Photo of the Day

Ursus (Hercules in US version; Reg Park) tries to obtain information from a would be assassin in URSUS & THE TERROR OF THE KIRGHIZ (aka Hercules, Prisoner of Evil)

This film combines elements of the horror genre and the PEPLUM genre. The horror elements are not really horrific. Reg really looks like Arnold in this image.

Happy PEPLUM Halloween







Which one should be the new banner?


The Gordon Mitchell one or the Dan Vadis one? The poll is on the left hand side. The poll ends on Sunday and the most popular banner will be uploaded on Monday.


Photo of the Day

Lydia (Helga Liné) and Ario (Pedro Mari Sánchez) are at the mercy of Rabirio (Gérard Tichy) in THE SECRET SEVEN

Hanging from a cross was a definite PEPLUM cliché, even more so when it occurred during the film's climax. One would think that the mostly Italian produced PEPLUM films were filled with over-the-top religious messages when in fact, crucifixion none-withstanding, the scripts were fairly secular, fairly void of heavy handed religious themes. It was all action and sexiness.

When bad artwork happens to good films

How did this image go from the one on the left to the awful one on the right, with Gordon sporting ghastly moobs. Really weird.

Vintage article: Edmund Purdom

Vintage article on PEPLUM star Edmund Purdom who would become on of the most familiar faces in the genre. There's mention about Ed's first starring role in THE EGYPTIAN which he got after Marlon Brando walked off the set.





Photo of the Day

John Drew Barrymore in one the contraptions invented by Leonardo Da Vinci in THE DEVILS OF SPARTIVENTO

One of my favorite discoveries of the European Swashbuckling genre...really well mounted action film.

Movie Poster Mondays

Rare British special presentation poster of HERCULES UNCHAINED

I really like this one. If the artwork on top had been in color it would be one of the best posters ever. 

Ed Fury


Ed posing...there's no sound.

Photo of the Day

A portrait of almost the entire cast of SAMSON & DELILAH. Stuntman Henry Wills, George Sanders, Hedy Lamarr, Angela Lansbury, Henry Wilcoxon and Victor Mature.

Great photo and resolution. A storied cast for sure but my focus today is on George Sanders who killed himself at the age of 65 in 1972. He was 42 years old when he made this film. I'm still wondering if he should be included in the Tragic Stars page. He lived a pretty amazing life in those 65 years.

What's wrong with this picture?

Pier Angeli and Stewart Granger in SODOM & GOMORRAH.

What's wrong with this picture?

Upcoming project: NOAH

Russell Crowe in a Behind-the-Scenes photo from his upcoming film NOAH, a retelling of Noah's Ark. I dislike this costume. It looks too contemporary. Seriously, fire the costume designer before it's too late. But the film is supposed to be a retelling from a graphic novel (link) and it'll be more Fantasy or even Sci-fi than PEPLUM. We'll wait and see. To be released in 2014.

Photo of the Day

Rasputin (Edmund Purdom) works his "charms" on Czarina Alexandra (Gianna Maria Canale) in THE NIGHT THEY KILLED RASPUTIN (1961)

I've never seen this film and refuse to watch it even though I want to simply because the only copy that's available this side of the Atlantic is in black & white when originally this production was filmed in Eastmancolor. I like the one from Hammer with Christopher Lee even if that one is more cliff notes version of history so I can't wait to watch this one and compare it with the Hammer one.

Who wore it best?

Usually it's a showdown between two celebs but this time it's three:

1 - Sophia Loren in ATTILA
2 - Anouk Aimée in SODOM & GOMORRAH
3 - Linda Cristal in THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN

So who wore that necklace the best?


Photo of the Day

Ramses (Armando Francioli) taunts the helpless Queen Akis (Linda Cristal) in THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN

Entertaining PEPLUM melodrama with big battles scenes and an interesting cast. Argentinian-born Cristal appeared in a handful of S&S films but she's best known for Hollywood westerns. Linda's other big Euro made PEP was LEGIONS OF THE NILE and in a way this film is much better than LEGIONS even though LEGIONS has some remarkable aspects that surpass this one. I don't care much for the LEGIONS OF THE NILE script (it's all over the place). This one is more even and, in the end, more successful.

PEPLUM imagery in non-PEPLUM films...

Kim Novak in JEANNE EAGLE, which is not a Sword & Sandal film. It's one of the costumes Novak had to wear for the biography of the stage/film star. Kim Novak was often criticized for being miscast in many of her films which makes the fact that she never starred in a true PEPLUM the more remarkable. She was cast in a few turn-of-the-century films but not one like in this photo which is a shame because she really looks the part.

Hercules Caricature


Photo of the Day

Billis (Delia D'Alberti) is to be sacrificed by the Moon Men in order to revive Queen Selene in HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN

Great spooky cinematography which takes place inside the Mountain of Death. Delia also appears as the dormant Queen Selene. I really love the green tint during the climax. When I saw this film for the first time in the 4:3 crappy public domain print, the tint didn't work at all and thought everything looked cheap but in the widescreen edition available on DVD, the camerawork really shines and it suddenly didn't look cheap anymore. This scene was inspired by BLACK SUNDAY, horror film directed by Mario Bava, which was in black & white, but the green tint is much more effective here. But this being a kids film, is not as gruesome as the Bava film.

This is a mini HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN day at the blog, suggested by Cait who's taking a course in Italian cinema at the University of Illinois. They're focusing on PEPLUM films this semester. Cait wrote that they showed MOON MEN in class and have been discussing it. Make sure to check out BLACK SUNDAY as a reference to this film.


Pressbook: Hercules & the Moon Men


(I'm reposting this from last February)

This is from the official pressbook for HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN

I love it.



Featured Film: HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN

HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN


Original title: Maciste e la regina di Samar
Director: Giacomo Gentilomo
Writers: Arpad DeRiso, Nino Scolaro, more 
Music: Carlo Franci
Release Date: 27 June 1964 (Italy)



Cast:

Alan Steel (Sergio Ciani)...Hercules (Maciste)



Jany Clair...Queen Samara



Anna Maria Polani...Agar


Nando Tamberlani...Gladius



Delia D'Alberti...Billis/Selene


Jean-Pierre Honoré...Darix

Leader of the Moon Men...



A large asteroid falls on earth and from that emerges a group of aliens who try to take over the ancient world by bringing an evil Queen back to life. The people living in Samar sacrifice young people to the aliens, a la the Minotaur of Crete, who live in the Mountain of Death. But there's a bigger plan behind the sacrifices: the Moon Men want to resurrect their Queen Selene by sacrificing the Queen Samara's sister, Billis (a buxom Delia D'Alberti). The people of Samar are terrified and tired of the sacrifices and an old wise man, Gladius (Nando Tamberlani), seeks out the help of Hercules (Maciste in original Italian version) to help end these gruesome sacrifices. Queen Samara is informed by the leader of the Moon Men that Hercules is a threat to their plans and he needs to be killed at once.

Oh you're a girl!

Hercules, on a white horse, is heading towards Samar. On his way, he's ambushed by a group of ruffians but Hercules makes minced meat out of them. Hercules continues with his journey when he's stopped by a boy who happen to be a girl (cliché!) named Agar (!!!), daughter of Gladius. Agar brings Hercules to Gladius. Hercules says: "It was my father's friendship for you that brought me here."

(This raises a few questions: when Herc says father does he mean Zeus or his earthly father? And because Hercules in the italian version was actually Maciste, who, as far as I know, never had a father, this answer is a bit odd).

The old and wise in need of the new and strong!

Gladius tells Hercules about the circumstances haunting the region of Samar and Hercules agrees to help their cause. Gladius leads Hercules through a secret passage where the old man meets his fate and Hercules goes through several feats of strength, including drowning (pretty good), a bat/ape monster (fun), some bars of steel. A grief stricken Agar brings Hercules to a tavern where the rebels meet. 

Hercules meet the rebels at the tavern who all shout his name in relief

The following day, Hercules saves Darix (Jean-Pierre Honoré) from being assassinated by Queen Samara's soldiers. Hercules brings a wounded Darix to the tavern where they nurse him back to health. They also talk about the Queen and her supposed supernatural powers. People are rounded up to be sacrificed. Soldiers appear at the tavern seeking the daughter of the tavern-keeper but Hercules has something to say about this causing a big brawl in typical Alan Steel fashion. 

Hercules swings into action

Hercules tries to rescue the people who were rounded up for the sacrifice but in turn gets trapped himself, with a net thrown on him (the indestructible net cliché). Billis is brought to the Mountain of Death by Queen Samara, where they are both shown a "resting" Queen Selene (right) and the leader of the Moon Men tells them that the dormant Queen Selene needs Billix's blood to be revived. Billis is mortified that her own sister wants to kill her. Billis is eventually captured by the Moon Men. Hercules is in chains and will go through one of the best Feat of Strengths even conceived in a PEPLUM.

Hero in chains

During this Feat of Strength, in typical PEPLUM fashion, Queen Samara falls head over heels for the invincible Hercules, thinking he'd be more useful alive and working for her than killing such a powerful being so she decides not to kill him after all and plots to seduce him to her dark side.

Classic Feat of Strength!

Queen Samara finally meets Hercules and is enamoured by him, in a sadomasochistic way. She's positively ecstatic when she describes how Hercules could strangle her as easily as breaking the stem of of a flower. This scene is one of the best in this film but also one of the best in the PEPLUM genre. Really cool stuff for a kids film. And Jany Clair plays it to camp perfection.

Rough love!

Of course, Hercules understands what's going and plays along willingly, first pretending to be drugged up by the Queen's wine laced with a love potion (right) and he basically becomes her love slave. A few days later and with a new fancy tunic, which would serve him until the end of the film, Hercules reveals to Queen Samara that he's not really under spell and escapes, saves Darix and Agar and heads for the Mountain of Death, during which a sandstorm erupts violently, as the moon slowly moves in conjunction with Saturn, Mars and Uranus. 

The world is ending

Hercules ends up inside the Mountain of Death and battles the Moon Men in an explosive (if abrupt) climax filled with nonstop action.

The Moon Men

This film is in the public domain in North America. If you only saw the grubby and scratchy PD copy then you really haven't seen this film, which is colorful and beautifully shot in widescreen. There is a widescreen version available on DVD here this side of the Atlantic which is great except for the sound which a bit on the thin side. Buy it at Amazon.

I really enjoy this film. It was made squarely for kids but adults will enjoy it too, with the numerous "rock 'em sock 'em" action scenes, some of the slightly gruesome aspects of the story (a la BLACK SUNDAY) and the kinky play between Queen Samara and Hercules. The effects are actually pretty solid. The Moon Men look cool, in a 1960s pulp book kinda way. It's only their limited ability to move about that makes them appear not as threatening as they should be. The leader of the Moon Men looks cool too.

A lot has been written about this film and almost all of it is negative. The IMDb rating is at 2.4, which is ridiculously low, even if one should never take IMDb's ratings seriously. One of the reasons why it's often regarded badly by many Fan Boys is because of the MST3k broadcast of this film, which, btw, was shown with the crappy version. Fans of that show keep screaming "sandstorm" because of the long sandstorm seen in this film. The world is about to end, so what if the sandstorm is long? And the usual juvenile jokes about Uranus. It's a shame that few people will see it in a beautiful transfer. Oh well.

Needless to say HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN has everything in it. I could list it all but instead I'll show screenshots of those wonderful PEPLUM clichés:

Queen Samara eavesdrops in a conversation between Billis and Darix with the help of a special statue

Soon to be drowned...

 Battling bat/ape creature

Bending bars, the Alan Steel way!

Ultimate Feat of strength! 

Lifting stuff!

There's no need to write an in depth review of HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN because it doesn't pretend to be nothing else than an all out colorful action film. As I pointed out a few days ago about HERCULES and the "narratives within the main narrative" aspects of the Francisci screenplay (here), MOON MEN is fairly straight-forward story, moving from point A to point B to point C. For most cinephiles this is probably the Alan Steel film they remember and know and there's a good reason for that: he's in top shape, always looks game with all the on-going action and never seemed to have more fun in this than in any of his other PEPLUM projects. As for French actress Jany Clair, she's great in this. She plays Queen Samara to Evil Queen perfection. Anna Maria Polani is a good if unusual  love interest for Hercules with an even more unusual name: Agar. The remaining cast members do their job with total conviction amidst the comic book story, including Delia D'Alberti in twin roles, as Billis and Queen Selene.

The beefcake level is high throughout mainly due to the presence of a very buff Alan and the cheesecake level is equally high with the curvaceous Jany dressed in tight fitted dresses and Delia, who's as buxom as one could be in a kids film. 

This bring me to the few things which I find lacking about MOON MEN: the cast is really small. Nothing too earth shattering about this but most PEPLUM films usually have tons of bit players and such populating the story. Not this one. Also the lack of big crowds and such scenes give the film a low budget feel that was probably not intended in the first place. I'm guessing they were all sacrificed.

Where's everyone?

My other complaints: there's no original score. The soundtrack is made mainly of bits of music from previous films which robs the film from being even more unique. Because there's no original score, MOON MEN sometimes sounds pretty quiet for an action film. The action scenes during the secret passage moment scream for a robust score but instead there's silence. Just for the sake of comparison, if you look at HERCULES AGAINST ROME, also with Steel, the soundtrack is unforgettable and unique (I can hum it) and gives so much character to a film that many might consider average. One can only imagine how much greater HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN would have been with a real original score.

And the editing could have been a bit tighter in a few places. I have the official DVD transfer of this film and the public domain version as well. I'm not aware if this film was cut from the original Italian version, which I don't have.

HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN is just a fun, colorful action movie, which happens to have a vivid supernatural/science-fiction tone to it with some beefcake and cheesecake thrown in for good measure.

Pros:

- excellent cinematography
- fast paced
- action, action, action
- Alan Steel in top form
- Jany Clair as Evil Queen
- several Feats of Strength and clichés
- spooky imagery

Cons:

- lacks original score
- tiny cast
- action scene with Moon Men could have lasted a bit longer/ ends a bit too abruptly

8 out of 10

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