Thursday, December 5, 2019

By the Gods!

Piotr Stanislas plays Nero in NERO & POPPEA - AN ORGY OF POWER (1982; Nerone e Poppea)

Written and directed by sleazemeister Bruno Mattei, this entry in the CALIGULA-style debauched PEPLUM movies of the 1970s and 80s is not as famous as other titles but that doesn't mean it's not as sleazy as the others. With murder, orgies, incest, lesbian sex, torture, the burning of Rome, a gruesome castration scene, this low budget epic is not lacking of things questionable. The movie is filled with stock footage from other big PEPLUM films of the the Golden Era including GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS (1961) and THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959), which is always fun to watch with spotting famous actors of the genre make a quick appearance during these scenes. The sets are sorta cheap looking and the acting is negligible even though Stanislas as Nero is interesting. In one scene, he's shown fully nude. There is a story here but I doubt anyone will be paying attention to it. The best thing about the movie is the dubbed dialogue. I have to admit some of it was clever.

"What a shame your head contained the ambitious idea that you can stand in my way!" Agrippina says to the decapitated head of a woman she ordered to be killed.

That line made me lol. Was it originally written this way or the dubbing enhanced it? I dunno. BTW, the voice actors are the same voice actors who worked on PEPLUM movies of the 1950s and 1960s. It's a trip to hear those voices say lurid stuff.

The score is good but the loud dubbing drowns it out. Piotr Stanislaw was credited as Rudy Adams. And in the top photo, on the left of Stanislaw is Vladimir Brajovic, who played Caligula in CALIGULA AND MESSALINA (1981), another Mattei sleazefest. The IMDb listing for this movie is confusing. Since this movie is filled with questionable acts, only recommended to those who aren't easily offended. These movies are a genre unto itself.

Nero lovingly torments his brother, Britannicus (an actor who's not credited)


US lobby cards set of ERIK THE CONQUEROR (1961) starring Cameron Mitchell, Georges Ardisson and Joe Robinson. Good set but missing key elements. It's also missing Joe Robinson. How could they? Haha! Anyway, that's a major oversight. Aside from this, it's fine.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

By the Gods!

Duncan Regehr plays the dominant gladiator in THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1984 mini-series)

At over 5 and half hours long, watching the entire series is a chore, or at least to me it is. I'm a massive fan for this stuff and yet I can barely sit through this mini-series from beginning to end. For those who are too young to know, mini-series were like a TV series but condensed in a few long episodes. Sorta bing watching before bing watching was a thing. The first episode is 2 and half hours long and the 2 subsequent episodes are roughly 90 minutes in length. With commercials, the first episode was 3 hours long, and episodes 2 and 3 were 2 hours long each. That's 7 hours.

The production itself is amazing. One of the best looking PEPLUM productions ever filmed. The cast is excellent with Nicholas Clay being one of the few memorable characters. There's also Franco Nero and Marilu Tolo in it. Everyone with clashing accents. Overall the entire production is quite solid but for me nearly all the characters are boring. And since there are gazillion characters to follow (a standard practice in mini-series), it's amazing how this important aspect was overlooked. One of a mini-series' selling point was seeing popular actors, who mainly worked on TV, play roles unlike the one they were famous for. Back then, this tactic worked in attracting viewers but today it's more quaint than anything else. The uncut version has all the annoying stop-frame and fade-to-black outros before commercials were shown. Editing them out would help move things along.

Canadian Duncan Regehr is physically impressive but his 80s look sorta takes the realism away from this elaborate mini-series. Everything looks right (if a bit too clean cut) and then the 'Let's Get Physical' gladiator shows up. The production is not helped with the fact that the gladiator scenes or action scenes are bad, or ineffective. Bad angles, bad editing, and bad composition. The gladiator scenes should be riveting but here they're more clunky than action-packed. A feast for the eyes but hardly compelling.

Different titles: GENTLEMEN OF THE NIGHT

Different titles: today, it's IL VENDICATORE MASCHERATO (1964) starring Guy Madison and Lisa Gastoni. Good movie. Sorta rare or at least seldom seen. Copies out there mainly have the Italian title regardless of country. But here are three examples.

Original Italian title. It translates as THE MASKED AVENGER.

The US title. A somewhat ambiguous title. 

French title, from VHS copy. The official French title is LA VENGEANCE DU DOGE or THE VENGEANCE OF THE DOGE.

Guy Madison and Lisa Gastoni star!

Monday, December 2, 2019

BY THE GODS!: Vintage article on Julie Newmar

Tiny article on Julie Newmar and her small role in SLAVES OF BABYLON (1953)

By the Gods!

The 6 Invincible Gladiators from REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS (1964)

From left to right: Giovanni Cianfriglia, Franco Daddi, Aldo Canti (below), Aldo Cristiani, Giulio Maculani, and Benito Stefanelli.

The helmet on Franco Daddi tells me that its not the actor but a stuntman. Aldo Canti, the shortest man here, was also a gladiator in the TEN GLADIATORS series. Giovanni Cianfriglia was the favourite stuntman of Steve Reeves, who also acted along with Reeves in some of his movies. A common theme in PEPLUM movies, men teaming up, forming a militia of sorts to help the hero (or are the heroes themselves) in order to overthrow the villain. GLADIATORS 7 (1962), THE SECRET SEVEN (1963), the TEN GLADIATORS movies, all utilized this plot line with numbers in their titles. This team kicks butt just with Giovanni Cianfriglia, Aldo Canti and Benito Stefanelli. They  could have had their own series but they are simply supporting Mickey Hargitay in this production. Cianfriglia, Canti and Stefanelli should have been starring in more PEPLUM movies, not just being supporting actors.

Aldo Cristiani appeared in just a handful of movies, all PEPLUM titles, including JASON & THE ARGONAUTS (1963). Both Franco Daddi and Giulio Maculani had long careers in supporting roles. Maculani appeared in a good number of genre movies. 

Benito Stefanelli is one of my favourite supporting actors and I made a profile of his career here at the blog.

I like the movie. Hargitay, who was so goofy in THE LOVES OF HERCULES (1960), is good in this lead role. It's his best performance in a PEPLUM film but the stars are the gladiators themselves. They should have had more screen time.

I recently acquired a nice copy of this title. In widescreen and Italian. It's still not pristine but it's better than the previous widescreen copy I had and made a Fan Dub with. Should I make a Fan Dub with this copy? I dunno. I also have the 4:3 version with the Drive-in Classics logo. Drive-In Classics was a Canadian TV channel I used to watch on a regular basis before the channel was sold and the format was changed.

Benito Stefanelli and Mickey Hargitay

Mickey Hargitay and Aldo Canti

Aldo Cristiani

Franco Daddi and Giulio Maculani

PEPLUM Movie Posters

US movie poster of CONQUEST (1983)

An Italian - Spanish production. This movie is was released in a limited Blu-ray release (700 or so copies) but the movie is so murky that I doubt the new transfer would make any difference.