Friday, January 14, 2022

Image of the week!


Claudette Colbert as Empress Poppaea in THE SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932)

Who's left?

With the passing of Mark Forest on January 7, many speculated over the remaining PEPLUM stars. Mark was one of the big stars, and as I mentioned in his obit, his death sorta signals the end of an era. But there are still a good number of actors of the genre who are still with us. Many of them had a similar career as Mark, certainly Ed Fury, so the era is still not completely over. We're in the twilight phase I guess. 

I won't list regular actors, like Roger Browne (MARS - GOD OF WAR) or Mark Damon (THE SON OF CLEOPATRA) or Brett Halsey (THE MAGNIFICENT ADVENTURER), who are still with us. I'll only list the bodybuilder/actors, known for their work in physique modelling before heading to Rome. I also won't list stars like Lou Ferrigno who became famous decades after the Golden Era of the PEPLUM genre.



ED FURY


Ed Fury starred in multiple PEPLUM movies, including the popular URSUS series. Ed is 93 years old today. I can't find a current photo of him. This screenshot is from THE SEVEN REVENGES.



KIRK MORRIS


Kirk Morris is alive. He was born in 1942. He's the star of many PEPLUM movies, including MACISTE IN HELL. He's aging fairly well.




RICHARD HARRISON


Richard Harrison is one of the biggest PEPLUM stars left. He made 9 genre movies in the early 1960s, including PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE (1963; Medusa against the Son of Hercules).




PETER LUPUS


Peter is still alive. He's famous for his role in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TV series but Peter made 4 PEPLUM movies in the 1960s, including HERCULES AND THE TYRANTS OF BABYLON (left).



HOWARD ROSS


Howard, born Renato Rossini, is still with us. In fact, he celebrated his birthday recently, on January 10. Howard was in many PEPLUM productions, including SAMSON AND THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE in which he played Maciste. 



PIETRO TORRISI


Bodybuilder Pietro Torrisi starred in many PEPLUM movies of the Golden Era, as supporting actor, but he had lead roles in the movies from the 1980s, including THE THRONE OF FIRE with Sabrina Siani.



GIOVANNI CIANFRIGLIA


Giovanni didn't have a lead role in PEPLUM movies but he was famous for being the body double/stuntman for Steve Reeves and he appeared in small roles here and there but his unforgettable role as Antaeus in HERCULES THE AVENGER solidified him as a PEPLUM star. Below: Giovanni in a recent documentary on the genre. 




SAMSON BURKE


Canadian-born Samson is still alive. He's a regular at signing conventions. The movie above:  VENGEANCE OF URSUS. He's most famous for playing Hercules in THE 3 STOOGES MEET HERCULES.


So, there's still a fair number of PEPLUM stars left but the list will dwindle fast since most of the are 80 years and older. 


Thursday, January 13, 2022

By the Gods!


Ron Carey, Bea Arthur and Mel Brooks in HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1 (1981)

I got the Blu-ray edition of this comedy. It's fun to watch a movie set in Antiquity but like such comedies, it's hit and miss. Brooks is getting his money from the unemployment department, with Bea as the 'dole officer.'  Is this Bea's only role set in Antiquity? It's a silly scene but it's memorable. The Blu-ray looks good and the production has some amazing aspects to it, including the many matte paintings, which look great in HD.


Behind-the-Scenes


Mark Forest, as Kindar, prepares for a scene along with Dea Flowers on the set of KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE (1965). Below is the scene in the final movie.

 


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Clip of the week: THE LION OF THEBES (1964)

Short clip with Mark Forest (and Giovanni Cianfriglia as stuntman) from THE LION OF THEBES





Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Mark Forest R.I.P.



Mark Forest was one of the top muscular actors of the PEPLUM genre. He starred in 12 PEPLUM movies before retiring and became an opera singer / voice coach. He was a popular bodybuilder back in the 1950s but he never won a major competition. He did win Mr Muscle beach title in Venice, California.

When I started the blog and Facebook account linked to it, I had some contacts with Mark via his Faebook account. I don't know if he wrote his own messages or someone wrote them for him. But after a brief exchange, he stopped communicating with me. It's a shame he remained silent about his major role in the popularity of PEPLUM movies.

Mark's second film, SON OF SAMSON, was the first Maciste movie since the silent era. It's huge success resurrected the character and he mostly played him in his career, with other actors also starring in Maciste movies.


Personally, I like all of his movies. They are all top PEPLUM movies. Not one dud in his career.

Mark died on January 7, at the age of 89, one day after his birthday.



GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON (1960)


Mark's first movie was apparently made from the remnants of the third and never filmed Hercules movie with Steve Reeves. That project was abandoned after director Pietro Francisci was too busy with other movies and Reeves only wanted to work with Francisci. The original Italian title translates as THE REVENGE OF HERCULES but was re-titled as GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON after US distributors wanted the sorta serious movie to be more marketable to kids, adding scenes with the dragon for the US release. It was a hit and Mark's acting career took off. Leonora Ruffo starred with Mark (below).




SON OF SAMSON (1960)


After the success of GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON, Mark starred in SON OF SAMSON, the first Maciste movie since the silent era. It was another big hist and the character of Maciste would be seen in multiple movies in the 1960s.


Above: An old man covers up Maciste's body has it would draw too much attention, including that of the evil Queen, played by Chelo Alonso (below)
 



MACISTE - THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD (1961; aka Maciste vs Mole men)


Msrk's third movie was another hit and another classic PEPLUM. Paul Wynter co-starred with Mark in one of my favourite movies. It was Maciste versus the mole men. Over-the-top describes this fun production.




COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA (1962)


COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA is a big, boisterous movie directed by Michele Lupo. It also stars many PEPLUM actors, including Dan Vadis (below). I like this movie but Mark was having a bad hair day throughout (Dan as well). The scene below could have been a classic but it's just ok. This movie has it all, including a monkey.



GOLIATH AND THE SINS OF BABYLON (1963)
 

Another big, boisterous PEPLUM directed by Michele Lupo and starring José Greci (above)

The US poster is great. It highlights one of the movie's most sensational scenes in any PEPLUM: a torture scene with Mark and spears (below). I uploaded this scene to Youtube and it got millions of views, before Youtube pulled it.



 



HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963)


Along with KINDAR, this is my personal favourite Mark Forest movie, and one of my favourites PEPLUM movies ever. It's action packed, fun, a great cast and loads of Feats of strength scenes. It just clicks from beginning to end thanks to top direction by Domenico Paolella. Above: Mark with Howard Ross, Ken Clark, Nadir Moretti. I uploaded a Fan Dub to my Youtube channel and it had over 6 million views before Youtube yanked it for no reason. I re-uploaded it and it's still there (for now).


Maria Grazia Spina and José Greci co-star with Mark. The millstone scene is memorable. Below: Maria with Mark. Another memorable scene.




MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA (1964) 


This is a good film, filmed back to back with THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR. Both movies use the almost the same cast and same scenes in a couple of moments so it always creates a feeling of Cinematic Confusion. I always identify this one as the one with the ape scene (below). The ape scene is often shown in documentaries on the genre.


 

Above: This is the scene I used the New Year 2022 banner (below) which I posted at several of my social media sites. Sad.
 



HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS (1964)


Another top PEPLUM movie directed by Dominco Paolella, back to back after MONGOLS. Almost as good as HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS though this action packed movie is more like a fairytale that a straightforward action movie like MONGOLS. It has a great cast including Ken Clark and Gloria Milland. Many stand-out scenes, including the one below, with José Greci, in which the two are stuck beneath the door while an army on horseback runs on top of the door, with Hercules keeping them from being crushed. There's also the unforgettable giant snake scene. This scene, uploaded at my Youtube channel, went viral and has millions of views.

 

 



THE LION OF THEBES (1964)


Another stand-out PEPLUM movie starring Mark and Yvonne Furneaux (behind Mark). Directed by the excellent Giorgio Ferroni, this movie is solid: great cast, production and action scenes (below). One of Mark's best.




HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN (1964)


I recently profiled this fun movie after I got a beautiful new copy in HD. Screenshot above is from that copy. It stars Giuliano Gemma. When Gemma's star grew in the 1970s, the movie was re-released with Gemma as lead actor and no mention of Mark on ads. Not good. This was Mark's movie. Anyway, I like everything about it even though the dance numbers are a bit long. Unique PEPLUM title.




THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR (1964)


The second, and in my opinion, the better of the two movies shot back to back after MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA, also starring Marilù Tolo (below). It includes the 'Annoying Sidekick' played by Oreste Lionello (below below). Fun movie. The screenshots were taken from a new French DVD.






KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE (1965)


Mark's last movie is one of his best. Initially, I didn't care much for it but after seeing it in a clean beautiful print, the movie stood out. Great cast, stunning locations, evocative story, lotsa of muscular action. The only annoying thing is the anti-climatic resolution but aside from that, KINDAR is tops in my book. There are even poetic scenes here and there. Kindar's love interest, above, is played by Dea Flowers. Below: Kindar steps out of an iron maiden, alive and unscathed.


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There are still a couple of PEPLUM lead stars who are still alive (I'll write an article on this). But his death sorta signals the end of an era. He was quite memorable in almost all his movies. And yet he never or rarely talked about his days as an actor. I wished he had written something about those twelve movies but alas, we'll never get to know all the details on how the bodybuilder from Brooklyn, born Lou Degni, became Mark Forest and made movies in Italy.