Monday, November 18, 2019

By the Gods!

Gordon Scott and Gianna Maria Canale are rivals and lovers in THE LION OF ST. MARK (1963)

This is one of the best Gordon Scott productions...or is it a Gianna Maria Canale film? Regardless, the movie is tops. The cinematography is lush. The score by Carlo Rustichelli is excellent and bold. The cast, which includes Rik Battaglia and Franca Bettoia, is strong. The story is set in Venice and the locations are very nice. Scott is the son of the Doge, who moonlights as the masked avenger. Pirates are terrorizing Venice and the Adriatic coast and the masked 'Lion of St-Mark' gets involved. Is he friend or foe? Canale is part of the pirates who is captured by Venetian forces and Scott frees her (by buying her freedom), telling the men who captured her that he'll personally take care of her case but the two fall for each other and instead releases her, with a promise the two would meet again.

My only (minor) complaint about the movie is the use of some dilapidated locations, which were most likely not dilapidated hundreds ago but were when the movie was shot. These locations were mostly used for large scale fight scenes. But the interior sets are beautiful. Of all the 'Masked Avenger' movies made during the Golden Era, this is one of the best.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

German poster of THE THREE AVENGERS (1964)

The German title translates as THE INVINCIBLE THREE. Interesting design. Part artwork (bottom and 3 swords) with image from movie, with Mimmo Palmara and Alan Steel.

Friday, November 15, 2019

By the Gods!

A scene of Babylon from ALEXANDER (2004)

Is anyone impressed by this CGI scenes? I never really care for them. They almost always look fake or like some elaborate animation. Visually, it's striking for a few seconds but the longer these scenes remain on screen, the less impressive they become. It's not that different than matte paintings seen in old movies but these somehow look more like paintings than actual matte paintings of the past.

Wardrobe malfunction

Andre Lawrence in 7 FROM THEBES (1964). Oops!

Updated the page with new examples.

PEPLUM DVD reviews

I recently bought a couple of DVDs and Blu-rays and wrote about it here. I already mentioned the HERCULES and HERCULES UNCHAINED Blu-rays from Japan so I won't review them. Here's a quick rundown of the regular DVDs.

THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII - German DVD (Starlight/ Intergroove edition)

Steve Reeves in the arena. Spectacular.

Even though I already have this movie from various sources I wanted to see how good this German DVD was since I heard good things about it. Well, it's good but not as great as its reputation. Though the image quality is excellent pretty much throughout (see above) a couple of scenes are really badly transferred. See below. All in all, it's good but not great. Can't wait for the Blu-ray of this spectacular movie. Includes English, German and Italian audio.

Angel Aranda. Awful transfer during this scene. 


Rod Taylor, Ed Fury and Dorian Gray.

I bought this German DVD in hopes of having a great version of this: no cuts and such. Well, the DVD is good but it's cut. The original version has brief title cards which have all been cut. Maybe the fact that they cut the original text, which were in Italian, because it would have been too complicated to translate those short scenes. Oh well. I like it but since there's no English or Italian audio, only German, the DVD falls short of being recommended. It was cheap though. Only 4 Euros.

MACISTE - AVENGER OF THE MAYANS - Spanish DVD (Naimara edition)

It says Ingles, or English, for audio but there's no such version

I bought this DVD of this rare movie because it stated on the back that the English track was included. I highly doubted it since it would have surface on the internet but I bought it anyway and lo and behold, there's no English track included. Not recommended at all.

GRANDES FILM CLASICOS DVD set (Impulso edition) -

I bought this set to see how good the transfers were. They are all excellent. Italian and Spanish audio included. I prefer watching the Italian version. The transfers are definite upgrades over what version were available out there. SAMSON & THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD is uncut. It includes the 10 minute missing at the start of the US cut. The previous copy of ATLAS IN TE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS was not bad but this one is beautiful. And SON OF SAMSON is the best upgrade. It looks so much better than any of the multiple versions I have in my collection. Some scenes are a bit too dark but the scenes set in the exterior are gorgeous. So, overall this set is very good. I wished they had the English audio. It would have made the set even greater.

Films included:


Gordon Mitchell in a scene from the movie. Good transfer.


Hélène Chanel seen in the 10 minutes cut from the US version. Good transfer with the contrast a bit too high.


Chelo Alonso and Mark Forest. This scene is a bit too dark but overall this transfer is a vast  improvement over the only US release.

THE CONQUEROR - US DVD (Good times home video)

This edition was release in 1999. It's still very good. Though the package says the aspect ration is 2.35:1 once I ripped the DVD it came out as 4:3. It's widescreen with black bars on top and bottom. I just had to remove the black bars and got a full widescreen version of this. There's a HD version scheduled (or already released?). I don't mind this movie at all and I don't understand why it's so hated. It's basically a B-movie with a great cast and production. Let's not take it too seriously. It only cost me $3.00 for the DVD so it was a great bargain. English, French and Spanish audio included. Without a doubt this is the best deal from this haul and I'm very happy with it.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

By the Gods!

Massimo Serato and Livio Lorenzon (background) send Ugo Sasso to his death in CAVALIER IN DEVIL'S CASTLE (1959; Il cavaliere del castello maledetto)

A solid PEPLUM with a great cast: Massimo Serato, Irène Tunc, Luisella Boni, Pierre Cressoy, Ugo Sasso, Livio Lorenzon, and Luciano Marin, who died on Tuesday. The story is about an evil man (Serato) who tries to marry himself into power and a masked avenger known as The Masked Cavalier who tries to stop him. Who is the Masked Cavalier? It's sorta easy to figure out, even with all the red herrings. The story is pretty much standard stuff (so many PEPLUM films have this storyline) and it has pretty much almost every PEPLUM clichés known to man but it's solidly directed by Mario Costa, so the familiar script doesn't detract. Serato is especially good in this but there is one major problem: his two ladies keep dumping on him throughout the story. A villain should always have a compliant mistress or lover, who's as unscrupulous as he is. If he doesn't than he's really not that powerful or important if he can't a single babe to love him. But it doesn't stop him from trying to woe him and in one scene he's so good that Contessa Isabella (Luisella Boni) is confused: she hates him with a passion but he was able to persuade her for a while. Pierre Cressoy, who usually is the lead actor, is sorta wasted in this. The fate of his character is a bit confusing. The film was originally shot in color and widescreen but this copy is in B&W. The English title is a bit odd. The original Italian title translates as THE KNIGHT OF THE CURSED CASTLE. Very entertaining.

The cast: Pierre Cressoy, Live Lorenzon, Luisella Boni and Luciano Marin

Actor Profile: Luciano Marin (R.I.P.)

Luciano Marin in THE TARTARS (1961)

Continuing with profiling supporting actors of Italian/Euro PEPLUM films. This time it's on Luciano Marin, who, remarkably enough died on November 12 at the age of 87. I was working on his profile, starting with THE TARTARS (1961) on Tuesday. So, this post is an actor's profile and a R.I.P..

Luciano was a supporting actor in the PEPLUM genre: he never had lead role. He often played the handsome son of the lead actor's character, and often was the secondary 'young' love story whenever the lead actor didn't have a love interest. Even though he was portrayed as being young, he was in his late 20s, early 30s when he made most of his movies. He appeared in 26 movies between 1958 and 1965, 15 of which were of the PEPLUM genre, many of which are classics. R.I.P..

CAVALIER IN DEVIL'S CASTLE (1959; Il cavaliere del castello maledetto)

Above and below: Luciano's first PEPLUM style movie was this fun black&white Swashbuckler auctioneer. He was the 'young' one who's often mischievous even though he was 28 years old during that time. Below, he's with perennial villain Livio Lorenzon.

SON OF RED CORSAIR (1959; Il figlio del corsaro rosso )

Above & below: Luciano had a supporting role as Miguel. He co-starred with Sylvia Lopez.

GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959; Il terrore dei barbari )

Above and below: Probably his most famous role, Luciano co-starred with Steve Reeves in this classic.

SIEGE OF SYRACUSE (1960; L'assedio di Siracusa )

Above and below: Luciano played the son of Archimedes in this epic directed by Pietro Francisci. Alberto Farnese and Tina Louise played his parents even though his real father was Archimedes (below).

FURY OF THE PAGANS (1960; La furia dei barbari)

Luciano had a supporting role in this barbarian movie.

THE GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960; I giganti della Tessaglia)

Massimo Girotti and Luciano on the Argo

Luciano was one of the Argonauts in this epic directed by Riccardo Freda. Another classic.

Luciano and Roland Carey, who was Jason

He was the 'young' love story, with Cathia Caro (back to us).

THE TARTARS (1961; I tartari)

Above and below: Luciano played Victor Mature's son. I profiled this movie on Tuesday, which prompted me to do a profile on the Italian actor. Bella Cortez was his love interest (below)

HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961; Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide)

Above and below: Another classic PEPLUM with Luciano as the son of Hercules, played by Reg Park (above). In real life, Reg was only 3 years older than Luciano. He was also the 'young' love story in this one as well, with Laura Efrikian.

DUEL OF CHAMPIONS (1961; Orazi e Curiazi)

Luciano co-starred with Alan Ladd.

SULEIMAN THE CONQUEROR (1961; Solimano il conquistatore)

The handsome Luciano had another supporting role in this seldom seen movie

COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE (1962; Maciste contro i mostri)

In a change of pace, Luciano was one of the leading stars in this prehistoric epic. Reg Lewis was the main star but Luciano had a lot to do in this film.

WAR GODS OF BABYLON (1962; Le sette folgori di Assur)

Above and below: One of his most substantial roles was in this movie co-starring Jackie Lane (below)

SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964; Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili )

Luciano and Elisa Montés played 'young' lovers in this PEPLUM comedy.

FIRE OVER ROME (1964; L'incendio di Roma)

Luciano had a small role in this epic starring Lang Jeffries. 

MACISTE - AVENGER OF THE MAYANS (1965; Maciste il vendicatore dei Maya)

Barbara Loy, Nando Angelini, Kirk Morris and Luciano Marin made up the main cast of this odd movie.

Scenes from COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE, starring Luciano, were re-ussed with new scenes like the one above. This was his last appearance as an actor on the big screen. He appeared in some TV productions. It was an inauspicious end to a movie career of great hits. 

Previous Actor profiles:

Jacques Berthier

Aldo Pini

Ursula Davis

Philippe Hersent

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

By the Gods!

 A dying Helga (Liana Orfei) is carried to a bed by Oleg (Victor Mature) in THE TARTARS (1961)

Directed by Richard Thorpe, who also directed IVANHOE (1952), THE PRODIGAL (1955) and QUENTIN DURWARD (1955), amongst other notable titles, this Italian is a notch above the usual PEPLUM movie but it also suffers from something that didn't affect other PEPLUM movies: an identity crisis. The movie itself is fast paced and is watchable from the start to finish but I always wonder for what audience this movie was made for. It aspires to be more than an average PEPLUM movie and yet because of its short running time, at 83 minutes, the story barely scratches the surface of Tartars. It's too pulpy for the Academy crowd and yet it's too elaborate to be seen strictly as an action film.

The story is about Samia (Bella Cortez) kidnapped by the Vikings, mainly by Eric (Luciano Marin). In retaliation for his brother's death and for the kidnapping of Samia, Burundai (Orson Welles) kidnaps Helga (Liana Orfei), who is the wife of Oleg (Victor Mature).  

The entire production is solid. The sets are amazing. The dance number is original and in character with the movie. The cast is there. Everything is very good. But the story is very simple. It's almost an after-thought. Thankfully the actors are good, certainly the supporting cast including Liana Orfei, Bella Cortez and Arnoldo Foà who played a priest/monk/sage. He stands out from the crowded pack to give the movie's most solid performance. Welles, who took the role because he already played the same type of character in THE BLACK ROSE (1950), barely emotes or moves. Even so, his role is much better (or more fun) than the one he played in DAVID & GOLIATH (1960). Victor Mature didn't retire after making this but he barely worked, only appearing in 5 films in the next 18 years. From looking at his performance, he clearly had enough of acting.

Ferdinando Baldi was the Italian director who 'co-directed' along with Thorpe. This is not the first movie Baldi co-directed with an English-speaking director. He did the same thing with DAVID & GOLIATH and DUEL OF CHAMPIONS (1961). 

Above and below: the ending with Oleg (Mature) waving goodbye to his son, Eric (Luciano Marin) and Samia (Bella Cortez). Mature also waved goodbye to acting, as he became semi-retired after this.

Arnoldo Foà and Orson Welles