Special Features

IDENTIFYING THE TEN GLADIATORS (updated)

Identifying the actors who played the TEN GLADIATORS from the series of 3 films is a difficult thing to do. The cast changed slightly between the first and second films; the cast is credited mostly with aliases; IMDb info is incomplete (Romano Giomini is not listed for the 3 films) and most of the gladiators remain nameless in the stories/scripts so not much to go by. Here's the closest I've tried to figure out who's who.

The three films are: THE TEN GLADIATORS; SPARTACUS & THE TEN GLADIATORS and TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS.



Dan Vadis as Rocca

Pietro Torrisi

Salvatore Borgese

 Jeff Cameron (aka Giovanni Scarciofolo)

Aldo Canti

Enzo Fiermonte

Romano Giomini

Frank Oliveras

Emilio Messina

Armando Bottin


From THE TEN GLADIATORS only

These three actors who were gladiators in THE TEN GLADIATORS but didn't return for the two sequels/prequels.

Pino Mattei

Giancarlo Bastianoni

The elusive Gino Turini, who's barely in the film. Thanks to Scott for the info on Gino.

The entire TEN GLADIATORS cast from the 2 sequels (or prequels)

And as an extra note, while scanning THE TEN GLADIATORS for a good shot of Gino Turini, I finally found the equally elusive Roberto Messina, brother of Emilio Messina, one of the ten gladiators. He's erroneously credited at IMDb as Methodius, who's actually played by Pino Mattei. Roberto's role, like most of his other PEPLUM films, only lasts a few seconds.



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Unofficial PEPLUM : THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

When the PEPLUM genre died out from its ashes came the Spaghetti Western genre and the greatest SW is no doubt Sergio Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. What's cool about this film, which I love, is spotting all the PEPLUM stars in it. There are more of them than listed here but all the following actors made PEPLUM films way before making SW or this classic Leone epic.

 Antonio Casas, who was also in a couple of PEPLUM flicks including REVOLT OF THE SLAVES

 Aldo Giuffre who played Seren, King of the Philistines in HERCULES, SAMSON AND ULYSSES

Benito Stefanelli, profiled here at the blog, was also seen in REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS

Chelo Alonso had a role at the very beginning of THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY. She was a major star of the PEPLUM genre, including MORGAN THE PIRATE.

Claudio Scarchilli, profiled here at the blog, was a regular PEPLUM actor and was a bad gladiator in COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA.

Livio Lorenzon appeared briefly in the Leone epic; Lorenzon was one of the busiest PEPLUM actors of the bunch and can be seen in TERROR OF THE RED MASK.

Toni Dimitri can be seen during the hanging scene in TGTBATU; prior to that he was seen in a couple of PEPLUM films including ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS.

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NERO AND HIS LYRE

Is there a more iconic PEPLUM moment than Nero playing with his lyre while Rome burns? Here are a few examples. The 1984 mini-series of QUO VADIS doesn't show Nero, played by Klaus Maria Brandauer, with his lyre while Rome burns. Not good.

Carlo Cattaneo as Nero in QUO VADIS (1912)

(provided by Facebook friend Epic Movies)

Charles Laughton as Nero in SIGN OF THE CROSS

Nero played by Gino Cervi in NERO AND THE BURNING OF ROME (provided by Facebook friend Epic Movies)

The most iconic moment from QUO VADIS with Peter Ustinov as Nero

It might be difficult to see but Nero (Vladimir Medar) is playing the lyre as Rome burns in FIRE OVER ROME.

Michal Bajor as Nero in QUO VADIS (2001)

 Here are a few more photos of such scenes plus additional scenes of Nero simply playing with his lyre (sans Rome burning).

Carlo Cattaneo in QUO VADIS (1913)

Emil Jannings as Nero in QUO VADIS (1925)

Alberto Sordi in the comedy NERO'S BIG WEEKEND

Derek Francis played Nero in an episode of DOCTOR WHO called THE ROMANS

Howard Ross (Renato Rossini, in a bad wig) listens to Nero (Vittorio Caprioli) in POPPEA:  A PROSTITUTE IN THE SERVICE OF THE EMPEROR

Pippo Franco was Nero in yet another comedy simply called NERONE (1977)

Hans Matheson was an unlikely Nero in a TV production IMPERIUM: NERONE


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Canadian PEPLUM stars

For a country with a small population, Canada has certainly contributed a lot to the PEPLUM genre. With a pretty eclectic mix of personalities, including one muscleman, in the form of Samson Burke. Christopher Plummer is probably the most celebrated actor from the list (he finally won an Oscar® last year for best supporting actor) and his energetic performance in FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE actually helped make the long film watchable. I wanted to add Barry Morse to the list but he was born and died in the UK even though he lived most of his life in Canada. I'll try to list actors from other various countries in upcoming posts.

Christopher Plummer as Commodus in THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE; Chris was born in Toronto.

Samson Burke in THE 3 STOOGES MEET HERCULES; Samson was born in Montreal.

Montreal native William Shatner acts it up to Joseph Cotten in the failed TV series ALEXANDER THE GREAT.

Lang Jeffries from FIRE OVER ROME. Lang was born in Ontario. Lang had a pretty solid streak in the PEPLUM genre.

André Lawrence, from Montreal, in 7 FROM THEBES

Geneviève Bujold made several films set in Medieval times but she also played Cleopatra in a TV production of George Bernard Shaw's CAESAR & CLEOPATRA with Alec Guiness.

Canadian born Stephen Forsyth is being strangled by Alberto Lupo in REVENGE OFTHE CRUSADERS, written by Riccardo Freda.

Yvonne de Carlo played Sephora in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS with Charlton Heston as Moses; I wasn't aware she was from Canada; born in Vancouver. Yvonne appeared in a couple of other S&S films, including some made in Italy. Thanks for Facebook friend Nick for the tip.

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BEN-HUR vs BEN-HUR

Here's a visual comparison between the silent version of BEN-HUR starring Ramon Novarro as Ben-Hur and Francis X. Bushman as Messala and the big widescreen version starring Charlton Heston as Ben-Hur and Stephen Boyd as Messala. Here are just some key scenes. As you can see, the silent version was basically used as a template for the William Wyler epic.

















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PEPLUM Fascination: Kids and big Heroes

The huge success of PEPLUM films in the 1950s and 60s was due in part to how young kids, mostly young boys, were impressed by the muscly action going on on the big screen. One can measure a film's "success" by what I term the "fascination" aspects within the stories, which made kids flock to theatres to see more and more. The producers of these European films KNEW about this (unlike today's films) and they intentionally tried to milk it for all its worth, even having a kid hang around  in one scene to gawk at the big Hero.

IMO, this is what makes these films so great and fun, and unique. Today's action films have none of this fascination aspect and I'm rarely impressed by any Hero or stories. The PEPLUM films from the Golden Era knew how to bring out the little kid in all of us.

From HERCULES UNCHAINED. The kid is not acting there. He's mightily impressed by Steve.

Mark Forest is impressing a boy in HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS

Aeneas (Steve Reeves) and his son (Charles Band) in THE AVENGER (War of the Trojans)

Little kid looking up to Henri Vidal in FABIOLA

Boy watches Harry Baird and Joe Robinson arm wrestling in THOR AND THE AMAZON WOMEN

A boy tries to help Ursus (Samson Burke) in VENGEANCE OF URSUS

Gordon Scott and his son in CORIOLANUS : HERO WITHOUT A COUNTRY


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The missing scenes from SAPPHO - VENUS OF LESBOS

If you're a regular visitor here you probably know that SAPPHO - VENUS OF LESBOS is one of my favourite, if not my favourite PEPLUM. The moment I saw it it was love on first sight. But as much as I love it I still had some reservations, mainly about King Melanchrus, who's reduced into a harmless buffoon in the US cut, which runs 16 minutes shorter than the original version. I've recently acquired a French copy of the film and as far as I can tell, it's uncut. And this version shows so much more about King Melanchrus and how evil and insane he is which sheds so much light on why everyone wants to overthrow him. Here's a quick rundown of scenes missing in the US version.

The scenes with the lions at the beginning was shortened by a minute or so.

The dance sequence when Sappho is introduced was shortened, with some gyrating scenes missing from the US cut.

The introduction of King Melanchrus. The scene is beautifully mounted (even in this bad copy). All the following scenes with Melanchrus are missing in the US cut.

Melanchrus' slave girls (or servants) hold bird cages as the crazed King feeds the birds. Melanchrus and birds is a running theme throughout the film.

The King asks the slave girl which one is the male bird and the female bird. The slave girl answers promptly and the King asks her how she knows this and she informs him that she learned it from the previous slave girl. The King then asks her what happened to the previous slave girl and she tells him that he ordered her to be decapitated because she couldn't tell him which birds were the males or the females. This scene shows how demented Melanchrus is even if it's treated as a bit of black comedy.

King Melanchrus, with Hyperbius and Laricus, visits his dungeon and he's shown a new torture device, one which contains a rat in a cage placed on a victim and the only way for the rat to escape is for it to burrow its way through the victim's body. Hmm...

There are two prisoners and one of them was tortured to death by the man who conducts the tortures. The torturer admits he simply wanted to get the victim out of his mysery. Laricus, not happy with the cruel torture methods he has witnessed, leaves while Hyperbius fights with the torturer and kills him.

At the Temple of Aphrodite, we see the teachers showing the young girls how to weave and sow. Below, which is part of the same scene, we see Sappho sneaking away up the stairs to see Phaon.


The final scene of Actis and Sappho together when Sappho admits she has fallen in love with Phaon, which upsets Actis. Why was this scene cut I'll never know.

During a moment when a grieving mother explains to the rebels how her family was attacked by Melanchrus' soldiers, we see the mother's daughters grabbed by soldiers and pinned down on tables and we learn afterwards that they were raped and one of them was murdered. This scene, pictured above and below, is a bit hard to take in a so-called family film but it shows the extent of Melanchrus' evil, which is sorely missing in the US cut, in which we really don't know why everyone is so against him. In this cut, we clearly know why.


Riccardo Garrone as Hyperbius is ripped to shreds by a lion. We see much more of this gory and realistic scene.

All in all, this cut is so much better than the abbreviated US one. It shows, without a shadow of doubt, why there's an uprising against the King, who, in the US cut, was made to be seen as a defenseless buffoon. Other scenes have also been shortened, including the final battle but this is the bulk of the missing scenes.


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Gay representation in PEPLUM films

For a genre with macho men single handedly battling villains and rescueing damsels in distress, PEPLUM films were surprisingly open about many of their characters being gay. Granted, most of them were villains or scheming, double crossing characters but the openness is still sometimes startling certainly when most of these films were popular with youngsters and certainly compared to stuff made in Hollywood at the time.

Gianni Rizzo gladly partakes of some grapes from handsome Vassili Karis in THE TEN GLADIATORS. Rizzo often played effeminate rulers but rarely with a lover in tow as in this film which is odd considering it's an all out action film. 

Narcissus (right; Giulio Donnini) has a good time with his companion during a Roman feast in MESSALINA (1960). Though scheming and cunning, his character is one of the few in PEPLUM films not to portray him as the main villain. Well, next to Messalina, I guess anyone would look good in comparison. Arf.

Queen Bera (Anouk Aimée) and her "favourite" (Mitsuko Takara) in SODOM & GOMORRAH. Director Robert Aldrich had a thing for lesbians, with LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE and THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE to his credit.

"You give the orders. And I obey the orders" Drago (right, Giuseppe Mattei) says gladly to his master Tercius (Jacques Berthier) in 79 A.D. THE DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM, which obviously hints at a relationship between the two.

FELLINI'S SATYRICON was one of the first and most bold PEPLUM or mainstream film to portray homosexual characters not only in an open way but also as the main characters of the story, which today is still rare. An amazing film that's not to everyone's taste.

Oreitheia (Sabine Sun) gets intimate with a dancer in WAR GODDESS, in order to make her lover, Antiope (played by Alena Johnston, not shown) jealous. The film is replete with sexy lesbian scenes to titillate the (horny male) audience, a big difference with the portrayal of gay male characters.

Sarm (Oliver Reed) admires one of his male cohorts in GOR


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STAR WARS: A Peplum in space

Photographic proof that STAR WARS was basically a PEPLUM set in a science-fiction/outer space setting. I saw STAR WARS before any Sword & Sandal films and as I was watching the 300 or so films one after the other I couldn't believe how much of the elements in the STAR WARS films were inspired or directly lifted from Italian Sword & Sandal films, which at the time and for the most part even today are still frowned upon. There are so many elements that I won't be mentioning all of them but here's a bunch just to give you an idea.

Opening credits that sets up the storyline
From VENGEANCE OF HERCULES



Desert locations, with bones of dead creatures
GOLIATH AND THE GIANTS


GOLIATH AND THE GIANTS

Wise Old Man
WAR GODS OF BABYLON



Evil Ruler on his throne
HEROD THE GREAT



Disposable soldiers of Evil Ruler
GOLIATH AND THE SINS OF BABYLON



Resourceful little people always on the side of good
GOLIATH AND THE SINS OF BABYLON




Donut-style hair fashion statement
THEODORA ~ SLAVE EMPRESS



Cheesecake (there's very little Beefcake in Star Wars films)
Publicity shot of Rhonda Fleming for SERPENT OF THE NILE



Torture. What's a PEPLUM film without a torture scene?
GOLIATH AND THE SINS OF BABYLON



Sword fights, hence the term Sword & Sandal
FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE



Council chambers
HEROD THE GREAT



Crushing walls of death
MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THUNDERING ECHO



The annoying sidekick
GLADIATORS OF ROME



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King of Kings vs The Greatest Story Ever Told

TCM ran both films one after the other and I watched both of them while mingling with my family/friends on Easter Sunday. Here's a quick rundown of how they compared:




King of Kings


- Jeffrey Hunter brilliant as Jesus

- Robert Ryan totally miscast as John the Baptist

- Siobhan McKenna wasn't convincing as Mary

- Narration was obtrusive

- Intro was super long. 20+ minutes to get story going

- Because of narration and quick rundown of story, the film felt like bible studies

- Location didn't look like Israel/Middle East. It looked like, well, Spain where it was shot.

- Fantastic score by Miklós Rózsa

- Ending at the beach fell flat

- Studio-bound and looks fake-ish from time to time

- Some beautiful sets and production design

- A bit of a heavy-handedness to it





The Greatest Story Ever Told


- Max Von Sydow totally miscast as Jesus; his voice alone doesn't work

- Claude Rains totally miscast as Herod the Great

- Charlton Heston sounds better than Robert Ryan as John the Baptist but looks ridiculous in fake looking wig and beard

- Almost entire cast is miscast: Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate?

- Constant use of cameos are terrible; with John Wayne's being the worst

- Narration wasn't obtrusive

- Stunning production design

- Stunning cinematography

- Beautiful, realistic locations

- Direction more fluid and organic

- More realistic looking

- Music score is good but film employs classical music which was beautifully incorporated with story

- Relies on classical music and Michelangelo's paintings to set up scene so a bit of laziness in direction here

- Ending has more impact than King of Kings but still sorta flat

All in all, it's a virtual tie with The Greatest Story Ever Told edging out King of Kings because of stunning production design/cinematography, etc. Now if they combined the best qualities from both films then there would be the perfect film: King of the Greatest Story Ever Told!

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Favorite List of Charaters Names



From SAPPHO ~ THE VENUS OF LESBOS. One of my favorite list of characters names for any movie. Sappho, Phaon, Hyperbius, Melanchrus, Laricus and of course Actis, who's my favorite character in the film. The names for the original Italian version is slightly different but still cool.  You can view the entire film at SapphoPEPLUM



Here's who played whom:

Tina Louise

Kerwin Mathews

Riccardo Garrone

Enrico Maria Salerno

Alberto Farnese

Susy Andersen


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