE IN HELL, I don't think there's another movie which displays the bodybuilder/actor front and centre like what Campogalliani did here. It's quite eye catching, even in 2020. 

This was Mark's first movie. You'd think his performance would have suffered from this but it doesn't. Mark looks like a seasoned pro. His physique also differed quite a lot from those at the time, including that of Steve Reeves. Forest, née Lou Degni, went on to make a dozen or so other PEPLUM movies before becoming an Opera singer/teacher.

Chelo had starred in GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS for director Campogalliani so it's not surprising the director wanted to work with the Cuban born star again. She looks like a Queen, even though I doubt Queen's would dance like Chelo danced.

Queen Smedes controls the gentle Pharaoh Kenamum (Angelo Zanolli). The Pharaoh's true nature surfaces after being cast in a spell.


Maciste (Forest) is displayed to the Queen (Alonso) and the Pharaoh (Zanolli). Beautiful set and photography.


The rising of an obelisk sets the stage for a spectacular Feat of Strength for our hero Maciste.

This is one sexy film. From beefy Forest and slinky Alonso, to their eventual 'courtship' which includes a sultry dance number from Alonso, sex is on the forefront throughout. One has to be reminded that this was made in 1960.

The Queen tries to control Maciste with the reliable drink laced with some potion.

What makes this movie more interesting than the average PEPLUM movie are the relationships. Yes, the Queen tries to seduce Maciste and have him under her thumb, which is pretty much the standard thing in all PEPLUM movies with evil female rulers but the one character which is sorta unique is Pharaoh Kenamum, played with appropriate sensitivity by Angelo Zanolli. At the start of the film, the Pharaoh is shown to be in a relationship with a woman but once he becomes ensnared in the spell, his character changes. His love interest is nowhere to be seen until the very end and even then the Pharaoh doesn't pay any attention to her. It seems the director wanted the Pharaoh's true nature to surface once he was being controlled by the evil Queen which makes this character change interesting. There's plenty of subtext going on and it's quite obvious the director intended to be more underlying aspects between the Pharaoh and Maciste. This makes the movie look/feel more contemporary than many other movies made of the same period. 

The Pharaoh (Zanolli) doesn't recognized Maciste (Forest) even though the two quickly became friends after the Pharaoh saved Maciste's life.

The movie is filled with some surprisingly shocking moments, of violence and nudity. At the very start we see men buried up to their heads, dying in the desert. At one point, a slave, believed to be a man, rips the clothes off to show female breasts. I still can't believe this scene was left in the final cut. Some prints crop out the breasts or cut out altogether (it's cut in the Retromedia DVD print) but even in that version it's still surprising to see a female flash herself like that. Kudos to the movie!

One of many spectacular scenes in the movie.

The film is eye filling, in more ways than one. For an Italian PEPLUM, there are some quasi-Hollywood big scenes in it, including a deadly chariot race, the obelisk scene, big crowds scenes throughout. This movie wasn't cheap.



Issues with the movie:

- the lion tamer is obviously not Mark Forest. With his beer gut and clumsy movements, the HD image makes this scene even more apparent.
- I always get the two female characters confused (below). They wear the same wig and the same clothes and they look like identical twins. I can never set them apart. Even in HD. It's very confusing.


- The pacing is very relaxed and casual. There's nothing wrong with this (I actually like it) but I think the story needed a bit more urgency at some point.
- The big battle at the climax. We're obviously not in Egypt anymore. I always wonder why they filmed in that location. Oh well...

Side note: the obelisk scene makes an appearance in MACISTE IN HELL (1962)

Side note: the original Italian poster is stunning. I recently bought it.

Obvious lion tamer made more obvious with the crystal clear HD image.

I have multiple versions of this movie, so many that I've lost count. In fact, I acquired this copy and another one which was also pretty good but not as good as this one in just a few months. The main one I've had for many years was the Retromedia DVD version. This version was ok but it was murky, grubby and well, not really good. In contrast, the new RAI HD broadcast really shows how poor the Retromedia print was. These screengrabs are from the RAI HD broadcast.

At the IMDb profile of the movie, the original runtime was 94 minutes at 24 FPS (frames per second). The Retromedia DVD version is 86 minutes long at 24 FPS which means 8 minutes were cut from it. This new RAI HD version is 90 minutes long but at 25 FPS. A French version of this movie I recently acquired is also at 90 minutes at 25 FPS. So this RAI HD version is uncut since 94 minutes at 24 FPS is 90 minutes at 25 FPS.

I give this movie 9 out of 10. One of the top PEPLUM flicks.

Mark Forest looks great in it!