Monday, July 13, 2020

By the Gods!

Lucianno Pollentin, Cameron Mitchell, and Elissa Pichelli in KNIVES OF THE AVENGER (1966)

A late entry in the PEPLUM genre, this Mario Bava movie is more drama than action-adventure or fantasy. I don't have any issue with this but for those Bava fans out there looking for his usual colourful camera work will be disappointed as it's one of the most straight-forward movies Bava ever made. I finally got the HD version of this, in English, so I'll be watching it soon enough. Previous versions were only available in Italian. This is one of a handful of Viking movies Cameron Mitchell made in the 1960s. The image quality of the HD version is excellent (as seen in this screenshot) but the English audio is weak and tinny. 

PEPLUM Movie Poster

Argentinean poster of SAMSON AGAINST THE SHEIK (1962)

A very simple poster. I like it.

PEPLUM TV Official store






Thursday, July 9, 2020

By the Gods!

Ramses (Armando Francioli) taunts the helpless Queen Akis (Linda Cristal) in THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN

Linda Cristal died on June 27 at the age of 89. She starred in 3 PEPLUM movies: LEGIONS OF THE NILES (1959), THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN (1960), SLAVE GIRLS OF SHEBA (1963). She worked sporadically in movies after the latter but worked extensively for TV. Though she only appeared in 3 PEPLUM titles, one of them, THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN, is a favorite of mine. R.I.P..


Above and below: Linda Cristal as Cleopatra in LEGIONS OF THE NILE (1959)




Above and below: Linda in THE PHARAOHS' WOMAN (1960) co-starring Pierre Brice. Excellent PEPLUM.



Linda in SLAVE GIRLS OF SHEBA (1963).


MACISTE - Who's your favourite?

Maciste originally appeared in the granddaddy of PEPLUM movies, CABIRIA (1914). His character was a powerful slave and he won the hearts of moviegoers back then. The character was so popular that the actor who played him, Bartolomeo Pagano, officially changed his name to Maciste and made a plethora of movies, including MACISTE IN HELL (1926). So, the character had a life of its own outside of CABIRIA.


The first movie to reprise the character's name was SON OF SAMSON (1960) starring Mark Forest. It was a solid film and a hit, which then opened the floodgates for dozens of other PEPLUM movies with the muscular hero.

Maciste is fascinating in that one could see him as Hercules but without all that Greek mythological stuff, you know, the Gods and Mount Olympus, etc. But the character itself evolved in odd ways as time went on. Bartolomeo Pagano's Maciste appeared in stories set in the past or in contemporary times, as the settings would fit the stories. After the revival in 1960 with the release of SON OF SAMSON, Maciste took on a mythological aspect: he became this timeless hero who could be conjured up from anywhere or in any specific time in history. This makes for an interesting if odd set of introductions. In MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THE THUNDERING ECHOES (1964), Maciste is literally conjured up by a high priest. In MACISTE AGAINST THE CAZR (1964), Maciste is revived from a tomb thanks to an ointment rubbed on his chest. In MACISTE IN HELL (1962), he just appears out of nowhere on horseback. So, the character evolved quite a lot since the silent era. How so? It seems the myth of Maciste is intrinsically linked with him defeating the Devil (in MACISTE IN HELL) and he sorta attained supernatural abilities after that. Not necessarily like a superhero but more like an angel of sorts, not bound by time and space. Was this good idea or not? Personally, I like it but the character needs a solid background story to make sense of where he came from and why he does the things he does (helping those in need).

The name Maciste has taken the meaning of 'born from the rock'. 

Anyway, here's a list of actors who portrayed the angel-like muscular hero. Setting aside Bartolomeo, who is your favourite?

Note: many of these Maciste movies were re-titled as another hero (Goliath, Samson, Atlas, etc) for markets outside of Europe. This list also excludes the soft-core porn Maciste movies of the 1970s. 



Mark Forest


Mark appeared in 7 movies with the Maciste character: SON OF SAMSON (above: 1960), MACISTE - STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD (1961), COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA (1962), GOLIATH AND THE SINS OF BABYLON (1963), HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963), HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS (below; 1963), and MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA (1964)



Kirk Morris


Kirk Morris played Maciste in 7 movies: TRIUMPH OF MACISTE (1961), MACISTE AGAINST HERCULES IN THE VALE OF WOE (1961), MACISTE IN HELL (above; 1962), COLOSSUS AND THE HEADHUNTERS (1962), ATLAS AGAINST THE CZAR (below; 1964), MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THE THUNDERING ECHOES (1964), and MACISTE - AVENGER OF THE MAYANS (1965)



Gordon Mitchell


Gordon Mitchell appeared in one Maciste movie, re-titled as ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS (1961). In this movie, we first see a sleeping Maciste lying on a rock on some shore.


Gordon Scott


Gordon Scott played Maciste in two movies, both re-titled for the US market: GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES (above; 1961), and SAMSON & THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD (below; 1961). 



Reg Lewis


Bodybuilder Reg Lewis appeared in one and only PEPLUM movie and it was a Maciste one: COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE (1962). His character was renamed Maxus in the English dub.


Reg Park

Reg Park starred in one Maciste movie: MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1963) with Wandisa Guida. This one of the few Maciste movies in which the name was kept for the title.


Alan Steel


Alan Steel was Maciste in two favorites of mine: SAMSON & THE SLAVE QUEEN (below; 1963 aka Zorro against Maciste) and HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN (above; 1964)





Renato Rossini (Howard Ross)

Renato was Maciste in SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964). He had to duke it out with Hercules, Samson and Ursus. 


Iloosh Khoshabe and Mario Novelli

Both Iloosh Khoshabe and Mario Novelli were named Maciste in THE INVINCIBLE MACISTE BROTHERS (1964). In this case Khoshabe was Maciste the Elder and Novelli was Maciste the Younger:


Samson Burke

Samson Burke was Maciste in TOTO VS MACISTE (1962)


Ed Fury

Ed Fury in SAMSON AGAINST THE SHEIK (1964). Fun film but not really a Samson film nor a Maciste one. Samson is okay as a generic name for a hero but people expect Samson of the Bible.


So, who's your favourite?

Both Kirk Morris and Mark Forest appeared in many top PEPLUM films as Maciste so it's really a competition between the two, who are almost tied.

I like all of them but my personal favourites are: 

1- Kirk Morris. Mainly because of MACISTE IN HELL and TRIUMPH OF MACISTE which are classics in my book. When I hear the name Maciste, the image of Kirk pops in my head.

2- Mark Forest. With MACISTE - STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD and SON OF SAMSON, and his HERCULES vs barbarians movies makes him a solid contender.

3- Alan Steel. MOON MEN and ZORRO VS MACISTE are personal favorites.

4- Gordon Scott. GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES alone put him in the top 5.

5- Gordon Mitchell. His ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS is a classic PEPLUM movie.


Monday, July 6, 2020

By the Gods!

Hercules (Steve Reeves) makes his way through a palace in HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959). With Gabriele Antonini and Sylva Koscina.

Someone uploaded this movie (in Italian) on Youtube. You can view the upload here. The print is identical to the Japanese Blu-ray, which I reviewed here. The reason why I'm bringing this up is because the print uploaded to Youtube was from a TV broadcast from the RAI Italian network, presumably in HD. Unfortunately the copy uploaded is not in HD but I assure you it's the same print. This makes me wonder: if a big Italian network shows the movie in this sorta disappointing state, how much chance will we have to ever see it properly in HD? I don't know why these movies get so little respect. Anyway, even if it's in Italian you can still enjoy it even though the image is often too dark in several instances. It is uncut but the image or frame is cropped (as noted in the review).

I'll be posting periodically here at the blog during the month of July.

PEPLUM Movie Poster

US window card  of HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)

A window card is a small poster with extra space on top for movie theatres to print or stamp their information. These cards would be displayed in restaurants or other locations close to the theatre. I really like this one.

Friday, June 26, 2020

PEPLUM Break



I'm taking a break from posting. I'll be back soon enough. You can read my post at BY THE GODS!

I usually post a scene from THE 300 SPARTANS when I take a break but this break is slightly different. There's so much stuff I need to catch up with (delayed because of the coronavirus situation) that I need some Herculean strength but it shouldn't be too long. My list of things to do (for this blog and other PEPLUM projects, which includes new designs for merch, magazine project, book, etc) is long but it's doable. I just need some extra time to get them going.

Thanks all and stay tune! Great things are coming your way.

By the Gods!

Kirk Morris as Maciste in MACISTE IN HELL (1962). Directed by Riccardo Freda.

Yesterday I mentioned a book on Riccardo Freda and well, today I have to say that I'm already disappointed by it. I won't give a full critique of it here but suffice it to say, it's not what I expected it to be. There is some excellent information in it, stuff you wouldn't find anywhere else but the writing style, although excellent, is not what I thought this book would be. It reads more like a novel. God, this book was expensive. Oh well...

POMPEI footwear


POMPEI footwear is a familiar name seen during many PEPLUM movies' credits. The company is still going strong and it lists PEPLUM titles at their website. Here's a short list. 

THE IRON CROWN (1941)

QUO VADIS (1951)

HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)

BEN-HUR (1959)

SIEGE OF SYRACUSE (1960)

COLOSSUS OF RHODES (1961)

and CLEOPATRA (1963) 

There's more listed below, and even more titles not listed. Dozen upon dozen PEPLUM movie used their footwear. I'm glad they included Italian PEPLUM titles, certainly for an Italian company. 



PEPLUM TV Official store






A follower at the PEPLUM TV Twitter account sent me a photo of a t-shirt they bought. Pretty cool. If you ever purchase some merchandise, please send a photo and I'll post it here at the blog.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

By the Gods!

Béatrice Altariba and Brett Halsey in THE SEVENTH SWORD (1962; Le sette spade del vendicatore)

This won't be a review or even an overview. It's just a mention. Directed by Riccardo Freda so you know this will be good. And it is. Certainly the climatic swordfight which is stunning. It's difficult to take a screengrab of it since the print I have is very dark but wow, even as dark as it is, the whole sword fight is a stand-out. Freda was really a great filmmaker. This, btw, is a remake of Freda's first film, DON CESARE DI BAZAN (1942) starring Gino Cervi.

And just by coincidence, I acquired the biography called RICCARDO FREDA: THE LIFE AND WORKS OF A BORN FILMMAKER by Roberto Curti. It took forever to arrive and it cost a lot of money but I can't wait to read it. 



Behind-the-Scenes

Jane Russell visits her friend Vincent Price on the set of SON OF SINBAD (1955) to wish him a happy birthday. Dale Robertson joins in the celebration. Vincent and Jane both worked on HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1951) and THE LAS VEGAS STORY (1952). Unfortunately, Jane never made a PEPLUM movie.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

By the Gods!

Micah (Edmund Purdom) inspects slaves for sale in THE PRODIGAL (1955) 

Joseph Wiseman is Carmish and James Mitchell is Micah's assistant, Asham (behind Purdom). Will scenes like this, depicting slaves and slave markets (correctly or incorrectly), doom the movies they're featured in? Right now everything is being canceled so I highly doubt movies like this one will be shown any time soon.

Then & Now: Yann Larvor

Yann in SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964); a photo of the bodybuilder (his whereabouts are unknown...is he still alive?)

Monday, June 22, 2020

By the Gods!

Nello Pazzafini and Alan Steel are about to go head to head in a fight in THE THREE AVENGERS (1964)
 
This movie suffers from an identity crisis. No existing title, in any language, makes sense in regards to the movie itself. The Italian title, GLI INVINCIBILI TRE, translates as THE INVINCIBLE THREE. The slight change for the English title, from 'Invincible' to simply 'Avengers', makes a big difference. But the original title was most likely a humorous one since it's a PEPLUM action/comedy and two of the three men are anything but 'Invincible'. They're more like sidekicks than anything else. Ursus (Steel) is invincible (sorta) but why name the movie with such a title? So a title change made sense but then are the three really 'avengers'? Not really. So, they're not entirely invincible and they're not really avengers. The French title is THE INVINCIBLE URSUS, which is okay but too generic. What title would suit it? Aside from Ursus' two sidekick, who are annoying, this movie is pretty good. The cast alone is excellent. But it always seems to fall under the radar.

I recently acquired a French version which has English credits, and it's in widescreen. I already had a copy with English opening credits but that copy is unwatchable in 4:3 aspect ratio and discoloured image. All other versions I have (which is plenty), the credits and title are in Italian, including a Fan Dub someone made. I guess I need to do a Fan Dub of this new copy.

The movie was shot in Tunisia. The good thing about it is a movie like this could afford hundreds of extras, which adds to the epicness of the story.

PEPLUM Movie Poster

Italian poster of THE SILVER CHALICE (1954)

This is from the 1970 re-release. The poster makes it look like one of those tawdry quasi-porn Italian PEPLUM movies of the 70s. It's anything but that.

PEPLUM TV Official store






Friday, June 19, 2020

By the Gods!

Jayne Mansfield, as Hyppolyta as Deinira, is trapped in the arms of a cursed treeman in THE LOVES OF HERCULES (1960; Hercules vs the Hydra; Gli Amori Di Ercole)

In this scene, Hyppolita is in the form of Deinira. Once she dies, she returns to her form as Hyppolita. The 'Treemen' look like Gumby. Whatever you think of this scene, a lot of effort was put into it. 

At the movies...

The premiere of HERCULES in Boston in 1959.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

By the Gods!

Samson (Antony Hamilton) is about to become blind...(the extras don't even look serious...)

SAMSON AND DELILAH (1984) starring Antony Hamilton, Belinda Bauer, Max von Sydow and Daniel Stern.

A TV production of the story of Samson and Delilah. I'll be blunt: it's not very good. I won't summarize the very familiar storyline. In this meagre production, Samson is portrayed as a cocky spoiled man who upsets marriage plans between families. During this turmult, Samson meets Delilah (Bauer) and the rest pretty much follows the usual storyline.

Production wise, this TV movie is dire. It looks like it was shot in some Beverly Hills mansion massive backyard. All the interiors look like they were shot inside modern day homes. They weren't shot in California but Mexico. And it shows. Like a lot of TV productions (past and current), the story set in Antiquity looks more like a story set in the middle ages. It's more ROBIN HOOD than biblical with Mexican architecture.

LOL! This was literally shot in some mansion's yard.

The acting ranges from passable to mediocre, even from the usually reliable Max von Sydow. But the production is not inspired so the acting is equally uninspired. I doubt anyone was excited to be in this thing. They just wanted a paycheck.

Sidka (Max von Sydow) captures Samson (Hamilton) after his hair was cut by Delilah. The set literally looks like the interior of a modern day mansion.

Antony Hamilton is totally miscast as Samson. Physically, his body is on point but his acting is limited and his long hair, often attached in a cheap looking pony-tail, makes him look ridiculous. If the main character's hair looks really fake, what hope can the movie have in being good?


Belinda Bauer is a forgettable Delilah (above). She's very plain and she seems like she's playing along, not inhabiting a role.

The story demands some spectacular scenes which I knew, as I watched this, wouldn't meet expectations. This includes the scene when Samson kills 100s of Philistine soldiers with the jawbone. Or the conclusion, when Samson pulverizes the temple. It's very oddly made. It's more of an arena (with 100 people) and some structure in the centre of the arena coming down on the spectators. All these scenes fall short of being successful.

Antony Hamilton and Daniel Stern. A fake christening at the beginning of the movie.

The TV production is clearly focused on sex. Hamilton's buff physique is displayed when things get boring, with sex scenes looking like typical 1980s Soap Opera sex scenes. In fact, the story starts with Samson 'kidnapped' by fellow soldiers, stripped off of his tunic and thrown into a lake. It's all for fun but I must admit it was a good way to start a movie. In fact, the movie pretty much follows every known PEPLUM cliché. Right after this revealing Bathing Beefcake cliché, we see Samson battling a lion, which looks as something straight out of an Italian production: badly edited mix of shots of Hamilton with the lion along with shots of an animal trainer with the lion. 

The emphasis is on sex. The only thing missing is some saxophone music (the lighting is bad)

There's very little to recommend, aside from Hamilton's physique. The rest is part and parcel of a cheaply made TV movie that's more ambitious than successful. I don't even mind if someone made a 'horny' version of Samson & Delilah but even this falls short of that. The Mexican setting, modern and old, is so distracting that it makes the movie almost unwatchable. They didn't even try to make it look like it took place in Israel.

The only copy I have is a murky one that I downloaded from god knows where (not Youtube). The movie is not easy to find (addendum: the movie is available on Amazon Prime. The print is the same one I have). 

4 out of 10.

How long before the clothes come off?