By the Gods!

A scene from QUO VADIS (1951)

A composite of full set and matte painting. This super production was quickly rendered 'outdated' after the release of THE ROBE (1953) and the introduction of CinemaScope. When viewing this film with today's widescreen TVs if one zooms in to fill in the entire screen, the top and bottom parts will be cropped out. And in this shot, the three actors, Robert Taylor, Marina Berti and Leo Genn, are all at the bottom and would be partially cut. Should films filmed in 4:3 aspect ratio be seen in their original format or cropped? It's a though call. 

Then & Now: Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas in ULYSSES (1954) ; Kirk at 101


By the Gods!

Jany Clair and Mila Kacic look over a wounded soldier in 79 AD: THE DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM (1962)

Jany's scenes on most DVD releases were nearly entirely cut. Because of these extensive cuts, this particular scene, which happens in the middle of the film, is not attached to anything before or after. Cinematic confusion. The uncut version is the only version worth watching. I swear that Japanese artists used Jany's looks for their Anime. She looks like an Anime character come to life.

Movie Poster Mondays

Original Italian poster of COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA (1962)

Originally, Maciste wasn't a gladiator. By the time the PEPLUM explosion occurred Maciste morphed into many different type of heroes. When I think of Maciste, I don't think of gladiators (even though he could easily fight and win in any arena). Great poster nonetheless.

Poll: Favourite female villain


POLL RESULTS:

Gianna Maria Canale - GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES 30%

Fay Spain - HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS (Hercules & Captive Women) 19%

Moira Orfei - MACISTE VS MOLE MEN 13%

Jany Clair - HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN 16%

Sylvia Lopez - HERCULES UNCHAINED 22%

------

Favourite female villain? There are many bad women in the PEPLUM genre but the poll is limited to 5 choices. I added two honourable mentions.

Take the poll: FAVOURITE FEMALE VILLAIN (corrected)

Gianna Maria Canale in GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES

Fay Spain in HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS (aka Hercules & the Captive Women)

Jany Clair in HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN

Moira Orfei in MACISTE - STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD (Maciste vs Mole Men)

Sylvia Lopez in HERCULES UNCHAINED


HONORABLE MENTION:

Wandisa Guida in MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES

Anita Ekberg in THE MONGOLS

Article of the week: PEPLUM books

ADDENDUM: see at the end of the article

Here's a quick overview of all the PEPLUM books I have in my library. Almost all of them are saddled with he same problems: missing titles including Arabian Adventures or PEPLUM films of the 1980s. Since most of these books were published during or before GLADIATOR (2000) was released, few of them cover the recent third wave of PEPLUM films. Also, there are some books I didn't buy for many reasons, which I'll mention at the bottom of the article.



WITH FIRE & SWORD by Patrick Lucanio

An expensive book (over $100.00), it was seemingly published more for Academia than for the general public. Of all the books, this one is quite serious and yet, like so many other books, it is filled with errors, it's padded and it lists all alternate titles (and there are plenty of them) individually which, at times, becomes ridiculous. It would have been better for the author to list the alternate titles under the actual title and not spread them all over the book. This aspect is a good example of one of the many and unnecessary examples of padding.

The author often states things which makes me think he doesn't know anything about the PEPLUM genre. The best example: he wrote than none of the main stars of the PEPLUM genre were born in Italy. When I read this I went "What?!?!". Kirk Morris, Alan Steel, Pietro Torrisi are just a few who had leading roles in films and they were born in Italy. The author most likely thought Alan Steel was a real name and not a screen name for Sergio Ciani.

Good:
- Great format and text. Easy to read.
- A good overview of the genre, no matter how error filled it is
- Great name for book

Bad:
- Unnecessarily repetitious and padded
- Errors
- Dubious knowledge of the genre
- Super expensive
- Few images or illustrations



RETRO STUD by David Chapman

The first PEPLUM book I ever bought. Like almost all books listed here, this one has good aspects to it and some truly horrendous ones as well (yes, horrendous!). I don't even know where to start!

First of all, the author hates HERCULES (1958) starring Steve Reeves. From the get go, this made me think "What?!? Why is he interested in the genre if he dislikes HERCULES?!?!" You know, the poster that's on the cover is HERCULES UNCHAINED...so, again, major confusion going on here. The good thing is that it does have gorgeous reproductions of the posters. I bought it mainly for that but then again one can go on eBay and get tons of beautiful posters, original or reproductions, for no cost at all.

The other horrendous part of this book is that the author has no knowledge whatsoever of these movies. It's filled with titles that don't exist. The author erroneously and repeatedly translated the titles from posters of different countries into titles that don't exist. The author was so lazy that he didn't bother to see if these titles actually existed. Before explaining what's wrong, I'll mention that I've also altered 'official' English title because the English titles didn't make any sense but what the author does in this book is different. For example, the original Italian title of HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS is MACISTE NELL'INFERNO DI GENGIS KHAN. Where the poster is displayed in the book, the author doesn't name it by HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS but translates it in English as MACISTE IN THE HELL OF GENGHIS KHAN in the caption text under the poster. The author does this to tons of specific posters reproduced in it. It's mind boggling. Anyone who doesn't know anything about the PEPLUM genre and reads this and tries to find the films, well they won't find them. Clearly, the author doesn't care for the genre.

Good:
- Good layout
- Excellent selection of posters

Bad:
- Author dislikes the PEPLUM genre (!!!)
- A boatful of titles that don't exist
- Generally lazy



CINEMA ITALIANO by Howard Hughes

Well, I won't beat around the bush with this book: avoid

Again, like so many authors listed here, Hughes is not a fan of the genre. His reviews are borderline amateurish. He states that the music for TRIUMPH OF MACISTE sounds 'Chinese-like.' I'm like, "What?!?" The first 3 chapters are about the PEPLUM genre (roughly 75 pages). The author was clearly more interested in other genres of Italian cinema than this one even though Gordon Scott from GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES fronts the cover.

If you're a fan of the PEPLUM genre, avoid.






Good:
- None to list

Bad:
- Doesn't care for the genre
- Out of 300 pages, only 75 pages dedicated to the PEPLUM genre
- Expensive



LE PEPLUM by Laurent Aknin

A small book (123 pages or so) that's nearly all about Hollywood. It's in French and the author has very little time for European made films (a dozen pages or so in total). It's okay and it's cute but not what I expected.







Good:
- Covers recent PEPLUM films
- Good layout
- Cute

Bad:
- Little interest in Italian PEPLUM films
- Nearly all Hollywood



EPIC FILMS (second edition) by Gary Allen Smith

By far, the best book listed here. It's very well researched. The layout is beautiful and it's filled with photos and reproduction of posters. It also lists productions that weren't completed, which is cool.

I only have a few complaints about it:

When I bought it it was $40.00 US, which was nearly $50.00 Canadian.

Also, there are many titles missing. An update would fix this problem, certainly with the recent films made after the release of GLADIATOR (2000). But I understand that the book is more focused on famous titles (from the US and Italy) than some obscure movie made in the 1980s.

That's about it. Well worth purchasing. The author clearly likes the genre (which is a nice change considering the other books here.) I don't necessarily agree with Smith's views on some titles but that's fine. It makes it more interesting.

Good:
- Excellent layout
- Well researched
- Includes titles of projects that weren't completed.

Bad
- Missing titles or genres (like Arabian genre...but all PEPLUM books have this problem...)
- Pricey!




IL GRANDE LIBRO DI ERCOLE by Steve Della Casa and Marco Giusti

Reviewing this hefty book is difficult since it's in Italian and even though I get words and phrases, I'm not 100% proficient in the language, which is a barrier.

I did find a way to translate text from it: there's a scanning app for the iPhone which takes a picture of a page and it can render it into editable text. I send the text to a website that translates text and voila, I can read what it is written. But the process is tedious and time consuming. I cannot do this for the entire book but if I need some info from it, I can always use this process.

From what I've read about it, it's quite well researched but like many of these books, the Italian authors aren't much fans of Italian productions. The focus is, again, on Hollywood films.

There are many problems with this book which have nothing to do with the Italian language barrier. The title of the book is basically 'THE GREAT BOOK OF HERCULES.' Initially, I thought the book was only about films with Hercules or Hercules-like heroes but no, this book covers everything including films about Cleopatra to Julius Caesar to Vikings.

So, why call it 'THE GREAT BOOK OF HERCULES' if it covers other subjects other than Hercules? I don't get the title. Cinematic Confusion.

The really big problem I have with this book is the fact that it doesn't have an index. I'm like "What?!?" Not having an index almost seems sacrilegious. Since this is in Italian, an index would have helped so much and would have made it much easier to find specific parts about an actor or director. The fact that it doesn't have an index made it drop several major notches from its worthiness.

The good thing about this is that instead of an index it lists all the actors, photos included, and the titles they worked on. This list is great (even if the layout is a jumbled mess). I enjoyed this section highly. Very helpful. But it doesn't make up for the lack of an index section.

As a side note, the authors are clearly fans of Reg Park. There's a glossy photo section at the beginning and it's almost entirely dedicated to Reg. I find this a bit odd since Steve Reeves was the one who propelled the genre to its zenith but it's not a major complaint. Just an observation.

Good:
- Actors list, with photos, is excellent
- Good but not great layout
- Illustrated

Bad:
- NO INDEX
- Authors favour Hollywood films
- Missing titles, genres, etc
- Name of the book doesn't make any sense



ITALIAN SWORD & SANDAL FILMS  by Roy Kinnard and Tony Crnkovich

This 'book' only contains listings. No reviews. No information other than titles and the people (actors and crew members) involved. That's it.

The author basically got all his info from other sources, including IMDB or other books, such as EPIC FILMS, and published it in this pointless compendium.

Totally pointless book.








Good:
- Nothing

Bad:
- Everything. A rip-off.




FANTASTIC FIFTIES - PEPLUM edition

This magazine (is it really a magazine?) covers the subject of films from the 1950s (and early 1960s). They actually published one edition about the PEPLUM genre. The fact that this exists is cool but I wasn't really impressed by it. It had a few interesting tidbits (Steve Reeves was offered the male role in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C..) but it's mainly big photos with recycled information available everywhere, including here at PEPLUMTV.COM.










Good:
- Glossy publication
- Rare interview with Steve Reeves

Bad:
- Photos, photos, photos
- Expensive (nearly $40.00 with shipping and handling)


Books I have but didn't list here:

LASH! by Alvin Easter

I've reviewed this book here at the blog but didn't think it was worth listing as a PEPLUM book here. It was once useful as a list of titles.

PEPLUM - Il Cinema Alle Prese Col Mondo Antico by Francesco Di Chiara

More of an extensive review and overview of the genre itself than a compendium. I didn't bother reading it because it would be too time consuming translating the Italian text into English.


Books I didn't buy:

HEROES NEVER DIE! by Barry Atkinson

I tried to buy this book and it was way too expensive. It would have cost me over $100.00 to buy + have it shipped to Canada. If I really want something money is not a problem but I read reviews from it and they didn't impress me at all so I decided that it wasn't worth splurging that amount of money for another disappointing book.












Except for ITALIAN SWORD & SANDALS FILMS book, I don't regret buying any of these  publications (well, the FANTASTIC FIFTIES magazine wasn't worth $40). Anything on the genre is of general interest to me. Unfortunately, except for EPIC FILMS, most of these books are disappointing. The ultimate PEPLUM book has yet to be published.


ADDENDUM:

There are more books of the PEPLUM genre out there but I don't own them or didn't review them because I'm not interested in them or that they're OOP or I figured they wouldn't be that thorough. For instance, there's a massive French book on the PEPLUM genre that's available online called L'ANTIQUITÉ AU CINÉMA.

http://www.hervedumont.ch/L_ANTIQUITE_AU_CINEMA/index.html

I didn't review it for several reasons, including the ones I already stated. Personally, that French book is a mess of sorts but it is comprehensive. It's just too unfocused to write a good short review on it. You can peruse it for free and if you're fluent in French it might be fun to read but this book, like so many others out there, looks down on the Italian PEPLUM genre.

I've also written many reviews on books I've listed here. I won't link these reviews here but I'll post this link which has a couple of books that I don't have but know of their existence.

Pricey PEP books


Movie Poster Mondays

French poster of SAMSON (1961)

They sold it as Hercules vs Samson when in fact they're buddies for the most part of the film.

By the Gods!

Bathsheba (Susan Hayward) takes a standing bath in DAVID & BATHSHEBA (1951)

This scene is slightly awkward in that this being a religious film they could't be too saucy about it and yet the whole point of this scene is too show skin. This film was made in response to the big success of SAMSON & DELILAH (1949). It was one the biggest hit of that year but it probably wasn't the big hit that 20th Century Fox expected. Depending on sources, the Cecil B. DeMille film made $28 million in rentals at the box office while this movie made $13 million. Another PEPLUM film, QUO VADIS, was the biggest hit of 1951.

Years ago, I made a massive compilation of 'Bathing Beauties' (and also Bathing Beefcake). I'll probably make an update of this and upload it to PEPLUM TV but Youtube will most likely try to censor it. Unlike the original compilation, I won't include Hollywood films like this one.

By the Gods!

Vastar (James Robertson Justice) escorts his blindfolded son, Senta (Dewey Martin) through the secret corridors of a pyramid in LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (1955)

In this story, the construction of the pyramid has to remain a secret. Vastar is the chief architect of the immense structure. Even Vastar's son is kept in the dark about the secret paths of the Pyramid's interior. Interesting stuff. James was a Brit with a thick accent while Dewey was an American with your average American accent (he's actually from Texas). This pairing always seemed odd to me. Neither one of them are bad in their individual roles but they don't match as well. Dewey provided the 'beefcake' part of this elaborate film. Dewey is still alive! A 'Then & Now' is in order!


Behind-the-Scenes

Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield sporting matching leopard swimsuits during a Hollywood costume party.

By the Gods!

The main set from THE OLD TESTAMENT (1962)

This is the main set for this film. Many people dismiss PEPLUM films as low budget. Low budget films don't have sets like this. They weren't big budgeted. They were mostly medium budget productions. The PEPLUM movies of the 1980s, made in Italy (GUNAN...) or the US (DEATHSTALKER...) were low budget and didn't have sets like this.

By the Gods!

Pollux (Willi Colombini) and Hercules (Steve Reeves) fix the Argo after the statue (standing in the background) fell through the deck during a storm in HERCULES (1958)

It's quite obvious that the deck is actually intact. They didn't want to damage the board so they placed old pieces of wood on top to hide where the cracks should be. The scene lasts just a fraction of a second. I love this film but I admit that this scene is not very convincing. Maybe they expected everyone to be focused on Steve and not this goof.


Movie Poster Mondays

Original Italian poster of TREASURE OF THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1965)

An odd poster with a crazed looking Gordon Mitchell. Not a successful poster.


By the Gods!

Gianni Garko, Carla Marlier and Steve Reeves, as Aeneas, in WAR OF THE TROJANS (1962)

WAR OF THE TROJANS is the British title while in the US, it was titled THE AVENGER, which is not very descriptive. If they had titled it AVENGER OF TROY or something similar it might have been better. The Italian title translates as THE LEGEND OF AENEAS. This is a sequel to THE TROJAN HORSE (1961). I like it and I'm glad it was made and while it's not on par with the first film it is still pretty good, with some memorable moments and good support from Garko. Director Giorgio Venturing made only 3 films and sometimes it shows.

Fotonovela: THE SINNER (part 10)

Part 10 of serialization of THE SINNER fotonovela starring Ruth Roman. One more instalment left. Click on image to see a larger size.








Added to the permanent blog page of THE SINNER


By the Gods!

Mark Forest, as Kindar, tries to negotiate a deal with Rosalba Neri in KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE

Rosalba and Mark are still alive. It would be great to have a reunion of sorts with the two. If only there was a PEPLUMCON. At first, I didn't think much of this film and now it's one of my favourites. There are some really beautiful and stunning scenes in this overlooked title. Rosalba plays the usual temptress who would love to have Kindar on her side but she's the bad girl.


By the Gods!

Bekim Fehmiu in THE ODYSSEY (1968)

This was a mini-series in 8 parts and broadcasted in Italy in 1968. The mini-series was dubbed in English (or at least the English dub doesn't exist). They also made a stand-alone film, by editing it down to its most crucial parts, which I'm sure was no easy task. This film was released internationally, including in English. This theatrical version was eventually shown on CBS back in 1978. I finally got a copy of this film, called THE ADVENTURES OF ULYSSES. It's from a VHS source so the image is fuzzy but the audio is okay. I was thinking of doing a Fan Dub of this, by looking for the specific scenes from the beautiful transfer of the mini-series and editing all those scenes together with the English audio from the film. Unfortunately, many scenes were shot specifically for this theatrical version that don't exist in the mini-series. Therefore, a Fan Dub is impossible to make. I might upload the fuzzy copy to my PEPLUM TV RETRO channel.

Vintage advertising

Huge poster in the lobby of a movie theatre for CLEOPATRA (1934), which states that it will open next Sunday.

Tab Hunter, R.I.P.


Tab Hunter passed away yesterday at the age of 86. His only PEPLUM film was THE GOLDEN ARROW (1962), co-starring Rossana Podestà and directed by Antonio Margheriti. Though released in Italy in 1962, the film was released in 1964 in the USA. Oddly enough, this film is very polarizing. I've heard people say it's good while others say it's total trash. I showed this film on my old Livestream Justin TV channel and the criticism it got was harsh. I think it's fun if a bit too fluffy. I don't understand the hatred. Oh we'll...Tab, R.I.P..



By the Gods!

Antonio Vilar and María Mahor in KING OF THE VIKINGS (1960)

I recently got a copy of this rare movie in English and I like it. It's a Spanish / Italian production with an entirely Spanish cast. I had a copy of this in Spanish (from a VHS source) and it's okay but this one makes the movie look less cheap, more robust. Will I upload it to PEPLUM TV? We will see. Not to be confused with LAST OF THE VIKINGS (1961).

Extra note: many have mentioned that this is really not a Viking movie in its original Spanish production. I'm aware of this but the English dubbing changed it to a Viking story (a common thing distributors did back in those days).

Non-PEPLUM PEPLUM films

SANTO VS THE MARTIANS (1967)

What seems to be an unlikely edition to the NON-PEPLUM PEPLUM movies is actually a distant relative of the PEPLUM genre so it's not surprising that there is a Santo story with a PEPLUM angle. But this one also has a sci-fi aspect to it, which, as we know, is a very common mash-up as well.

Posted at the new permanent page


Argos (Wolf Ruvinskis), the leader, tells his fellow martians that they need to blend in more with humans.


They emerge out of the chamber as Greek gods and Goddesses!

Argos starts identifying everyone with their new personas (from right to left): Cronos (El Nazi), Morpheus (Ham Lee) and Hercules (Ben Galan)

Female martians tuned into Greek Goddesses (from left to right): Aphrodite (Maura Monti), Selene (Eva Norvind), Artemis (Gilda Miros) and Diana (Brenda Corel).

They start their reign of terror, by appearing out of nowhere and terrorizing humans.

Santo is on the case!

Argos meets Santo in the ring.

But Santo is master of the ring. Argos has no chance of winning!

By the Gods!

Russell Crowe, as Maximus, in GLADIATOR (2000)

With the release of this Oscar® winning Hollywood film emerged a new trend of PEPLUM movies, which, by 2018, is all but dead. This Third Wave (with the Golden Era being the first and the second being the 1980s) had a good if uneven run. What's the next film, from Hollywood or from Italy, that will re-ignite the genre again, if ever? They actually thought of making a sequel to this even if Crowe's character dies at the end, by resurrecting him.