PEPLUM Introduction: Babes, babes, babes!


In Part 1 of PEPLUM INTRODUCTION, I explained the significance of the term PEPLUM and how the genre came about and how the male physique is often front and center in most of these films. 

In Part 2, I explained how the success of HERCULES came about due to a "perfect storm" of elements back then and the explosion of films quickly followed. HERCULES was a game changer (hate the term but valid in this case) in the film industry: modest budgeted films from Europe were raking the money at the box office while big expensive Hollywood productions were often struggling. 

In Part 3, I'll quickly go over another important element that made these films popular: the incredible number of beautiful women populating the landscape.

Is anyone looking at him? All eyes are on Marilù Tolo in THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR

Probably in order to offset the wall-to-wall beefcake seen in so many Sword & Sandal films, producers hired some of the most beautiful starlets in Europe and sometimes from Hollywood to appear in the skimpiest of costumes, as either heroine or villainess, sometimes both, for the hero to rescue or fall prey to. In some instances the number of starlets in one film was so overwhelming it made the film unrealistic, such as the case with Robert Aldrich's SODOM & GOMORRAH or SON OF SINBAD, which literally featured Howard Hughes' entire (un-official) harem of Hollywood babes. Something like 120 starlets. But few people complained. If beefcake wasn't your thing then the harem girls dancing about would do.

For me the perfect example of this can be seen in THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR pictured above. In one lengthy talkative moment between the hero (played by Mark Forest) and the Emperor, Marilù Tolo was strategically placed next to the Emperor during the scene. All eyes are on her even if she remains silent throughout the scene. The director knew the scene was tedious and by having Marilù simply stand there, the scene became less boring for it. She's stunning, perfectly lit and it's one of the most memorable babe scenes from any PEPLUM film. She's just got it. Not that Mark's physique is not shown prominently in the film. It is. It's just in this instance the Babe element took over and came to the fore.


It's almost impossible to summarize this aspect as there are so many PEPLUM babes that I could spend hours upon hours going all over them. The amount is truly mind boggling. I created a video montage of WHO'S THE QUEEN OF PEPLUM CINEMA? It's in two parts and there are literally dozens and dozens of actresses fighting for the title. I even mistakenly left out some big names like Rosanna Schiaffino (photo above). I'll be updating the compilation with new stuff, including those I've missed the first time around.


The amazing thing about this is that if the main actresses didn't do it for ya, like Anita Ekberg above (!?!), well then there was always the dancing girls: 


And if the dancing girls didn't do it there was always the love-starved Amazons: 


Producers of PEPLUM films always found an excuse to showcase a boatload of beautiful women. Always.


The women from SCHEHERAZADE, Anna Karina and Marilù Tolo.

It's one aspect that so-called serious Hollywood films couldn't even compete with: for instance, if you watch CLEOPATRA (1963) you're basically stuck with Elizabeth Taylor for the next 4 hours. And if Elizabeth doesn't excite you then there weren't many other babes in it, aside for a few brief dance numbers. It's something that producers in Europe knew all to well. As reckless as they were when they featured the male physique (compared to Hollywood), European filmmakers didn't shy away from displaying their most beautiful actresses. 

Daniela Rocca in COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The peplum genre is the sexiest movie genre ever. It certainly appealed to both straight and gay men alike, but did the female audience find it attractive?