Saturday, March 31, 2012

Photo of the Day

A scene from KINGDOM OF THE GLADIATORS

Don't ask me who the actors are. This is a direct-to-home market production which looks great but the acting and script are horrendous. With a budget of $3 million, the film still boasts some great locations and cinematography but that's it. What I could have done with this instead of the end result.

Wrath of the Titans Official Trailer #2


Second official trailer for WRATH OF THE TITANS (without the Marilyn Manson music)

Reviews are bad but many say it's a step up from the first film (which is not hard to beat...)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Photo of the Day

Paul Wynter and Gordon Mitchell duke it out in MACISTE IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS

Fantastic photo of the memorable scene which is all too brief. 

Uploaded to the HEROES & BEEFCAKE permanent page under Paul Wynter.


The Fascination with Falling Empires


What's the fascination with Falling Empires?

Is it because we're witnessing something that we thought would never fall? Is it possible to witness a Falling Empire? Most of this is made in hindsight, so few people realize their world around them is falling.

Anyway, here's an interesting article from THE GUARDIAN

link

QUICK Review: JOHN CARTER


JOHN CARTER starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins etc

If there's a movie that doesn't deserve its current critical pan it's JOHN CARTER. I've seen so many highly praised films that left me going "meh" that I'm officially jaded by critics and clueless audiences. I mean, how can this "bomb" while the TRANSFORMERS films or schlocky Stephen Sommers films or the woeful remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS are box office hits? The world is truly bizarre. Even if I hadn't liked it and had this been a humongous hit, I still wouldn't have dispised it because all the creativity and money are all there on screen. It's eye filling. The fact that something as "copy/paste lazy" as the CLASH OF THE TITANS remake made 600 million dollars does make it harder for me to like it. 

Is JOHN CARTER great? Not really but it's not even to being the massive disaster it's being reported as. The story is weak, it's sorta all over the map, unwieldy.  It goes from here to there like one of Carter's jumps. The assumptions within the storyline are huge and might be one of the reasons why it hasn't connected with audiences. The introduction is way too long. Something like 30 minutes. It could have easily been 10 or 15 minutes. Once on Mars, we're introduced to a myriad of characters and people, none of which gel together (but I guess that's the point). The 4 armed Martians sometimes remind me of Jar Jar Binks. I stress the word sometimes. My attention started drifting when the film spent too much time on them.

Things happen and our Hero jumps to the occasion (literally) doing things as if he's been doing those things for a long time. I'm like "no." These scenes show me how the story lacks urgency: John does things, putting his life in danger even if there's no reason for him to do so. All of this could have been resolved easily with a sense of levity but as much as tries to be whimsical (and it tries), the seriousness always quells the fun stuff.

In one scene they throw in 5 or 6 cliches in a span of a few minutes. I love cliches but that's too much. The cliches are endless: branding, chained to a rock, etc. One of the cliches is the bad guy transforming into the likeness of the Hero, or in this case Heroine. Straight out of GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES or TRIUMPH OF HERCULES. 

Many of the humorous scenes fall flat. In one scene, when the fake Princess is running away the real Princess who then yells to Carter "I'm running away!" A real groaner. 

The dialogue is one cliche after another.  "It's a trap." "Carter!" "Who is that?" "History will follow its course." With good actors, cliched dialogue can be less groaners but as good as the cast is (and it's good) they often can't elevate above the dialogue.


It introduces storylines or plotlines that are never fully explored. One of the major plot point is about the Princess having to marry the bad guys in order to bring peace in Barsoom. I'm like "No!" From ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO starring Gary Cooper made 74 years ago to a number of films from the PEPLUM explosion to FLASH GORDON, building an entire story on when or if the woman, usually a Princess, will marry the villain, is OVERDONE, not interesting and anti-climatic. When will they retire the forced wedding plot-line?

Costume fail!

Filmed mostly on location (yeah) on actual celluloid, not digital (double yeah) JOHN CARTER looks, feels like an old school epic. With this aspect alone, it's a million times better than the STAR WARS prequels or the recent IMMORTALS. Unfortunately, the one aspect that the film almost fails entirely are the costumes. They look cheap, doubly so with the tacky fur shoulder pads. I *really* hate those fur shoulder pads. The costume looked like they came straight out of 1980s Italian Sword & Sorcery flick starring Pietro Torissi or Miles O'Keeffe. Was ATOR the inspiration?


Like the film the special effects are all over the map. Some scenes are stunning will others are simply too obvious or not well thought out. When Carter jumps around in the location scenes, it's obvious Taylor Kitsch is strapped to wires, which have been digitally erased. 

Here's a quick rundown of what's good and not too good:

Pros:

- Truly grand scale
- Robust soundtrack
- Great cast of mostly British actors
- Big action sequences
- Location filming
- Filmed with 35mm
- When the fx are good, they're stunning

Cons: 

- Terrible, cheap looking costumes, the film's weakest point
- Dialogue falls flat (second weakest point)
- Too many cliches (and I'm a fan of cliches)
- Introduction is too long
- A forced wedding..again?
- Some names are terrible. Helium?
- When the fx are bad, they're bad (jumping scenes with wires are obvious)


So in conclusion: aside from the terribly overdone wedding plotline, the endless number of cliffhanger/rescue-the-princess-in-the-nick-of-time moments, the unevenness of it all, I still give this cosmic PEPLUM 8 stars simply for the sheer scope & physicality of the endeavour. It's truly eye-filling. 

It will definitely become a HUGE cult favourite in the home market. 

Rating: 8 out of 10

uploaded to the FEATURED FILM page


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Photo of the Day

Publicity photo for THE SIGN OF THE CROSS starring Fredric March and Claudette Colbert

Mini-SIGN OF THE CROSS day. This photo is simply stunning! I think I'll make a banner with this.

Oops...wrong film!

Amazing Coca-Cola commercial from the set of SIGN OF THE CROSS erroneously identified as ANTONY & CLEOPATRA. That's Fredric March and Claudette Colbert with director De Mille, all enjoying some coke.

Nip slip - PEPLUM style

Claudette Colbert as Queen Poppaea in SIGN OF THE CROSS

Jeanne Valérie's nipple slips out during a love scene with Jacques Sernas in SALAMMBO (1960)

Yvonne Furneaux takes a bath in front of John Ericson in SLAVE QUEEN OF BABYLON

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Photo of the Day

Edmund Purdom is getting trained by Steve Reeves, Dick Dubois and Louis Calhern in ATHENA 

This scene is NOT in ATHENA. It most likely was cut. Hopefully, it's still in the MGM vaults somewhere and will see the light of day. This scene makes sense and probably when Purdom's character learned how to toss Steve around. They shouldn't have cut it.

Marilyn Monroe as Theda Bara as Cleopatra

Photograph by Avedon

Greek mythology in the mainstream

Woman falls in love with a statue of Adonis

link

A carer from London says she has ditched men for good – after falling in love with a statue. The object of her affection is a three-foot moulding of the Greek God Adonis that she bought for £395. Reighner Deleighnie, 40, has been in a relationship with the statue for six months and spends hours every day with her Carrara marble boyfriend, which heats up with touch.

Only from the Daily Mail.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Photo of the Day

Livio Lorenzo, Lisa Gastoni and Mimmo Palmara in THARUS SON OF ATTILA

I wonder who appeared in more films, Livio or Mimmo. I have to look it up. 

Pulp PEP

Always love these vintage PEPLUM-inspired pulp novels





Worst PEP performance by a bodybuilder

One of my many pet-peeves about how the PEPLUM genre is perceived by the general public is how  they say most bodybuilder-turned-actors were bad. Because Steve Reeves was the first bodybuilder to become a star, many point fingers at him. I always hear "Steve Reeves wasn't an actor!" "Steve Reeves was wooden" etc. Well, it's obvious they haven't seen the following films.

As a side note, this list doesn't automatically say the film is bad as well. A film can be great with a mediocre performance from the beefy actor.

Tie - No 1
Ahnuld in HERCULES IN N.Y.

Whenever he's on screen, the film dies. Yes, it's that bad. The film, on the other hand, is lighthearted and amiable, in NY city kind of way.

Tie - No 1
Samson Burke in TOTO VS MACISTE

Samson overacts shamelessly in this broad comedy. OK, it's not supposed to be serious but whenever Samson overacts it's cringeworthy.


No 2
Lou Ferrigno in HERCULES (1983)

Lou is a cool guy but acting is not his strength. He looked the part and somehow was up  to the challenge but Lou appeared befuddled and at times goofy in this retelling of the legendary Greek character. Compare him to Steve Reeves in HERCULES (1958) and Steve suddenly looks like Lawrence Olivier.


No 3
Reg Park in MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES

Reg was basically sleepwalking in this fun and colorful film. He's the film's weakest point.


No 4
Kirk Morris in COLOSSUS AND THE HEADHUNTERS

Picking Kirk's worst performance was a bit of a challenge. I'll admit it, the handsome Kirk wasn't much of an actor but he did get better with each film and he appeared in a masterpiece, MACISTE IN HELL, but he was still very limited. If I had to choose between TRIUMPH OF MACISTE and COLOSSUS AND THE HEADHUNTERS, I chose the latter. A robot would have probably given a better performance.


No 5
Dan Vadis in TRIUMPH OF HERCULES

When the action is fast and laced with comedy, Dan Vadis was the best of the bunch. He was unique as one of the bodybuilders-turned-actors. But when things got serious in the story, Dan's acting limitations came to the fore and there isn't a better example than TRIUMPH OF HERCULES. The part when Herc unleashes his wrath on the village with a deadly outcome almost doesn't work because Dan is supposed to convey things he wasn't capable of doing. So in this scene, because of Dan's limitations,  Herc comes across as super dense and stupid instead of confused and passionate. The film is still fabulous example of the PEPLUM genre.


No 6
Reg Lewis in COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE

This is Reg's first and only PEPLUM. That should tell you everything. Reg had an amazing physique, the envy of every men,  but wasn't much of an actor and this film proves it in spades. 


No 7
Mickey Hargitay in THE LOVES OF HERCULES (Hercules vs the Hydra)

Not really bad per se but awkward and unconvincing as Hercules, a slightly chunky Mickey is probably the least offensive bodybuilder-turned-actor on the list but even with several effective scenes in his first starring role Mickey looked goofy and at times light on his feet. He seemingly tip-toes throughout the film. Just check the sequence with the Hydra. But having him paired with his real wife, Jayne Mansfield, was brilliant and the film is still enjoyable and one-of-a-kind in the genre.


No 8
Frank Gordon in MACISTE VS HERCULES IN THE VALLEY OF WOE

No one knows who Frank Gordon is but his turn as Hercules in this film is forgettable. 


No 9
Peter and David Paul in THE BARBARIANS (1987)

Probably should be tied at no 1 for worst performance but the two beefy twin brothers give such knowingly bad performances that it saves them a bit from being on top. Don't ask me who is Peter and who is Paul. The only thing I know in the film one shows more butt than the other. Arf. 


No 10
Ralf Moeller in CONAN tv series

Ahnuld's buddy, Ralf, starred as Conan in a short lived TV series. Ralf had no conviction whatsoever whenever he was on screen. He looked like he just showed up for some shoot and that's it.

So before trashing Steve Reeves in any of his films, just think of these first and you'll realize Steve was pretty good considering his limited thespian talents. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Photo of the Day

Maciste (Kirk Morris) walks about in Hell in MACISTE IN HELL

Like many others, I saw this under the bastardized US version called THE WITCH'S CURSE, which is a badly edited version, robbing all of the film's careful direction by Riccardo Freda. The best transfer is from the French DVD which is simply stunning. I've seen other widescreen transfers from other sources and they don't compare to the French DVD. The colors and detailing are perfect. So good that the film looks like it was released yesterday. The colors from the other sources are wrong, cheesy and badly saturated.

This is without a doubt Kirk's best film and one of the best PEPLUM epics ever. Riccardo's direction probably goes over the head of almost everyone but there's more to this film than meets the eye. The way Freda contrasts Kirk's physique and youthfulness with the surrounding dark environment, on Earth or in Hell, is brilliant and an amazing thing to behold. 

Movie Poster Mondays

French poster for WITH FIRE & SWORD (also known as Invasion 1700)

Based on the famous novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. The great thing about the French poster is that the title is nearly identical to the English one which is seemingly rare. A Franco-Italian-Yugoslav co-production. I have this but like so many films in my collection, it's nearly unwatchable. A very good cast including Gordon Mitchell. A Polish film based on the same novel was made in 1999. One of my Youtube channels is named after this film/novel.

MACISTE IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS - Dance sequence

Good dance sequence from a classic PEP

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Photo of the Day

The ever suave Brett Halsey courts Françoise Fabian in THE MAGNIFICENT ADVENTURER (also known as The Burning of Rome)

I have this film in English but the copy is terrible, unwatchable. I also have a copy in Italian and it's nice so I have to make a Fan Dub for this as well. Directed by Riccardo Freda so it's a must see.

PEPLUM in vintage media

Moira Orfei and Dan Vadis are flexing it up on the cover of a vintage exercise magazine.

They're both such hams.

It's now official


Last October I posted about an upcoming HERCULES project that was in the works but not yet official. The project has been greenlighted and Hercules will be played by Dwayne Johnson. Yes, The Rock.



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Photo of the Day

Barbarossa (John Payne) just tied Captain Salcedo (Gerald Mohr) to a tree while Alida (Donna Reed) watches on helplessly in RAIDERS OF THE SEVEN SEAS

Excellent production values, good cast and yet totally forgotten. I like this film. I love watching it just for the costumes and sets. Payne, at 6'2", was a big fellow. Mohr is a familiar character actor and Donna made a couple of these types of films, including the over-the-top GREEN DOLPHIN STREET.

Then & Now: Edy Vessel

Edy Vessel as Helen of Troy in THE TROJAN HORSE; the most recent photo of Edy

Friday, March 23, 2012

Photo of the Day

Yvonne Furneaux as Helen of Troy in THE LION OF THEBES

One of the more interesting portrayal of Helen and yet few people know about it. Isn't it always the case?

Anachronism


 From THE LION OF THEBES. Someone puts a snake in this metal pipeline. A bit too modern, no?


Quick Review: THE LION OF THEBES

THE LION OF THEBES starring Mark Forest, Yvonne Furneaux, Pierre Cressoy, Massimo Serato, Rosalba Neri, Alberto Lupo, Nello Pazzafini and Giovanni Cianfriglia. Directed by Giorgio Ferroni.


The great thing about the PEPLUM genre is the fact that many films are speculative or fictional stories based on famous characters. The Iliad is well known but what happened to Helen after the fall of Troy is rather dull so with THE LION OF THEBES we see a speculative story of what happened to Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) and her bodyguard, Aryan (a pectacular Mark Forest). Like so many films of this genre, the story starts with the two washing up on shore in Egypt and after slow start they end up in Thebes where Rameses (Pierre Cressoy) rules and the mere presence of Helen triggers a seemingly endless series of plotlines with people scheming, scheming, scheming against the two newcomers. Helen wants to leave the nest of vipers and in the process of surviving in her new tumultuous home she falls in love with Aryan. This all culminates up to an exciting climax.


If all Italian Sword & Sandal films were this solid the genre probably wouldn't be so neglected as it now. Almost everything works in this. I have almost nothing bad to say about it. It's that good. The liabilities are:

1 - The music is recycled and sometimes treacly during the love scenes.

2 - It's mostly studio bound.

3 - The story (schemings) is a bit facile.

4 - The pacing is a bit slow at first but quickly picks up.

5 - Some obvious anachronisms

That's it. The cast, sets, cinematography, action, stunts, all work wonderfully.

Yvonne Furneaux makes a wonderful Helen and she has great chemistry with Mark, which is one of the film's surprising delights. She has more chemistry here than she did with John Ericson in the equally great SLAVE QUEEN OF BABYLON. Mark Forest is at ease and physically speaking it in top shape. When his pecs are on screen, they eclipse everything else. Arf. Remarkably, 5 films starring Mark were released in 1964 and this is the best of those 5 films.


The supporting cast is tops: Pierre Cressoy, Massimo Serato, Rosalba Neri and Alberto Lupo. There's also Nello Pazzafini and Giovanni Cianfriglia is Mark's body double/stuntman.

The fights in this film are action packed and believable. The fight during the climax is **simply the best fight** in any PEPLUM film. The cinematography, composition, editing, etc during this scene are stellar. It just rocks. The fights in James Bond films were often said to be the best in those days but alas few have seen this fight even if it's better than any Bond action. The fact that there's little to no music makes this sequence even more exciting.


Giovanni, above, vs Mark, below


The one glaring issue during the fights is the stunt work in the scenes, provided by the peerless Giovanni Cianfriglia. His stunt work in this is even better than the amazing one in HERCULES THE AVENGER or THE TROJAN HORSE. The problem with Giovanni is that his physique simply doesn't match Mark's beefier one. Giovanni is built but he's slim and as agile as a jaguar. When Giovanni walks about it just doesn't match Mark's hulking walk. This is quite apparent during the wrestling scene at the start of the film (above). But the editing and camera movement are so good that unless you're a sharp observer you might not really notice it.

Conclusion: with a pectacular Mark Forest, a beautiful Yvonne Furneaux and Rosalba Neri, great support from the reliable Serato, Cressoy and Lupo, stunning stunt work from Cianfriglia, this cool speculative story of Helen of Troy is colorful, action-packed and sharply directed by Ferroni. What's not to like?

rating: 9 out 10

Uploaded to FEATURED FILM


Giovanni Cianfriglia as Mark's stuntman/body double. The fight at the end is ace!