Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The 20 Worst PEPLUMS

Another blog (link) made a list of the 20 Worst SWORD AND SANDAL films and the list includes numerous cool titles. I was taken a bit aback by it (if one dislikes so many great titles from the genre why watch them in the first place?). I mean, there's NO way that MACISTE THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD (aka Mole Men vs Son of Hercules) should be on any worst list. It has one of the best PEP scenes ever.

So here's my list of the worst of the PEPLUM genre. Sorry if some of them are your favourites but a list is always subjective. I didn't include all out porno films as they're always poor. If I did MACISTE AGAINST THE QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS would be number 1.


HAWK THE SLAYER is so bad I can't even find the words to describe how bad it is. The entire film was shot in one location, or it felt like it. Completely nonsensical story, bad acting, etc. I watched it for the first time on PEPLUM TV last week and I was embarrassed I was showing it. I wanted to pull the plug on it.

I never thought I'd see something to top HAWK but bam! just a few days after showing HAWK I watched LITTLE HERCULES starring Hulk Hogan as Zeus and wow it's as bad as HAWK THE SLAYER. Totally amateurish. In 3D too. Woo-hoo!

02 - ATLAS

B-movie mogul Roger Corman wanted to capitalize on the super popular PEPLUM genre by making ATLAS. Shot in location in Greece (one of its few merits) this clunker is inept from beginning to end. The entire film is poor on every level: costumes, sets (what sets?), story, script, props (shields made of cardboard with foil on them), etc. It plays like a Beatnik version of a PEPLUM and if you watch it thinking it's a student film than it's ok but as a B-movie? No way. It just doesn't live up to its title. It's ATLAS but instead we ended up with ATLAS. For a B-movie it's sure without the usual trashy exploitation stuff like gratuitous violence and skin. Corman was out of his element here and I usually love his cheapies, including ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS, BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES, etc.


Made in a few weeks when the sets of Caligula where not being used, this raunchy Italian sex comedy is not funny. Not for one second. Not one scene. The cast is not bad and there are some nice set pieces but it's just painfully unfunny.


What can I say about this film. Utilizes BIG chunks of scenes from other films and stitched them together with new scenes. The fight between Reg Park and Giovanni Cianfagilia **is** a classic but the rest of the film is not. I'm giving this film low marks just for the excessive use of scenes from other films. This unsavoury practice killed the PEPLUM genre. It's watchable certainly if you're not familiar with the other films but if those films are familiar like they are to me, this is simply tedious no matter how cool Giovanni is as a badass Hercules.


I've never even been able to watch this all the way to the end even with the presence of fav PEP stars Gianna Maria Canale and Rik Battaglia. The film looks super cheap (it looks like it was shot in a closet). A real clunker. Maybe a pristine transfer might improve viewing but I highly doubt it.

06 - PIRATES (1986)

Roger Ebert's review for PIRATES starts like this:

"There hasn't been a pirate movie in a long time, and after Roman Polanski's "Pirates," there may not be another one for a very long time."

And that's what happened. This Roman Polanski flick effectively killed off the pirate genre for the next 20 or so years* until PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN was released. Watching a pirate movie should NOT be this much of a chore.

* There were a few attempts to re-introduce the genre: Spielberg's HOOK and CUTTHROAT ISLAND in 1995. CUTTHROAT ISLAND  bombed so badly at the box office that studio Carolco had to file for bankruptcy. 


Paulette Goddard cannot save this ridiculous sermon disguised as a film. Bleech.


I actually like everything in this except for Ahnuld. Physically, he's fine but his acting is so dreadful that it saps the film's energy to a dead stop whenever he's on screen which is something like 80% of the film.

09 - ERIK THE VIKING (1989)

Sloppy, unfunny, meandering, nonsensical. A complete mess. I dislike this film.


I saw this on the big screen and I'm still scarred by the experience. Richard "hip shaking" Gere as King David? Oh the inhumanity!

11 - ADAM & EVE

The Jorge Rivero one. Peerless in a "it's so bad it's good" film and eye candy a plenty but total cornball if you look at it seriously as a Biblical film. It got the highest ratings at my PEPLUM TV channel. Hmm, I wonder why.


This film is a virtual remake of THOR AND THE AMAZON WOMEN (or vice versa). Same director, almost same actors, same crew. If I had to choose between the two I would say TAUR is much worse even though there are parts of this that are better than THOR. The main reason I chose this one is because the Gladiatrix scenes are poor and ineffective and the film would be better without them. They're more effective in THOR thanks to the presence of Susy Andersen who's not in this film. I actually made a Fan Fix of this by removing most of the gladiatrix scenes and it's, huh, better ( as "better" as a film like this can get).


Of all of Gordon Scott films, this is the poorest. Even though the icon for my blog and Youtube channel are taken from this film, there are just too many things in it that are poor, certainly the speed-up-the-film action scenes which might have worked in the 1940s but by the 1960s this was unacceptable and the main reason I've included it on my list. It's watchable but I cringe during the sped-up scenes. Also, the sub-plots are truly dull. And the ending, with Gordon strapped to the crucifix, which, visually speaking, is impressive but ultimately it's disappointing because Gordon doesn't participate in the action. His role is passive which is a shame because Gordon is in top form. Wandisa Guida's wigs are a fright. Filled with amazing number of cliches, which is a good thing, including the most annoying "annoying sidekick" cliche which is not a good thing. Oh and we never get to see the gladiators in Rome.

14 - COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE (Fire monsters vs Son of Hercules)

It apparently took 6 months to complete this super cheesy film. Entertaining in "it's so bad it's good" way and Reg Lewis is impressive but badly cast and the film is poor and slow.

15 - HERCULES (1983)

Supremely entertaining in "it's so bad it's good" way (tossing a bear into outer space) but compared to the Steve Reeves classic, this is very poor and at times embarrassing. Lou looks the part but that's it. Oddly enough, the sequel ADVENTURES OF HERCULES is not as bad but still weak. In fact, one can choose any of Lou Ferrigno's 1980s S&S films as they're mostly all poor.


Howard Hughes needed to terminate the contracts of hundreds of starlets. This is the end result. Sometimes entertaining but as contrived as an episode of LOVE BOAT. The film with the most women per square inch and is basically a showcase of Hughes' Harem. If that's what's you're looking for or it it's enough to satisfy you than you won't be disappointed by it. In the interview below, the wonderful Vincent Price said he was initially asked by the producers what he thought about the script and he told producers that it was the worst script he's ever read and they agreed with him because it was written just to flush out all those contracts. Vincent told the producers not to change anything in the screenplay as it was "so bad it's good". Indeed. Oh and the title also doesn't make any sense.


That fake croc nearly kills this passable Kirk Morris movie.

18 - CLASH OF THE TITANS remake 

Not one likeable character in the entire film.


Sorta ok but unintentionally funny and had me giggling throughout (the sister's dance number and what happens after it or the dialogue) and it's very low budget ie the army of Carthage = 15 soldiers...arf.

20 - CENTURION (2010)

Terrible; I couldn't finish it.


Mr B said...

... is near the top of my list. But what about

MY SON THE HERO ... an abomination

SAMSON AND HIS MIGHTY CHALLENGE ... humorless satire with Jewish lampoons thrown in

ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS ... even Gordon Mitchell can't save this snorer that is enlivened only by the beauteous Bella Cortez

A QUEEN FOR CAESAR ... a talky palace intrigue melodrama with a cameo by Gordon Scott at the very end.


PEPLUM cinema said...

I'm not too crazy about My Son the Hero which, btw, has a LOT of fans. I like parts of it but as a whole I think it's a mess. But I like the other ones.

I like SAMSON AND THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE a lot because it has everything: 4 PEPLUM stars, Moira Orfei, it makes fun of the PEPLUM genre, etc. I think the way it makes fun of Herc is pretty funny. Not knee slapping funny but it puts a smile on my face. Even if it wasn't a comedy I'd still like it with the action and all. The subplot with the young couple is tedious though.


A QUEEN FOR CAESAR is the first film I made a Fan Dub with so I like it. lol. Pascale Petit is beyond cute in it.

And ALI BABA is sorta plain but I saw a widescreen version with beautiful colors and the film looks totally different.

Steven Lester said...

I disagree with you about Clash of The Titans Remake. The music was amazing! In fact, I stayed during the credits just to listen to the soundtrack. And the scorpions were pretty scary and very tough, as well as the Kraken itself, who was so tough that even Medusa's gaze was almost not powerful enough to conquer took forever to work. I agree, though, that the real people in it were quite lackluster.

And are you saying that the croc which Kirk wrestled was FAKE? Was it that obvious? He did get all muddy and sweaty fighting it though, which increased his macho appearance.

And Lou made a great Hercules, as long as he was a mute Hercules. He looked like Hercules should look! He would even make (at the risk of being banned from this wonderful blog) Steve look puny. (I've done it now!), but as soon as he opened his mouth it was turn off time. Actually, he had some good stuff to do on Sinbad later on, although I never knew that Sinbad was a strength hero.

Pekpasha said...

I would add Bruno Mattei's "Caligula and Messalina" to the lot. It's basically just people f*cking on the same three sets, mixed with footage from other movies.

abdul666 said...

Watched only excerpts on Youtube, but Tarkan Versus the Vikings looks like a jolly challenger (but perhaps not a peplum according to your definition? I'm not sure you rank 'The Vikings' [1958] or Prince Valiant [1954] along PEP movies).

PEPLUM cinema said...

Steven, my main criticism against CLASH OF THE TITANS remake is there are no characters to root for because they're not likeable. Not criticizing the production though there are some stuff I dislike about that but it's the lack of enjoyable characters made me wonder why I was watching it.

I agree with you about Lou. He looks great BUT that's it. Compared to Steve who was muscular but moved like a jaguar and acted with his physique, Lou's Hercules is stiff and clunky as you can get, like Reg Park who stiff. You're not banned from the blog.

CALIGULA & MESSALINA is awful but I consider it an all out porno so quality is always poor with xxx films. The worst of the worst would be MACISTE AGAINST THE QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS but it's a porno so I didn't include it. MESSALINA MESSALINA is a soft core comedy flick with one or two racy scenes.

I saw TARKAN and it's poor but it's a movie from what does one expect? They're in a league of their own.

THE VIKINGS and PRINCE VALIANT are definitely PEP films: any action film in acient times, with sword fights and all is an automatic PEPLUM.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of your worst 20 but another title that I had high expectation but was disappointed was "hercules against Moloch" due to big chunks taken from "trojan War".
Incidently I watched your "hero of Babylon " and the big battle scene from which movie was this taken?
Thanks for all your wonderful channels it has really brought me many memories from my youth

PEPLUM cinema said...

The battle scene in HERO OF BABYLON is from THE MINOTAUR, which is most excellent.

As for HERC VS MOLOCH, there's a lot of scenes taken from other films including the TROJAN HORSE but I find there's enough new stuff in it with Moloch himself to make it fun to watch. Unlike other films which borrows scenes from other films, the director of HERC VS MOLOCH is the same director as TROJAN HORSE or the other borrowed scenes so in it it's not the same as a completely different director using shot for shot scene from another film that he didn't direct. I'm happy I've brought back good memories.

S.R.Orsulak said...

I agree with you on most of these movies, but I'll add SINBAD OF THE 7 SEAS, VULCAN, SON OF JUPITER, and this may come as surprise to you LOVES OF HERCULES. The movie is all right, but the reason I added this to the list is because of M. Hargitay who in my opinion is by far the worse Hercules of them all. A monkey could of played the part better, and when I do watch this I try to imagine Steve playing the part. Mickey must of paid the producers to be in the movie with honey Jayne Mansfield. What is your opinion of this?

PEPLUM cinema said...

SR, I agree that Mickey is not the greatest Hercules. He's goofy and fumbling and not in great shape (a bit chunky) BUT there are some stand-out scenes in it including the one where he rams the tree trunk against the gate. It's one of my favorite PEP scenes ever. It's amazing in widescreen. And when he lifts the wheel and other stuff it works but these scenes don't change the fact that he's a terrible actor. Many make fun of Steve Reeves limitations but there so many other actors who are simply not actors (Mickey, Reg Lewis, Reg Park, etc) and Steve looks positively Olivier-like next to them.

But you know what even with that being said I still enjoy the LOVES OF HERCULES because when scanning the hundreds of PEP films with so many indistinguishable from the next LOH is a unique one. There are no other films in the genre that resembles it. Elements like having a real couple together adds a lot. They obviously loved each other. Jayne is campy perfection. And the entire film is endearing in its naivete. I used to hate it but when I saw it in widescreen well it all changed. Now I can't hate it. It's like hating a puppy.

The same thing with VULCAN SON OF JUPITER. To say it's not a great film would be an understatement and I used to hate it too (I actually thought it was the worst ever) but I slowly realized, after watching it from time to time, that the film was basically conceived with one thing in mind and nothing else: showing off the sexy cast and on that level it works in spades. And again there's no other PEPLUM film like that one. Like LOVES OF HERCULES, the tone, script and direction is different. There are no other films in the PEPLUM genre like it so I think it adds some cachet to it. I don't know if it's intentional or by accident but the good thing I can about it is that it's, eh, "unique" and sexy.

But if someone says they don't like these two films I actually understand and I'm not angry or defensive. It's just after several viewings I apparently "got it" lol!

gpm said...

What happened to 11 through 14?

PEPLUM cinema said...


PEPLUM cinema said...

In writing this article the (dis)honourable mentions were part of the list but I forgot to update it. Thanks for pointing it out, gpm