Friday, January 17, 2014

Westerns and Peplums


What is it with PEPLUM films' connection with Westerns? I personally don't get it but I've come across more than once how PEPLUM films are like Westerns. For me they can't be more polar opposite of each other but I digress. Director Anthony Mann, famous for his Westerns made in Hollywood, including MAN FROM LARAMIE, WINCHESTER '73 and other classics said he approached his Sword and Sandal epics the same way, as Westerns set in Europe. Mann directed EL CID, FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE and was the original director for SPARTACUS before being fired by Kirk Douglas and replaced by Stanley Kubrick.

Of course Italian PEPLUM films gave way to Spaghetti Westerns when the genre died around 1965 and a glut of SW films, like the numerous PEPLUM productions, were made one after the other. The pattern of the stories were somewhat similar but the PEPLUM genre delt with Gods and the supernatural or if strickly grounded stories were about long established cultures set in Antiquity mostly dealing with massive wars and the shifting of powers between groups through marriage and such. Not very Western-like which is more about white men settling across North America displacing or conquering the Native population found there, with guns, guns and more guns. Again I don't see the parallel.

The one film that's clearly inspired by Westerns is DUEL OF THE TITANS starring Steve Reeves and Virna Lisi (below). It reminds me a lot of WESTWARD THE WOMEN starring Robert Taylor (above), a brilliant and overlooked Western in which Taylor has to transport a group of women to marry men across the US. Both films take place almost entirely in the exterior with few indoor settings. In both films people die gradually as they travel to their respective destinations. It's pretty obvious DUEL OF THE TITANS' director Sergio Corbucci, who would later on direct a slew of Spaghetti Westerns including DJANGO, was inspired by this film.


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