Article of the week: Black & White PEPLUM films

One of the most unique things of the PEPLUM genre is how nearly all PEPLUM films were shot in color. The genre itself was perfectly showcased in color, with the grand spectacle and pageantry of it all. Even Italian films were nearly all filmed in pricey color while other contemporary films were still shot in B&W. It's one of the great aspects of the genre. This doesn't mean there weren't PEPLUM films shot in B&W. There were but they're in the minority. Here's a quick overview of some of these titles.

(I'm not including silent films which were nearly all filmed in B&W and the list is only PEPLUM films set in antiquity)


SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932)
True Boardman and Charles Laughton in this Cecil B. DeMille directed epic. One of the few big films of the 1930s.


ROMAN SCANDALS (1933)
Eddie Cantor star in this infamous PEPLUM musical comedy.


CLEOPATRA (1934)
Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) salutes Caesar after being rolled out of a carpet. Another Cecil B. DeMille super-production.


THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1935)
Preston Foster in this rare PEPLUM of the 1930s


GOLGOTHA (1935)
A scene from this French film based on the life of Jesus


SCIPIO AFRICANUS (1937)
Massive crowd scenes from this state sponsored movie


FABIOLA (1949)
Michele Morgan and Henri Vidal in this classic B&W PEPLUM epic.


SINS OF POMPEII (1950)
Georges Marchal in SINS OF POMPEII. A film that quickly established the French actor as a leading PEPLUM star.


MESSALINA (1951)
Cinzia (Delia Scala) tries to save Timus (Erno Crisa) from hungry lions with prayers. One of the best looking and most spectacular B&W PEPLUM productions. Scenes from this were re-used in ANDROCLES & THE LION.


O.K. NERO (1951)
Silvana Pampanini, Gino Cervi and Giulio Donnini star in this PEPLUM comedy.


THE QUEEN OF SHEBA (1952)
Leonora Ruffo, Umberto Silvestri and Gino Leurini star in this fun PEPLUM film directed by Pietro Francisci. A definite fave of mine.


ANDROCLES & THE LION (1952)
Robert Newton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature in this Hollywood production. Scenes from MESSALINE (1951) were re-used for this production.


SPARTACO - SINS OF ROME (1953)

Massimo Girotti and Gianna Maria Canale in a film directed by Riccardo Freda. The best B&W PEPLUM film. Below: a short clip of the amazing arena scene.



FRINE - COURTESAN OF THE ORIENT (1953)
Pierre Cressoy and Elena Klaus. Nicely shot in B&W.


NERO & THE BURNING OF ROME (1953)
Messalina (Yvonne Sanson) and Nero (Gino Cervi) plot something. I have yet to see this rare film.


JULIUS CAESAR (1953)
Mark Antony (Marlon Brando) gives a speech to the public in JULIUS CAESAR (1953). One of the rare B&W PEPLUM films made in Hollywood during the 1950s.


JUDAS' KISS (1954)
A scene from this rarely seen Spanish film


THE SINNER (1959)
Ruth Roman and Akim Tamirof in this rare PEPLUM film. It was apparently shot a couple years before and only released in 1959, which might explain why it wasn't shot in color.


THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (1963)
Publicity photo of Samson Burke as Hercules and the 3 Stooges for THE 3 STOOGES MEET HERCULES. One of the rare PEPLUM films released in the 1960s that was shot in B&W.

Aside from art films like THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST MATTHEW (1964) or ELEKTRA (1962), nearly all PEPLUM productions were shot in color and in widescreen.

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8 comments:

Scott Ochiltree said...



Really excellent compilation.

However, the silent Ben Hur and Cabiria movies should have been included.

Both films have tremendous spectacle scenes.

PEPLUM TV said...

Those are silent films and I wrote that I wasn't going to include them for this list

Anonymous said...

You forgot Cleopatra(1934)

lina esposito said...

I love Fabiola,queen of sheba,Spartacus

Scott Ochiltree said...


I missed noticing your comment about not including silent Peplums.

Also, the silent 1925 Ben Hur is not entirely in B&W. It has several sequences in two-strip Technicolor, and some of the B&W scenes are tinted.

It is a really great Peplum.

PEPLUM TV said...

Yes, I forgot CLEOPATRA. For some reason, I remembered it as a silent film.

Richard Svensson said...

I do think that some of these movies, like "Messalina", "The Last Days of Pompeii" and "The Sign of the Cross", profit from the black & white photography, making them more atmospheric.

Anonymous said...

i never hear of COURTESAN OF THE ORIENT 1953 and i think
can you tell me where i can find the Scripts of Pepulm movies?
thank you in advance