Friday, September 30, 2011

Photo of the Day

A very fashionable Massimo Serato tries to convince a suspicious Jayne Mansfield to marry him in HERCULES VS THE HYDRA (or Loves of Hercules).

Is it a PEPLUM?

Alan Steel in LOST TREASURE OF THE AZTECS (also known as Hercules and the Treasure of the Incas)

A Western which follows the same pattern of a PEPLUM: it has a bare-chested hero fighting a lost civilization; same cliches, same supporting actors; same locations; etc. I say yes. It's more a PEPLUM than a Spaghetti Western that's for sure.

Edmund Purdom Poll results

Here are the results for the "What's your favourite Ed Purdom poll?" 15 people voted and, obviously, THE EGYPTIAN won with 5 votes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photo of the Day

Magali Noël is Cleopatra in TOTO AND CLEOPATRA

Of course, the whole thing is played for laughs so everything about Cleo is over-the-top. I don't know if this film is available in English. I wish a sub version would exist.

Sex & Sandal

From Frederic Bertocchini's blog; called PHAIAX and takes place in antiquity.

This sexy French comic hasn't been published and they're still looking for publishers. 

The Colossus of L.A.

PEPLUM star Arnold Schwarzenegger commissions 8' tall bronze statues of many? The number of times he won the Mr. Olympia body-building title.

Humble, he ain't. What would Steve Reeves think about this? Arf.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Photo(s) of the Day

 Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina and Gabriele Antonini ride a wagon in HERCULES UNCHAINED

Now this might seem unspectacular to most but if you know Pietro Francisci films like I do (he's one of my favourite PEP directors), you know that these moments are almost a fetish for the Italian director. He LOVED these scenes. Every film of his have one or two of these moments when there's a long acting bit that takes place on a moving wagon, chariot or horseback. More often than not, the scenes were shot in a studio and they tried to give the illusion of movement with shadows going over the actors and trees flashing by in the background on some rail set-up. Very quaint and very Francisci. There are scenes like this in QUEEN OF SHEBA, multiples scenes in SAPPHO ~ VENUS OF LESBOS, one very long moment like this in SIEGE OF SYRACUSE; in HERCULES, SAMSON and ULYSSES Kirk Morris is on horseback and talks to Liana Orfei who's lying sideways in a wooden bandwagon next to his horse, etc.  You rarely see extended moments like these in any other Sword & Sandal films made by other directors.

I included both photos because I didn't know which one to use for Photo of the Day.

PEPLUM Behind the Scenes + Update on Blog page

Cristina Gaioni sneaks up to Ed Fury during the production of THE MIGHTY URSUS.

I wondered if I could or should use this photo as the "Photo of the Day" but there's no such moment in the film itself. During all their scenes together, we never see the two lying on the ground in daytime. They're on horseback in the desert and end up at a camp at night. So it looks more like a publicity shot and/or a behind the scenes photo; while Ed soaks up the sun, Cristina is about to prank him or kiss him.

- Uploaded to the HEROES & BEEFCAKE page with a section dedicated to Ed Fury -

A PEPLUM that almost was

Rita Hayworth was set to star in JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN but the project was shelved when Columbia honcho Harry Cohn refused to have two of her ex-husbands Orson Welles and Dick Haymes work for the film. These test shots are probably the only thing left from the failed production. Apparently Kerwin Mathews was slated to star in the title role.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Photo of the Day

Alan Steel is chained to a canon(?) inside a boat and is about to drown in HERCULES AGAINST THE BLACK PIRATE. Photo might be too dark to see but take my word for it. It's a stand-out scene.

Cinematic Confusion

Can you identify this movie under a more familiar title? Hint: it's not made in 1980s.

And the scene on the cover doesn't happen in the movie.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Photo of the Day

Wolf Ruvinskis, Lorena and Tere Velázquez in SHAME OF THE SABINE WOMEN (also known as Rape of the Sabine Women; original title El rapto de las sabinas).

The only vintage PEPLUM made in Mexico is surprisingly solid, colourful and entertaining. Like many Mexican films, the level of cheesecake and beefcake is high! :-) Wolf, a Latvian who lived in South America before having a successful film career in Mexico, was also a professional wrestler and, obviously, appeared in many Mexican wrestling films as a masked hero, including the cool Santo films. The two main female characters are played by real sisters, which gives the film a nice twist. Lorena is still acting in movies/tv these days. The sole US actor in it was Lex Johnson (not pictured), a hunky fellow who only made one film and a few episodes for 4 different TV series before disappearing from the face of the earth. The film takes the Sabine legend seriously even though it has a cheeky tone to it but it's not as comedic as the Roger Moore one, ROMULUS AND THE SABINES. I played this film on PEPLUM TV last night and it won't be the last time. Highly recommended.

Movie Poster Mondays

US poster for the b-movie SINS OF JEZEBEL starring Paulette Goddard. Have you see it?

The film starts with a narrator describing the beginning of life on earth, narrated by John Hoyth. Then the camera pulls out of a painting and we see John as modern-day minister and he then gives us a sermon about sin and satan. I then realize "oh, it's one of those film...". Very low budget Bible studies kind of film. In Ansco Color (which is another name for Agfa)! Hoyt appears as the modern day minister during the film (which took me out of it)  and it ends with him, giving us a mini-sermon with a slight (corny) twist. For me, the film was more the John Hoyt show than a saucy Paulette Goddard one. Not the fun camp film I expected with such a title and poster. Stodgy is the word I would use to describe it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Photo of the Day

Jacques Sernas & Belinda Lee are stalwart lovers in GODDESS OF LOVE

Cool photo. 

Recent Purchase: ATHENA

I purchased the VHS tape of ATHENA on eBay. There's a DVD available but it's one of those on-demand DVDs that you can't play on computers and/or DVD writers. Also I can't purchase it as Warner made it impossible for us folks in Canada to buy any of their titles. Really stupid stuff. So a VHS tape will have to do. I'm doing a profile on Edmund Purdom and this is one of the missing films in my collection. Oh, and someone called Steve Reeves is in too.

PEPLUM Directors: William Castle

Before becoming a showman, director William Castle directed straight films without any gimmicks. I've seen all of his Sword & Sandal/Swashbucklers  and though they'll never be considered great works of cinema I have to say that I was entertained by all of them, with THE SARACEN BLADE, SLAVES OF BABYLON and DUEL ON THE MISSISSIPPI being my favourites.

He also directed SERPENT OF THE NILE, the unlikely Cleopatra opus with Rhonda Fleming and THE IRON GLOVE starring Robert Stack. But the first films mentioned above are above average and are truly entertaining. Ricardo Montalban is excellent in THE SARACEN BLADE and except for a few cheap shots of stock footage, it's solid from beginning to end. DUEL ON THE MISSISSIPPI might not seem to be a PEPLUM but it is as it's all about sword fights and it stars Lex Barker. Need I say more? Lex is pretty impressive in this film and Castle got the best out of him. And SLAVES OF BABYLON has a high number of impressive scenes in it which makes it a stand-out. Hollywood "B-movie" Sword & Sandals made in the 1940s and early 1950s are all but forgotten today and this post is just to shed some much needed light on them. And Castle's films are some of the best of the forgotten bunch.

An impressive Lex Barker in DUEL ON THE MISSISSIPPI

Ricardo Montalban makes THE SARACEN BLADE

One of the many stand-out scenes in SLAVES OF BABYLON

The beautiful Rhonda Fleming in SERPENT OF THE NILE

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Photo of the Day

Closing off my Edmund Purdom week at the blog, here's Ed as Strato in JULIUS CAESAR(1953). 

It's a small role and it happens at the very end of the film but it's memorable. This was his first PEPLUM role. I'm a fan of Edmund and often wished his career had a been a tad more illustrious but I'm happy with what he's left us with. I'll do a video retrospective of his career and upload it to my main PEPLUM Youtube page once it's completed.

Future PEPLUM Stars?

Various photos of fans dressed up as Spartan or Roman warriors seen at Comic-Con, Pride parades and such I've come across from different websites, including this one (content warning). Cool stuff. The Sword & Sandal genre is very much alive.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Photo of the Day

Edmund Purdom in SALAMMBO (1960). He's perfectly evil in this scene. He would make Darth Vader quiver in his space boots. He's got a fantastic wardrobe too.

I made a Fan Dub of this film because the one available in English is in a horrible state.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Photo of the Day

Edmund Purdom in WHITE SLAVE SHIP. It's one of those films that's eluded me. Very difficult to get a hold of. I won't be playing it on PEPLUM TV that's for sure.

Greek plinth

Real Greek Plinth vs Movie Plinth;

Screen captures from "Hercules Challenges Samson" starring Kirk Morris.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Photo of the Day


Though he's the main star of the film, he doesn't play the title role but Suleiman's assistant. Also, Edmund appears 30 minutes into the film. 

Before they were PEPLUM Stars: Gordon Mitchell

Gordon Mitchell, on the right, played a tiny role in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS before appearing in starring roles in films made in Europe. He probably wished he had Charlton Heston's role.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Photo of the Day

Edmund Purdom battles with a vulture in THE PRODIGAL.

I admit that this is not one of my favourite PEP films even though I do recognize the excellent production values and such. I just find it a tad slow. Part of the storyline was recycled in CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) and the scene pictured above recalls the moment when Conan is attack by a vulture and he then bites its head off. So THE PRODIGAL has had some influence in cinema.

I'll be showing films of Edmund all week on PEPLUM TV.

The PEPLUM Perfect Storm

Even though I wasn't born back then, it's easy to see why and how HERCULES became such a big hit, created a PEPLUM explosion, spawning hundreds of other pulpy action film set in antiquity. The PEPLUM Explosion, also known as Musclemen Epics, was a unique phenomena that will probably never be seen again. Here's a quick round-up of the Perfect Storm of trends back then which helped the Pietro Francisci opus become the quasi-legendary film that it's now regarded as.


Comic books were at an all time popularity back then. New drawing styles and printing technology made comic books look snazzy and cool. Distributor extraordinaire Joseph Levine used the comic book medium during the promotion of HERCULES and it worked. Incidentally, though never mentioned as, HERCULES is the first superhero film ever made. There were serials and TV series of Superman or Batman but never a full movie dedicated to a super-human being or a mortal superhero until HERCULES. 


Who doesn't know or hasn't seen this legendary advertising? It was printed in practically every comic book starting as far back as 1941. This simple ad ignited interest in physical fitness in more young men than anything else. The growing interest in physical fitness subsequently created a new market for bodybuilding magazines.


Exercise magazines, while some were actually about bodybuilding and many others were carefully concealed beefcake mags showcasing men in various state of undress, were incredibly popular. Some had a circulation of over 500,000 a month. Many bodybuilders, like Steve Reeves or Mark Forest, or beefcake models such as Richard Harrison (above) first appeared in these magazines before flying off to Italy to star in PEPLUM movies.


Not only were bodybuilding/beefcake magazines extremely popular back then but also a myriad number of "man's magazines" which featured pulpy short stories, some written by soon-to-be-famous authors like Mario Puzo, that were filled with violence, sex and all things questionable which drew men to them. The covers were always fantastic (I have several books on these and they're great; link), drawn by incredibly talented artists. Those covers and the movie posters of PEPLUM films were identical in style and in the use of screaming colour. In order words, not very subtle.


Professional wrestling entered a new age of popularity when it was shown live on TV. Many PEPLUM action films, with their beefy heroes and prolonged action scenes often recalled pro-wrestling antics. Also, wrestling scenes were often part of the stories and are a veritable PEPLUM cliché. 


Starting with SAMSON & DELILAH and QUO VADIS in Hollywood and FABIOLA in Europe, the big EPIC films were all the rage again. Joseph Levine already had a hit with ATTILA starring Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn. When Levine acquired HERCULES starring Mr America and Mr Universe Steve Reeves and released it with a big publicity campaign, including printing of a comic book, this basically translated into a massive hit.

HERCULES: Box Office hit!

All these trends culminated in the mid to late 1950s and they can all be seen in HERCULES. It's no wonder the film, released in 1958, captured the public's imagination. HERCULES was a worldwide hit, not just in the US. But the incredible success of the modest Italian film in the US meant that almost every film producer in Europe started churning out an endless number of PEPLUM films at an incredible rate which lasted until the mid-1960s. The trend died when big Hollywood films like CLEOPATRA and FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE were box office disasters and European Sword & Sandal films started cutting corners and often re-edited their movies into "new" films which turned off audiences who felt duped. 

Uploaded at the PEPLUM Introduction page.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Photo of the Day

Charlton Heston struts his stuff in ANTONY & CLEOPATRA. Eric Porter tries not to look there. 

This is a total Heston project: he starred, directed and adapted the Shakespeare play himself. Some have criticized the film as an overblown ego project and that this scene in particular, deemed as unnecessary nudity with Heston simply showing off, is a perfect example of it. This scene wouldn't make the cut today.

Movie Poster Mondays

Gorgeous French poster for the Steve Reeves version of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD

Every shade of Moira Orfei

The many shades of colour of Moira Orfei displayed in REVOLT OF THE PRAETORIANS.

Before Cher, there was Moira Orfei.