Friday, February 14, 2020

By the Gods!

A photo of the raising of the obelisk in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)

By the gods! This photo is more spectacular than the actual film. We didn't see this amount of detail in the movie itself. Compare it to how the scene looks like in the movie (below).


BY THE GODS!: HERCULES released by Archway Film Distributors (Brit)



British release of HERCULES (1958)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

By the Gods!

Setas (Luis Prendes) meets Ursus (Ed Fury), while Doreide (María Luisa Merlo) listens in THE MIGHTY URSUS (1961)

One of the many heroes of the PEPLUM genre, Ursus came into existence thanks to the famous best seller, QUO VADIS, and subsequently the epic movie from Hollywood made in 1951. The name Ursus became synonymous with very powerful and muscular man, who, more often than not has blond hair. A change from the usual dark-haired heroes such as Hercules or Samson.


The story is simple enough: Attea is kidnapped at the very start of the story (her face is hidden as she's working behind a weaving machine). We hear her talk to her father about Ursus returning from war. Her father is killed during the ambush. After the opening credits, we see Ursus leaving fellow soldiers and meeting Doreide (Merlo) who recognizes the muscular man even though she's blind. The two used to know each other before the war. Setas (Pendres) shows up and threatens Doreide. Ursus wonders what's going on. Doreide tells him about the kidnapping of his fiancé and that she heard the men who kidnapped her. The two go on a quest to find Attea. This leads them to an island ruled by a cult of Zaas, a goddess / bull. There, Ursus finally finds Attea (Moira Orfei) but he soon discovers that the woman he once loved his not the same anymore. 

Attea (Moira Orfei) worships the goddess Zaas. 

Directed by Carlo Campogalliani, who began his career back in 1915. He would direct two other PEPLUM movies before retiring. He directed a fair number of classics including GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959) starring Steve Reeves. So when he directed this he was well versed in the PEPLUM genre. And it shows. He understood the genre. Because of this, as a fan, it's fun to watch from beginning to end.

Ursus (Fury) has enough of Setas, excellently played by Luis Prendes.

The story is populated by an endless number of villains. It's like a convention of villains. There's Setas (an excellent Luis Prendes), Kymos (Mario Scaccia) and Magali, wonderfully played by Cristina Gaioni. And then there's Attea, Ursus' fiancé. It's easy to root for Ursus since nearly everyone else is bad.

Ed Fury is up to the challenge and makes a memorable PEPLUM hero. The handsome bodybuilder is in top form. Fury went on to make 2 other Ursus movies, URSUS IN THE VALLEY OF LIONS (1961), and URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE (1963), with the latter being a cult favourite to some fans out there. Personally speaking, of the three, THE MIGHTY URSUS is the most solid Ursus / Fury film but I must admit that URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE, also populated by villains, is pretty good as well.

It also stars a very young Soledad Miranda who eventually became a Eurocult star, even after her tragic death. I wrote about her story hat TRAGIC STARS.

Cristina Gaioni is a beautiful seductress who deceives Ursus. Clip at BY THE GODS!

The action is good and effective, certainly during the ending when Ursus confronts a very big bull (even if it's obvious a stuntman stands in for Fury). It has plenty of feats of strength, a gruelling torture scene (mostly cut from the Spanish DVD release) and perils which keeps audiences entertained until the end. The reveal of Attea, played with energy by Moira Orfei, is something else, making this quest and its eventual conclusion one of the most twisted ones ever filmed. The fate the characters find themselves in is fascinating: it's tragic and yet there's a certain sense of irony and logic to it.

The dubbing is quite good and the voices really fit the actors. The soundtrack Roman Vlad is excellent and quite memorable but a tad repetitive and overblown, certainly during the climax. As some point, it sounds like a score from the 1930s.

This is an Italian - Spanish co-production. The production values are good throughout the movie.

There's no official release of this movie in the US even though United Artist released it in theatres in the US back in 1962. TCM sells a copy of this movie from their website but it's a Fan Dub. I don't know who made it but they used the audio track from my Fan Dub that I've made and uploaded to Youtube years ago (I can't upload the entire movie anymore just small clips, due to a worldwide ban from a dubious company). I was the first to make a Fan Dub of this title, with video/image taken from the Spanish DVD release, which is heavily edited with minutes and minutes on end of scenes cut throughout. It's very annoying but even so I was able to stitch the missing scenes taken from the rare English TV broadcast from my collection with the Spanish version, and edited the English audio over the scenes from the Spanish DVD. It was a very unique Fan Dub: it's in widescreen and 4:3 aspect ratios as it switched back and forth between versions. It's the most complete version available anywhere. Well, the dubious copy sold at TCM is also taken from the Spanish DVD but with all the same cuts, plus the audio I edited to it. So don't buy that copy. It's NOT an official release.

Different versions in my collection:

- I have copy from a TV broadcast from the US. The image is poor and the audio is not that good but I was able to use it for the Fan Dub I created. This copy came from the famous Video Search of Miami, a place which had tons of dupes and bootlegs. It was eventually closed because they started selling bootlegs of recent releases. But the place was invaluable. It's almost 90 minutes long (NTSC).
- I have the Spanish DVD. This print is heavily cut. Visually speaking, it's the best copy available anywhere, in widescreen, but there are so many cuts that it's frustrating to watch. Oddly enough, the company that released this DVD is SONY. I guess SONY has the rights to the movie in Spain. It's slightly over 83 minutes long (PAL).
- I have a French VHS release. The image quality is much better than the one from Video Search of Miami but it's still in 4:3 format. It's 88 minutes long (PAL). Aside from my Fan Dub, this is the most complete copy out there.
- I also have a French Fan Dub of the Spanish release.

IMDb lists the runtime at 90 minutes. This is incorrect. The US version from Video Search of Miami has an abbreviated opening credits (just a few seconds long) and it's already almost 90 minutes long. With a complete opening credit, the US version would be longer than 90 minutes. The Spanish DVD is missing the opening scene of Attea kidnapped, which is crucial and its omission doesn't make any sense. The title in the US version is URSUS - SON OF HERCULES. The title of the French VHS version is LA FUREUR D'HERCULE, which translates as THE FURY OF HERCULES, which is the same title as the Brad Harris movie.

I give it a solid 8 out of 10.

Behind-the-Scenes

Anouk Aimée chit-chats with Marcello Mastroianni on the set of SODOM & GOMORRAH (1962). Marcello was visiting the set since he was not in the movie.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

By the Gods!

The wild women in THE WILD WOMEN OF WONGO (1958)

A colourful yet corny movie of island tribes living on some fictitious island named Wongo. It's just an elaborate excuse to show cheesecake and beefcake, in equal amounts even though the men bare almost all while the women are covered in one piece swimsuit-like clothes.

It's badly acted and totally unconvincing but, being just an excuse to show some cheesecake and beefcake, it's entertaining in its simple 1950s Pathécolor naiveté: it's the story of a tribe where the women are beautiful but the men are ugly (bearded). They meet another tribe were the women are ugly and the men are handsome (sans beard), with one of these men being Ed Fury. It ends with the beautiful women ditching their ugly mates for the handsome men.

Hard to believe but movies like this from that period were considered 'risqué'. The cast is mostly made up of unknowns but one fellow did stand out from the pack, Ed Fury. Fury played bit parts in many major Hollywood movies of the 1950s such as ATHENA (1954), FEMALE ON THE BEACH (1955) or SOUTH PACIFIC (1958). His role is slightly bigger in this but it wasn't very challenging by any means.


Fury (above an below) would travel to Italy and appear in much bigger productions such as the URSUS movies and THE SEVEN REVENGES (1961). After a couple of years there, he eventually returned to the US, unable to retain his leading star


The 'sets' in this production are Coral Castle located in Florida, which still exists today.

Will this movie even get the proper HD treatment? Does the original negatives still exist? One can see that the Pathécolor would look great with a proper transfer but alas only poor copies exist.

The movie is in the public domain but when uploaded to Youtube the soundtrack is claimed by multiple copyright claimants which prevents me from uploading it to my channels. It's stupid.

As a movie, it rates a 4 out of ten. But as an inoffensive time capsule of a good looking cast frolicking around some tropical setting, it rates a 6.

Then & Now: Claudia Cardinale

Claudia in SWORDS OF BLOOD (Cartouche; 1962); a recent photo of the actress

PEPLUM TV Official store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

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



Monday, February 10, 2020

By the Gods!

Alan Steel, as Millstone, and Brad Harris, as Samson, in SAMSON (1961)

This scene, which happens at the very start of the movie, is interesting for many reasons. Either the wild boar was really big or the two actors were short but the discrepancy between size of men vs animal creates an interesting illusion of sorts.

Like so many Italian productions, the two brawny men aren't enemies but rivals who eventually end up teaming together. Aside from monsters, such as the Minotaur, and a few big villains, there were few mano a mano scenes like this between good guys and bad guys. There were but not as many as scenes with the hero and some rival having some good old fun brawling. It's quite Italian in nature and something you don't see as often in movies in the US where the bad guys often rival or dominate the good guys.

The makers of these movies loved creating scenarios when the more these men go at each other, and the more they become irritated, the more they focused on their bodies/muscles. Who would dominate the other! This is very typical in the PEPLUM genre, and again pretty much Italian in nature.

The other interesting, or controversial aspect, is the animal itself. It's quite obvious that the wild boar was real and was presumably killed for this movie. The treatment of animals in PEPLUM movies, certainly in regards to the many scenes with horses injured during stunts and action scenes, is one of the few truly negative aspects of the genre which is totally indefensible. They are difficult to watch. In this case though, since the boar was already dead, the tug-of-war for this animal between the two men makes this scene more realistic.

Side notes: Steel was named Hercules in other versions. So this was Samson vs Hercules in those versions. For the German release, SAMSON became a HERCULES movie (Herkules im Netz der Cleopatra), while the title of the other Brad Harris/Alan Steel opus, FURY OF HERCULES (1962), became a SAMSON movie (Samson - Befreier der Versklavten)!!!

Cinematic confusion!


PEPLUM Movie Posters

US poster of ANDROCLES & THE LION (1952)

I'd like to see the movie advertised here. Nice poster and all but I'm sure moviegoers expecting this kind of movie were surely disappointed when they left movie theatres. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

BY THE GODS!: Dubious DVDs on eBay!


‘HERCULES VS MOLOCH’ and ‘HERCULES OF THE DESERT’. Are they legit?


By the Gods!

The Argonauts from HERCULES (1958)

The actors are: Fulvio Carrara as Castor, Willy Colombini as Pollux, Fabrizio Mioni as Jason, Aldo Pini as Tifi, Steve Reeves as Hercules, Gabriele Antonini as Ulysses, Andrea Fantasia as Laertes and  Gino Mattera as Orpheus.

A TV series based on the Argonauts would be a cool series to watch. Of course, it would be all dirty and grungy, like most of everything today. Mythology is not grungy. It's something producers and directors should take note of.

Anyway, HERCULES (1958) was the first motion picture with the Argonauts as being part of the story. Many other movies soon followed, such as THE GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960) and JASON & THE ARGONAUTS (1963). But a series would be perfect: multiple characters and storylines, etc. It would something I'd actually watch.

Jason (Fabrizio Mioni) leads the Argonauts in the secret lair of the Amazons.

At The Movies...

PRINCE VALIANT (1954) at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Cinemascope was the actual star and selling point.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

By the Gods!

A young Rossano Brazzi and Ermete Zacconi, as Socrates, in TRIAL & DEATH OF SOCRATES (1939; Processo e morte di Socrate)

I recently acquired a bunch of titles, including this one. It's rare, or at least the English version. The movie is on Youtube but without English subtitles. Since it's a dialogue heavy production, subtitles are important. The copy I got has English subs. I haven't watched it yet, with so many recent tiles to view so I can't give a proper review but I will in the near future. Brazzi was 24 years old. It's one of those rare Italian titles of the 1930s which rarely surface anywhere outside of Italy.

Thanks, Alan, for those titles.


Kirk Douglas - R.I.P.


Kirk Douglas died on February 5 at the age of 103. He had a long acting career, appearing mostly in westerns. But his stand-out role was for SPARTACUS (above; 1960). He only made 3 PEPLUM movies out of 70+ movie roles.

News of his death trended on Twitter, along with another actress. In this 'MeToo' era, even the dead are not spared.

R.I.P..

ULYSSES (1954)

Kirk played Ulysses, in this early entry of Italian PEPLUM color production. Sylvana Mangano co-starred.



THE VIKINGS (1958)
Kirk and Janet Leigh in this solid production.


SPARTACUS (1960)

In what is his most famous role, non-PEPLUM or PEPLUM, Kirk played Spartacus. It's considered one of the big three PEPLUM movies made in Hollywood at the time, along with THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) and BEN-HUR (1959). Directed by Stanley Kubrick, who replaced Anthony Mann after he and Douglas didn't see eye-to-eye on many aspects of the production.



Kirk posing with castmates Jean Simmons and Tony Curtis

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

PEPLUM TV Official store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

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



By the Gods!


Scenes from WAKEFIELD POOLE'S BIBLE! (1974)

A low budget movie based on the Bible and was sold as quasi-porn when in fact it's more art film than porn. Personally speaking, I like it. It's an anthology. There's no dialogue. There's only music and a big chunk of the movie was shot in slow motion. There's plenty of nudity throughout which makes it difficult to choose specific scenes for screengrabs. The film is broken down in 4 short stories: Adam & Eve, David & Bathsheba, Samson & Delilah, and it ends with a brief scene of Mary and an angel in the desert. 

The two first screengrabs are the Samson & Delilah segment. Samson is played by Brahm van Zetten and Delilah by Gloria Grant. They're both fully naked in most of this story. Samson's revealing costume wouldn't look out of place in a PEPLUM movie. The third screengrab is from the David & Bathsheba story.

It's like a very low budget Fellini's SATYRICON (1969). Oddly enough, its frank aspect towards nudity make it more realistic than most big budgeted epics.

The best story is the Samson & Delilah one. The Adam & Eve story is stunning but sorta boring. More like a coffee table book than story.

The exterior scenes are beautifully shot. The entire movie was filmed in 16mm with a budget of $100,000. Locations include British Virgin islands (Adam & Eve), desert in Yuma, Arizona (Mary & Angel), and a garage in Manhattan used as a studio (presumably all the interior scenes).

Definitely not for everyone but I appreciate it for its artistic value.

I give it 7 out of 10.



Terry Jones - R.I.P.


Terry Jones, part of the Monty Python comedy group, died on January 21 at the age of 77. He was actor, writer and director of the many movies, TV programs and specials. He shared co-director credit for MONTY PYTHON & THE HOLY GRAIL (1975). He also directed MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979) and ERIK THE VIKING (1987). He also co-wrote the screenplay for LABYRINTHE (1986). He was also the voice of Obelix in ASTERIX & OBELIX VS CAESAR (1999). R.I.P..


Jones with Connie Booth, branded as a witch! He played multiple small roles in MONY PYTHON & THE HOLY GRAIL.


Jones played Mandy, the mother of Brian in LIFE OF BRIAN, a spoof on the life of Jesus.


Jones played King Anulf in ERIK THE VIKING. He also directed the movie.

Monday, February 3, 2020

BY THE GODS!: Identifying mystery scene


Mystery scene. I can't figure out the movie.

More at BY THE GODS!

By the Gods!

Alessandro Borghi as Remus in ROMULUS & REMUS: THE FIRST KING (2019)

A new movie from Italy with the same setting as DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961) starring Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott. About the founding of Rome and its 'first' King. I haven't seen it yet but it looks like a combo of 10,000 BC (2008), QUEST FOR FIRE (1981) and 300 (2006). The title is interesting. The film tries to be as realistic as possible instead of being mythological but it ends up looking more like a primeval cavemen story than Ancient history. I dunno how accurate it is on this point alone. I'll check it out once I get a copy.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Spanish poster of ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942)

Colourful artwork. Beautiful even if the stylized portraits don't really look like the actors.