Thursday, February 11, 2016

By the Gods!

Pharaoh Khufu (Jack Hawkins) inspects Princess Nellifer (Joan Collins) for signs of starvation in LAND OF THE PHARAOHS

A wildly episodic film with great production values. Because the script goes here and there, the film never really jells cohesively. The identity of the actor who plays Nellifer's beefy guard in the back remains unknown (he's wrongly credited at IMDb). Joan, in a deep fake tan, was 22 years old when she made this.

Video of the Week : MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA - Man vs Beast!

Video of the Week : Man vs Beast scene from Maciste - Gladiator of Sparta starring Mark Forest, Marilu Tolo and a host of other actors. And a "gorilla."

Great scene. Mark has never looked better and more impressive. Not the only time Mark fought with a gorilla.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

By the Gods!

David Bowie as Pontius Pilate in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST

From the back, that's Willem Dafoe as Jesus. This film tried to do things differently from the typical  Biblical epics and upon its release it was really controvertial but the brouhaha is mostly forgotten today. It's good but not great film. David, who moonlighted as actor, recently passed away. This was basically his only "PEPLUM" film. His role basically amounted to a cameo. The frustrating thing about this scene is that we never see both actors' faces in the same shot.


Gina poses for a photo during the filming of SOLOMON & SHEBA

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

By the Gods!

Remus (Gordon Scott) and Romulus (Steve Reeves) finally meet their mother Rea Silvia (Laura Solari) in DUEL OF THE TITANS

The legend of Romulus and Remus is interesting and remarkably enough, no major film has ever been done on this famous fable : of two young baby boys raised by a she-wolf. In this film, this part of the legend is gleamed over, lasting just a minute or so, which has always been a disappointing aspect about it. It's probably because it would be difficult to shoot (babies and animals). Even so, some filmmaker or studio (Disney?) should make it.

The Real PEPLUM X : Flesh in the 1950s

Previous parts of the on-going subject can be read at the permanent page : link

Continuing with the subject of the proliferation of soft-core or hardcore PEPLUM films and where did they get their start. Last week I wrote about SIGN OF THE CROSS, which set the bar pretty high in terms of kinkiness, overt sexuality and nudity, as one can see in the photo on the left. This happens during the arena scene at the end. Yes, there's a hint of bestiality. But SIGN OF THE CROSS was a pre-code film, so it got away with many things few films were able to do once the Hays code was established. It would take several decades before things got to the level of that old DeMille film.

The main point with the popularity of the PEPLUM genre during the most conservative era of films, the 1950s (and also being one of the main points of the PEPLUM genre itself), was the disrobing of the human body. Except for a daring filmmakers like Joshua Logan, showing flesh in the 1950s was frown upon in stories set in contemporary settings but not with stories set in Antiquity. And since full nudity in Hollywood was banned during the 1950s there are very few films to talk about. So I'll briefly go over the display of flesh instead. In contrast, nudity or even incidental nudity in European films was common, and would remain so until the raunchy sex-filled PEPLUM films of the 1970s and onwards. On the right is a scene from the European-made MESSALINA (1951). Something you'll never see in any Hollywood film of the same era.

Last week, I finished off with the orgy in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. The orgy wasn't as over-the-top as the lewd stuff seen in SIGN OF THE CROSS but that 1956 epic served a good amount of sexy cheesecake and beefcake to keep viewers entertained.

Bathing beauties in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)

In Hollywood, by the late 1950s, BEN-HUR was THE big epic everyone was talking about. It starred Charlton Heston, who was also in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and like that film, Heston often wore very little, certainly during the entire galley part. Heston somehow enjoyed wearing very little. I guess he was a bit of an exhibitionist (see link).

Slaves from the galley scene from BEN-HUR (1959)

One can't stress often enough how conservative the 1950s were. Everyone was buttoned up to their collars. Therefore any film with any kind of overt display of skin was startling. Hence the popularity of the PEPLUM genre. Even though there was a supposed taboo undertone with the relationship between Ben-Hur and former friend Messala, and there's an awkward scene set in a sauna with Stephen Boyd on full display, BEN-HUR was a very pious film. It was the complete polar opposite of a Cecil B. DeMille kinky production.

Steve Reeves and Sylva Koscina in HERCULES (1958). Equal amounts of beefcake and cheesecake

Films made in Europe always had difficulty getting distribution in the US because of Hollywood's dominance of the film market. But European filmmakers had one weapon Hollywood didn't dare to do back then : showing skin. Since Europe was already ahead of the game in regards to nudity, with films like AND GOD CREATED WOMAN starring Brigitte Bardot, European films that could never get distribution were finally being released in America. That Bardot film got wide distribution in North America because of the promise of flesh. HERCULES (1958) was released during that same period and became a hit around the world, including in the Unites States. It was unseen for modest European films to make more money than most Hollywood productions. Producers in Europe and the US took notice.

Gina Lollobrigida and Yul Brynner in SOLOMON & SHEBA

Hollywood realized that European films had an edge over their films with regards to the display of flesh or sexuality. They finally got the hint and tried to make their own PEPLUM styled films, like SOLOMON & SHEBA, with the temptress almost always played by a European actress, like Gina Lollobrigida or Sophia Loren or Mylene Demongeot. But films like SOLOMON & SHEBA were few and far in between. Hollywood kept on doing ultra-religious films like THE STORY OF RUTH or KING OF KINGS, or massive bloated epics like CLEOPATRA. The sexy pulpy / action films set in Antiquity, with beefy heroes and full of pagan dance numbers, were dominated by European productions. Screens were literally flooded with these kind of 90 minutes long mini-epics, like THE TARTARS.

Liana Orfei wearing an anachronistic dress in THE TARTARS. But who's complaining?

After HERCULES became a massive hit around the world, effectively creating the PEPLUM explosion which would last several years, producers made sure that most actors wore as little as possible. Though female characters wore very little or wore clothes displaying their best, eh, assets, the focus was primarily on the men, which is something that never happened before.

more next week!

Monday, February 8, 2016

By the Gods!

Luis Dávila (as Sir Robert) plots something evil with Helga Liné in THE SCALAWAG BUNCH

This Robin Hood film, released in 1971, is a true PEPLUM production : it's directed with assurance by Giorgio Ferroni and stars Giuliano Gemma, Mark Damon, Pierre Cressoy, Mario Adorf, Nello Pazzafini (as Little john), Giovanni Cianfriglia and a host of familiar actors. It's quite a feast for genre fans. Now I just need to find an English dub...

Movie Poster Mondays

Spanish poster for URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE

There are three Ursus films starring Ed Fury and this one, the 3rd in the series, is the most popular. It almost has a cult following. Poster is average.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

By the Gods!

Jack Palance, as Alboino, tells his bride to be, Rosmunda (Eleonora Rossi Drago) to drink from his special skull-cup as proof of her devotion in SWORD OF THE CONQUEROR

The skull is her father's skull. This is the most memorable moment of an otherwise bland film. It's not bad. It's just not that memorable. The surprisingly bad dubbing doesn't help too. Good for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Video of the Week : GODDESS OF LOVE - Full Movie

Video of the Week : Goddess of Love starring Belinda Lee, Jacques Sernas and Massimo Girotti.

I originally uploaded this film almost a year ago. An exclusive Fan Sub of this rare film.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

By the Gods!

Steve Reeves, as Karim, fights for his life in THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD

The baddie is uncredited but he's most likely to be a wrestler named Chignone. In this scene, the scary fellow is, at first, invisible. Karim figures it out and removes the "cloak" around him. Both are fighting on a bridge that's way above the seashore. I like this scene but as in so many other scenes of the era, it's all too brief.

PEPLUM premiere

The "Midwest premiere" of THE ROBE. People were so sharply dressed back then. Notice how Cinemascope is as big as the film title.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

By the Gods!

Is it a bird, is a plane? No, it's Gordon Scott in GOLIATH & THE REBEL SLAVE

Mimmo Palmara is in the background. The Superman-like prowess of a PEPLUM hero or...was Superman's outfit inspired by Greco-Roman clothes / mythology? Good film even if the story is needlessly convoluted and confusing.

The Real "PEPLUM X" : Nudity in early PEPLUM films

Part one of the on-going subject at the permanent page : link

So how did the proliferation of soft-core or hardcore PEPLUM films from the late 1960s and up to today originated? As I mentioned in the previous post (see link above), the genre itself seems to be a natural source for sex or nudity since most costumes were skimpy to start with or people were involved in wrestling or orgies or some pagan feast. The one thing which sold those films to modern audiences was the promise of near nude bodies, female or male. Nudity in PEPLUM films date back as far as the silent film era. It wasn't uncommon to see a nude body here and there. Surprisingly, people back then weren't as prudish as we tend to believe, as long as the nudity was "tasteful."

A scene from the silent version of BEN-HUR.

The "PEPLUM explosion" or the Golden Era of the genre was renewed during one of the most conservative decades, the 1950s. And oddly enough PEPLUM films, whether they were Biblical or Greco-Roman in nature, were also the most "fleshy" type of films made during that time. There's a clear dichotomy between the subject vs film types : the PEPLUM gene is a myriad of different type of films set in the past but are often mistaken only as Biblical epics, which are supposed to be chaste and clean due to their religious aspects, but were quite the opposite and featured boatloads of flesh of beautiful people doing wrong things to other beautiful people.

A great example of this dichotomy was SIGN OF THE CROSS : a super kinky "biblical" film by Cecil B. DeMille and released in 1932, which included nudity, male sex slaves, lesbianism, beastiality and Poppaea luxuriating in some milk bath (Claudette Colbert, left). DeMille set the bar pretty high back then, even if few PEPLUM films were made during that decade or even attempted to replicate its success. It would take more than 15 years for the genre to be reignited, in 1949 to be precise, with the release of FABIOLA in Europe and SAMSON & DELILAH, also by DeMille, in Hollywood. FABIOLA included nudity during the arena scenes (which is often cut) and Henri Vidal walking around practically in the nude. Very little was left to the imagination with many of his costumes.

Michèle Morgan and Henri Vidal in FABIOLA

SAMSON & DELILAH was quite the opposite : it didn't have any nudity in it but it did play with the sexual tension between the two characters throughout the film. DeMille made sure the audience knew the two were "hot" for each other. Though not as obvious as earlier films like SIGN OF THE CROSS, it was clear that sex or nudity, or the promise of either, was still a great selling point for those films, more so in Europe than the US.


But Hollywood of the 1950s was different than the pre-code era of the silent films and the early 1930s, or even the films made on the continent. If using real nude people was frown upon then the next best thing was used : statues. Naked statues were seen in many films of the 1950s, including this obvious one in ALEXANDER THE GREAT, starring Fredric March and Richard Burton.

DeMille returned with THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in 1956 and again sex or sexy people were everywhere. The constant mention of "bondage" and people whipping each other were prevalent throughout the 4 hour long running time. DeMille was a kinky genius : after 3 hours of Bible studies, he ends it all in the last hour with an all out orgy! Yeah! People sat through the entire thing to see the over-the-top crazy sexy action at the end. Make no mistake about it, though the film was sold as something virtuous, the tone was often set on decadence and sex. The release of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS clearly demonstrated how DeMille knew how to work the audience.

Orgy!!! Edward Robinson and Debra Paget in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

more on this next week....

Monday, February 1, 2016

By the Gods!


From left to right : Rod Taylor, Daniela Rocca, Ed Fury, Gianna Maria Canale and Dorian Gray.

No matter what people say I like this film. The battle of the sexes set somewhere in Antiquity. Equal parts cheesecake and beefcake. Future PEPLUM stars like Marilù Tolo and Giorgia Moll played an Amazon. I have to try and find them.

Movie Poster Mondays

Argentinian poster of MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THE THUNDERING ECHOES (aka Hercules of the Desert)

Poster captures the spirit of the fun film.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

By the Gods!

Richard Harrison, as Perseus, walks amongst men who were turned into stone in PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE (aka Medusa vs the Son of Hercules)

The Spanish title for this is EL VALLE DE LOS HOMBRES DE PIEDRA, which translates as THE VALLEY OF THE MEN OF STONE. Nothing about Perseus or the Medusa being responsible for turning men into stone. The Spanish version is also different to the the Italian one during many instances. Made before CLASH OF THE TITANS which was obviously inspired by this excellent PEPLUM.

Video of the Week : THE LION OF THEBES - Wrestling

Video of the Week : Wrestling scene from THE LION OF THEBES starring Mark Forest, Yvonne Furneaux, Pierre Cressoy and others.

Roberto Messina and Nello Pazzafini are the first wrestlers. 

Giovanni Cianfriglia was Mark's stunt double.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

By the Gods!

Reg Park, as Ursus, swings into action in URSUS & THE TERROR OF THE KIRGHIZ

This film is mainly known as HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL. I prefer the original title. How to explain this story of this film in just a few words? Impossible!

Anyway, some scenes from this film were used in an erotic film in 1973 called LA VIE EROTIQUE D'URSUS. Does anyone have this film? I'd like to see it.


Dominique Boschero and Georges Marchal prepare a scene in ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES. I don't know if the man in the sunglasses is the director Mario Caiano. One of my favourite PEPLUM films.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

By the Gods!

Pharaoh Nemorat / Keops (Corrado Pani) has eyes on Shila (Debra Paget) as the Queen Mother (Yvette Lebon) watches on in CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER

This little gem of a film is a perfect example of what a "PEPLUM" film is supposed to be. I really like it and consider it one of the best. I have the US English version in standard 4:3 aspect ratio. I also have a widescreen version of it taken from a VHS source, which is great but not pristine. Still looking for a great copy of it in order to make a Fan Dub with it.

The real "PEPLUM X"

When the sexual revolution exploded in the late 1960s and on to the 1970s, a new kind of PEPLUM films were being made : the X rated kind.

This new trend of having soft-core or hardcore porn films set in Antiquity was something unimaginable just a few years back, during the Golden Era of the genre. An endless number of films were made and the trend would continue on well into the 1980s certainly after the most notorious film of them all, CALIGULA was released in 1979 and made headlines all over the world.

Sex and PEPLUM films seem to be made for each other : orgies were common in Roman times. People wore skimpy clothes or nothing at all. But there's a world of a difference between suggesting something sexy and showing something explicit. For the most part though, the majority of Italian PEPLUM sex comedies of the 1970s had nudity in them and were sexy but they rarely used explicit sex to sell their films.

Except for CALIGULA, the quality of these films were pretty low grade and few of them are noteworthy. But they are an interesting footnote on the genre. More on this subject in the following weeks.

Permanent page : The real PEPLUM X


Monday, January 25, 2016

By the Gods!

Hercules (Kirk Morris) is about to go on an adventure in HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES

This film was directed by Pietro Francisci, who also wrote and directed the two classic Hercules films starring Steve Reeves. There was a third film planned but because of scheduling issues with the director, the third Steve Reeves / Herc film was never made, to the disappointment of everyone. I've detailed the information here at the blog : PEPLUM Mystery #1 solved : HERCULES AGAINST THE GODS

A couple of years after this failed third outing came HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES. Francisci decided to return to the world of Hercules. And instead of Steve Reeves reprising the role, Kirk Morris took over. Fulvio Carrara and Willi Colombini (in background) also reprised their roles, presumably as Castor and Pollux (they're never identified in the film itself). That's Stefania Sabatini (who wasn't in the other films). So this is an "unofficial" sequel to the other 2 previous Herc films.

I like Kirk a lot and he does a commendable job in this fun film but no one could step in Steve's shoes, eh, sandals as Hercules. Steve was irreplaceable.

Movie Poster Mondays

Italian poster for KNIGHTS OF TERROR

A film I haven't seen yet. Good cast.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

By the Gods!

Hercules (Lou Ferrigno) creates the Strait of Gibraltar in HERCULES (1983)

Psst : this film is an unintentional comedy.