Friday, February 28, 2020

PEPLUM Break


I take a break every two months and my last break and this is the time.

Stay tuned!

I'll leave you now with King Leonidas (Richard Egan) from THE 300 SPARTANS (1962), saying "From this wall, we do not retreat!"

Who wore it best?

Same costume, different movies and actors. Who wore it best?

Ed Fury in URSUS IN THE VALLEY OF LIONS (1961)

Benito Stefanelli in REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS (1964)

Mark Damon in SON OF CLEOPATRA (1964)

BY THE GODS!: Motion Picture Daily…



Promotional ads of some PEPLUM movies in Motion Picture Daily… 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

By the Gods!

Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rutger Hauer in FLESH + BLOOD (1985)

A grim story set in medieval times and directed by Paul Verhoeven which pretty much went under the radar when released to movie theatres back in 1985, and was sorta re-discovered by people, including me, when it became available on home video. Most people, including regular visitors to this blog, probably never heard of it. 

The story is sorta messed up. A young woman, Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is set to marry Steven (Tom Burlinson), who's from a noble family. Agnes is kidnapped by a motley crew of mercenaries, lead by Martin (Rutger Hauer) who seek revenge against Steven's father. The mercenaries seek shelter in a castle and barricade themselves from the outside world. Agnes, who's unscrupulous and devious, falls for her captives, mainly Martin. The story is set during the plague. Steven tries to rescues his fiancé. The confrontation leads to a bloody siege.

Rutger Hauer's impressive sword...

This is one of those films you either either like or hate. There's no in-between. The grim story is directed with verve and doesn't shy away from shocking scenes, including abortion, or Agnes and Steven making love under dead men hung to a tree (below). Yes, you read that right.


Directed with the typical nihilism seen in every Paul Verhoeven movie, this one is one of the most gruesome. At one point, the hero catapults some plague infested flesh inside the castle, which falls into a well. Of course, a well everyone inside the closed castle drinks from. It's filled with violence, nudity and sex. There are few likeable characters, including the 'hero' Steven, who's clearly not Verhoeven's favourite character. There's no one to root for. The production is solid even though there are some discrepancies here and there, certainly in the way the characters were written. 

Tom Burlinson as the handsome hero, Steven.

Personally, I can see all the strings in which the director pulled to trigger the audience and for me this is always a no. But even so I can't help but be sorta impressed by the director's complete utter contempt for all the characters in this story. It's quite nasty. Verhoeven revels so much in the grim plight of his characters that it's almost borderline funny, in a MONTY PYTHON & THE HOLY GRAIL (1975) kinda way.

I rate FLESH+BLOOD 5 out 10.

Martin's motley crew of mercenaries (too many actors to mention)

Lobby Cards Set: FABIOLA

US lobby cards set for FABIOLA (1949; 1951 US) starring Michèle Morgan, Henri Vidal and Massimo Girotti. Nice set but knowing how complex and big this film is, the selection of scenes is a bit underwhelming. It's nice, with cards no 2, 7 and 8 being the best but it could have included so much more, such as the scene with Sebastian, played by Massimo Girotti. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

By the Gods!

Mark Damon is THE SON OF CLEOPATRA (1964)

Starring Mark Damon, Scilla Gabel, Arnoldo Foa, Livio Lorenzon, Paolo Gozlino and Alberto Lupo. Directed by Fernando Baldi.

When I began watching PEPLUM movies, I figured they were mainly about muscular heroes fighting evil rulers. This one, starring a non-bodybuilder sorta broke the rule. Though Mark Damon is fit, he's not comparable to Steve Reeves or even Gordon Scott in terms of physique. I thought it was a good change and in general I liked the movie. I thought it was refreshing to see. Well, those were the early stages of my introduction to the genre. After seeing a gazillion other movies, my estimation of it as sorta went down. Mind you, I don't dislike it. I like it but there's nothing remarkable about it.

Production wise, it's well made and the locations are great. The cast is good (certainly Gabel, Gozlino, Lupo, Lorenzon, and Foa) and the movie moves at a good pace. The story, though, is sorta boring (I won't bother with a summary) and the direction by Baldi is uninspired. Fernando Baldi excelled in dramas (the religious kind) and dramatic moments, not necessarily action movies. There are some good action scenes here and there and the fight at the end, between Damon and Paolo Gozlino is good. But there are obvious problems with many such scenes: during one of the film's best action scenes, a contest in the desert, it's pretty obvious Mark Damon wasn't the one doing all the work (see below). Discrepancies like this lower the quality of the movie more than necessary.

Alberto Lupo and Arnoldo Foa. Great actors.

The big problem I have with this film is the main star himself, Mark Damon. I must admit that I'm not a big fan. He's okay in this but his acting style is sorta odd. Initially, I took his style as someone who's acting was hampered by the dubbing process of Italian movies but then after seeing Mark in BEAUTY & THE BEAST (1962), an US production, and I realized that his acting was pretty much this way in all of his movies, dubbed or not dubbed. Personally, I find Paolo Gozlino much more compelling to watch. Excellent actor. He would have made an interesting son of Cleopatra. But he was cast a bad guy, and even in his limited villainy role he outshines Damon. 

Fortunately the story (or direction) relies more on the Italian cast and it doesn't shoulder the entire production on Mark's shoulders. The story needed a Steve Reeves type or even a Kirk Morris type, someone who was believable in action scenes. Damon is not really believable in such scenes. Had the film starred anyone else than Mark my view of it would have been much better. And had the film been directed by someone else, I'm certain the PEPLUM elements would have rocked more. Everything is there but a compelling story and a compelling lead actor.

As a side note, Damon's green costume (first image above) was re-ussed in a couple of other PEPLUM movies. 

I have just a couple of versions of this in my collection. The movie was included in the SON OF SAMSON (1960) DVD as a second feature, which I have. Its runtime is 103 minutes and it's not in widescreen. I have a Fan Dub of this (I don't know who made the Fan Dub) and I have the Italian version, with a runtime of 98 minutes. Both of those versions are in widescreen.


This movie is blocked on Youtube. The previous channel I managed there was closed in part because I got a strike after uploading it (even though I never made the movie public. Kept it private). It has a 'worldwide' block. You can still find it there on other channels but I can't upload it.

A serviceable 7 out of 10.


Mark Damon being whipped is the movie's highlight. I uploaded this scene to one of my first channels at Youtube and it became one of the mot popular videos ever. But the scene was eventually removed, for multiple reasons.


The beautiful Scilla Gabel is excellent as usual but her wigs are terrible. 


Livio Lorenzon in SON OF CLEOPATRA. The set was obviously cold: notice the greyish puff of smoke before him. The story is set in hot Egypt but he's freezing. Livio gives a good performance in an usually meaty role.



Above and below: this is clearly NOT Mark Damon. This is so obvious while watching the movie that I wondered if it was a joke. The actor wearing the helmet has big pecs and is hairless but Mark Damon's chest is hairy and certainly not muscular. Very poor direction.


Wardrobe Malfunctions


A couple of additions to the Wardrobe Malfunctions permanent page.

Monday, February 24, 2020

By the Gods!

Julie Newmar in SERPENT OF THE NILE (1953)

This sorta 'outlandish' scene is many things: First, it's not very Egyptian looking. Second, the gold makeup makes the young Julie Newmar look much older than she was. And third, this is a dance sequence where Julie, an excellent dancer in her own right, dances at the start of this scene but for the most part is made to stand there like a statue.

It's a quirky scene. It wants to be grand and dazzling but ends up being cute and kitschy. And very anachronistic.

Julie is credited as Julie Newmeyer.

Directed by William Castle, this is one of a couple low budget PEPLUM movies released by COLUMBIA PICTURES in the early to mid-1950s. Many people dislike them but I find them fun or interesting. Granted, it's nothing like the 1963 version of CLEOPATRA (1963) but it's fun enough. The screengrabs are taken from a HD version shown on Italian TV. The image is pretty good.

Mark Antony (Raymond Burr), Cleopatra (Rhonda Fleming) and Lucilius (William Lundigan) are the captive spectators. Cleopatra offers the gold to Mark Antony.

PEPLUM TV Official store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

I have some of the merch and wear them all the time. Good stuff.



PEPLUM Movie Posters

Original Italian movie poster of HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN (1964)

This movie has so many different posters. This one is pretty straightforward.

Friday, February 21, 2020

By the Gods!

Moira Orfei, Massimo Serato and Alan Steel in SAMSON & THE SLAVE QUEEN (1963)

Also known as ZORRO VS MACISTE. In this post it's VHS vs DVD. I got a new version of this film from an old VHS print. It's amazing how different it is compared to the DVD release. Of course the DVD print (above) is superior in every way to the VHS one (below) except for one: the warmth. Why is the VHS one so colourful and warm compared to the official DVD release? It might be a bit too  warm but the DVD one seems so drab in comparison. I made a GIF animation of the two.



Moira's dress look almost different. Her skin tone is better in the DVD one though. Massimo's costume is  more visible in the VHS screengrab. You can also see his eyes better. Steel's natural hair and skin color is so different. The VHS might be a bit too orange but just a few levels less and it would be great. The DVD one is nice and subtle but a bit too subtle. It needs some warmth.

A fun film regardless of the copy.

Vintage Article: REG PARK - A NEW HERCULES

Interesting article of Reg Park being touted as a 'new' Hercules, since Steve Reeves was the first to play the Greek hero. I don't have the continuation of the article. The scene is from HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961)

BY THE GODS!: Article on GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS


Small and (unintentionally funny) article on the Steve Reeves classic. 

Only at BY THE GODS!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

By the Gods!

Marcella Petrelli as Cleopatra in THE EROTIC DREAMS OF CLEOPATRA (1985)

Another erotic movie from the 1980s set in Ancient Rome. It's not that remarkable compared to others of the period. It has all the kind of tawdry action, including orgies, lesbianism and, yes, bestiality (2 scenes!!!). Even so, it's fairly tame except for one specific scene.

Kelmis (Rita Silva) tries to seduce Spurina (Andrea Coppola)



Like PEPLUM movies, it contains a plethora of genre cliches, including a dance number (above). A couple, male and female, with the male dancer being more feminine than the female one.

There's no story to summarize here or attempts of being historically correct. It's just a collection of 'sexy' scenes stitched together with almost no drama. In this movie, Cleo is more interested in Spurina, an 'interpreter of omens', than anyone else, with rival Kelmis trying to seduce all of Cleopatra's lovers, including Spurina. This movie would be the last one directed by Rino Di Silvestro, who only directed 8 movies. It's not a bad looking movie but not that memorable.

I have three different versions of this title. One has the runtime of 77 minutes. Another at 88 minutes. Both of these are in English. And the third one is in French and also at 88 minutes. The best image is the one at 77 minutes. These screen grabs are from the 88 minutes one in English (since it had more scenes which are not in the shorter version).

(I won't rate this title).


Like all those movies made during the 1970s and 80s, it uses scenes from big PEPLUM titles of the past. This one has scenes from THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES (1961) and GOLIATH & THE GIANTS (1961). The opening credits are shown over a shot seen briefly in THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959; see below), which was also used during the opening credits of SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS (1964). And like other such Italian movies, many of the voice actors are the same as PEPLUM movies of the Golden Era, which is always fun to hear.


Above: opening credits of the movie. Below: brief scene from THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959)


Lobby Cards Set: PRISONERS OF THE CASBAH

US lobby cards set of PRISONERS OF THE CASBAH (1953) starring Turhan Bey, Gloria Grahame, and Cesar Romero. Since this is a studio-bound movie with a small budget you won't find spectacular scenes in this set. It's mostly disappointing though since Gloria or Cesar are almost nowhere to be seen and if they are they are in the distance. Card no 2 is probably the most sought after card. Below average set for this fun movie.



Tuesday, February 18, 2020

By the Gods!


A scene from SAMSON & DELILAH (1949) in 5 screengrabs.

Starring Victor Mature as Samson and Hedy Lamar as Delilah. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille. A classic though I feel the ending is better than the movie. It's an underrated spectacular sequence. It was a huge hit and it re-ignited the PEPLUM genre which was pretty much dormant since the end of the silent era.





The 'model' was actually a set or a miniature set. This must have taken a lot of planning on everyone's part. They couldn't repeat it.

Different Titles: THE MIGHTY URSUS

Today, it's THE MIGHTY URSUS (1961) starring Ed Fury and a host of Italian and Spanish actors. The first of 3 URSUS movies starring Fury and certainly the best. Finding original titles of PEPLUM movies is always a difficult task and this one is no different. The US title, THE MIGHTY URSUS, has never been released.

The title found on the Spanish DVD. It's also the title for the original Italian version but since this was an Italian - Spanish co-production, this title is also considered 'original.'


The title of the US broadcast. It's not the original title when the movie was released to theatres in 1962 in the US. The opening credit is cut short. Only a few names are shown. This title was made using video equipment.


The German title, which translates as URSUS - AVENGER OF THE SLAVES


The French title translates as THE FURY OF HERCULES. Not to be confused by the Brad Harris movie. Though the title has Hercules in it, Ed Fury is called Ursus in the French movie itself.


Ed Fury stars as Ursus

Monday, February 17, 2020

By the Gods!

Dance sequence from THE INVINCIBLE BROTHERS MACISTE (1964)

I always wonder with dancing scenes like this:

1 - When it was released in movie theatres, did people watch them or did they go to the bathroom or left their seats to get some snacks? I'm thinking the kids in the audience (the majority of viewers?) were probably perplexed by such scenes while adults 'got' their 'sexy' purpose.

2 - What the actors thought of these scenes. They had to be present, like in this scene, but it must have been boring just to sit there and watch the dancers do their thing take after take.

I uploaded this movie to one of my channels but I had to change the music since it was copyrighted. I used the music of the dance number from GIANT OF METROPOLIS (1961) instead which went well with it.

Personally, I love these scenes even though I know they were mostly used as padding to the movie's runtime. Regardless, it's not really a PEPLUM film without one (though a PEPLUM can still be great without one), and this one is memorable, in more ways than one. Aside from the skimpy costumes the two are wearing, and the very suggestive moves, the dance itself is very beatnik in style, making this moment an odd time capsule of sorts. It's anachronistic to the story's setting but it works since the movie itself is kinda odd as well.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Original Italian poster of REVENGE OF THE BLACK EAGLE (1951)

Standard poster of this rare movie. Gianna looks good but a bit stern. That doesn't look like Rossano Brazzi at all. A Riccardo Freda movie which always means it's good.