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

Identify the movie!

Can you identify the movie from this screenshot?

Monday, November 11, 2019

By the Gods!

Liana Orfei and Ricardo Montalban in RAGE OF THE BUCCANEERS (1961)

Unlike his previous movies made in Italy, this one has Ricardo's distinctive voice, which is always a plus. Ricardo started to look old by the time he made this or maybe he was too much in the sun. Or maybe it's the terrible wig he had. Regardless, he's in top form and he clearly had fun doing the movie but at 41, his days as an action star were almost over. The story has Gordon, aka the Black Pirate, battling the slave trade. It's quite a serious topic but the movie never delves deeply in the consequences of slavery.  Liana appeared in a couple of PEPLUM movies with big US stars, such as Victor Mature, Guy Williams, Orson Welles, etc. Even though the two spend a lot of screen time together, she's not Gordon's love interest. A fun movie with excellent production and cast. Released as GORDON THE BLACK PIRATE for the home video market. Minerva Pictures International, the movie's rightful distributor, has it under that title. A German-Italian co-production.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

US poster of ROME AGAINST ROME (1964)

Art by Reynold Brown. The US film print of the AIP release is still missing. AIP released it on TV as NIGHT STAR - GODDESS OF ELECTRA. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

By the Gods!

Gianna Maria Canale is the cruel villainess in THE SWORD & THE CROSS (1956; aka Le schiave di Cartagine or SLAVES OF CARTHAGE )

A great PEPLUM, made 2 years prior to HERCULES (1958), beautifully shot in widescreen (Cinetotalscope). This is the type of movies made in Italy which could have never been made in Hollywood, which tended to focus on major historical characters and events. The story is hard to summarize in that the story is basically a melodrama (the best kind). Julia (Canale) loves Marcus (Jorge Mistral) but she's promised to another powerful man who is killed. The murder is blamed on Christians even though they had nothing to do with it. Marcus acquires two female slaves (schiave), two sisters who are also Christians. Marcus falls for Lea (Marissa Allasio) and a jealous Julia sets to make Lea's life miserable certainly after all Christians are arrested, imprisoned, forced to work in horrible conditions and tortured, including Lea. It culminates with the screenshots posted here. I won't divulge anything else of the story.

Everything is top notch: production, cinematography, score, costumes, cast. The only major weakness  is the character Lea and how she is portrayed by Marisa Allasio. IMO, her character fails to capture my sympathy because of Marisa's limited acting skills. Marisa acted in 18 movies and by 1958 she left the acting world, seemingly after getting married to Pier Francesco Vittorio Maria Agostino Luca Frediano Calvi di Bergolo (phew!). A side note, Marisa is still alive! I wonder how she looks like today. It's a shame they didn't find a more experienced actress for Lea. The movie would have been PEPLUM perfection. Director Guido Brignone, who made movies since 1916, would eventually move on to direct the equally gorgeous SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR (1959). What I find remarkable about this production is the use of widescreen. If I'm correct this is the first Italian PEPLUM movie shot this way and the camerawork is not static at all. Adalberto Albertini was the cinematographer and he shot many PEPLUM movies, including GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959), COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960) and THE SEVEN REVENGES(1961).

The English version of this is still missing in action.

Here's a quick lesson in Italian.

The word SLAVE in Italian is 'schiavo' (male) and 'schiava' (female), while SLAVES is 'schiavi (male) and 'schiave' (female). The original title is LE SCHIAVE DI CARTAGINE therefore THE FEMALE SLAVES OF CARTHAGE.

Marisa Allasio as Lea

Hedy Lamarr as HELEN OF TROY

I uploaded this. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

By the Gods!

Alan Steel as Robin Hood in ROBIN HOOD, ARROWS, BEANS & KARATE (1976)

By the time Alan Steel (aka Sergio Ciani) made this movie he was 41 years old. He was in great shape. The one thing which surprised me the first time I watched this movie was Steel's height. I always knew he was sorta short. Since he was a stunt double to the taller Steve Reeves, his shorter height was always easy to spot compared to Reeves but I didn't expect him to be this short. This was one of his last films and stopped acting in 1979 and, like so many other PEPLUM star, became a recluse. This movie is fun but it's one of those odd mash-ups of genres popular in the 1970s, like AMAZONS VS SUPERMEN (1974). In this we watch Friar Tuck fight his way using karate chops. I have a full screen version in English and a widescreen version in Italian.


A behind the scenes photo of Fellini's SATYRICON. This scene is memorable.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

By the Gods!

Gil Perkins, Sean McClory, Cesare Danova, and Joan Staley in VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS (1961)

An unlikely story loosely based on "Career of a Comet" or "Off on a Comet" by Jules Verne: In Algeria, two dueling men are swept up and away to a world by a comet that grazed the earth. They find dinosaurs and monsters, and cave people living there, which is totally different than the Vernes story. A strictly B-movie retelling is actually pretty entertaining in spite of its improbable concept. The movie includes stock footage from ONE MILLION B.C. (1940) and RODAN (1956) among other movies. The movie utilized lizards, iguanas and animals and edited them to look like humongous prehistoric beasts. It also includes an unconvincing big spider. Though this is a low budget movie, it was produced by Columbia Pictures which means the movie has some quality to it. The black & white cinematography is gorgeous and effective and the acting, certainly by Cesare Danova, grounds the production. McClory is okay. From his full face, one would expect he would be overweight but he's actually very slim. Gil Perkins is an Australian actor who looked quite fit for an old man. And Joan was mainly a TV actress, with over 40 TV credits, including BATMAN TV series.

One might categorize this as science-fi-fi but, like so many other PEPLUM films, the world they eventually end up in belongs to the PEPLUM/Prehistoric genre. Some scenes appear to be lifted directly from HERCULES (1958), including an elaborate underwater scene with Danova and Staley in some lovemaking. Mike Lane, who played Hercules in ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES (1962), is a bearded caveman (see below). Italian producers most likely hired him from his appearance in this Hollywood production. There's a 'David & Goliath' scene between McClory and Lane. Lane looked more buff in this than he did in ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES.

Then & Now: Delia D'Alberti

Delia in HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN (1964); a recent photo of the Italian actress

BY THE GODS!: Them blue costumes in TROY…

Brad Pitt as Achilles in TROY (2004). Unflattering...

More at BY THE GODS!

Monday, November 4, 2019

By the Gods!

Dominique Boschero, Georges Marchal and Mike Lane in ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES (1962)

Mike Lane, a wrestler from the US, was always an odd choice for Hercules. Beardless and very tall (6'6"), with minimal acting experience. Surprisingly enough, he's okay in it but his Hercules is most definitely different than any other out there. His only other genre film is VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS, an unlikely sci-fi/caveman movie. Marchal is great as Ulysses, probably my favourite Ulysses of all actors who played him. Dominique Boschero, who is quite beautiful in this movie and even if she's made to look like a Vegas showgirl she's compelling nonetheless in a small role. I wonder what happened to her. I think these odd combinations actually work in the end thanks to the direction of Mario Caiano. This is a stand-out PEPLUM for many reasons but mainly because it was shot on the stunning Canary Islands. A HD copy of this film would be fantastic.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

French poster of HERCULES (1958)

Notice: no Joseph E. Levine presents anywhere on the poster. Dyaliscope is the widescreen format used for this production. This poster was used for the French DVD which, at the time, was the best quality version available before the Japanese Blu-ray.