Saturday, February 26, 2011

Photo of the Day

Jany Clair is carried in a Roman litter in 79 AD THE DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM; 
what a lush film!

PEPLUMz Interlude

I absolutely love this!

Does anyone have any info on who's responsible for this little brilliant piece?

Footwear by POMPEI

Practically every PEPLUM film made in Italy/Europe had shoes made by POMPEI Footwear.
When I see POMPEI, I know it's a real PEPLUM. Arf.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Photo of the Day

Ed Fury, as Ursus, rounds up a bunch of attacking soldiers in URSUS IN THE VALLEY OF LIONS

Sex & Sandal

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Photo of the Day

Mitzuko Takara and some dancers slither around in SODOM & GOMORRAH

Then & Now: Rod Taylor

Rod Taylor appeared in on PEPLUM film, COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo of the Day

Steve Reeves is THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD(1961)

Cinematic Confusion

This poster got it all wrong. Romulus was played by Steve Reeves and 
Gordon Scott was Remus. Gordon was wearing the black toga and green
cape (see below) but he's placed on the left when he should be on the right 
and vice versa with Steve. In addition, neither one of them look like Steve or
Gordon. In fact, they look like twins. And is that's supposed to be Virna Lisi?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Photo of the Day

Cameron Mitchell lost his pants in THE LAST OF THE VIKINGS.

I watched it tonight. Not bad. Not great but not bad. Edmund Purdom
overacts shamelessly. And the dubbing for George Ardisson is horrendous.
The score is great though. I wish there was a better print because this one is bad.

Featured Film

Sign of the Gladiator

Directed by Guido Brignone (uncredited: Michelangelo Antonioni, Riccardo Freda, Vittorio Musy Glori)

Starring Georges Marchal, Anita Ekberg, Jacques Sernas, Chelo Alonso, Gino Cervi, Mimmo Palmaras, Lorella De Luca and Alberto Farnese.

Score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino

Released in 1959, both in Italy and US


"Unmitigated Junk " exclaimed the New York Times

"The deepest thing about Sign of the Gladiator is Anita Ekberg's cleavage"

For once, critics were right. But is SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR that bad of a movie? Not really as I've seen much worse than this but it is one sloppy unsuccessful film. It was plagued with production problems and, sadly, it shows on screen. The original director was fired and 3 other directors had to step in, including Riccardo Freda and Michelangelo Antonioni (huh?!?) with 5 screenwriters credited for the unmemorable script, including Sergio Leone. With so many cooks, the whole thing feels spoiled, with no impetus or focus about the story or actors. As a whole, it's flat and almost pointless and in the end does come across as junk but individual scenes within the movie are effective, which might reflect the different directors at the helm.

As a fan of the PEPLUM genre, to me the cast is amazing: Anita Ekberg, Georges Marchal, Jacques Sernas, Chelo Alonso, Mimmo Palmara, Gino Cervi, etc. Wow! As good as it is, some of the choices are odd to say the least: Anita doesn't look Persian and Chelo is supposed to be what exactly? But who cares really as they work well together. 

Talking about the producers?

The story is simple enough but it's made to be more complicated with characters endlessly plotting against each other. No one should be trusting each other but if they didn't, there wouldn't be any story. The film starts with Marcus Valerius (Georges Marchal) captured and made a slave/prisoner. Queen Zenobia (Anita Ekberg) notices him, as he's a Roman soldier but, more importantly, because Marcus is handsome (Georges looks like the David Beckham of Rome), and so it starts. Marcus convinces Zenobia that he's a dead man if he goes back to Rome and that he'd be more useful at her side. Of course both of them slowly fall in love even though Marcus is basically acting as a double agent, all an elaborate plot to drive Zenobia's army into a trap. Unknowingly, the Queen's Prime Minister is also plotting against both the Romans and her.  

Queen Zenobia is considered one of the greatest female characters in history, on par with Cleopatra but in SOTG, Anita is often shown lounging around, walking nervously. She's made to look like a bored housewife than a Queen.  Clearly, all the writers and directors didn't know what to do with her.

Georges Marchal and Jacques Sernas share a scene. Rome might not forget 
but Hollywood does forget as Jacques, who starred in the epic HELEN OF TROY, 
is not even credited prominently on the US movie poster of SOTG.

The sub-plot with Jacques Sernas and Bathsheba is dull and underdeveloped. Jacques Sernas, in top form here, is woefully underused. I wished he and Georges Marchal had more scenes together. If one would cut those scenes out, it would not make a big difference to the film. Things are made a bit more funny as Georges and Jacques sorta look alike and the already muddled production feels even more muddled. What's even more incredible is seeing Jacques in a supporting role when a few years earlier he starred as the main male character in Robert Wise's massive Hollywood retelling of HELEN OF TROY. From starring role to total obscurity, with not even a prominent credit on the movie poster for SOTG. Ouch.

Lorella De Luca barelly registers as Bathsheba, with busty Anita and sexy Chelo eclipsing every other female presence in the film.

Jacques Sernas and Folco Lulli during the climax.

Folco Lulli, as Zenobia's Prime Minister, is terrible. A cliched character straight out of a cartoon...even though he looks more authentic than the Nordic-looking Queen.

Love and death in the desert

The scene when Zenobia and Marcus Valerius are ridding in the desert alone together, without the usual soldiers guarding the Queen, is absurd. But the movie is, in essence, a Romantic PEPLUM and these scenes are de rigueur. They are probably the best scenes in the entire film.

The abrupt conclusion was obviously conceived to end the film on a happy note as it seems Zenobia was beheaded or was paraded around as a prisoner in the streets of Rome (wikipedia).

SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR, in its own weird way, is a very important film in PEPLUM history: made in the late 1950s, just when BEN-HUR would be release, it's an example as what the genre would provide/become in the future and how it would be sold around the world but more importantly to the US market.

American International Pictures purchased the film and re-titled it with a nonsensical title (inspired by the equally nonsensically titled Jack  Palance opus, SIGN OF THE PAGAN?). The original Italian title translates as SIGN OF ROME. The current title is point blank stupid because there are no gladiators in it. Arf. This practice of re-titling Italian/European S&S films with absurd titles would be common practice with US distributors during the PEPLUM explosion and a lightning rod for film snobs and non-snobs alike to dismiss the entire genre as utterly worthless. I guess this was only a sign (!) of things to come. When the movie was a success for AIP, the low-budget US film company sought more EURO PEPLUMS to bastardize at  will in order to make a quick buck.

I've only viewed this film in its original Italian version with English subtitles which highlights the incredibly elaborate dialogue. For a B-movie (and yes, it's a B-movie), the dialogue is, huh, profound. Here are some examples:

Heavy stuff!

The soundtrack is excellent and will sound familiar to most as it would be re-used in dozen of other films. The only problem with the soundtrack is that it should have stood out more to at least give the film some much needed life.

The elaborate but clunky battle scenes during the climax would also be re-used in other films, including SPARTACUS AND THE TEN GLADIATORS. The climax is truly badly edited and looks completely drunk.

The film is filled with several incredible technical goofs. The most obvious, and the most egregious example of the troubled production, is the feast scene. Anita and Georges  unexpectedly switch sides midway into the scene. It's pretty funny.


SOTG also has its share of anachronisms. Chelo's Cuban jiggles and shakes don't belong in this film, as entertaining as it is. During the feast/dance sequence, Chelo is surrounded by male dancers wearing leopard spotted trunks. Hmm...

With better editing, a few scenes shortened here and there and a more prominent soundtrack, SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR could have been a tad better but as it is, it's a hot mess. 

Rating: 5 out of 10

SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR is not in 3D? Oh well...


- cool and sexy main cast: Georges Marchal has chemistry with Anita Ekberg and Chelo
- lotsa fun peplum cliches, like millstone, crucified, dance sequence, etc
- big battle scenes
- Anita Ekberg's gold-platted battle costume
- excellent score


- feels rushed;  not very convincing
- secondary plot is dull
- Jacques Sernas wasted
- sloppy editing
- it doesn't know what it wants to be: historical? Action/adventure? Romance? All of the above?
- weak supporting cast
- talk, talk, talk
- painfully obvious expositionary dialogue
- unspectacular sets
- Chelo's dancing is pure anachronism
- full of techinal goofs
- uninspired locations
- many horses were obviously hurt during the battle sequence

Posted permanently at the "FEATURED FILM" link. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo of the Day

Poppaea (Patricia Laffan) gets the Nero (Peter Ustinov) treatment in QUO VADIS

Movie Poster Mondays

Cool Poster that I've never seen before; HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Photo of the Day

Rosalba Neri tries to heal a wound on Mimmo Palmara with hot iron in KINDAR THE INVULNERABLE. Love this film. Totally underrated and overlooked. 

PEPLUM Behind the Scenes

Yul Brynner goes over some sketches with a lady while filming THE TEN COMMANDMENTS


Never heard of it but I love the drawings. It is sexually explicit.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photo of the Day

Kevin Sorbo, as Kull, kisses the transformed Akivasha in KULL THE CONQUEROR

Carlo Rambaldi - PEPLUM FX Artist

Above and below: from PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Photo of the Day

Jon Erik Hexum played a gladiator in one episode in the short-lived time 
traveling TV series VOYAGERS! Pretty impressive.

PEPLUM Caption Contest

Come up with your funniest caption for this scene from HERCULES. 


I always love it when a movie states in bold letters or graphic that we're in ROME!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo of the Day

Franco Silva and Anita Ekberg in THE MONGOLS(1961). 

Pretty good film with some memorable scenes, when Jack Palance doesn't chew the scenery. Arf. 

Seriously, Franco Silva is such an underrated/forgotten actor. It's sad. He was great
 in THE QUEEN OF SHEBA. He's very good in in this film as well. And Anita
is well, Anita. What more can you say? 

Gone missing: GLADIATRIX

Whatever happened to the film GLADIATRIX that was supposed to star Scarlett Johansson? It was announced two years ago and well, nothing. There's no info on the internet about the project being canceled.

PEPLUM Imagery in mainstream media

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Photo of the Day

It's ALAN STEEL day today.

Born Sergio Ciani, Alan was one of the few Italian actors who made it
big with various mythological heroes during the PEPLUM explosion.

In this photo Wandisa Guida and Alan from HERCULES AGAINST ROME. 
Alan is sporting a cool toga/tunic/peplum there.

Cinematic Confusion

This poster for COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE claims Alan Steel is
in it even though he's not. Reg Lewis is the only beefy hero in it.

After they were PEPLUM stars

Alan Steel in a spaghetti western called FAST HAND IS STILL MY NAME(1972)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Photo of the Day

Jacques Bergerac, as Hector, and Gordon Mitchell, as Achilles, fight to the death
 in FURY OF ACHILLES. Great publicity photo.