Friday, October 20, 2017

By the Gods!

Moira Orfei, Massimo Serato make an offer to Alan Steel in SAMSON & THE SLAVE QUEEN (Zorro vs Maciste ; 1963)

This fun film was directed by Umberto Lenzi, who died on October 19. He was 86 years old. Like so many in Italian cinema, Lenzi began his career making PEPLUM films and once the genre died in the mid-60s, he moved on to direct Eurospy films and then horror films in the 1970s and 1980s. His PEPLUM films are solid and often entertaining. I'll make a tribute next week.

My recent acquisitions + review



I purchased several books and DVDs over the course of last summer. I wanted to post about these purchases months ago but some of these items took over 2 months to arrive (if at all). Three DVDs took 2 months to arrive. One DVD never arrived and I was sent a replacement, only to receive the original DVD months after! I bought the UOMINI FORTI DVD on eBay at the beginning of August.  They say it was shipped a few days after the purchase. I received it the first week of October!!! Needless to say, I'll never buy anything from Italy again. The postal service there is ridiculously slow.

Aside from UOMINI FORTI and THE BLACK DUKE, I already had all of these titles in my huge collection but wanted to see how these versions compared with what I already have. I'll reviews of these purchases from time to time. I want these reviews to be a regular feature here at the blog. I'll also be updating my ULTIMATE MOST WANTED list and these purchases, including the books, help to sort out that list.

(Just as a side note, all of these purchases were made before receiving any Paypal donations)

BOOKS :

ITALIAN SWORD & SANDAL FILMS by Roy Kinnard and Tony Crnkovich

IL GRANDE LIBRO DI ERCOLE by Steve Della Casa and Marco Giusti

PEPLUM - Il Cinema Alle Prese Col Mondo Antico by Francesco Di Chiara

EARLY GREEK PHILOSOPHY - Beginnings and Early Ionian Thinkers (nothing to do with films but just for the spirit of the genre)


DVDs :

Italian DVDs

MACISTE ALL'INFERNO (Maciste in Hell ; 1962) - Gotico Italiano edition

I TARTARI (The Tartars ; 1961) - Cristal D Film edition

IL GIGANTE DI METROPOLIS (Giant of Metropolis ; 1961) - Sinister Film edition

UOMINI FORTI (Iron Men) - Documentary - Istituto Luce

German DVDs

CESARE BORGIA (The Black Duke ; 1963 ) - VZ-Handelsgesellschaft mbH edition

SPARTACUS DER TITAN MIT DER EISERNEN FAUST (Colossus of Rome ; Hero of Rome ; 1964) - VZ-Handelsgesellschaft mbH edition

Spanish DVDs

JULIO CESAR - El Conquistadorde la Galia ( Caesar the Conqueror ; 1962) Filmax edition

French DVDs

LES CLASSIQUES DU PEPLUM DVD set - RDMV edition


My first review will be for ITALIAN SWORD & SANDAL FILMS book. It will be a short review.


I purchased the digital edition of ITALIAN SWORD AND SANDAL FILMS. This book simply consists of film titles, credits, some reproduction of movie posters and nothing else. No reviews or comments. There are some tiny comments but they all describe distribution companies. Nothing about the films themselves.

If you're not familiar with the PEPLUM genre, or the Sword & Sandal genre, then this book might help as one stop source but I doubt anyone without some prior knowledge of the genre would buy it. And there are many other books out there of the PEPLUM genre with lists of titles but they also include comments and reviews. So who's going to buy this book? It's very odd. Scanning the book, I automatically noticed that there were titles missing. And the information printed is the same incorrect credit listing found at Inter Movie Database. This book even lists the French dubbing credits for some titles. Really? In other words, most of it is just padding.

So, a book of titles (with some missing) and credits (many with mistakes), a couple of illustrations and nothing else. If you need a list of titles, just look at the link here at the blog (which has been viewed over 13K times). Or simply go to IMDb. Both are free.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

By the Gods!

Anita Ekberg, as Queen Zenobia, and Alberto Farnese in SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR (1959)

I uploaded this film at the PEPLUM TV channel. I had to split the film into two parts to avoid issues. This version is in English and in widescreen but it's missing a lot of scenes. I have a copy of this film in Italian with English subs. I tried to edit the missing scenes from the Italian with subs into the English copy but there were so many missing scenes that going back and forth from English to Italian every 5 minutes was annoying so I abandoned the idea. Therefore, a complete version of this film in English is still missing.

I'm thinking of uploading the Italian with English subs.

As for the film itself, well I find it fascinating in regards to the progression of the PEPLUM genre. It's sort of important, along with HERCULES (1958). The story is based in history even though Queen Zenobia most likely didn't look like Anita Ekberg. I'll 'officially' post the movie next week here at the blog.

Fun fact : according to IMDb, this is the only film about Queen Zenobia.

Video of the week : KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE - Kindar vs Siro


Kindar vs Siro scene from Kindar the Invulnerable staring Mark Forest, Renato Rossini (Howard Ross) and Mimmo Palmara.

Great scene and location!

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Compilation of the week : Women riding chariots!


Compilation of clips with women riding chariots.

The titles :

SIEGE OF SYRACUSE - Sylva Koscina
LAST DAYS OF POMPEII - Steve Reeves and Christine Kaufmann
LEGIONS OF THE NILE - Linda Cristal and Georges Marchal
THE WARRIOR EMPRESS - Tina Louise
GOLIATH & THE SINS OF BABYLON - José Greci and Mark Forest

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

By the Gods!

Helen Mirren dances up a storm in CALIGULA (1979)

Even though I know she's not a professional dancer, her dance number during this scene is so cringeworthy. They all seemed to be just winging it as they went along. It doesn't help that she's supposed to be pregnant and the baby bump clearly looks fake. I'm not a fan of this film but I do enjoy watching it for all of its gaudy 1970s excessiveness. They all thought they were doing something ne plus ultra in regards to debauchery but it wasn't that shocking. Like a Fellini film with more nudity and sex. Many careers suffered after making this but Helen's career continued on without a hitch. 

Behind-the-Scenes

PEPLUM stars Gordon Mitchell and Dan Vadis pose with Liana Zagra

Michell and Vadis never appeared together in a PEPLUM film, which would have been cool. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

By the Gods!

Rick Battaglia, Rosanna Schiaffino and Bob Mathias in THE MINOTAUR (1960)

Rosanna made just a handful of films of the PEPLUM genre and yet they're all good. Her first big role was in ROLAND THE MIGHTY (1957) and from there became of one the actresses who made it big internationally. In this story, she plays two role, of twins sisters. This was Mathias only big film role, while Rik made tons of PEPLUM movies. Good cast.

Same set, different films


Above is a screenshot from THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN (1960) and below, from CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER (1960). Both films were in production at the same time, and they were both released in December of that year.



Monday, October 16, 2017

By the Gods!

The opening scene from APHRODITE - GODDESS OF LOVE (1958)

Bottom front row (starting third from the left) : Giulio Donnini, Clara Calamai, Ivo Garrani and Massimo Serato (in Roman uniform). Nice shot. I like this film. It's a typical PEPLUM Hollywood would have never considered making back in the day, which is why I like it. I'm doing a Fan Dub of this. I have the English track. It's very rare to get a hold of. The audio is noisy and I tried to fix it as best as possible without altering the voices to the point where they sound robotic. Many scenes were cut for the original US release so the Fan Dub won't be uncut. I'll upload this film at PEPLUM TV one day.

But then there's the problem with Youtube demonetizing my files which contains certain words or images. The words Aphrodite, Venus, slave, wrestling, fight, etc, will almost automatically demonetize or claim that my uploads are not suitable for all advertisers. So with this movie having the words 'Aphrodite,' 'Goddess' and 'Love' in its title will almost certainly guarantee limited viewers. I'm re-thinking my Patreon account to reflect this new restrictive strategy from Youtube.

Movie Poster Mondays

US poster of LA PECCATRICE DEL DESERTO (1959)

Ultra rare PEPLUM film which hasn't shown up anywhere. Not even in the form of a short clip. It's also known as THE SINNER. In the poster, 'Desperadoes' includes an E but the title at IMDb is written as 'Desperados.' 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

By the Gods!

Alena Johnston in WAR GODDESS (1973)

This softcore film, directed by Terence Young no less, sorta ushered a new wave of PEPLUM film in the early 1970s which were more raunchy and showed female nudity, often accompanied with lesbian sex scenes. Since this film was about Amazon warriors, there are many bare breasts and lesbian sex scenes. The story is silly and the male Greek characters are treated as an afterthought. Aside from the fleshy cast, there are some good things in it, including this nice set. This was Alena's third and last movie. Beautiful as she was, she was not much of an actress. To make matters worse, the English dubbing is horrid. Someone uploaded the film on Youtube. It's the channels only upload (this is something I'm seeing more and more on Youtube).

Video of the week : THREE SWORDS FOR ROME


THREE SWORDS FOR ROME starring Mimmo Palmara, Roger Browne, Mario Novelli, Philipe Hersent and Lisa Gastoni, and many others. In Italian with English subs.

Exclusive to PEPLUM TV.

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Fight video of the week : HERCULES & THE MASKED RIDER - Battle of the Brawn!


Brawny action from Hercules & the Masked Rider starring Alan Steel and Mimmo Palmara.

Who's the brawniest?

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

By the Gods!

Queen Samara (Jany Clair) and Hercules (Alan Steele) look out to the moon in HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN (1964)

A film that's often ridiculed by haters. Everything actually works out pretty good in this fast paced PEPLUM. There's almost nothing I would change about it if I had the chance. It's big, colourful and old fashioned fun. I uploaded a scene from this at my channel. It's very popular but a film studio in France has claimed it, even if the film is in the public domain here. I won't be uploading it at PEPLUM TV.

Behind-the-Scenes

Robert Taylor, Marina Berti and Leo Genn share notes during a break while they worked on QUO VADIS (1951)


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

By the Gods!

Mickey Hargitay, flanked by, to his right, Giovanni Cianfriglia and, to his left, José Greci, in REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS (1964)

Some say it's a standard PEPLUM but it's action packed and has some interesting things in it. The supporting cast is excellent which was needed since Mickey wasn't the greatest of actors. He's in fine form in this but other actors, such as Benito Stefanelli, outshine him. José Greci, in a thankless role of sorts, has never looked prettier. As for Giovanni, he plays (along with Benito) the gladiators from the title. He's part of the 'Invincible Six,' a team of unstoppable team of gladiators. I finished doing a Fan Dub of this and it's coming soon to PEPLUM TV!

Identify the PEPLUM film!

 Can you identify the film from this screenshot?


Orsh549 got it right : it's from CAESAR THE CONQUEROR (1962)

Monday, October 9, 2017

By the Gods!

Michèle Mercier and Jean Rochefort in ANGELIQUE : THE ROAD TO VERSAILLES (1965)

Rochefort died today at the age of 87. He starred in over 100 films and at a time was one of the most popular actor in French cinema. One of his first breakout roles was in ANGELIQUE (1964). His PEPLUM films were mostly Swashbucklers / period pieces, such as co-starring with Jean Marais in THE IRON MASK (1962), but he did star in ASTERIX & OBELIX : GOD SAVE BRITANNIA (2012). He had a very distinctive look, lanky man with brushy mustache.


Movie Poster Mondays

Turkish poster for TAUR THE MIGHTY (1963)

Colorful, bold artwork.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Video of the week : "Lions, Tigers and Bears, oh my..!"


This is a long compilation of clips taken from various PEPLUM films about our hero battling an animal of some sort. This is an old compilation I've made years ago which I can't upload on Youtube. I've re-uploaded it at DailyMotion.

Enjoy!

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Post of the week : Serious PEPLUM films

Note : This will be the only article I'll be publishing this week (I'll post other stuff but not articles). The blog will resume full time next week. 

A few weeks ago, Alec Semicognito asked me (link) to do a list of 'serious' PEPLUM films after posting about GOLD FOR THE CAESARS. I thought about it and here's a list.

Now what exactly constitutes a 'serious' PEPLUM movie? First, they have to be grounded in reality. This doesn't mean that films with mythological stories and settings cannot be serious, like HERCULES (1958) or ULYSSES (film and TV mini-series) but for me a 'serious' PEPLUM film lacks super powerful heroes, obvious supernatural elements, folk stories and such. Something that's strictly based in reality or a semblance of reality or history. You know, the movies kids hated to watch because they were too serious. Haha!

For me, a great and fun PEPLUM film is like a big buffet. It's a virtual smorsgasborg of entertaining moments and clichés. A serious film is sorta the opposite. It's like being on a strict diet, with a limited menu to choose from (this doesn't mean a 'serious' film cannot have many stand-out moments).

Some 'serious' films take themselves so seriously that they fall into camp. If a movie is too campy, for whatever reasons, I won't list it here. This doesn't mean they're not good. It just means that the film is ends up being more fun than serious. For example, take THEODORA - SLAVE EMPRESS (1954). It's a serious film but its approach is so over-the-top that it fails to be what I would call a 'serious' film. It's devilishly entertaining, thanks to campy performances and OTT production.

But then take HEAD OF A TYRANT, which has many of those same clichés but the tone of the film is so serious, it borders on the dour. It's a morbid love story. It's definitely on my list.

Other films almost defy description, like MESSALINA (1960) starring Belinda Lee, which is a strange mix of super serious tone (violence, evil characters) and slapstick moments. It didn't make it on this list.

To keep this list as short as possible, I've excluded categories and some sub-genres which are automatically serious :

- Romances, like GODDESS OF LOVE (1957). Though serious, its swirling romantic music and declarations of love push it nearly into the realm of fantasy.

- Adventure films like THE BLACK KNIGHT or TERROR OF THE RED MASK.

- Hollywood films.

- Straightforward Biblical films that deal directly with Jesus like GOLGOTHA (1935) or Pasolini's THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW (1964).

- Most Historical epics that fall under the PEPLUM umbrella.

The main ingredient of all these films : a complete lack of humour.


SEVEN FROM THEBES (1964)


I vote this rarely seen PEPLUM film as the most serious of them all. It has a 1970s vibe to it, not a movie made during the Golden Era of the genre. I like it and there are some memorable stuff in it, but it's a bit too serious. A little levity or at least one amiable character would have made it more approachable. As it is now, it's a mean, lean unlovable machine. As serious as it is, it pretty much follows the same template of other PEPLUM films, so even though it sometimes feels like an art film, it's not.

SPARTACO - SINS OF ROME (1953)

Massimo Girotti and Gianna Maria Canale

This brilliantly directed film is serious and yet it never loses sight of being hopeful and heroic, even in the face of death. It's not bleak serious but grand, operatic serious. Love it! Riccardo Freda's tour de force.

GOLD FOR THE CAESARS (1963)

Giulio Bosetti, Mylène Demongeot and Massimo Girotti

A very straight-forward, grounded PEPLUM film, which is sorta rare. It's still filled with anachronistic stuff and it's still entertaining but compared to other films of the genre, it's not a 'fun' film. A drama set in antiquity.

HEAD OF THE TYRANT (1959)


As I already mentioned above, this film is SERIOUS. A tragic / morbid love story, starring Massimo Girotti and Isabelle Corey. Good film!

HEROD THE GREAT (1959)


A very serious film with few fun or uplifting moments. Serious from the first frame to the last. Directed by Viktor Tourjansky, who also directed GODDESS OF LOVE mentioned above, which is a Big Romance and a little more light-hearted than this excellent production.


DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961)


Directed by Sergio Corbucci. Starring Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Virna Lisi, Jacques Sernas, Massimo Girotti amongst others. No humour. Deadly serious. Apparently, Reeves and Scott didn't get along.


SON OF SPARTACUS (1962)


This film directed by Sergio Corbucci flirts with the not-so-serious adventure films but downbeat ending keeps this adventure film firmly grounded in the serious category.


THE BARBARIANS (1953)

Pierre Cressoy and Hélène Rémy

This is a good example of a historical film which falls under the PEPLUM umbrella. Serious. Nothing fanciful about it though some might say it's not historically accurate.


SLAVE OF CARTHAGE (1956)


This beautiful production is, first and foremost, a serious drama. Gianna Maria Canale stars.


THE SWORD & THE CROSS (1958)


The story of Mary Magdalene. Yep, serious. This film deals indirectly with Jesus, who always remains unseen. Rossana Podestà as Martha and Yvonne De Carlo as Mary.


KNIVES OF THE AVENGER (1966)


A well made drama but not very compelling in that I need to re-watch it on a regular basis. Good but sorta dull. One of many Cameron Mitchell PEPLUM films. Elissa Pichelli co-stars.


THE LAST OF THE VIKINGS (1961)


I almost didn't include this one because it's more adventure film than anything else, and there a lot of campy elements in this, including Edmund Purdom's performance, but there's one brutal scene in it which places it firmly in the 'serious' category. Cameron Mitchell also stars.


IN THE SHADOW OF THE EAGLE (1966)


Another serious Cameron Mitchell film. Not bad, with very good production values but serious to the point of being void of any emotional connection. Its twin production, MASSACRE IN THE BLACK FOREST, also with Mitchell, is serious but it's more action packed and fun than this one. Bebe Loncar co-stars.


CARTHAGE IN FLAMES (1960)


This huge story-free epic is humourless and pretty much falls into that category even if the production itself is a tad on the Over-The-Top side. The ending is a downer. A young Terrence Hill stars.


CONSTANTINE & THE CROSS (1961)


As the title implies, this is a very big, serious retelling of the story of Constantine and the advent of Christianity. Kids would find this boring. Belinda Lee and Cornel Wilde star in this epic.


SCHEHERAZADE (1963)


You'd think that a film with Anna Karina and Marilu Tolo would be fun to watch. No. As humourless as a PEPLUM film can be. Too serious for its own good.


APHRODITE - GODDESS OF LOVE (1958)


This film (along with its older twin sister FRINE - COURTESAN OF THE ORIENT) is a straight-forward drama. This one is set in Corinth and has everything : religion, struggle for power, the plague. I like it a lot. Serious but still fun to watch over and over again. Anthony Steffen and Irène Tunc star.


SIEGE OF SYRACUSE (1960)


Its arch, episodic and nearly implausible storyline might push this film into the realm of fantasy but I've added it because it's the most 'serious' film directed by Pietro Francisci, who usually juggled a good amount of seriousness, campiness, comedy in his films, such as HERCULES (1958). There's NO humour in this story. Rossano Brazzi and Tina Louise star in this grand epic story.

PONTIUS PILATE (1962)


Though this deals with Jesus, the story is mostly about Pontius Pilate and his struggle with overseeing the construction of an aqueduct. The screenplay is flawed but great production nonetheless. No one under 17 will like this. Jean Marais stars in the titular role.


POMPEII films

Any film which deals with the destruction of Pompeii is always played straight.

SINS OF POMPEII (1950)


Some dislike this film because of its staginess. This is just to give you an idea of how serious it is. Georges Marchal stars. I like it but it is quaint in its seriousness.


THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959)


One of Steve Reeves most serious films. Though he plays a strong, muscular man who survives the destruction of Pompeii, the film's tone is without humour. Mimmo Palmara co-stars along with Steve (left).


Art Films -

A sub-genre of the PEPLUM genre. There aren't that many but listing all of them would take an entire post. So here's a brief overview of PEPLUM art films.

The films of Mihalis Kakogiannis


The Greek director made ELECTRA (above starring Irene Papas, 1962), THE TROJAN WOMEN (1971), IFIGENEIA (1977), among others. Always serious. Rarely fun to watch. His films are more art films than straight-forward dramas set in the past. His films focused mainly on female characters.


DACII (1966) and COLUMNA (1968)


These films produced and filmed in Romania were made after the end of the PEPLUM explosion. They are grand, epic and very serious. They're not Art Films per se but were sold here as such. Georges Marchal and Pierre Brice star.


FELLINI'S SATYRICON (1969)


What can you say about this Fellini film? I could have used other images but this sorta gives you an idea of what to expect from it.

One of the reasons Art Films are called art films is because of nudity, mainly male nudity. Films with female nudity were sold as either porn or soft-porn, and were rarely serious, like WAR GODDESS (1973).

Pasolini's ARABIAN NIGHTS (1974) or even Felinni's SATYRICON above is filled with male nudity, which, to many people, is something that's taboo. There's a whole sub-genre of PEPLUM Art Films which are inspired by this. It would take too long to list all of them. Here's one example:


VAINCRE A L'OLYMPIE (1977)


Jean Marais stars in this French TV film inspired by male Olympic athletes. I tried to watch it and it's very serious, or I should say pretentious. Peplum star Georges Marchal also stars in this.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this article. There are more titles I've could have listed but it would have  taken too much space. Maybe a part 2?

Added to the SPECIAL FEATURE permanent page


Friday, September 29, 2017

Actor profile: Benito Stefanelli (repost)

Continuing with profiling relatively unknown supporting actors of Italian/Euro PEPLUM films. Today it's Benito Stefanelli who was always a supporting actor, never a leading actor, but also acted as Weapons Master/Fencer/Stuntman in many films as well, PEPLUM or not, including classics such as DUEL OF THE TITANS, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY and ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.

According to IMDb, his first film was ULYSSES (1954) the Kirk Douglas vehicle. I tried to find him in it but there are so many actors and shot at a distance that I could't find him. I had the same problem in finding him in SON OF SPARTACUS, DUEL OF THE TITANS and A QUEEN FOR CAESAR. He's also in THE TROJAN HORSE even though he's not credited for it, at IMDb or in the film, which is odd as it's one of Benito's biggest and best roles. IMDb is filled with errors so I'm certain there are more roles of Benito missing from this profile.  His other big roles were in THE LAST OF THE VIKINGS, THE BACCHANTES, WAR OF THE TROJANS and REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS. If you look at him quickly he can be mistaken for Claudio Scarchilli. In fact, Benito is credited to be in MESSALINA (1960) but I can't find him in it but Claudio Scarchilli is in it and yet he's not credited for that film. PEPLUM confusion.

Benito in a brief role in TERROR OF THE RED MASK.



Benito in THE LAST OF THE VIKINGS costarring George Ardisson (below). Benito's role is substantial in this great film.



Benito's best role was probably in THE TROJAN HORSE, which he's not even listed at IMDb or the film's opening credit. His duel with Steve Reeves is the highlight of his career (below) and one of the best scenes in this movie. He plays John Drew Barrymore's right-hand man (above). Because he was a stuntman/weapons expert, he's doing the stunts during the duel.



Benito went on to appear in WAR OF THE TROJANS (aka The Avenger), the sequel to THE TROJAN HORSE, again starring Steve Reeves and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (above). He's a good guy in this film.


One of Benito's last PEPLUM films was REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS, starring Mickey Hargitay (above). Benito played a gladiator and was part of a team called The Invincible 6 (below).