Monday, March 30, 2020

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Italian poster of THOR THE CONQUEROR (1983)

Good art and not that different than the one from the Golden Era but this sorta looks more like a Tarzan movie than a 'Thor' movie.

PEPLUM TV Official store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

Friday, March 27, 2020

By the Gods!

Alan Steel and Brigitte Heiberg

This movie was planned as a PEPLUM movie but after the success of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), the producers decided to switch everything into a Western. The end product is still pretty much a PEPLUM but in a Western setting.

One of the movies with more 'official' titles than any other PEPLUM.

The original Italia title: SANSONE E IL TESORO DEGLI INCAS





Without searching Google or IMDb, which of the 4 English titles above is the title seen in the TV broadcast?

I'll post a screenshot of the answer on Monday.


BY THE GODS!: Steve Reeves as Li’l Abner

Steve Reeves missed out on many roles. One of them was Li’l Abner.

Only at BY THE GODS!

PEPLUM movie cards

These are movie cards called Fiches de Mr Cinema. Included in their 'fiches' (or files) are PEPLUM movies. Here's a small sample of these. There's more information on the movies on the back of these cards. These are not lobby cards or anything to do with the release of movies but more like an encyclopedia of movies.

HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961) starring Reg Park

THE ROBE (1953) starring Richard Burton

DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS (1954) starring Susan Hayward and Victor Mature

SAMSON &DELILAH (1949) starring Victor Mature

THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (1963) starring the 3 Stooges and Samson Burke

DAUGHTERS OF DESTINY (1953) starring Raf Vallone

Thursday, March 26, 2020

By the Gods!

David Carradine in THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS (1984)

One of many 'Sword & Sorcery' movies released in the 1980s after the success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982). It sorta went under the radar back then (it opened in only 238 theaters in the US). It was a popular rental in video shops though.

The boring story, borrowing heavily from Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), which borrowed from Kurosawa's YOJIMBO (1961): a mysterious stranger, Kain (Carradine), comes between two waring gangs which are terrorizing a town. Kain manipulates the two groups into killing each other: First, BaL Car (Guillermo Marin) and then Tyrant Zeg (Luke Askew). Kain is also known as the Dark One.

Unlike movies of the time, this one doesn't have any barely dressed muscle-bound hero crushing skulls, a major selling point for these kind of movies. Almost the entire cast is 'aesthetically' challenged.

The movie feels like the crew set-up everything, such as the cheap looking sets, costumes, etc. And then David showed up, filmed his scenes and left. It's not a very vigorous tale. It's definitely not as trashy or exploitive as the DEATHSTALKER series, or most Sword & Sorcery movie made at the time. This also means it's not as entertaining. As bad as many of the Sword & Sorcery movies were back then, many were actually fun to watch. That doesn't mean it's not trashy or exploitive. Just less. The somnambulant pace keeps it from being as memorable as other movies of the time.

Are the most important part of the movie, the action scenes, good? They're okay but nothing memorable.

What can you say about a movie in which a dancing girl with 4 breasts is its most memorable scene? The movie does have nudity: every women appears nude throughout, and there is some brief male nudity during an unimpressive orgy of sorts. The abundance of female nudity solidly keeps this movie in the R-rated category.

The music is a complete rip-off of many other scores, including Jerry Goldsmith's STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979)!

It was shot in Argentina.

I have the VHS and HD versions of this.

A sleepy 4 out of 10 (the dance sequence is a 10 out of 10 though).

The predictable climax between Kain and Kief (Anthony De Longis), captain to Zeg. The sets look like, well, cheap looking sets. De Longis is the only beefcake in the movie.

The movie's stand-out scene: dancer (Cecilia Narova) entertains the grungy cast of characters. What's a PEPLUM movie without a dance sequence, 4 breasts or not? Side note: this scene was re-used in MARQUIS DE SADE (1996). (I edited photo).


Original US lobby cards set of SLAVES OF BABYLON (1953) starring Richard Conte and Linda Christian. This set is actually very good. Has almost all the best scenes from the movie. The problem is not many people have seen this so it's sorta meaningless to them but since I like this movie, it's a solid set. This includes a photo of Julie Newmar's excellent dance seen. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

By the Gods!

 Gordon Scott as Mucius in COLOSSUS OF ROME (1964; aka Hero of Rome)

Directed by Giorgio Ferroni, this PEPLUM is very solid. It's a quasi-serious movie in that it's based on an actual person, Gaius Mucius. In fact, after the opening credits, we see text setting up the story and how the movie is dedicated to this 'colossus' of Rome. But many people find historically correct movies boring and therefore this was made into an action-packed adventure, and it takes major liberties with many aspects of the real history of Mucius. In one scene, below, Gordon Scott is seen lifting up big tree trunks which would have been way too heavy for an ordinary man to lift. But these 'Feats of strength' scenes were expected in order to sell PEPLUM movies and this one was no exception. Mucius wasn't Hercules but audiences back then (and today) wanted to see such scenes. Incorporating such 'Feats of strength' in 'serious' PEPLUM movies make them less serious. I still like it and understand, and enjoy, such scenes (I've tons of compilations of such moments) but in this case, was it really needed? Couldn't Mucius just get 5 or 6 guys to let the tree with him?

Of course, Gordon Scott is impressive in this and one could somewhat believe that someone with his physique could achieve such a feat.

Then and Now: Anne Helm

Anne in THE MAGIC SWORD (1962); a recent photo of the actress

Monday, March 23, 2020

By the Gods!

Hercules (Steve Reeves) says goodnight to Iole (Sylva Koscina) in HERCULES (1958)

Though Steve was over 6 feet tall, oddly enough he wore lifts for his role as Hercules, as you can see for his sandals, which are thicker than usual. It's probably because Sylva was a tall gal. She was nearly 5'9". I've read comments on some of her non-PEPLUM movies uploaded at Youtube how tall she was, like a giraffe. Personally, I thought she was just right. It seems the producers thought Hercules should be that much taller than Iole. Without the platform sandals, Steve would still be taller than her. I always found this interesting.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

German poster of HERCULES - PRISONER OF EVIL (1964)

Great poster if a bit inaccurate (there's no scene of a near naked woman in it). The German title translates as URSUS AND THE DEVIL'S SLAVE.

PEPLUM TV Official store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

Friday, March 20, 2020

By the Gods!

Luciano Marin watches as Maciste (Reg Lewis) shows how to start a fire in COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE ( aka Fire Monsters against the Son of Hercules)

I always see these scenes in stories set in prehistory. In this instance, Maciste (named Maxus in the English version) shows the tribe how to start a fire. They all cheer when it happens (below). It's always one person teaching another tribe how it's done when I believe everyone pretty much knew how to start a fire. This was the entire plot of QUEST FOR FIRE (1981). Cave people weren't that dumb. But the whole  debate is still on-going.


Princess Helene (Anne Helm) is to be sacrificed to the two-headed dragon 

THE MAGIC SWORD (1962) starring Gary Lockwood, Anne Helm, Estelle Winwood and Basil Rathbone. Directed by Bert I. Gordon.

A fun, amiable fantasy movie many have probably seen as a kid and loved it then and might still enjoy it today. I won't write an extensive movie review since the movie itself is pretty much straight-forward. A hero, Sir George (Gary Lockwood) has to save a princess (Anne Helm). He acquires a magic sword and with a small crew of knights, goes on the quest. His mother is a sorceress, Sybil (Estelle Winwood), who helps him throughout the story. The villain, Lodac, is played by Basil Rathbone.

I've seen this movie several times since I was a kid. It's still fun to watch but it is borderline 'kiddie' stuff even though there are some dark moments here and there.

Gary Lockwood is an interesting choice for the role of Sir George. His American accent pretty much clashes with the setting and other actors. His style of acting, sorta the James Dean school of acting, is also at odds with the more classical style from the rest of the cast. Even so, I like Lockwood in this role. It's obvious he liked his role and he had fun making the movie, which adds so much to the amiable tone of the movie. I can't see anyone else playing Sir George. Anne Helm has a lot of screen time with Rathbone.  I'm not too familiar with her since she was mainly a TV actress during the 1960s. Her first screen appearance is the 'Bathing Beauty' cliché.

The veterans steal the show, with Basil relishing his role as the baddie. And Estelle Winwood is a hoot as the goofy but determined witch. Their sparring is one of the movie's highlights.

Gary Lockwood as Sir George. One of his most memorable roles.

Basil Rathbone and Estelle Winwood compete against each other. It's wizard vs witch. This battle between is one the best part of the movie.

Villain Lodac watches as the princess and hero show their love for each other. Haven't we seen this scene in plenty of other movies? 

Nice scene!

For a such a small movie, the technical aspects are pretty good. It has every kind of special effects, including makeup, masks, small and large practical effects. There's the miniature scenes with the little people carrying the sword. It's quite amazing how much visual effects stuff crammed in it. Are they all effective? Not really. Some are stand-outs (dragon and big practical sets) but some of the makeup effects and optical ones show their age. For instance, the makeup of the Ogre (Jack Kosslyn) is clearly dated but the optical effects of him being a giant monster fighting the smaller knights on horseback is very effective so, in the end, it doesn't really matter.

The use of color is interesting. Lotsa garish reds and primary colours blended with the greyish medieval settings.

A lot of the action has Lodac or Sybil watching events via magic mirrors or projections, as if they're watching stuff on TV.

The movie was shot almost entirely in a studio, though there are some exterior scenes, which look decidedly like California and not some setting somewhere in Europe. And that monkey seems out of place but kids will like the chimp.

I have 2 versions, the standard DVD release and this new Blu-ray print. I wrote a brief review of the Blu-ray release at BY THE GODS!

7 out of 10.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

By the Gods!

Stuart Whitman as Boaz in THE STORY OF RUTH (1960)

Stuart Whitman died on March 16 at the age of 92. He had a long acting career, in movies and TV. I remember him mainly as a familiar face in TV shows in the 1980s and the horror movie EATEN ALIVE (1976) but he appeared in a couple of PEPLUM movies early in his movie career. He's very good in STORY OF RUTH. R.I.P..

Elena Eden played Ruth. Here, Ruth was castigated by locals when trying to get some water. Boaz fetched it for her.

For a good part of the movie, Stuart appeared on horseback, riding here and there until his character settled down. It reminded me of a Western.

Stuart Whitman in FRANCIS OF ASSISI (1961), also starring Bradford Dillman in the titular role.

Stuart had a small part as the squire to Prince Henri (Roger Moore, not shown) in DIANE (1956)


Lou Ferrigno rides a chariot somewhere in Hollywood as part of a promotion for HERCULES (1983)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

By the Gods!

 Turhan Bey and Maria Montez in SUDAN (1945)

A colourful adventure/romance movie that's rarely shown anywhere these days. Like all Maria Montez movies of the 1940s, it's an over-the-top colourful adventure. Not as over-the-top as COBRA WOMAN (1944) but it's a close second. The Maria Montez - Jon Hall - Sabu - Turhan Bey movies of the 1940s were very popular (Sabu is not in this movie). Today, they evoke a time that's long gone. I'll have a full review of this soon.

Look at Maria's expression. 

Different titles: THE SON OF CLEOPATRA

Today, it's THE SON OF CLEOPATRA (1964) starring Mark Damon and a host of Italian actors. Pretty straight forward translation. Nothing too wild. Can't find that many other title versions. 

Original Italian title. This title also appears in different languages versions. 

English title (US or UK).

The wordy German title translates as THE SON OF CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA

The movie stars Mark Damon.

Monday, March 16, 2020

By the Gods!

Virgilio Riento and Franca Marzi in TIZIO, CAIO, SEMPRONIO (1951)

An early PEPLUM comedy with high productions which is obscure this side of the Atlantic. There's no English track or subtitles. This means a lot of attentive and hard work listening to the rapid fire Italian dialogue. I understand part of it but it's just too much work. I have to say that the look of the movie is excellent. Nothing cheap about it. It utilizes big crowd scenes from SCIPIO AFRICANUS: THE DEFEAT OF HANNIBAL (1937). The one of the only familiar face of the PEPLUM genre is the muscular Umberto Silvestri (below). Hard to miss him. I will be able to get a better overview of the movie once an English version or subs surface. The movie is on Youtube. The title is the Italian equivalent of Tom, Dick, and Harry.

According to Wikipedia (Italian):

The three names appear for the first time brought together in the works of Irnerio, medieval jurisconsult of the Studio di Bologna.

A classic interpretation is the following:

Tizio = Tiberio Gracco; or any Titius;
Gaius = Gaius Gracchus, brother of Tiberius;
Sempronio = Sempronio Gracco, father of Tiberius and Gaius.

PEPLUM TV official store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Spanish poster of SPARTACUS - SINS OF ROME (1953)

Very simple poster which I like.

Friday, March 13, 2020

BY THE GODS!: Goliath and the Vampires pressbook

Gianna Maria Canale’s tiny bio in GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES pressbook.


By the Gods!

I usually don't write these personal posts here at the blog but today I feel I need to address this. This blog is a place celebrating PEPLUM movies, the good, the bad and the ugly. It's a fun blog, with a focus on the many reasons why I love these movies and why the genre needs such a place such as this one for fans, and non-fans, to delve into the nearly endless colourful aspects of it all.

These days though, with the current state of the world, I sometimes feel reluctant to cover anything about it. As you all know, there's a virus going around the world, causing death, grief and panic. Many people think it's overblown (some of my family members think it is) while others believe not  enough has been done to fight against it. We're in an odd situation. Here in Montreal, things are not even close to being as bad as other parts of the world, but things are getting hectic. Schools and churches are closed. There's a general sense of something bad is heading this way. I've personally prepared myself to be as self-sufficient as possible, certainly because I'm the main care-giver of an elderly parent who suffers from asthma.

All this to say that my mind is somewhat elsewhere. I've had many projects in the works, including a magazine, but with all these things going on right now, my focus is pulled elsewhere. No, I'm not saying that I'll stop posting. I won't since I work from home. But it's difficult to try and be informative and entertaining when the world is going bonkers out there.

Many places around the world are going through some really though times, with the crazy outbreak in China and none more than Italy at the moment. Since the PEPLUM genre is mainly an Italian phenomenon, it makes it even harder to go through fun, old Italian movies knowing hundreds of people are dying every day. It's truly heartbreaking. I'll will continue with posts but if things get out of hand, I might take a small temporary break to focus on other things.

In the meantime, pray for this pandemic to be stopped as soon as possible, and certainly pray for Italy.

Italy, stay strong!

Kirk Morris as Maciste in MACISTE IN HELL (1962)

P.S. I want to thank all my supporters, including Bree, and Charles as well. Thank you for your generosity.

At the movies...

Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, Ga., December 1959

Thursday, March 12, 2020

By the Gods!

Dancing girls at the start of SINBAD AND THE CALIPH OF BAGHDAD (1973)

Directed by Pietro Francisci, who directed HERCULES (1958) and plenty of other PEPLUM classics. Dance numbers are usually fun and sexy scenes, nothing more. Not this one. It's actually quite disturbing. In fact, it's one of the most disturbing scenes in any PEPLUM. Since this happens at the very beginning of the movie, this probably turned off many viewers from watching it. It sets the tone for the movie even though the rest of the film is fun, sexy, light-hearted and jovial, you know, typical Francisci style. I always wonder if this was one of the rare missteps from the usually clever Francisci.

Robert Malcolm plays a mad Caliph who gets off in killing dancing girls with a crossbow! What a way to start a movie!

Whatever happened to Robert Malcolm?