Tuesday, September 17, 2019

By the Gods!

Gabriele Antonini and Steve Reeves in HERCULES (1958)

The screengrab above is from the Japan Blu-ray. The image size is great. Click on it and compare it to the screengrabs of the French and German DVDs below. The size difference is incredible. Watching HERCULES in this resolution is simply fantastic. When comparing screen aspect ratios, the Japanese Blu-ray has more screen information on top and the right. The left seems to have more info but it's actually cropped out. The bottom is slightly cropped out in this copy as well.

But the Japanese Blu-ray has some peculiarities. If you look carefully, the skin is super smooth, almost fake looking. There's some sort of filter going on which gives the skin a golden glow. The entire film is bathed in this filter. This filter is visible whenever there's dust or smoke, which is often. The French DVD, which was up to now the best version available, doesn't have that glow. But the German DVD copy (third screengrab with the wrong aspect ratio) also shares the same glow seen in the Japanese copy. I believe this was intentional and not necessarily a bad processing issue with making the Blu-ray transfer.

The second big problem is the image is often too dark. This seems to be a problem with all transfer into HD. The scene with Jason battling the monster (dinosaur) is nearly completely in the dark. Many scenes at night (and there are plenty of them) are too dark. Details that should be visible in day time, like Hercules' belt or tunic, are often just black.

All in all, this is the most complete copy available anywhere. There's no 'Joseph E. Levine presents' at the beginning, which is a good sign. This version is what people saw back then. It's strange that one had to find the best copy in Japan and not Europe. It's a great addition. The filter makes the movie look softer than it should probably be but it's not too distracting once one gets used to it. Maybe one day there'll be a completely uncut, un-cropped, super HD version available soon.

I'll write a more thorough review soon.

Then & Now: Armando Silvestre

Armando in KINGS OF THE SUN (1963); a recent photo of the actor.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Look at what just arrived in the mail…

Check it out @ BY THE GODS!

By the Gods!

Goliath (Mark Forest; Hercules in original) battles a dragon to save Deianira (a stand-in for Leonora Ruffo) in GOLIATH & THE DRAGON (1960)

American International Pictures (AIP) bought the rights to La Vendetta di Ercole, retitled it as a GOLIATH movie and filmed additional scenes for two specific moments (at the very beginning and two thirds into the movie). The dragon appeared in two forms: a giant puppet (shown in these screengrabs) and some stop motion animated one. Some of the additional scenes had Leonora in them but the scenes shown here had a body double stand-in for her. The whole thing is quite peculiar. AIP decided to add the dragon to make the movie more pleasing for younger audiences. They thought the original Italian movie was too 'adult' for kids to enjoy. This version, the one with the dragon, was not released in Europe. Only in North America.

This explains Thursday's mystery about the Spanish DVD cover: the artwork on the cover is the poster for GOLIATH & THE DRAGON, the US version that was never released in Spain/Europe.

Additional information: The script for La Vendetta di Ercole was reportedly what was left of the working script for the third Steve Reeves HERCULES movie, to be called HERCULES AGAINST THE GODS. Reeves wanted Pietro Francisci to direct it but Francisci was busy with multiple other projects. I explain it here.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Belgian poster of GOLIATH & THE DRAGON (1960)

It proudly states: Le nouvel Hercule Mark Forest = The new Hercules Mark Forest. By the time this movie was released Steve Reeves had stopped making Hercules movies and a bunch of other bodybuilders/actors took over.

Friday, September 13, 2019

By the Gods!

Moses (Charlton Heston) indirectly tells his mother, Bithiah (Nina Foch), that he knows she's not his real mother in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)

This scene is very good. Well acted and staged. It's scenes like this which helped keep this epic grounded. Nina was also in another memorable scene in SPARTACUS (1960), when she went 'shopping' for slaves.

Sleeping Leonora

It seems that every time Leonora Ruffo is in a PEPLUM film we always find her sprawled from head to toe because of exhaustion, a spell, she fainted or is crying over a loved one. Here's a brief overview:





And the next are all from HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (1961):

Leonora is seemingly brought back to life at the start of the film.

Reg Park, as Hercules, tries to revive Leonora

During the film's climax, Leonora is to be sacrificed by Christopher Lee.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

@ BY THE GODS!: What’s odd about this DVD cover…

Pretty good DVD set from Spain. Aside from the fact that the movie from which the artwork comes from is not included in the pack, what else is peculiar about it? A true PEPLUM fan would know this.

See here for answer.

By the Gods!

Solomon (Yul Brynner) directs his men for a special confrontation in SOLOMON & SHEBA (1959)

I probably shouldn't say this but the ending makes me laugh. It is spectacular and the after shot is grim (below) but the actually execution of the scene provokes giggles in me. It's not the use of dolls or miniatures which makes me giggle. It's the way the army just goes ahead as if nothing was happening or didn't figure the oddity of the mirrors reflecting light in the distance. Remarkably enough, this scene inspired another scene in Ridley Scott's EXODUS: GODS & KINGS (2014). The good thing about the scene above is how the actors were placed with the hundreds of extras. Usually, these massive spectacular shots are often devoid of the main actors' presence.

Lobby Cards Set: HERCULES (1983)

US lobby cards set of HERCULES (1983) starring Lou Ferrigno. Good set. The set features Lou in almost all the cards. Good approach. No photos of the cheesy special effects. Cannon group knew how to sell the movie!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

PEPLUM on Blu-ray (updated)

I've updated the list with many more titles. I've also added links on where to buy them. Including are blu-rays of HERCULES (1958) and HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959) available in Japan. Region A which works in North America. Audio is only in Italian with Japanese subs.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

By the Gods!

Franco Giacobini and Reg Park from HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLRD (1961)

This is a screengrab from the recent German Blu-ray disc seen at Amazon.de. It's nice. Of course, some of the resolution was lost with the screengrab. The previous release was already pretty sharp. I already have a copy of this from a source and it's great. The problem with most of these Blu-ray releases is that they can't be played in Blu-ray players here in North America. Digital releases is certainly the way of the future. 

HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959) on laserdisc

Did anyone ever own HERCULES UNCHAINED, or even HERCULES (1958) for that matter, on laserdisc? I never bought a laserdisc player back then and wonder about the quality, running time, etc. If anyone has any info please leave a comment here or at my social media accounts.

Monday, September 9, 2019

PEPLUM on Blu-Ray

The short list of European/Italian titles available on Blu-Ray. At BY THE GODS!

By the Gods!

Antiope (Dorian Gray) worships to the statue of Tanith in COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960)

Though this movie is a Twin Production with SIEGE OF SYRACUSE (1960) the statue is from SALAMMBO (1960) which was painted gold. It's used quite extensively in this production including an elaborate over-the-top dance number. I like these worshiping scenes.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

German poster of COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960)

The German translates as Ursus in the Kingdom of the Amazons. Amazing poster. Artwork and everything. I guess this should be considered the fourth (and unofficial) Ursus movie, to Germans at least. You see, Ed Fury starred in 3 Ursus movies and I guess German distributors decided to make this non-Ursus movie into a Ursus one. German distributors of PEPLUM movies are really at odds with everything.

Friday, September 6, 2019

By the Gods!

Hercules (Steve Reeves) is being seduced by Queen Omphale (Sylvia Lopez) in HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)

This is a classic scene, for many reasons but one reason most people don't notice is the changing background. I fast forwarded part of the scene and made a GIF just to show the changing colours. The changes in standard view is very subtle and creates an hypnotic effect. Very creative.

Behind-the-Scenes - R.I.P.

Behind the scenes photo from CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) with William Smith, Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Franco died on August 30th at the age of 78. The scene he appears in CONAN (below) last just a few seconds so it's a cameo. He was born in Sardania and died there. He won the title Mr Olympia twice, in 1976 and 1981. Arnold and Franco were close friends. R.I.P..

Thursday, September 5, 2019

At the BY THE GODS! blog...

Make sure to check it out: BY THE GODS!

By the Gods!

Mario Novelli and Iloosh Khoshabe are THE INVINCIBLE BROTHERS MACISTE (1964)

Though the Monte Gelato waterfall are the most popular and seen waterfalls in PEPLUM movie, Cascate delle Marmore is a close second. Several movies have used this beautiful location for their setting, including MACISTE - STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD (1961) and APHRODITE - GODDESS OF LOVE (1958). It is a spectacular setting and it used extensively in this movie since the underground kingdom of the villains is beyond the waterfall. The story is very similar to MACISTE - STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD, so it's sort of an unofficial remake. I like it but it is quirky. I uploaded to my BY THE GODS channel. Check it out.


Original Italian lobby cards set of MACISTE - AVENGER OF THE MAYANS (1965) starring Kirk Morris. Craziest lobby cards set I've ever seen. The set is nearly made of photos and scenes from other movies, except for card #8 which is from the movie itself. Cards #1 and #2 show scenes from SLAVE OF ROME (1961) with Rossana Podesta and Mario Petri; Card #3 shows a scene from THE AVENGER (1962) with a scene with Kirk from COLOSSUS & THE HEADHUNTERS (1963) which is part of this movie...I know, confusing; Card #4 has Lang Jeffries (!!!) on it, in Roman uniform no less, and a scene from HEADHUNTERS as well. Card #5 is a scene from a Gordon Scott film, HERO OF BABYLON (1963); Card #6 shows a scene from HEADHUNTERS again but the muscular man is a composite of Kirk Morris' head and Mark Forest's body, from HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN (1964). Card #6 is Ed Fury from URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE (1963). And as I already mentioned, the last card is the only card which shows a scene and actors from MACISTE - AVENGER OF THE MAYANS including Kirk. Really bizarre. There must be some sort of back story to this to explain this oddity. I want to buy it!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

By the Gods!

Sienna Guillory as Helen in...HELEN OF TROY (2003; mini-series)

I recently watched this mini-series in a three hours copy. What can I say? A lot, actually but I won't be spending too much time here in critiquing it. Needless to say, it's, on one hand, very pedantic in regards to the stories of Helen and Paris (we see their upbringing), and yet on the other hand this production takes so many liberties in the story itself that it's almost comical. It was made for cable which meant some nudity. This scene in particular is quite odd. A naked Helen is showcased to Menelaus and his burly entourage. The legend of Helen is her beauty was so stunning and overwhelming that her face launched a thousand ships and yet this mini-series does everything to counter that. So many important moments are glossed over while pointless ones, like the upbringing scenes, feel more like padding than anything else. It takes 90 minutes for the mini-series to take place in Troy. Ridiculous. Sienna was 28 years old when she made this. She played the young Helen during the upbringing scenes. Those scenes were not convincing at all. Overall, a typical cable rendition of the famous tale. 

Identify the movie!

Can you identify this movie from this collection of scenes?

Monday, September 2, 2019

By the Gods!

Samson (Nadir Moretti) and Delilah (Moira Orfei) discuss matters in SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964)

That's Carlo Tamberlani in the background. This comedy was re-dubbed and released with additional scenes in a spoof in the 1980s. I never really understood why they spoofed this one since this movie is already a spoof of PEPLUM movies. There are a couple of weak bits here and there but overall I like it. Moira looks great here. Her part is more than a cameo but her screen time is not extensive. She died 4 years ago. Nadir, who was a bodybuilder, shows off his abs, which were rare in bodybuilders back then. Samson's long hair is somewhat braided and the whole look, surprisingly, works. Nadir appeared in many PEPLUM movies and even in Fellini's JULIET OF THE SPIRIT (1965). I wonder what happened to him.