Articles of the week (2019)

Henchmen in PEPLUM movies

Henchmen in PEPLUM movies is the topic of this 'Article of the week.' Covering all of them would be a Herculean task. There are almost as many henchman as there are PEPLUM movies. In this article, I'll cover those who were the best (or baddest!). A lot of these actors played henchmen but it's not to say that these actors weren't cast in roles as main villain or even good guys.

The henchman is the foot soldier, the mercenary or the lower class ruler who does the dirty work for the main villain or villainess. Since these stories often involved muscular heroes, the henchman also had to look physically capable of dealing with the hero.

Some roles sorta skirt the category, including the one played by Luis Prendes, as Setas, in THE MIGHTY URSUS (1960). Is he a henchman? Not really but he's not the main villain in the villain-filled movie. I could have included him but I didn't. Another role would be Stanley Baker in SODOM & GOMORRAH (1962). I didn't include him but even if he's the brother of the ruling Queen, he totally acts like her henchman. Since the role is murky at best, I left him out of the list.

Remember, this is only a partial list. There are so many henchmen in PEPLUM movies that covering all of them would take forever.


Mimmo Palmara

Probably the most recognizable bad guy in the genre, Mimmo often played villains, even lead villains but he was almost always a bad guy in a supporting role of another main villain. The henchman role sorta defined him.


Steve Reeves and Mimmo Palamara in THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959). One of many henchman roles Mimmo would play in his career in the PEPLUM genre.

Since Mimmo was good looking and in shape his henchman roles tended to be categorized in the arrogant, braggadocios, 'douchebag' kind of bad guy.

Mimmo Palmara and Gianfranco Parolini in THE TEN GLADIATORS (1963). The henchman in this movie had to be buff and capable of going against the Ten gladiators.


Livio Lorenzo


Livio was the henchman to the villain ruler, played by Bruce Cabot, in GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS (1959)

Livio would basically play this type of role in dozens of films. He was perfect as these henchmen types so why change?

Livio with Lisa Gastoni and Mimmo Palmara in THARUS - SON OF ATTILA (1962). In a change of pace, Palmara was the main villain while Livio was his henchman.


Daniele Vargas


Daniele was often cast as lead villain but he also played many henchman/supporting bad guy roles, as the one in SODOM & GOMORRAH (1962).

Vargas played a similar role in HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959). He's threatening Iole, played by Sylva Koscina. He was typecast in such roles.


Giulio Donnini

Giulio Donnini in APHRODITE - GODDESS OF LOVE (1958)

Donnini was a great henchman. Always slimy and always scheming. One first look of him and you know he's bad. Other notable roles: TRIUMPH OF MACISTE (1961) and MESSALINA (1960).

Donnini is the main henchman in ATLAS AGAINST THE CZAR (1964) starring Kirk Morris. In this scene, Donnini's character is drugging Atlas (Maciste in the original Italian version).


Howard Ross (aka Renato Rossini)

Pierre Cressoy was the evil ruler in TRIUMPH OF HERCULES (1962), with Howard Ross as his henchman. Howard, or Renato Rossini, was great as a henchman since, physically speaking, he was as muscular as the heroes.

Howard was a cunning henchman in HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS (1964). He excelled in those roles. He was also villain in HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963), which was packed with villains. The villains in that movie are difficult to categorize in that the Mongol leader is killed by Howard's character and his cohorts, who could all be henchmen but since the leader was killed they became leaderless henchmen, or something.


Franco Silva

Franco Silva has the ever scheming henchman in QUEEN OF SHEBA (1953). Here he is with future henchman, Mimmo Palmara. Franco is really great in this fun film. Silva didn't appear in a lot of PEPLUM movies but he was most often cast in bad roles than good. His big lead role not playing a villain was in THE MONGOLS (1960).


Pino Mattei

In 79 AD: THE DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM (1962), Jacques Berthier was the main villain and his henchman, or his 'partner in crime,' was played by Pino Mattei (aka Giuseppe Mattei).


Alan Steel

Alan Steel as the mute henchman to Serge Gainsbourg, lead villain in FURY OF HERCULES (1962) 

Yes, Alan sometimes played bad guys, which was cool. He's also a henchman in HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959).


Serge Gainsbourg


Before becoming a crooner, Serge appeared in a handful of movies, including a couple of PEPLUM ones. In REVOLT OF THE SLAVES (1960), he's the conniving, slimy henchman to the evil Emperor.    Below, he wants to inspect rooms in Rhonda Fleming' house, along with his own henchman, played by Van Aikens.



Van Aikens

Van Aikens was the henchman to main villainess, Astra, played by Gianna Maria Canale (not shown) in GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES (1961).  He was very effective in this thankless role.


Antonio Molino Rojo

In GLADIATORS 7 (1962), Rojo was the evil henchman to the ruler. He was memorable in this role. This wasn't his only henchman role.


Alberto Lupo

Alberto played Chirone, henchman to Princess Freda (Rosanna Schiaffino) in THE MINOTAUR (1960). Alberto could play good guys and bad guys with ease.


Aldo Bufi Landi


In TRIUMPH OF MACISTE (1961), Aldo was evil Queen Tenefi's henchman who did all her duties even if he was against them. A good actor who lend excellent support, along with the High Priest (Cesare Fantoni), who wasn't a henchman but both men schemed things together.



Harold Bradley

Harold Bradley acted in a bunch of PEPLUM titles, including HERO OF BABYLON (1963) with Piero Lulli. He was Lulli's evil henchman.


Alfio Caltabiano


Alfio, stuntman and sword expert for PEPLUM productions, sometimes acted. In SEVEN FROM THEBES (1964), he was the ultra badass henchman. He was bad. Very bad.



Arturo Dominici


Probably the grandaddy of henchman in PEPLUM movies, Arturo played the ultra slimy henchman hired by the king to kill his rival to the throne in HERCULES (1958). He sneaks in with the crew of the Argo to create mischief. Arturo is memorable in this movie.

Hercules (Steve Reeves) knows Eurysteus (Dominici) is up to no good.

Arturo played many henchman types, including in HERCULES AGAINST MOLOCH (1963)


Claudio Scarchilli

Claudio was up to no good in URSUS & THE TERROR OF THE KIRGHIZ (1964; aka Hercules - Prisoner of Evil). A character actor who was also seen in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966)


Milton Reid


Milton Reid basically made a career playing heavies. He was the henchman to Gianni Rizzo (below) in SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS (1964). He also played in DR NO (1962).



Raf Baldassarre

Alberto Farnese, as Adrasto, and Raf Baldassarre in THE GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960)

Even with this crowded category, the ultimate henchman is, imo, Raf Baldassarre. Aside from GLADIATORS OF ROME (1962), in which Raf played a good guy, nearly all of his roles were playing baddies. This lasted all the way to the 1980s, with his role in ADVENTURES OF HERCULES (1985) with Lou Ferrigno. Lean and fit, Raf was totally believable as the nemesis to our heroes.

Raf was effective in ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES (1962). He played the ruler's henchman who turns very bad.


Raf was the captain of the guards/henchman to Queen Antinea (Fay Spain) in HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961). Mimmo Palmara, in blond hair and beard, was her other henchman/clones. Raf did the Queen's bidding, including sacrificing her daughter (Laura Efrikian).


Raf was a henchman hired by lead villain, (Christopher Lee) in HERCULES IN HAUNTED WORLD (1961). Guess what will happen to him in this scene? Henchmen always die one way or the other.

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This is just a sample of the henchmen in PEPLUM movies. I didn't include all of them or else this article would be twice as long.

Hope you enjoyed this overview!

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Twin Productions (part 2)

If there's one thing the PEPLUM genre has, it's 'Twin Productions': i.e. two movies made at the same time or back to back, using the same crew and pretty much the same cast, or mainly the same supporting cast, and shot in the same locations. This tradition of PEPLUM films being part of Twin Productions continued on up until the 1980s, with Pietro Torrisi movies as examples. In this set, I'll focus on the movies of the Golden Era which had a plethora of shared productions.

Just to make sure, these Twin Productions do not include sequels or movies which are part of a series, like the TEN GLADIATORS movies or the URSUS series starring Ed Fury. Twin Productions are movies with pretty much the same crew and cast but with stories and characters unrelated to each other. 

The following titles here are perfect examples of 'Twin Productions'. Some of them are so alike that they look more like sequels than different movies/stories. Also, like most of the titles listed here, the fact that they're 'Twin Productions' doesn't diminish their worth. I like every set here. well, except for IN THE SHADOW OF THE EAGLES and MASSACRE IN THE BLACK FOREST. I don't care much for EAGLES. 

Yes, there'll be a part 3. 

You can view part 1 here


GOLIATH & THE REBEL SLAVE and HERO OF BABYLON (both 1963)



Same set, different films. Gordon Scott stars in both films and it's sometimes difficult to tell them apart. The easiest way to figure this one out (from these screenshots) is HERO stars Moira Orfei and Piero Lulli while REBEL SLAVE stars Mimmo Palmara and Massimo Serato (also Serge Nubret who's not in this scene). But aside from some cast differences, story setting, and some of the action scenes, both movies are practically twins.



One screenshot is from HERO OF BABYLON and the other from GOLIATH & THE REBEL SLAVE. Guess!




MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THE THUNDERING ECHOES and DESERT RAIDERS (both 1964)



Both films were shot in the same locations. They both shared the same sets, most of the same cast, same director, etc. If you blink, you wouldn't know how to differentiate these films from one another. In fact, every Kirk Morris movie released in 1964 and 1965 are 'Twin Productions'.


Above: Hélène Chanel and Kirk Morris in MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THE THUNDERING ECHOES. Below: Hélène and Paul Mueller in DESERT RAIDERS. Same set with some changes.




SIEGE OF SYRACUSE and COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN (both 1960)


One of the most peculiar 'Twin Production' is this one. Above: the super serious SIEGE OF SYRACUSE, starring Gino Cervi and Sylva Koscina, directed by Pietro Francisci (to be released in the USA by Paramount pictures), and below: the super goofy and campy COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN starring Gianna Maria Canale. The amazing thing about the latter is that the production is quite excellent for such a silly (but fun) film. It's a bit jarring to watch. There are scenes in the comedy which had its own settings (like the over-the-top dance sequence) but aside from the cast and director, both films shared the same production.



Above: Tina Louise (back to us) in SIEGE OF SYRACUSE. The ship set was also used in COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN (below).




KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE and FALCON OF THE DESERT (both 1965)


On face value, the Mark Forest muscle fantasy adventure KINDAR doesn't seem to have much in common with the Arabian adventure FALCON starring Kirk Morris with the exception that both were shot in the desert. But the productions are identical. The production company for both films was WONDER FILMS. Scenes from KINDAR were used in FALCON. The music is identical. Again, it's one of those shared productions were the cast and director were mostly different but the rest was the same. The one exception with the cast: Howard Ross (aka Red Ross aka Renato Rossini) starred in both movies.


Above: Howard Ross with Mark Forest in KINDAR. Below: Howard in Falcon.




IN THE SHADOW OF THE EAGLES (1966) and MASSACRE IN THE BLACK FOREST (1967)


If there was one 'Twin Production' I'd use as being a perfect example, these two films would be it. Stories are entirely different and yet they look, sound totally alike. Both directed by Fernando Baldi and starring Cameron Mitchell, these movies which have nothing in common, story wise, are the same thing. It's very odd looking at them one right after the other. Of the many sets of Twin Productions, this is my least favourite. I like MASSACRE while EAGLES leaves me cold. It's not bad. It's just dull.



MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA and THE MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR (both 1964)


These two films starring Mark Forest are very much alike. The easiest to set them apart: in MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA, Mark fights with a gorilla. Haha! I like both films and yet sometimes I get them confused. There are two major scenes (fighting and a prison rescue) which appear in both. As I've already stated before, I prefer MAGNIFICENT slightly over SPARTA. It's more fun and colourful while SPARTA drags a bit, even if the latter has some stand-out moments like when Mark fights with a gorilla, and the mud fight scene at the end. But both films are top beefy action movies.


Mark Forest and Marilù Tolo. Above:  SPARTA, while below, MAGNIFICENT. In SPARTA, Marilù is an evil temptress while in MAGNIFICENT, she's the good love interest.




Above and below: Which screenshot is from MAGNIFICENT GLADIATOR and which one is from MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA?




TWO GLADIATORS and REVOLT OF THE PRAETORIANS (both 1964)


These two Richard Harrison movies are identical in many ways except for stories. I have to admit that REVOLT OF THE PRAETORIANS' story is quite different than the one for TWO GLADIATORS. But aside from that, the cast is nearly identical except for a few changes. Giuliano Gemma also stars in both productions. And the sets are the same.

A third film could be added to these two: THE LAST GLADIATOR (aka Messalina against the Son of Hercules) also starring Richard Harrison but there are too many differences in it that it doesn't feel like it's part of this Twin Production.


Moira Orfei is in both productions, and she, of course, plays a villainess. Mimmo Palmara is the male villain in TWO GLADIATORS while Piero Lulli is the villain in REVOLT OF THE PRAETORIANS. Notice the same set.




ALI BABA & THE SACRED CROWN (1962) and ALI BABA & THE SEVEN SARACENS (1964)


These Twin Production are so identical that I decided to show screenshots of the opening credits to show how identical they are. The cast is mostly different, with Iloosh Khoshabe the lead actor in SACRED CROWN while Gordon Mitchell stars in SEVEN SARACENS. But Bella Cortez is the female lead in both films. SEVEN SARACENS was a Sinbad movie in its original Italian version but the story takes place entirely on land so changing the character to Ali Baba doesn't actually make much of a difference. And since SACRED CROWN was made first, it made sense to follow it with another Ali Baba movie, even if both films are not related. So, everything is nearly identical exempt for part of the cast. Same crew, same music, same locations, same lead female, etc. Still, for movies which are nearly twins, they do not resemble each other, in terms of pacing and tone. SACRED CROWN is more fantasy while SEVEN SARACENS is purely an action movie.

Another film could be added to this set, VULCAN - SON  OF JUPITER, also starring Iloosh Khoshabe, Bella Cortez and Gordon Mitchell. Also directed by Emimmo Salvi. But VULCAN had a different production company while both Ali Baba films had the same production company.



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