By the Gods!

Sam Pasco and Elvire Audray in IRONMASTER (1983)

The 1980s saw a resurgence of PEPLUM style movies, many of which were made in Italy and on very small budget. IMO, this one is one of the best of that period. Is it cheesy? Yes but very entertaining and surprising solid direction by PEPLUM veteran Umberto Lenzi. Pasco's hair (wig) doesn't really fit him and aside from some flat acting, everything else is good. George Eastman plays the villain (below) and he's great. With his animal helmet and general height/appearance, he makes a formidable bad guy. This movie also has PEPLUM actors from the Golden Era, including Giovanni Cianfriglia (last image) who was still in good form. Giovanni was Steve Reeves' stuntman/body double in many productions. Like so many other movies of the genre, the good girl is blonde (like Elvira) and the bad girl has dark hair. A fun movie to watch for die hard PEPLUM fans like me.

These screenshots were taken from a high definition copy and it's very nice to watch.



Same set, different films

Except for some superficial changes, this is the same set used in these TV productions.

From the SPARTACUS mini-series (2004)

From GLADIATOR OF POMPEII (2007)

From CYCLOPS (2008)

Whatever happened to...PONTIUS PILATE?


This project starring Brad Pitt was announced years ago. This video (not mine) was uploaded in 2013. So, what happened to this well publicized project? From interviews I've read, Pitt was horrified by Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2004) and said this production wouldn't be like that one.

By the Gods!

The temple in THE WARRIOR & THE SLAVE GIRL (1958)

Matte paintings in European or Italian productions were rare. They do exist but for the most part, vast vistas of ancient cities were rarely visualized. It's the complete opposite with movies from Hollywood, in which studios had entire departments dedicated for such intricate visual effects work. It's the one thing that frustrates me about Italian PEPLUM productions. They're time consuming to create and therefore expensive, and producers cut corners at every opportunity they had, which meant very few matte paintings. So, this one from this movie is always appreciated.

Georges Marchal enters the arena. This is a full set, which was also used for the first shot above. Everything around this set is a matte painting.

Technical goof!


In 7 SLAVES AGAINST ROME (1964), one of the moments which started the slaves revolt in the story was with the scene in the screenshot above. A slave falls to his death, which upsets everyone and they overturn the oppressive Roman forces. Well, the scene in the top screenshot was originally from PONTIUS PILATE (1962) and re-used for 7 SLAVES. And as you can clearly see the man is shirtless. But for the following scene in 7 SLAVES AGAINST ROME (below), the man is wearing a full tunic. As the man falls you can see he's not wearing many clothes so when you see the following shot with him fully clothed well it stands out for all the wrong reasons. They already had the scene so how could they mess it up?


Lobby Cards Set : DAMON & PYTHIAS

US lobby cards set for DAMON & PYTHIAS (1962). This set has all the majors actors on display. Since the movie is more drama than action, there are that many 'spectacular' scenes to choose from. It reflects the character of the movie. At least there are two cards with Don Burnett and Guy Williams together. THE TYRANT OF SYRACUSE was the British title.


By the Gods!

Gordon Scott in DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961), readying the deadly spears contraption to be used against a bigger army.

Good idea in theory but not very practical in reality. We see the spears wobbling up and down but in the following shot the spears are still and point forward. But the result, seen in the last screenshot, shows how this idea didn't really pan out. Not weapons of mass destruction.




Now playing at the cinema

BEN-HUR (1925), starring Ramon Novarro, playing at the Tivoli theatre, the Strand. People are entering from the side and not the front doors. Interesting. The building doesn't exist anymore.

Then & Now: Renato Rossini

Renato Rossini (aka Howard Ross) in THE SPARTAN GLADIATORS (1964); Renato in an interview made years ago.

By the Gods!

The great flood in NOAH'S ARK (1928)

This spectacular scene, which lasts well over 10 minutes, was a combination of big massive sets and detailed model work. Remarkably enough, many extras were killed when filming the extensive flood scenes. A gruesome reminder on how realistic the working conditions were for those scenes.



VHS Covers: TRIUMPH OF HERCULES (1964)

Here's a series of VHS covers for the release of TRIUMPH OF HERCULES (1964) starring Dan Vadis, Marilù Tolo, Pierre Cressoy and Renato Rossini (aka Howard Ross, see preceding post). A nice collection of covers, more so than more famous PEPLUM movies out there.


English (US) release
Pretty standard VHS cover. At least the image and actors are from the movie. 


French releases
This high quality VHS package is nice but all wrong. The image on the cover is taken from ULYSSES (1954) but with a new face and body. The back cover features a photo of Yann Larvor in SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964). Both images feature Hercules with a beard but Dan Vadis in this is without a beard.


 Standard cover package with the original poster artwork


German release
 Action-packed cover but all wrong. Again, Hercules doesn't have a beard in this movie.


Italian release
 Pretty low budget release with image from HERCULES THE INVINCIBLE (1964)


Spanish releases
 Nice cover. A collage of different poster artwork from its original release and some added artwork.


 Cover with poster artwork from its original release. 


Totally bizarre release with different artwork and title. But it's the same film, with Dan Vadis and directed by Alberto De Martino.


Vintage article : Renato Rossini


Vintage article on Renato Rossini. Also known as Howard Ross or Red Ross, the Italian bodybuilder was a regular in PEPLUM films. He rarely had a lead role but his supporting roles were always stand-outs including in HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963) pictured in the article above along with Ken Clark and Nadir Moretti.

The article had a photo of Renato in a bodybuilding competition. Same exact pose as the one below.

Renato in a Mondo movie called SEXY PROIBITISSIMO (1963) in a segment called 'Hercules Oblivious'; his bodybuilding experience came in good use for this brilliant short film. IMDb and other websites covering the PEPLUM genre have incorrectly credited Kirk Morris as the bodybuilder (below).


By the Gods!

The Queen (Anouk Aimée) and her 'favourite' (Pier Angeli) in SODOM & GOMORRAH (1962)

Director Robert Aldrich had a fascination with lesbianism. Many of his other films touch upon this 'taboo' subject. But in this PEPLUM movie, Aldrich only hints at it since it wasn't acceptable to overtly show these kinds of things. In the movie, the Queen is made to be interested in women and her brother (gasp!). Anyway, I wrote about gay representation in PEPLUM movies a few years ago. I think I'll update the article but there are some out there who weren't happy about this subject, well, mainly on the male aspect. Most don't mind female same sex attraction. We'll see.



Who wore it best? Jany Clair vs Claudia Mori


Perfect PEPLUM TV programming

If I had a PEPLUM TV network, how would I schedule movies?

Here's a programming that would be cool.

The first three. THE TITANS followed by another whimsical PEPLUM, SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE and continued with the fun and goofy COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN. Pretty even films and smooth sailing up to now. These three films have contests or competitions in them.


1 - THE TITANS (1962; aka My Son, the Hero; aka Sons of Thunder)

Starring Giuliano Gemma and Serge Nubret


2 - SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964)

Starring Sergio Ciani (aka Akan Steel) as Hercules


3 - COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960)

Ed Fury and Dorian Gray

COLOSSUS would then be followed with THE GIANT OF MARATHON, starring Steve Reeves and Daniela Rocca, who is in both films. So, transitioning from comedies to serious action film.


4 - THE GIANT OF MARATHON (1959)

Steve Reeves as Phillipides

After GIANT, I would follow it with a presentation of FURY OF ACHILLES. So far so good. Both films have Olympic-style competitions in them.


5 - FURY OF ACHILLES (1962)


Now this is where things get pretty interesting:  I would follow FURY OF ACHILLES with THE TROJAN HORSE. What would be amazing about this is that where FURY leaves off TROJAN HORSE continues almost at the same spot of the story. There's some overlapping between the stories and of course the actors are not the same but this would be amazing. It's a nearly perfect double feature. And it fills in the story smoothly in 3 hours, and it's so much better than TROY (2004).


6 - THE TROJAN HORSE (1961)

Steve Reeves and Mimmo Palmara

THE TROJAN HORSE would be followed with its sequel, WAR OF THE TROJANS. Again, almost seamless transition...but that's not all...


7 - WAR OF THE TROJANS (1962; aka The Avenger; aka The Last Glory of Troy)

Steve Reeves in sequel to THE TROJAN HORSE

WAR OF THE TROJANS ends with Aeneas (Reeves) and the founding of Rome therefore it should be followed with DUEL OF THE TITANS which of course is the story of Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome, also starring Reeves as Romulus.

8 - DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961; aka Romulus and Remus)

José Greci, Virna Lisi and Jacques Sernas

 If you have all these titles, watch them in this order. It's seriously great.

By the Gods!

Claudia Mori in URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE (1963)

"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful!"

Claudia was born in 1944, which means she was 19 years old when she made this movie! Her co-star, Adriano Micantoni, the main villain in the story, was 42! PEPLUM productions had a knack of hiring really young actresses.


RIP: Conrado San Martin


Sad news to report. Spanish actor Conrado San Martin died on April 26 at the age of 98! He appeared in over 100 films, including a handful of PEPLUM titles. He also starred in Lucio Fulci's CONQUEST (1983) but finding him in that murky movie is next to impossible. I liked him. R.I.P., Conrado.


Above and below: Conrado San Martín starred in LEGIONS OF THE NILE (1959), along with Mary Carrillo, Ettore Manni and María Mahor. A fun film with Conrado giving good support.





Above and below: Conrado was the main villain in COLOSSUS OF RHODES (1961) starring Rory Calhoun and Yann Larvor (below). One of his most prominent roles of the PEPLUM genre.



Conrado San Martín and Virginia Mayo in REVOLT OF THE MERCENARIES (1961). He was the main lead male character.



Above and below: 1961 was a great year for Conrado. He also starred in KING OF KINGS (1961). He played General Pompey in the spectacular beginning. His role didn't have any dialogue but he's the main driving force of this entire chapter.




Conrado with Cameron Mitchell and Dina De Santis in THE BLACK DUKE (1963). Fun movie!



Above and below: Conrado was in SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964), starring Alan Steel and Nino Dal Fabbro. Below,  Conrado with Howard Ross, Yann Larvor and Nadir Moretti.




Conrado co-starred with Gianna Maria Canale in THE AVNGER OF VENICE (1964)