Friday, April 3, 2020

By the Gods!

 Steve Reeves as Captain Morgan in MORGAN, THE PIRATE (1960)

This is a quality production: sets, costumes, music, locations, cast, etc. It's one of Steve's best. Reeves often complained that people only remembered him for playing Hercules. He was sorta right. This one is as memorable as his HERCULES movies. Steve's face looks like it was chiseled by Michelango. Comic book artists often used him as a model for their drawings.

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Actor Profile: Cristiana Gaioni

Cristiana Gaioni in FURY OF ACHILLES (1962)

Continuing with profiling supporting actors of Italian/Euro PEPLUM films. This time the spotlight is on Cristiana Gaioni. The beautiful Italian actress made over 40 movies but just a handful of PEPLUM movies. Even so, her appearance was always fun and noteworthy. She often played seductresses with no scruples but she also appeared as the 'good girl' in at least two movies. Like so many actors of the period, Cristiana basically disappeared from the face of the earth (she's still alive). Personally, I wished she had done more PEPLUM movies. She also recorded some music.

TEMPEST (1958)
Cristiana's first on screen appearance was in TEMPEST, with Sylvana Mangano (under hat). Cristiana is on the far right. She's credited as 'una Ragazza', or 'a Girl'.


Cristiana's PEPLUM movie was a temptress in THE MIGHTY URSUS. She was very good in this role.

I wonder what's she's going to do with that cup of one?

Cristiana was one of many villains in the movie, including Kymos, played by Mario Scaccia

Ed Fury played Ursus. In this scene, Magali (Cristiana) makes a pack with jesus to help him for his quest but she has secret plans of her own.

Cristiana was the love interest to Gordon Scott's Kerim 

Gordon Scott, as Kerim, comes to her rescue.


In one of her best PEPLUM movie, Cristiana plays Xenia, a captured woman who has to submit to her captors. Her role is a supporting one but she's memorable in it. With Gloria Milland, Gordon Mitchell and Ennio Girolami.

Mario Petri and Gloria Milland co-starred with Cristiana

Cristiana had a small role as a double-crossing woman. Linda Cristal co-starred.

Vittorio Sanipoli and Cristiana are the villains in this rarely seen movie.

Cristiana was in FIRE OVER ROME (1965) with Lang Jeffries. Her role is almost a cameo but she was the love interest to Jeffries' character.

Cristiana played a Christian who secretly attended religious ceremonies.

I have to admit that Lang Jeffries and Cristiana had very little chemistry with each other.

Previous Actor profiles:

Luciano Marin

Jacques Berthier

Aldo Pini

Ursula Davis

Philippe Hersent

Thursday, April 2, 2020

By the Gods!

 A scene from AVALON (1989)

Directed by Michael J. Murphy, who created many super low budget fantasy/PEPLUM movies. They look like weekend projects or some filmmaker school's project, with nudity and simulated sex scenes. The cast is made of unknown actors therefore I won't identify any of them here.

Now I won't summarize the story of this movie. It's about the excalibur and such. And I'm not here to trash the movie (even though many out there might be tempted to do so). I already wrote about Murphy's movie in a post back in 2013. Personally speaking, I love such 'fan-made' movies. They show a lot of dedication and effort on the filmmaker's part. A lot of low budget movies in the past often spawned some emerging artists (actors, special effects crew, etc) who later would become famous. I rarely critique a movie because of its budget limitation. I look at the creativity behind the production. Alas this production didn't spawn any new talent. There is some creativity here but due to its limitations the end result doesn't showcase that creativity in its best light.

The problems with Murphy's movies is the cinematography and editing. They're really unforgiving. Add the non-professional acting and the end result is what you expect it to be. I like watching them as an experiment of sorts. On some level, they are fascinating to watch. Just don't expect the usual entertainment.

You can view a scene uploaded at Youtube. This will give you an idea of the type of production.

I won't rate it but I give 5 out of 10 for the sheer effort of it all.

 The cinematography is bad. The framing here is terrible. 

Some sort of creature. I can barely make out its features.


Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd check out a vespa while filming BEN-HUR (1959). There are tons of such photos with the two and vespas. The publicity machine for this movie was huge.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

By the Gods!

A scene from SHE (1935)

I admit I have yet to see this movie. It's been eluding me since forever. Yes, it's available on DVD but I alway forget about it. As a movie poster collector, I know of it, and I know almost everything about it, and its connection to KING KONG (1933) and yet I have to see it. There's a colonized version of it which doesn't look good. But I have to say that there's nothing quite like such big scenes done in Art Deco design. It's truly unique.

The Bud Spencer & Terence Hill PEPLUM connection

Terence Hill and Bud Spencer in TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME (1971)

One of the most popular duos in cinematic history was the teaming of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, two Italian actors who changed their names and went on making dozens of popular movies from the 1960s to the 1990s. Like so many Italian actors or directors or producers, the two actors began their careers in PEPLUM movies before they became the famous duo. In fact, both Terence and Bud starred in HANNIBAL (1959) even though they don't share scenes together.

Bud Spencer aka Carlo Pedersoli

Carlo was an Olympic swimmer who began his film career in bit parts. One of these bit parts was in QUO VADIS (1951). He went on to appear in HANNIBAL (1959) but then stopped acting until 1967 in GOD FORGIVES...I DON'T! Thanks to happenstance, Terence Hill would be cast in that movie after the original actor was injured.

Peter Ustinov and Bud Spencer in QUO VADIS (1951)

Bud in HANNIBAL (1959)

Terence Hill aka Mario Girotti

Unlike Carlo, Mario was a full time actor and had substantial roles in the 1950s and 60s. He and Carlo both appeared in HANNIBAL but shared no scenes.

Mario with Rita Gam in HANNIBAL (1959)

Mario in CARTHAGE IN FLAMES (1960)

He was still credited as Mario Girotti when he appeared as the handsome prince in THE WONDERS OF ALADDIN (1961)

He changed his name to Terence Hill for GOD FORGIVES...I DON'T! which also starred Carlo, who also changed his name and became known as Bud Spencer. The movie was a big hit and the rest is history.

You can read Terence's account of their careers at the official Terence Hill website.

Monday, March 30, 2020

By the Gods!

Deborah (Christiane Lenier), Magdala (Nathalie Nerval) and Saul of Tarsus (Jean-Marc Tennberg) in LE CHEMIN DE DAMAS (1952)

A rare, seldom seen French PEPLUM of the story of Saint Paul. We learn at the start of the story that Saul was hired to get rid of the apostles and anything to do with Jesus. We follows his long and torturous journey in becoming an apostle and eventually be known as Saint Paul. It's quite dark for its time though the staginess of the direction keeps it from being too depressing.

Production wise, it's quite good. It's very theatrical (it was almost entirely filmed in a studio). There are many scenes where the studio setting is quite obvious but the production is still good, including matte paintings. Everything is theatrical, certainly the acting. Everyone shouts their dialogue. This aspect dates the movie a lot but the movie is also quite atmospheric. Lots of quiet moments, which was rare for movies back then.

The movie has a famous stoning scene of Saint Etienne (Claude Laydu). There are also whippings and the usual stuff seen in PEPLUM movies. The portrayal of the many characters is odd. For instance, Peter, aka Simon the Fisherman, is portrayed as a sort of a weak man who jokes and mocks people. Not exactly what I envision as the man who lead to the founding of the church.

From what I can determine, the movie has no English dub. The title would be THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS. Some have criticized the movie as being anti-semitic.

I like the concept of the film. It has an almost fantasy feel to it but for me the overacting is a real liability. This wasn't uncommon in other French PEPLUM movies back then. SINS OF POMPEII (1950) suffers from the same annoying acting style.

6.5 out of 10. Production: 8 out of 10.

Etienne (Claude Laydu; in white) witnesses the torture of Simon the Fisherman (Jacques Dufilho)

Very good production values.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Italian poster of THOR THE CONQUEROR (1983)

Good art and not that different than the one from the Golden Era but this sorta looks more like a Tarzan movie than a 'Thor' movie.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

By the Gods!

Alan Steel and Brigitte Heiberg

This movie was planned as a PEPLUM movie but after the success of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), the producers decided to switch everything into a Western. The end product is still pretty much a PEPLUM but in a Western setting.

One of the movies with more 'official' titles than any other PEPLUM.

The original Italia title: SANSONE E IL TESORO DEGLI INCAS





Without searching Google or IMDb, which of the 4 English titles above is the title seen in the TV broadcast?

I'll post a screenshot of the answer on Monday.


BY THE GODS!: Steve Reeves as Li’l Abner

Steve Reeves missed out on many roles. One of them was Li’l Abner.

Only at BY THE GODS!

PEPLUM movie cards

These are movie cards called Fiches de Mr Cinema. Included in their 'fiches' (or files) are PEPLUM movies. Here's a small sample of these. There's more information on the movies on the back of these cards. These are not lobby cards or anything to do with the release of movies but more like an encyclopedia of movies.

HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961) starring Reg Park

THE ROBE (1953) starring Richard Burton

DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS (1954) starring Susan Hayward and Victor Mature

SAMSON &DELILAH (1949) starring Victor Mature

THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (1963) starring the 3 Stooges and Samson Burke

DAUGHTERS OF DESTINY (1953) starring Raf Vallone

Thursday, March 26, 2020

By the Gods!

David Carradine in THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS (1984)

One of many 'Sword & Sorcery' movies released in the 1980s after the success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982). It sorta went under the radar back then (it opened in only 238 theaters in the US). It was a popular rental in video shops though.

The boring story, borrowing heavily from Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), which borrowed from Kurosawa's YOJIMBO (1961): a mysterious stranger, Kain (Carradine), comes between two waring gangs which are terrorizing a town. Kain manipulates the two groups into killing each other: First, BaL Car (Guillermo Marin) and then Tyrant Zeg (Luke Askew). Kain is also known as the Dark One.

Unlike movies of the time, this one doesn't have any barely dressed muscle-bound hero crushing skulls, a major selling point for these kind of movies. Almost the entire cast is 'aesthetically' challenged.

The movie feels like the crew set-up everything, such as the cheap looking sets, costumes, etc. And then David showed up, filmed his scenes and left. It's not a very vigorous tale. It's definitely not as trashy or exploitive as the DEATHSTALKER series, or most Sword & Sorcery movie made at the time. This also means it's not as entertaining. As bad as many of the Sword & Sorcery movies were back then, many were actually fun to watch. That doesn't mean it's not trashy or exploitive. Just less. The somnambulant pace keeps it from being as memorable as other movies of the time.

Are the most important part of the movie, the action scenes, good? They're okay but nothing memorable.

What can you say about a movie in which a dancing girl with 4 breasts is its most memorable scene? The movie does have nudity: every women appears nude throughout, and there is some brief male nudity during an unimpressive orgy of sorts. The abundance of female nudity solidly keeps this movie in the R-rated category.

The music is a complete rip-off of many other scores, including Jerry Goldsmith's STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979)!

It was shot in Argentina.

I have the VHS and HD versions of this.

A sleepy 4 out of 10 (the dance sequence is a 10 out of 10 though).

The predictable climax between Kain and Kief (Anthony De Longis), captain to Zeg. The sets look like, well, cheap looking sets. De Longis is the only beefcake in the movie.

The movie's stand-out scene: dancer (Cecilia Narova) entertains the grungy cast of characters. What's a PEPLUM movie without a dance sequence, 4 breasts or not? Side note: this scene was re-used in MARQUIS DE SADE (1996). (I edited photo).


Original US lobby cards set of SLAVES OF BABYLON (1953) starring Richard Conte and Linda Christian. This set is actually very good. Has almost all the best scenes from the movie. The problem is not many people have seen this so it's sorta meaningless to them but since I like this movie, it's a solid set. This includes a photo of Julie Newmar's excellent dance seen. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

By the Gods!

 Gordon Scott as Mucius in COLOSSUS OF ROME (1964; aka Hero of Rome)

Directed by Giorgio Ferroni, this PEPLUM is very solid. It's a quasi-serious movie in that it's based on an actual person, Gaius Mucius. In fact, after the opening credits, we see text setting up the story and how the movie is dedicated to this 'colossus' of Rome. But many people find historically correct movies boring and therefore this was made into an action-packed adventure, and it takes major liberties with many aspects of the real history of Mucius. In one scene, below, Gordon Scott is seen lifting up big tree trunks which would have been way too heavy for an ordinary man to lift. But these 'Feats of strength' scenes were expected in order to sell PEPLUM movies and this one was no exception. Mucius wasn't Hercules but audiences back then (and today) wanted to see such scenes. Incorporating such 'Feats of strength' in 'serious' PEPLUM movies make them less serious. I still like it and understand, and enjoy, such scenes (I've tons of compilations of such moments) but in this case, was it really needed? Couldn't Mucius just get 5 or 6 guys to let the tree with him?

Of course, Gordon Scott is impressive in this and one could somewhat believe that someone with his physique could achieve such a feat.