Friday, January 24, 2020

PEPLUM TV store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

I have some of the merch and wear them all the time. Good stuff.



By the Gods!

The tower of Babel in THE BIBLE: THE BEGINNING...(1966)

This scene is well executed. The bottom of the image (see below) is were the large scale set and all the live action stuff occurred and everything else above that is a matte painting by Silio Romagnoli. I made a composite of this scene, with three screengrabs edited together. The final scene is a great shot and still holds up beautifully in HD. Spectacular.

As for the authenticity of the design, according to archeologists and historians, that's a whole different matter.


Everything in this frame is real. No special effects or CGI.

Behind-the-Scenes

Richard Harrison in an intimate moment with girlfriend (?) while shooting PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE (1963 ; aka Medusa vs the Son of Hercules). This photo was used for a Mexican lobby card but it was a mistake as the lady in the photo is NOT in the film itself and she's dressed in (then) modern clothes. And the two are sitting on a set of movie chairs.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

By the Gods!

Reg Park, as Hercules, in HERCULES - PRISONER OF EVIL (1964; Ursus il terrore dei Kirghisi)

Directed by Anthony Dawson, aka Antonio Margheriti (with an uncredited Ruggero Deodato).

Is this a Hercules movie or an Ursus one? The original title is URSUS & THE TERROR OF THE KIRGHIZ. Personally speaking, I prefer Ursus but the original title is not that interesting. Maybe URSUS - PRISONER OF EVIL? This is not a Hercules movie. The title was changed to HERCULES to accommodate the English cinema markets (US - Canada - UK - Australia - NZ - Hong Kong).

The story is simple enough: the sorceress Amiko (Granelli) uses a magic potion to turn men she seduces into monsters. There are two factions in this story (the good guys and the bad guys...duh!) and Amiko wants the possessed-men-turned-into-monster to create fear and terror between the groups to trigger a war. This includes big beefy Hercules. She's works with Zereteli (main bad guy) but he doesn't exactly know what she does.

The film is never boring but it plays more like a combo of the Werewolf / Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde / FRIDAY THE 13TH than a Hercules movie. Hercules in a backwoods slasher? That's basically it. Oh, and with some witchcraft. As it always is with these kind of stories, there are a lot of red herrings.

I like it. The cinematography is excellent, as witnessed in recent DVD release of it. It looks like it was shot yesterday. The cast is solid. The acting is actually pretty good, certainly from Mireille, Ettore, Furio and Claudio Scarchilli, who's unforgettable as a double faced baddie. And Reg Park doesn't look too bored, like in some of his other movies. For some reason, in this movie Reg reminds me of Mark Wahlberg. It's a very simple story and the bulk of the movie is made of scenes of the actors running around in the woods.

A side note, this movie is one of those rare PEPLUM movies that has no cuts to it for the English version: the runtime for the original is 90 minutes and the runtime for the US version is 90 minutes.

The main problem with HERCULES - PRISONER OF EVIL is that it utilizes big chunks of scenes from THE SEVEN REVENGES (1961). Those re-used scenes all have Furio Meniconi in them. Meniconi agreed to act in this movie and they were able to edit the old footage with the new footage. It's sorta seamless, even though the film stock between the two movies are obviously different. Now if one doesn't know this or hasn't seen THE SEVEN REVENGES, it might not be a big deal but since REVENGES is a great PEPLUM, it's sorta sad that this was done. REVENGES easily eclipses this movie.

To make things more odd, a porn version of this movie was released in the early 1970s, titled THE EROTIC LIFE OF URSUS. Inserts of sex scenes or presumably nude scenes were added to the mix. So, by that time that version had scenes from 3 different movies. That version seems to have been lost forever.

7.5 out of 10

Ettore Manni is Hercules' good friend. Manni is excellent as usual.

Mireille Granelli played a compelling villainess/sorceress/witch. Her career was short-lived though.

Furio Meniconi as Zereteli. Scenes from THE SEVEN REVENGES were re-used. Meniconi wore the same costumes in both films.

A wounded Hercules is nursed back to health by his love, played by Maria Teresa Orsin. Claudio Scarchilli, in the background, plays a memorable bad guy.

Who played the monster? Was it Reg Park? No one is credited for the monster.

Lobby Cards Set: COBRA WOMAN

Lobby cards set of COBRA WOMAN (1944) starring Maria Montez, Sabu and Jon Hall. The set is incomplete, with only one card missing. Good set. Serviceable. But the movie is so colourful that these plain cardboard cards cannot capture the vividness and intensity of the Technicolor film.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

By the Gods!

Hélène Chanel and Pierre Brice in THE TERROR OF THE BLACK MASK (1963; L'invincibile cavaliere mascherato)

Directed by Umberto Lenzi, this is one of those Zorro/Masked Avenger movies popular back then. Dozens and dozens were made. Some are pretty good while some are just average. I wouldn't call this movie average, even though it is, but derivative. The usually reliable direction by Umberto Lenzi, who directed some of the most solid actioners of the period including SAMSON & THE SLAVE QUEEN (1963), SANDOKAN THE GREAT or PIRATES OF MALAYSIA (both 1964), is oddly uninspired here. The movie feels like it's running in circles, going back and forth with the same 4 or 5 settings, including a dining chamber that's not very convincing. A lot of the action occurs in this set, which looks very artificial. Like a set. The careful, meticulous direction by Lenzi is not present. Instead, we see the same scenes repeat themselves over and over again.

The movie sorta lacks vision. Some have said it's bland, and, again, it is but some good direction or cinematography can elevate a bland story and characters in being better than it is. In this case, both the direction or cinematography are nothing remarkable. The camera angles and composition of the repetitive scenes are sorta lazy. The movie is not bad by any means. As I've already wrote, it's just not inspired.

The story is about a wealthy man, Don Gomez (Nerio Bernardi), killed in an ambush, at the behest of the many villains in this story (see below), with Daniele Vargas being the main bad guy, Don Luis. Luis inherits the 'welfare' of the dead man's estate, including his daughter, Carmencita (Chanel) who is trapped in his castle. The story takes place during an outbreak of the plague, or Black Death. A masked Avenger, called the Black Mask, also terrorizes the populace, and is a thorn on the side of the many villains.

The Black Death storyline is the most interesting aspect of this movie and is sometimes handled in a morbid manner without being too gruesome.

The beautiful Hélène Chanel looks sorta matronly in this movie. Some of the clothes and wigs weren't fitted properly, making her look older and more unkempt than needed be. The climax takes place during a costume party and Hélène is dressed in a gaudy Cleopatra-like costume. The dashing Pierre Brice excelled in these roles and this one is no exception. The odd thing, Brice's first on-screen appearance happens 35 minutes into a 90 minutes long movie. At one point I wondered if his role would amount to a cameo. The denouement of the story is sorta convoluted and I actually need to watch it again to make sure I got things right.

I have the Italian, German and English versions. The English version, which I've recently acquired, is a Fan Dub made by someone not known to me. The opening credits were also remade (on computer) from scratch and are in English. A pretty good Fan Dub but the voices sometimes do not match the actors from time to time.

Also known as THE INVINCIBLE MASKED RIDER.

I give 6 out of 10.

Hero Pierre Brice. Is he the Black Mask avenger?


Hélène Chanel is the 'damsel in distress'.


The many villains: Damile Vargas, Carlo Latimer, Massimo Serato and Aldo Bufi Landi

Happy birthday to Steve!

I never do birthday posts but today is the day Steve Reeves was born: January 21, 1926. 

Without him, the PEPLUM genre wouldn't be the same. 

Happy birthday!


BY THE GODS!: New DVD set is same as old DVD set…


Beware of repackaging!

Monday, January 20, 2020

By the Gods!

Gianni Agus, Totò and Moira Orfei in TOTO & CLEOPATRA (1963)

How to review a Totò movie?

It's one of those dilemmas of the genre. I like his films but they're are difficult to give a good assessment. His PEPLUM films are only available in Italian (for now). Unless you know Italian, you'll have to read subtitles to watch his movies. And since the animated Totò talks nonstop, the subtitles are never-ending. You spend more time reading the machine-gun delivery of the dialogue than watch the movie. Things are made more complicated because there are subtle (or not subtle) differences between the dialogue and the subs which hamper the meaning of many jokes or situations, many of which are play with words. Some scenes have no subtitles apparently because the jokes were impossible to translate.

Like many genre comedies, Totò plays a dual role: Marc Antony and an unscrupulous slave trader who happens to look exactly like Mark Antony. That's because they're brothers. The plot or story is secondary to the humour.

Some compare this to CARRY ON CLEO (1964), which was made and release a year after this production. There are some similarities but not that many. CLEO is funnier but it's more like a cartoon while this one, even with cartoonish Totò, is played more straight.

The movie includes scenes from other productions as a cost cutting measure. In one scene, with the fake Mark Antony addressing the people of Rome cheering him on, we see a crowd scene taken from THE SWORD & THE CROSS (1958), which is set in Israel. That Roman crowd doesn't look very Roman.

In the movie, Totò is surrounded by many beautiful women, with Moira being the most beautiful. She was a statuesque woman! Totò's voice was not dubbed but Moira's voice was, or seems to be.



PEPLUM Movie Posters

US movie poster of THE WARRIOR AND THE SLAVE GIRL (1958)

The fellow looks like Charlton Heston. Fun poster.

PEPLUM TV store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

I have some of the merch and wear them all the time. Good stuff.



Friday, January 17, 2020

BY THE GODS!: DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS Blu-ray


A quick look at the movie on Blu-ray (not a complete review...coming soon). Starring Victor Mature and Susan Hayward.

By the Gods!

The gladiator training scene from DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS (1954)

The cast includes Susan Hayward, Ernest Borgnine and Barry Jones.

Last night, I watched THE ROBE in HD from a Blu-ray release. Beautiful print. Crystal clear image. So why is the image for this movie taken from its Blu-ray so murky? It's baffling to me. It's great to see so many details on the extras in the background. No Ed Fury in sight though (see previous post below). But there is a fellow right dead centre who I thought, for a split second, was Steve Reeves. You can see him better in the screenshot below, on the far right. It's not Steve since the man's arms are too small. I wonder who he is. I think he's John Weidemann, the fellow who starred in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953), in the 'Olympic' scene with Jane Russell.

I recently purchased Blu-rays of THE ROBE (1953) and its sequel, DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS. I have to say that watching them in HD, even with the murky image of DEMETRIUS, gives the movies a whole new aspect. I will write reviews of those Blu-rays soon enough. Suffice it to say, my appreciation for both movies have gone up considerably.

Does anyone have the US Blu-ray release of DEMETRIUS? Is the image this murky? This Blu-ray is from a Spanish edition (since the US one is out of print and the copies for sale out there are too expensive).


Vintage Article: Gina taking a bath!


Article in Movie News magazine over beautiful Gina Lollobrigida's bath scene in SOLOMON & SHEBA (1959). Probably the least inspired 'bathing beauty' moment in PEPLUM history. Such a lavish production and the Queen of Sheba in a tiny tub.




Thursday, January 16, 2020

By the Gods!

Full scale model of the kingdom of Jadur in ARABIAN ADVENTURE (1979)

The model, which was tall and elaborate (though looking like a model) was built in full. In the image above this long distance shot of Jadur is seen at the beginning. No superimposed image but shot live with actor (Puneet Sira as Majeed) in the foreground. The city would be used extensively during the magic carpet chase scene during the climax, as seen in the screenshot below (with Oliver Tobias). The camera would swoop and move around the model, replicating the footage needed for the magic carpet scenes. It was used for scenes like the sunset one in the last screenshot, which is nice. The plain lighting during the daytime scenes gives the model away. It needed more contrast, and the sky behind needed to be more convincing. Of I'd make an Arabian movie, I would do this but with better lighting.



Behind-the-Scenes

Susan Hayward takes the time for a photo with an extra on the set of DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS (1954). The extra is Ed Fury!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

By the Gods!

High Priestess Naja (Maria Montez) oversees the sacrificial offerings ceremony in COBRA WOMAN (1944)

Directed by Robert Siodmak (THE LAST ROMAN 1968), and co-written by Richard Brooks, this short movie (at 71 minutes long) is a little gem which has gained a cult following since its release. There was talent behind it and the final product gained from it. The movie obviously influenced the PEPLUM genre: almost every scene is a PEPLUM cliché.

The story itself is a template of almost every PEPLUM movie: Ramu (Jon Hall) is about to marry Tollea (Maria Montez) on a peaceful Pacific island. Before the marriage takes place she's kidnapped by a mute (Lon Chaney Jr.) and brought to Cobra Island. Ramu and stowaway Kado (Sabu) head for the island to rescue her. Due to chance, Ramu follows a royal procession, headed by a woman who looks like his bride. Ramu jumps into a pool where the woman takes a bath and the two lock lips. Ramu believes it's Tollea but  in fact it's her twin sister Naja (also played by Montez). Hall eventually meets the Queen (Mary Nash), grandmother of Tollea and Naja. She tells Ramu that she had Tollea kidnapped so she could replace evil Naja and stop her evil ways.

The list of clichés is never-ending. And I love it for it. At such a short runtime, the movie never overstays its welcome. Production never looks cheap. It has plenty of cool matte paintings and the score is excellent. The gorgeous production was shot in Technicolor, making one of the most colourful productions of the era. The sacrificial ceremony scene is out of this world. My favourite Montez-Hall-Sabu movie.

COBRA WOMAN was recently released on Blu-ray and I took these screenshots from that edition.

Ramu (Jon Hall) sees a royal procession on Cobra Island.

One of many matte paintings in the movie.

Sabu is Kado


Mistaken identity: Ramu goes after the bathing Naja, thinking she's Tollea


Then & Now: Ursula Andress

Ursula in SHE (1965) ; a recent photo of the actress.

Monday, January 13, 2020

By the Gods!

 Carla Calò as Yalis the Oracle in TRIUMPH OF MACISTE (1961)

Carla Calò died on December 29 at the age of 93. She appeared in over 80 movies, mainly as a supporting actress. I won't do a full list of her career. Her role as Yalis is my favourite of all her roles. She's sympathetic and important to Maciste's attempts to overthrow the evil ruler, Queen Tenefi. She was often credited as Carol Brown. Her other notable roles: the gypsy in REVENGE OF THE CONQUERED (1961), CAESAR THE CONQUEROR (1962), and ALI BABA & THE SEVE SARACENS (1964). R.I.P..

Carla helps Maciste (Kirk Morris) with her wisdom in TRIUMPH OF MACISTE (1961)

Carla played a gypsy in REVENGE OF THE CONQUERED (1961)

CAESAR THE CONQUEROR (1962) with Raffaella Carrà

ALI BABA & THE SEVEN SARACENS (1964) co-starring with Gordon Mitchell

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Lebanese poster of SHEHERAZADE (1963)

Of the many posters for this movie, this one is the best. The French posters are boring. The US poster is extremely ugly. The Italian ones are good but this one beats them. It's an odd poster. Giuliano Gemma is listed as the main star even though his role barely registers in the movie. His stardom really peaked in the 1970s. He was relatively new in 1963. Hmm...

Relaunch of PEPLUM TV store

For 2020, I've relaunched the PEPLUM TV store.

I have some of the merch and wear them all the time. Good stuff.



Friday, January 3, 2020

By the Gods!

Gordon Scott during the climax of GLADIATOR OF ROME (1962)

Another PEPLUM movie with a title that belies the movie: Scott never ends up as a gladiator in some  arena in Rome. It's a good title and there are gladiators in it but nothing really about Rome or fighting in the arena.

2020 marks the10th year of the blog's existence. It's been quite a decade. The screenshot above is the image I've used as an avatar, for the blog or Youtube channels. IMO, it's an iconic ending (even though it reduces Scott as a passive onlooker during the mayhem).

I'll be trying new, different things for 2020, including what I just announced in the post below. It's going to take some time and effort on my part to execute these new projects, which means I have to cut back a little here at the blog. I'm taking next week off from posting at the blog (Christmas was really hectic here so I need a break). I usually post a screenshot from THE 300 SPARTANS whenever I take a break but this one is not the usual break I schedule every 2 months. Everything is on-going, which means I'll announce things as they happen.

I thank everyone for the support during these 10 years. It's been incredible.

(Don't worry. The blog is still on-going. More about this next week...)

New project announced at BY THE GODS!


Check out BY THE GODS! for more info.

Model cities in PEPLUM films

One of the fun things to see in PEPLUM movies are scenes over discussion of the creation of cities and grand scale architectural projects. I'm not a historian and I can't say if these scenes are historically accurate but they're cool nonetheless. Here's a small sample of these scenes.


QUO VADIS (1951)

In QUO VADIS, Nero (Peter Ustinov) wishes to erect a new Rome and he showcases this grand scheme to his friends and cohorts. The problem: the project is set to be construction on land where there are already buildings and houses, and people living and working in those places will have to be displaced...by a catastrophic fire?

The model is quite intricate and spectacular.



THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES (1961)

The leaders of Rhodes, lead by Conrado San Martin (in red),  plot some nefarious evil scheme with the help of a model representation of Rhodes, its port and the Colossus. Nice.



GOLIATH & THE DRAGON (1960)
Broderick Crawford shows a model made of gold of the city of Thebes to Ugo Sasso. 


MY SON, THE HERO (1962)
We rarely see the model in the same shot as the lead actors. This is the best scene with the big model (on the right). With Antonio Molino Rojo.


SLAVE QUEEN OF BABYLON (1963)

Semiramis (Yvonne Furneaux) examines the model representation of Babylon. I really like this one.