By the Gods!

Yvonne De Carlo, as Mary Magdelene, and Jorge Mistral during the climax of THE SWORD & THE CROSS (1958)

One of the surprising things I found when I became a fan of the PEPLUM genre was how few movies were religious. There are some here and there, and a few have a Christian/Saviour theme to them but most films are remarkably secular in nature. It's even more amazing when you consider that most of these films were made in Roman Catholic Italy. Even this movie, which deals with Mary Magdalene, seems to try to avoid anything to do with Jesus. Except for the ending which is pretty good. Very nice cinematography and set up. The film itself is good and entertaining but a bit on the pulpy, trashy side. This ending makes up for it.

Happy Easter!

The Ten Commandments tomorrow on ABC

Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston as Moses. 

"Oh, Moses, Moses!"

For those in the US and Canada, don't forget to watch THE TEN COMMANDMENTS Saturday on ABC, 7:00 pm EST. It's an annual tradition.

Lobby Cards Set: BEN-HUR (1959)

US lobby cards set of BEN-HUR (1959) starring Charlton Heston: good set but the film is filed with so many stand-out moments that it feels underwhelming. I've been a movie poster collector since I was 14 years old and I have to state that them old MGM lobby cards were not my favourite in terms of quality. But this is a different issue: missing are scenes of the battle at sea, the march into Rome, etc. Very good but could have been so much more. There's another set (of a re-release?) and it has some interesting and different images.

By the Gods!

Pierre Brice and Linda Cristal in THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN (1960).

Above is the official photo taken from a lobby card while below is how the scene actually looked like in widescreen. Some say Cinemascope killed the vertical. Meaning widescreen has less information at the top and bottom of the shot and more on the sides. Which one do you prefer? Framing with widescreen can often be tricky while not so in standard 'academy' aspect ratio. This is also one of those movies of the PEPLUM genre which is often misspelled. Some spell it THE PHARAOH'S WOMAN when in fact pharaohs is plural, which mean Linda Cristal is the woman of many pharaohs, not just one. Still looking for a decent widescreen print of this.

Who wore it best?

Usually it's a showdown between two celebs but this time it's four (there's actually another one but they altered the necklace too much to be included):

1 - Sophia Loren in ATTILA (1954)
2 - Irène Tunc - APHRODITE - GODDESS OF LOVE (1958)
3 - Anouk Aimée in SODOM & GOMORRAH (1962)
4 - Linda Cristal in THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN (1960)

So who wore that necklace the best?


Turhan Bey and Merle Oberon during the filming of NIGHT IN PARADISE (1946)

By the Gods!

Luisa Mattioni, Giorgia Moll and Dada Galeotti are Sabine women in ROMULUS AND THE SABINES (1961)

In PEPLUM movies, the lack of a beach has never stopped producers in showcasing a bevy of sunbathing babes. This aspect sorta makes sense here since the focus of the story are the Sabine women but I doubt the women of that period actually sunbathed this way. Giorgia Moll's career started in the 1950s and lasted up until the year 1970. She made a bunch of genre films, including THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) with Steve Reeves. Her artistic peak was most likely her starring role in Jean-Luc Godard's CONTEMPT (1963).

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Original Italian poster of MACISTE IN HELL (1962; aka The Witch's Curse)

A rare photo montage instead of artwork. Simple but good.

Caption needed!

Brad Harris in SAMSON (1961)

Provide a funny caption and I'll post the funniest here!

By the Gods!

Mimmo Palmara is a masked hero in HERCULES & THE MASKED RIDER (1963)

I didn't include this example in the list below because it's a pseudo-Zorro like costume which are plentiful, and in this case not really terrifying. THE LION OF ST MARK (1963) starring Gordon Scott is another example. To make matters more convoluted, this story has more than one hero: there's Alan Steel as Hercules and Ettore Manni plays another hero. on the political/diplomatic side. You don't know exactly who to root for.

Terrifying Masked Hero

The tradition of a hero putting a mask on to hide his identity is nothing new. Mysterious heroes like Zorro, masked and powerful, are supposed to be terrifying to villains and others alike. I won't post any image from the gazillion Zorro movies out there. Instead, here are some other examples of such frightening masked heroes from the PEPLUM genre. 

Above and below: "Goliath" (Steve Reeves) in GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959) was meant to be a terrifying nemesis played by the story's hero, not villain. There were a couple of films with the same idea. Below, his face may be hidden but his body is easy to spot. 

Above and below: The Red Wolf in REVOLT OF THE PRAETORIANS (1964) was basically the same thing as GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS. Richard Harrison played the masked nemesis/hero. Below: Harrison is about to put on the mask.

The masked hero in TERROR OF THE RED MASK (1960).

Ed Fury plays an anti-hero in THE SEVEN REVENGES (1961); at one point in the film he starts wearing a mask to conceal his face while he tries to crush his opponent.

A faceless rebel leader jeopardizes the plans of the ten gladiators in TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS (1964); previously we saw the rebel leader destroy some valuable property (a scene lifted from COLOSSUS OF RHODES). I can't tell who that is without spoiling movie.

Mary Magdalene (2018)

The 2018 film was released again in 2019, for Easter? Reviews are not kind. The consensus: it's boring.

It's a revisionist movie with a feminist Mary. It doesn't sound exciting. It seems in these modern days that people who don't believe in God or Jesus are the ones who keep making these biblical films. See Ridley Scott's EXODUS (2014).

The distribution of this film was chaotic, to say the least. It was pushed back from a late 2017 release. The Western Company was to be its distributor but we know what happened with the whole Weinstein saga. The film was shown in different parts of the world but only got a new distributor for this year's release.

Has anyone seen it?

Joaquin Phoenix, as Jesus, and Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene. 

By the Gods!

Though the title of this film is VULCAN - SON OF JUPITER (1962), it could have easily been titled THE BEEFY HERO, THE BABE AND THE LITTLE MAN, with Iloosh Khoshabe as Vulcan, Bella Cortez as Aetna and Salvatore Furnari as the little man.

Is is great art? Not really but it's a very sexy, goofy, fun movie.

Lobby Cards Set: HERCULES (1958)

US lobby cards set of HERCULES (1958; 1959 US release): great set which pretty much covers almost everything and yet there are so many great moments which could have been used but weren't. Still, an excellent set.

Mystery Sophia Loren Photo

I'm such a PEPLUM fan that when I came across this Sophia Loren (above) in some PEPLUM movie set-up, I thought it's not from any of her PEPLUM films. I simply couldn't figure out which film it was. Her early genre productions are AIDA (1953), TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA (1954) and ATTILA (1954). TWO NIGHTS has an Egyptian setting, and Sophia plays two role in it which don't like her. In AIDA, Sophia is in dark 'blackface' make-up so it clearly wasn't that film. It only left ATTILA but again, from memory, I clearly remembered that Sophia is not a blonde and never wears such a dress. Sophia is dressed in revealing but classy costumes. I did a Google search for the image which drew nothing. I found a forum on Sophia Loren and after an exhaustive search I finally unearthed the original unaltered copy, seen below. Someone digitally altered the image and removed the title.

So, this is basically a publicity photo for ATTILA which was probably taken before the start of filming since she's totally out of character in this image. Yep, I know my PEPLUM films.

By the Gods!

Luciano Della Marra, as Radames, in AIDA (1953)

This is a film adaptation of the famous Opera. This was Luciano's only film role (a one-hit-wonder?). In this scene, he faces some sort of judgment. Is it possible to show this film today, in 2019? None of the actors sing, with voices provided by real opera singers, and the addition of many actors in 'blackface', including Sophia Loren, and I have to wonder if this production will be forever buried. The costume Luciano is wearing is interesting. I haven't seen many of these in PEPLUM films. Just variations of it. I wonder if this kind of garb has an official name. The set are spectacular (big) in this studio bound production but they're very kitschy too. I like watching this film because it's relaxing. Great music, interesting production and outdated concepts. Fascinating as a relic of a different time.

Then & Now: Carmen Sevilla

Carmen Sevilla in DESERT WARRIOR (1957) ; the most recent photo of the actress

Now playing at the cinema

Here's a photo of a small town in the USA with HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959) starring Steve Reeves playing at the cinema.

Note: The small town is Goshen, Indiana.

By the Gods!

Angelo Infanti and Amazon warrior Alena Johnston are lovers in WAR GODDESS (1973)

It's an odd outcome when a movie with an almost entirely female cast such as this one and the actor who gives the best performance is the only male lead character, played by Infanti, an actor I knew very little about prior to watching this. Alena Johnson is cute but not much of an actress. The fact that this is her only starring film should tell how good of an actress she was. PEPLUM fave Helga Liné is in this as well but her role is small and sorta pointless. There are some good roles here and there but not as fun as the one by Infanti. The story is filled with obligatory lesbian sex scenes (they are Amazons after all...) but the love scenes which work the best are those with Infanti and Johnston. Infanti appeared in THE GODFATHER (1972) before appearing in this production. I would say the direction by Terence Young was at fault here.


A few VHS covers for DUEL OF CHAMPIONS (1961). Except for the French one, they don't feature Alan Ladd very much. 

Two VHS covers for releases in the US. The top cover from FORCE VIDEO is funny because the artwork features a Gordon Scott film and it doesn't look anything like the actual film. At least the photos on the back cover are from the movie.

Below, the VHS cover is pretty much a standard one.

The French cover featured the original movie poster art

Same ting with the Italian VHS cover

Vintage article : Anita Ekberg filming ZARAK

Here are some pages of an article showing photos of Anita Ekberg filming ZARAK (1956)

By the Gods!

Anthony Quinn, as Barabbas, in a gladiatorial event in BARABBAS (1961)

Now I won't state my opinion about this film now, something which I've stated many times at the blog (search the blog). What I'll mention is this is how you direct a crowd scene: include the main actor, or any actor attached to the movie, so those scenes cannot be re-used in other movies. This is a great shot and makes the event even more compelling than the usual isolating the crowd shots from the actor stranded in the middle of the arena. They clearly spent a lot of money on this production.


U.S. lobby cards set of DUEL OF CHAMPIONS (1961). Not bad but no close-up of Alan Ladd? Was that intentional? To hide his age? It is a bit repetitive with cards 3 and 6 being from the same scene. And cards 4 and 5 being identical to each other. They could have shown two additional new scenes, boosting the cards worth. If I was the one choosing the scenes I would have chosen better scenes than these. Average.

Tragic Stars: Irène Tunc

French actress Irène Tunc had a promising acting career that was cut short at the height of her fame when she died in a car accident in 1972, in the city of Versailles. She only starred in two PEPLUM films, APHRODITE GODDESS OF LOVE (1958), and CONQUEROR OF THE ORIENT (1960), with APHRODITE being her best role/work in the genre.

At the time of the accident she was married famed director Alain Cavalier. In fact, she had made her first film with Cavalier prior to the accident. Devastated by the loss of his wife, Cavalier didn't work for eight years. Irène also had starred in other prestigious films by directors such as Francois Truffaut and Alain Resnais.

Posted at the Tragic Stars permanent page

Above and below: Irène had a starring role in this excellent PEPLUM. She was beautiful and convincing as a scheming courtesan.

Irèn's second PEPLUM movie was a lesser effort but she still shone through. A low budget movie to be exact but her glamorous look made it look less cheap.

Irène in LA CHAMADE (1968), directed by her husband Alain Cavalier

By the Gods!

Roland Carey and Sandro Moretti in the action-packed climax in SWORD OF EL CID (1962)

Carey, who was Jason in THE GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960), plays the villain. The impressive actor was versatile in many athletic endeavours, including fencing. Sandro doesn't seem to be a match to him but you can figure out how this scene will end.

Note on the production: this modest action PEPLUM, capitalizing on the big budget Hollywood epic, EL-CID (1961) starring Charlton Heston, is fun to watch. It's not comparable to the Heston film but it's fun nonetheless. The one problem with this movie (and others of the genre) is the setting. First, the landscape seen in the background is not the same as the exteriors seen throughout most of the film. More verdant than the dry landscape here. This tells me that the castle was either in a completely different location or these scenes were filmed in a different season. It's quite jarring to see. Second, the castle itself. It looks like it's rundown and abandoned. Couldn't they have just make the setting a bit more presentable. You know, cut the weeds and grass growing on it. Add some missing bricks, props and stuff to make it look lived-in. It doesn't seem to be much of a kingdom worth fighting for.