Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Mark Forest R.I.P.



Mark Forest was one of the top muscular actors of the PEPLUM genre. He starred in 12 PEPLUM movies before retiring and became an opera singer / voice coach. He was a popular bodybuilder back in the 1950s but he never won a major competition. He did win Mr Muscle beach title in Venice, California.

When I started the blog and Facebook account linked to it, I had some contacts with Mark via his Faebook account. I don't know if he wrote his own messages or someone wrote them for him. But after a brief exchange, he stopped communicating with me. It's a shame he remained silent about his major role in the popularity of PEPLUM movies.

Mark's second film, SON OF SAMSON, was the first Maciste movie since the silent era. It's huge success resurrected the character and he mostly played him in his career, with other actors also starring in Maciste movies.


Personally, I like all of his movies. They are all top PEPLUM movies. Not one dud in his career.

Mark died on January 7, at the age of 89, one day after his birthday.



GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON (1960)


Mark's first movie was apparently made from the remnants of the third and never filmed Hercules movie with Steve Reeves. That project was abandoned after director Pietro Francisci was too busy with other movies and Reeves only wanted to work with Francisci. The original Italian title translates as THE REVENGE OF HERCULES but was re-titled as GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON after US distributors wanted the sorta serious movie to be more marketable to kids, adding scenes with the dragon for the US release. It was a hit and Mark's acting career took off. Leonora Ruffo starred with Mark (below).




SON OF SAMSON (1960)


After the success of GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON, Mark starred in SON OF SAMSON, the first Maciste movie since the silent era. It was another big hist and the character of Maciste would be seen in multiple movies in the 1960s.


Above: An old man covers up Maciste's body has it would draw too much attention, including that of the evil Queen, played by Chelo Alonso (below)
 



MACISTE - THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD (1961; aka Maciste vs Mole men)


Msrk's third movie was another hit and another classic PEPLUM. Paul Wynter co-starred with Mark in one of my favourite movies. It was Maciste versus the mole men. Over-the-top describes this fun production.




COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA (1962)


COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA is a big, boisterous movie directed by Michele Lupo. It also stars many PEPLUM actors, including Dan Vadis (below). I like this movie but Mark was having a bad hair day throughout (Dan as well). The scene below could have been a classic but it's just ok. This movie has it all, including a monkey.



GOLIATH AND THE SINS OF BABYLON (1963)
 

Another big, boisterous PEPLUM directed by Michele Lupo and starring José Greci (above)

The US poster is great. It highlights one of the movie's most sensational scenes in any PEPLUM: a torture scene with Mark and spears (below). I uploaded this scene to Youtube and it got millions of views, before Youtube pulled it.



 



HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963)


Along with KINDAR, this is my personal favourite Mark Forest movie, and one of my favourites PEPLUM movies ever. It's action packed, fun, a great cast and loads of Feats of strength scenes. It just clicks from beginning to end thanks to top direction by Domenico Paolella. Above: Mark with Howard Ross, Ken Clark, Nadir Moretti. I uploaded a Fan Dub to my Youtube channel and it had over 6 million views before Youtube yanked it for no reason. I re-uploaded it and it's still there (for now).


Maria Grazia Spina and José Greci co-star with Mark. The millstone scene is memorable. Below: Maria with Mark. Another memorable scene.




MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA (1964) 


This is a good film, filmed back to back with THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR. Both movies use the almost the same cast and same scenes in a couple of moments so it always creates a feeling of Cinematic Confusion. I always identify this one as the one with the ape scene (below). The ape scene is often shown in documentaries on the genre.


 

Above: This is the scene I used the New Year 2022 banner (below) which I posted at several of my social media sites. Sad.
 



HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS (1964)


Another top PEPLUM movie directed by Dominco Paolella, back to back after MONGOLS. Almost as good as HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS though this action packed movie is more like a fairytale that a straightforward action movie like MONGOLS. It has a great cast including Ken Clark and Gloria Milland. Many stand-out scenes, including the one below, with José Greci, in which the two are stuck beneath the door while an army on horseback runs on top of the door, with Hercules keeping them from being crushed. There's also the unforgettable giant snake scene. This scene, uploaded at my Youtube channel, went viral and has millions of views.

 

 



THE LION OF THEBES (1964)


Another stand-out PEPLUM movie starring Mark and Yvonne Furneaux (behind Mark). Directed by the excellent Giorgio Ferroni, this movie is solid: great cast, production and action scenes (below). One of Mark's best.




HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN (1964)


I recently profiled this fun movie after I got a beautiful new copy in HD. Screenshot above is from that copy. It stars Giuliano Gemma. When Gemma's star grew in the 1970s, the movie was re-released with Gemma as lead actor and no mention of Mark on ads. Not good. This was Mark's movie. Anyway, I like everything about it even though the dance numbers are a bit long. Unique PEPLUM title.




THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR (1964)


The second, and in my opinion, the better of the two movies shot back to back after MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA, also starring Marilù Tolo (below). It includes the 'Annoying Sidekick' played by Oreste Lionello (below below). Fun movie. The screenshots were taken from a new French DVD.






KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE (1965)


Mark's last movie is one of his best. Initially, I didn't care much for it but after seeing it in a clean beautiful print, the movie stood out. Great cast, stunning locations, evocative story, lotsa of muscular action. The only annoying thing is the anti-climatic resolution but aside from that, KINDAR is tops in my book. There are even poetic scenes here and there. Kindar's love interest, above, is played by Dea Flowers. Below: Kindar steps out of an iron maiden, alive and unscathed.


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There are still a couple of PEPLUM lead stars who are still alive (I'll write an article on this). But his death sorta signals the end of an era. He was quite memorable in almost all his movies. And yet he never or rarely talked about his days as an actor. I wished he had written something about those twelve movies but alas, we'll never get to know all the details on how the bodybuilder from Brooklyn, born Lou Degni, became Mark Forest and made movies in Italy.










8 comments:

Anonymous said...

A wonderful and fitting tribute to Mark Forest. When I was writing an early edition of a book on Epic Films I met most of the major Sword and Sandal actors. I only was able to speak with Mark (or rather Lou) on the phone. Although he was very pleasant to me it was obvious he wasn't that interested in revisiting that part of his life. I think he got far more joy from his opera singing and voice coaching than he ever did acting.

John said...

A great tribute!

Iván said...

Great but sad tribute. The most remarkable about these men (aside from their good looks) is that they seem not to be afraid of anything the same as the heroes they portrayed. Maybe that's why many of us admire them, particularly in these times.

ap said...

Beautiful collage by Mark Forrest. I still remember the first movie I saw of him in 1961 which was The Revenge of Hercules, I was impressed. Are there any pictures of Mark after his career??

Dan said...

I still remember watching Mark fighting the python in Hercules against the Barbarians when I was a kid and I was totally amazed. That scene stuck with me for years until my interest in the genre rekindled some years ago. Sad to see him passed and nothing more befitting to bid farewell than this tribute. Thanks!

PEPLUM TV said...

Gary, thanks for the info. It's sad he wasn't enthusiastic about his movies. Maybe he wasn't aware how many fans he had.

John, thanks

Ivan, that's an interesting point.

AP, there is a photo of him from the 1980s or is it from the 1970s. He looked exactly the same.

Dan, yes, the snake scene is memorable.

maciste said...

He was an artist and a gentleman

Bob Young said...

Where can I get a HD version of Hercules Against The Sons Of the Sun and also Kindar The Invlunerable??? LOVE these movies! Are they available on Blu-Ray like Steve Reeves' Thief Of Bagdad and Romulus & Remus (Duel Of The Titans) are? Would love to have them in Widescreen with a clear picture, and would love to have any of Mark Forest's (Lou Degni) movies in Blu-Ray (or widescreen with a clear picture). Son Of Samson would be great also.