By the Gods!

Nicholas Clay and Michael Biehn in THE MARTYRDOM OF ST. SEBASTIAN (1984)

This is an odd film in that it's a German production shot in French with English-speaking actors. It was a TV production. It was quite a daring endeavour back even in the early 1980s. It's one of those stories which starts in contemporary times but end up in Antiquity. Why is this story-telling plot device so popular with PEPLUM productions? Biehn's other film in 1984: THE TERMINATOR. It was shot in Turkey. The movie is available on Youtube.

Franco Zeffirelli, R.I.P.


Italian director Franco Zeffirelli died at the age of 96. Though he only made 14 movies, his name was well recognized throughout the world. One only needed to say his last name. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and ROMEO & JULIET defined the late 1960s opulent productions. In a recent interview, Anjelica Huston said she dreamed of going to "... Italy having a romance on set with Franco Zeffirelli." It would have been a bit difficult for her since Zeffirelli came out as gay. His other credits include OTHELO (1986), HAMLET (1990) and JANE EYRE (1996). His career took a hit after directing the contemporary teen romance ENDLESS LOVE (1981), which critics eviscerated. But he'll be forever remembered for those lush epics, a style of filmmaking that's all but gone today.

Zeffirelli and Richard Burton during the filming of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW(1967)


Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in ROMEO & JULIET (1968). The film was a massive hit!


Judi Bowker and Graham Faulkner in BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON (1972). Another lush production by Zeffirelli.



Above and below: Zeffirelli's JESUS OF NAZARETH (1977) was one of the best mini-series of the decade. It had an all-star cast. Robert Powell played Jesus.


Different titles: THE AVENGER (1962)

Different titles for THE AVENGER (1962) starring Steve Reeves. This sequel to THE TROJAN HORSE (1961) is an oddity in that there are more English titles available than any other language. One of the problems in finding the versions with their original titles is that the French or Spanish or even the UK broadcast versions have the Italian title during the opening credits. This is a very common issue with PEPLUM movies shown on TV or released on DVDs. Here's a breakdown what's available.

Original Italian title. Translation: THE LEGEND OF AENEAS. This opening credit is also seen in the French, UK broadcast and Spanish releases. I'm certain that the original opening credits in those languages exist but they weren't released on DVDs or broadcasted on TV. The original title for the UK release was WAR OF THE TROJANS.


This is the original US title. Pretty nondescript title if you ask me. This release eschews every aspect of any connection to THE TROJAN HORSE during its opening credit, unlike the Italian one, which prominently shows the Trojan horse, as seen above.


The title for the UK release. This title was most likely designed and edited into the film by the company that released on DVD. It's not the original title seen in theatres during its release in the UK. The font is too modern. 


Title of the old TV broadcast in the US. Very rare. It's only available on one DVD set.


German title. The opening credits are in Italian but the German title was inserted in in lieu of the Italian one.

By the Gods!

Killikrates (John Richardson) tries to get Ayesha (Olinka Berova) to walk in the flames, with 'hero' Philip (Edward Judd) wanting to rescue her in VENGEANCE OF SHE (1968)

How many times have we seen endings like this one? Two men fighting over a beautiful young woman. I like this movie but it's pretty much plotless and it's kinda boring. The beginning really drags (30 minutes in the movie and nothing much has happened yet). But it's still entertaining. There are so many improbabilities in it that it almost becomes a comedy, like Carol (aka Ayesha) walking around the desert in mini skirt and tight top. It's odd that a beautiful woman like her sleepwalks her way around and no one tries to make a pass at her. I guess the improbabilities make it fun to watch.

These screen grabs are from a HD copy. It's so high def that you can clearly see the makeup on Olinka's face. As for Richardson, he clearly stayed too long in the sun. He looked like a strip of overcooked bacon. Again, this makes me laugh since his character is always in some cave or underground setting. And Judd is the unlikeliest hero of all time. His acting is good but he seems befuddled by everything (he also has one of the worst haircuts, or is it a toupee, I've ever seen for a leading man). So many goofy things about it, sorta predictable and kinda slow, and yet I watched it. I love the whole cult/ritual stuff.




Vintage advertising!

Amazing Coca-Cola commercial from the set of SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932), erroneously identified as ANTONY & CLEOPATRA. That's Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, and director De Mille, all enjoying some coke.

VHS Covers: IRONMASTER

THE IRONMASTER, or simply IRONMASTER (1983) was made and released at the height of the VHS explosion so the number of covers aren't lacking. Directed by Umberto Lenzi. Most of the covers utilize the excellent artwork by Renato Casaro. 


Above and below: US releases. I still have the VHS clamshell case above in my collection. In fact, I first saw this movie with this tape.



British VHS release.


 French release.


 Italian VHS cover


 VHS cover from the Netherlands.


Spanish cover

By the Gods!

Lidia Alfonsi as the Sybil in HERCULES (1958)

Though this happens 13 minutes in the movie, I feel the movie really comes alive here, not that it wasn't good prior to this scene. It was but the story really kicked in once we get to meet her. She didn't appear in the sequel HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959) which was a shame because her presence really set the mysticism right: the Gods are always toying with mortals. I like the B&W photo above. Contrasting the B&W photo with the vibrant color as seen in the final film is interesting. IMO, either way she was mesmerizing. Her character 'inspired' a character in the GAME OF THRONES series. Alfonsi is still alive today.


Measuring Steve Reeves


Here are a few photos of Steve Reeves being measured. I guess Steve was all too willing to prove his measurements.


Lobby Cards Set: THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961)

Original US lobby card set of THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1962) starring Steve Reeves. Great set. It just needed one extra close up shot of Steve and it would have excellent. Maybe a card with Steve and Giorgia Moll.

By the Gods!

Richard Harrison enters an arena to fight for his life in GLADIATORS 7 (1962)

The last time I tried to upload this (public domain) movie at my PEPLUM TV channel, there was a worldwide block on it, which doesn't make any sense. Like many American PEPLUM stars who went to Rome to work on Sword & Sandal films, Harrison was a regular model featured in 'Physiques' magazines of the 1950s and 60s. He didn't have any major acting role prior to appearing in these European productions, just work as background actor. It's odd how they shouldered entire productions on newcomers who had no experience in lead roles. It's also odd that they had to go to North America to get some manly men (I'm not saying there weren't any manly men from Europe, like Alan Steel or Kirk Morris) but the penchant for symbols of masculinity from America was obvious.

The arena scene at the start of the film is great and sadly, too brief.





Behind-the-Scenes

Joseph E Levine and Steve Reeves take a break from filming THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961)


Feast of PEPLUM stars: JULIET OF THE SPIRITS

Fellini's JULIET OF THE SPIRITS (1965) has a host of PEPLUM stars in it. It's a virtual who's who. It was released in 1965 when the PEPLUM explosion died. There many more than the ones listed here. There's Mino Doro, Claudie Lange, Dakar, etc.


Sylva Koscina, who played Iole in the HERCULES films with Steve Reeves (below)





Sandra Milo, who appeared in HEROD THE GREAT (1959) with Alberto Lupo (below) before this film.





George Ardisson, who appeared in many PEPLUM films including HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (1961) with Reg Park (below).





Dina De Santis, who was in HERCULES AGAINST ROME (1964) with Alan Steel (below). She also appears as a different character in the film.





Marilù Tolo. She starred in many PEPLUM films including THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR (1964) with Franco Cobianchi (below).




The dancing team of Sujata and Asoka Rubener. I profiled them here: link

...and the bodybuilders: 


What's a Fellini film without a brief appearance of a muscleman? Well there are about 4 or 5 'bodybuilders' in this film but above is Nadir Moretti, who was in several PEPLUM films including HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963) and was Samson in SAMSON AND THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964) with Moira Orfei (below).




Nadir would also appeared briefly during another part of the film.




Another muscleman who's not credited but he's called Alberto in the film.

Mystery bodybuilder who's not credited. This is not Nadir Moretti. Sorta looks like Dan Vadis.