PEPLUM - Babes and Beauties


Even if Sylva only made a handful of PEPLUM & Swashbuckling flicks, she left a lasting impression on fans of the genre. To many, Sylva is the Queen of PEPLUM Cinema.

Sylva, with Francisco Rabal, in THE MIGHTY CRUSDAERS

Above & below: As Iole, Sylva will be eternally linked to Steve Reeves because of HERCULES (1958)

A young Sylva in HERCULES (1958)


Above & below: Sylva starred in SIEGE OF SYRACUSE with Rossano Brazzi

Sylva as Theodora in THE LAST ROMAN


Gianna is the TIGER OF THE SEVEN SEAS. Gianna is incredibly 
beautiful in this fun film.

Gianna Maria Canale is not really known outside of Europe which is a shame because she had it all: looks, panache, style and sexiness. She carried herself better than most Hollywood actresses and yet she's virtually unknown there. She did try to start a career in the US but returned to Italy to live with her husband, Maestro Riccardo Freda. Gianna was known as the Queen of Cinecittà, the legendary Italian film studio. She probably starred in more PEPLUM films than any other actress. 

Gianna in Hercules

Gianna in a spectacular chariot race from Theodora ~ Slave Empress

Gianna inspects Leonora Ruffo in GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES. 
The Queen of Sheba and the Queen of Cinecittà.

Gianna getting whipped by Geneviève Grad in The Conqueror of Corinth

Portrait for SCARAMOUCHE


Lana Turner in THE PRODIGAL

Hollywood Lana Turner is famous for her film noirs and weepy ultra soaps of the late 1950s/early 1960s but she did appear in a couple of famous big budgeted Sword & Sandal films, certainly THE PRODIGAL. She also starred in DIANE, a beautiful MGM Swashbuckler which has become one of my favourite discoveries from the past couple of years.  

Another publicity shot of Lana for THE PRODIGAL

Roger Moore and Lana in DIANE, a great Historical/Romantic Swashbuckler


Scilla was publicized as being the next Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida but Hollywood got tired of too many Italian actresses and Scilla's career, except for a few films, never expanded further than Europe. Scilla was actually Sophia's stand-in at one point before becoming her own star. She appeared in many PEPLUM epics, too numerous to mention here, but she always stood out from the crowded pack with her commanding statuesque beauty. 

Scilla co-starred with Roger Moore

Scilla's role in SODOM & GOMORRAH was brief but memorable

Screengrab from the cool THE DEVILS OF SPARTIVENTO, one of Scilla's Swashbucklers

Chelo Alonso, born Isabella Garcia, as seen in MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS. 


Chelo in attendance as a spectator. Gorgeous!

Below are photos of what Chelo did before she became a PEPLUM star.

Chelo in New Orleans in 1955

Joan in LAND OF THE PHARAOHS. She was 22 years old in these photos.

Joan as Esther in ESTHER & THE KING

Richard Egan and Joan share an on-screen kiss

Joan & Rosalba Neri in the same film

Joan as a pretend Cleopatra from an episode of FANTASY ISLAND. In the episode, Joan's fantasy is to go back in time when Cleopatra ruled Egypt. In the story, she's used as a substitute for the real Cleopatra (who's in a dungeon) to seduce Mark Anthony (shades of TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA). Oddly enough, Joan was slated to replace Elizabeth Taylor for CLEOPATRA when Taylor became ill and delayed production. Joan was mentioned as a potential replacement. I guess this episode was some sort of in-joke.

José Greci made several S&S films, looked amazing in all of them and was a pretty good actress too. She's often overlooked but whenever I watch a movie with her in it, I'm happy! The still above is from GOLIATH & THE SINS OF BABYLON.

José looked at her most fetching in THE TEN GLADIATORS

The photos above and below are from COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA

José was a peasant beauty in DUEL OF THE TITANS


Above & the 3 photos below: José in SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS

The one and only Rita Hayworth in SALOME. Rita didn't make many PEPLUM films
but this one is memorable, certainly for the Dance of the 7 Veils sequence. 

A test shot for JOSEPH AND HIS BETHREN, a film that was never completed

The famous Dance of the 7 Veils

A scene from DOWN TO EARTH; it's a musical and most definitely
not a Sword & Sandal film but in it Rita plays Greek muse Terpsichore
and the film has several elaborate Greek-inspired dance sequences.

The beautiful Marina Berti in QUO VADIS. Marina had a stand-out role in the big Hollywood epic. Every time she was on screen, she caught one's attention and yet after this and having a minor supporting role in THE QUEEN OF SHEBA, Marina's career never caught fire. Her career started in the early 1940s and she was sorta eclipsed when the likes of younger Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida 
came into the spotlight. These photos really capture her beauty.



International superstar Gina appeared in few Sword & Sandal films, with just a handful of Swashbucklers/Historical films. But Gina did star in one of the biggest Hollywood Bibblical 
epics, SOLOMON & SHEBA. She's definitely the best thing in the entire film. Her dance in it is
still pretty sexy/hot. 


French actress Mylène Demongeot made an indelible impression in the PEPLUM genre by starring just in a handful of films and I'm grateful she did as she added some undeniable quality to each of those films. Her big PEPLUM films were THE GIANT OF MARATHON, ROMULUS & THE SABINES and GOLD FOR THE CAESARS. She also starred in some consider the best film adaptation of the Three Musketeers.  Personally speaking, having seen Mylène in non-Peplum films, I have to admit that she was seemingly made for the Sword & Sandal genre. She never looked more ravishing than in those films.

Mylène during the climax of THE GIANT OF MARATHON

Publicity photo for THE GIANT OF MARATHON

Mylène in that beautiful lavender stola from the same film. She looked
ethereal in that dress. PEPLUM perfection.

Mylène, as Andromeda, and Steve Reeves, as Philippides, were stalwart lovers 

Mylène is carried away by Roger Moore in ROMULUS & THE SABINES


This photo and the next two are from GOLD FOR THE CAESARS

Non-Peplum publicity photo of Mylène

Mylène today



Leonora was beautiful and a strong actress but not really a "cheesecake" actress so finding pin-up shots of her are hard to come by. Her classic beauty shone even greater because of her excellent acting skills. Her biggest role was the lead role in THE QUEEN OF SHEBA and what a role it was. Though she worked with Fellini and other great filmmakers, she only appeared in 21 films. Her career seemed sporadic and it never caught fire. Maybe it was personal decision of hers to take it easy but in the end  I think she was thoroughly overlooked and underrated. Leonora was almost unrecognizable when she became a blonde during the early to mid-sixties but her fiery piercing eyes, elegant posture were still the same. 

Leonora's biggest role was in the endlessly entertaining THE QUEEN OF SHEBA. She was young and had done just two films prior to this big role but she held her own and gave an unforgettable performance.


Christopher Lee invokes the black arts while Leonora Ruffo lies 

These two photos are from GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES

Leonora co-starred with Mark Forest in GOLIATH & THE DRAGON


Caroline Munro only made 2 fantasy films that would fall under the PEPLUM umbrella but her impact was everlasting as no one in the 1970s was a combination of true beauty and total pulchritudinous as her.

The two first photos are from THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD. A pure fantasy creation, including Caroline.

Caroline as Princess Dia in AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1977) based on the Edgar Rice Burrough's book set in the fantasy land of Pellucidar. Though everyone was falling for Princess Leia in STAR WARS back in 1977, in my eye Lea couldn't hold a candle next to Caroline.


British-Austrian model Mara Lane is the PEPLUM Babe for December 2011. Mara was one of the most sought after models of the 1950s and made several films during that decade and appeared in two PEPLUM films in the 1960s, 79 AD THE DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM and THE OLD TESTAMENT, both starring Brad Harris, before disappearing from the face of the earth. Mara was memorable in both films, certainly 79 AD, which is one of my favourite PEP films. Mara, where are you?

Above and below: Mara in 79 AD THE DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM; Brad Harris is her costar in the photo above.

Mara in a Roman litter in THE OLD TESTAMENT


Liana Orfei is PEPLUM Blog's Babe of the Month for January. Liana starred in a dozen Sword & Sandal films and excelled in all of them. She often had elaborate dance numbers including in NEFERTITI QUEEN OF THE NILE and ATTACK OF THE MOORS. Liana was Moira Orfei's cousin and even though they were related the two never appeared in the same PEP film together. Liana is still active today with managing her own circus act.

The three first photos are from HERCULES CHALLENGES SAMSON (or Hercules, Samson and Ulysses)

Liana's dance number in HERCULES CHALLENGES SAMSON


Photo above and below: Liana in THE TARTARS

Liana said that she cherishes her experience in making THE TARTARS more than any other of her films.

Liana and Victor Mature in THE TARTARS

Liana in PIRATES OF THE COAST, one of her many Swashbuckler roles


Tina as Sappho in SAPPHO - VENUS OF LESBOS

Ok so it's the end of the month but better late than never. Tina Louise is the PEPLUM Babe for February (and part of March).

Tina went to Italy and shot two fabulous PEPLUM flicks both directed by Pietro Francisci: SIEGE OF SYRACUSE and SAPPHO - VENUS OF LESBOS, the latter being one of, if not my favorite Sword & Sandal of all time.

IMO, Tina was made for the genre. Her classic statuesque beauty, sometimes difficult to be taken seriously in modern settings, was simply perfect for stories set in Antiquity or Medieval times. I wished she had made more of them. Tons more.

Tina starred with Kerwin Mathews in SAPPHO.

Rossano Brazzi was her co-star in the epic SIEGE OF SYRACUSE

Alberto Farnese was also her co-star in SIEGE OF SYRACUSE. Great photo!

Tina was (and still is) mostly remembered for being Ginger on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. Here, Ginger reenacts a scene from Hamlet in one of those kooky episodes.

There's NO shortage of cheesecake shots of Tina on the web. Here are two of them.


Dominique Boschero is the PEPLUM Babe of the Month for April. Even if she had a steady film career, she only appeared in one true PEP film, ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES, starring Georges Marchal and Mike Lane, as the Queen of the Bird Men. It's a small role but it's a standout in more ways than one. I already posted a photo of Dominique from that film last week (link) and here are additional cheesecake shots of her.


Hedy Lamarr didn't make many films and she made even less films from the PEPLUM genre. Her most famous Sword & Sandal role was playing Delilah in SAMSON & DELILAH. It's probably her most famous role, period.

Above and below: Hedy in THE LOVES OF 3 QUEENS; Hedy played a couple of different historical characters, including Helen of Troy (below).

Hedy as Joan of Arc in STORY OF MANKIND; this was her second to last film


Bella at Etna in VULCAN - SON OF JUPITER

July is the hottest month of the year and for PEPLUM Babe of the Month we have one of the hottest actresses from the genre: Bella Cortez. Bella had a short but memorable career. The Cuban-born starlet would disappear from movie screens after making 11 films. She's still alive and she has a Facebook page (here).



Gordon Mitchell and Bella Cortez are in a precarious moment in GIANT OF METROPOLIS.

Bella & Liana Orfei in GIANT OF METROPOLIS

Bella was in THE SEVEN REVENGES co-starring Ed Fury

THE TARTARS was probably Bella's biggest film.

Rossana Podestà

Rossana Podestà was a regular face in PEPLUM films for nearly 10 years. She first appeared in ULYSSES (1954) with Kirk Douglas and quickly made HELEN OF TROY (1956), directed by Robert Wise and co-starring Jacques Sernas. It was unusual for a Hollywood made epic to star two relatively unknown European actors who's voices had to be dubbed. Unfortunately her Hollywood career was cut short because the film wasn't a success and Rossana's career was relegated to European films, including other PEPLUM films. For 10 years she didn't seem to age at all, looking basically the same in all of them: a captivating beauty who could act.

A young Rossana Podestà watches the wrestling match in ULYSSES

Rossana as Helen in HELEN OF TROY

Rossana with Jacques Sernas in HELEN OF TROY

Comic book cover for the Robert Wise epic

Rossana shared the screen with Yvonne De Carlo in THE SWORD & THE CROSS



Publicity photo for SODOM & GOMORRAH

Rossana Podestà lets a horse quench its thirst while filming SODOM & GOMORRAH

Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Rossana Podestà and Guy Madison are quarrelling in THE SLAVE OF ROME


Anita in a publicity photo for ZARAK

Anita was a bombshell from Europe, or Sweden to be more precise, who made a handful of films from the PEPLUM genre starting in the 1950s in bit parts and quickly became leading lady in the late 50s and 60s. Not a great actress by any means but it didn't matter since she had tons of charisma and sex appeal. She's more famous for her appearances in Fellini productions including LA DOLCE VITA in which her role is now considered iconic.

Anita is still alive. You can see a current picture of her on the left hand menu. She's the most popular post of this blog.

Anita, in the background on the left, had an uncredited role in THE GOLDEN BLADE starring Piper Laurie (right)

Anita with Victor Mature in ZARAK

Anita (with Jeremy Brett) in WAR & PEACE

Above & below: Anita was the star of SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR. She plays an uncharacteristically busty Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

Above & below: Anita in THE MONGOLS (with Franco Silva on the far left): Anita is a villainess of sorts in this epic film. Below, Jack Palance whips her for being a bad girl. Arf.

Publicity photo for SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR


Even though Raffaella Carrà made just a handful of PEPLUM films fans of the genre easily recognize her for her beauty and vulnerable qualities. Never a leading actress in the genre, more in supporting roles, she nonetheless left an impact on the genre. IMO, her best role is ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES, the doomed maiden trapped in King Lagos' crazed world. Her brief scenes are memorable (above).

In Italy and other European countries Raffaella is a media personality, famous for TV roles, singing and tv appearances.




Raffaella was Princess Saliurà in the (in)famous PEPLUM auctioner



Raffaella in the grip of crazed King Lagos (Gianni Santuccio); her most memorable role


Raffaella with Ivica Pajer

Rik Battaglia was her co-star in CAESAR THE CONQUEROR

Raffaella, pin-up girl


Rosanna Schiaffino's first movie role was in a TOTO film. Her second role was in ROLAND THE MIGHTY directed by Pietro Francisci, her first major role in a PEPLUM film. It's great fun and Rosanna gives a cool performance in it as a beauty who causes trouble within the paladin's camp. After appearing in several films mostly set in contemporary times her next big PEPLUM role was the dual role in THE MINOTAUR. Rosanna plays twins, one who is a Princess Freda, who's evil, and the other is Arianna, exiled to live with peasants from birth, this to insure that the twins wouldn't be sacrificed to the Minotaur. This would be her signature PEPLUM role and never looked lovelier in it.

Rosanna Schiaffino would appeared in a dozen or so PEPLUM films during her career, most of those being historical dramas such as DUBROWSKY, THE MANDRAKE, EL GRECO. Rosanna had the good chance to appear in some major Hollywood productions or co-productions such as TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN and THE LONG SHIPS, ranking her in status along other Italian actresses such as Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Virna Lisi and Anna Magnani.

Uploaded to the BABES and BEAUTIES page.


Rosanna with costar Rik Battaglia in ROLAND THE MIGHTY


As Princess Freda

Princess Freda and Arianna meet for the first time

Bob Mathias was her co-star in THE MINOTAUR

Princess Freda gives instructions to Chirone (Alberto Lupo) while overlooking a feast

A photo of Rosanna in a scene cut from the final film; Rosanna is PEPLUM perfection here

Arianna in the maze-like cavern where the Minotaur resides, pulling a thread from her dress to make sure she'll find her way back

Rosanna Schiaffino looks absolutely tiny against the Minotaur. Either she's tiny in real life or that man-in-suit is massive. Cool photo.


Rosanna co-starred with Jean Marais (left) in this Swashbuckler


Rosanna had a cameo in ROMULUS AND THE SABINES; she played Venus in a dream sequence dreamt by Romulus (Roger Moore). Jean Marais, his back to us, played Mars in the dream.


Rosanna co-starred with Sydney Poitier in THE LONG SHIPS

Various films

DUBROWSKY with John Forsythe

EL GRECO with PEPLUM star Ángel Aranda

Rosanna with Anthony Quinn in THE ROVER

Rosanna in HECTOR THE MIGHTY, a raunchy send-up of HELEN OF TROY set in modern times

Non-PEPLUM films and pin-up photos:


From CORRUPTION with Jacques Perrin

More to come...