Wednesday, June 8, 2011

PEPLUM Book Corner

LE PEPLUM by Laurent Aknin

I purchased this French book from and got it two weeks ago. It's pretty good with just a few quibbles. The book itself is not very big, with 120 something pages but it's filled with great photos that I've never seen before. It  skims over the subject in a breezy way. It's not too in-depth. Just a quick overview of the genre from its beginnings up to today. The author is, surprisingly, Hollywood-centric and is a bit dismissive of European films. 

Here's a list of those quibbles:

- He claims the renaissance started in Hollywood when in fact it started in Europe. FABIOLA was made before SAMSON & DELILAH. FABIOLA is mentioned in one line while Hollywood productions get full sections.

- The author calls the French film, SINS OF POMPEII (Les Derniers Jours de Pompei) boring and a trifle, claiming the volcano at the end is just a puff of smoke when the film actually has real footage of a volcano erupting, which is quite spectacular. The destruction of Pompeii is incredibly well executed and has often been copied in other films. Yes, the film is a tad slow and the acting is theatrical but it makes me wonder if he actually saw the same film.

Real volcano in SINS OF POMPEII: does this look like a puff of smoke?

- He thinks LEGIONS OF THE NILE is one of the most brilliant PEPLUMS ever made. Hmm... It's good but it's fairly light weight and certainly not one of the greatest. 

- In the film directors section, he forgets to include Pietro Francisci, my favourite Sword & Sandal film director, who directed QUEEN OF SHEBA, HERCULES, HERCULES UNCHAINED, SAPPHO, SIEGE OF SYRACUSE and HERCULES CHALLENGES SAMSON.

- A photo on page 94 from Fellini's SATYRICON erroneously identifies an unknown actor as Gordon Mitchell. Hmm? Again, how can he make such a glaring mistake as the old man doesn't even look anything close to Mitchell.

- Barely mentions CONAN and the low budget direct-to-video epics from the 1980s.

- There's no index.

- Like many other books I've purchased on the subject of Sword & Sandal films, it's relatively pricey. 

I could go on with the quibbles but you get the idea. The one aspect that's good is that it mentions the Sword & Sandal B-movies from Hollywood, which are often neglected. The look/design is pleasing and very eye catching. If you can read French and want a crash course on the subject, this book is a great starting point. IMO, the book is a must for PEPLUM fans, even if you don't read French. It just needs another revision to fix those quibbles.


Kike said...

That's why I use "Peplum" only for the italian flicks of the 60s. Not because elitism: but because clarity. "Historical movies" is a genre too big, even bigger if you include fantasy and sword & sorcery.

By the way, I am agree with you in every point you made. The book was very dissapointing for me too.

PEPLUM cinema said...

Well, I still recommend the book for Pep fans even if it's not a "perfect" book. But it's cool to have.