Sunday, May 27, 2012

Article on the PEPLUM genre

A month old article on what's good and what's bad about current PEPLUM productions. Written by Jason Apazzo, of Libertas Film Magazine, a blog that does articles on the PEPLUM genre on a  irregular basis which I always seem to miss. The article is fun and even though I agree with a few points (certainly the one about the Goddesses and CGI armies) I have to say that I disagree with most of the rest. The comments section is close at the Libertas web site but people can still reply at Huffington Post (cough!). Here's what I wrote (abbreviated at HP):

Well I agree with some points but I mostly disagree with the article on many points, certainly the most important aspect:  Spoiled Heroes with Super-powers and Abs.

If you look at old PEPLUM flicks, one of the main characteristics was the hero was often if not always shirtless, showing abs, showing legs, etc. Steve Reeves, Mark Forest, Ed Fury, Gordon Mitchell, Alan Steel, etc all displayed their physiques. They weren't called musclemen films for nothing. Heck even Charlton Heston was often with nothing but a so your complaint that today's heroes are obsessed with abs rings false because it's simply traditional to the genre but also because today's heroes do not show a lot of skin certainly compared to films made 50 years ago (you'd think it would be the opposite). 

Except for 300, the SPARTACUS tv series and few other titles, the heroes in current Sword & Sandal films are covered from head to toe: Sam Whatshisname in CLASH OF THE TITANS remakes (as shown in the photo in the article!). Russell Crowe in the (overrated) GLADIATOR. The list goes on and on. I'd rather watch the old films because they had a much healthier attitude towards display of skin than today.

I agree that fake digital armies are a let down but the same thing can be said about big digital monsters. The Kraken in the CLASH OF THE TITANS remake was terrible. Because they can make anything with digital imagery doesn't mean it'll actually work in the final film. 

Another aspect which you didn't mention is that today's films are way too serious. IMO, what makes old PEP films fun to watch is the often jovial aspects which are simply none existent in super serious films like TROY, IMMORTALS, 300, SPARTACUS tv series, etc. They are so oppressively serious that I find them claustrophobic, borderline unwatchable. Give me a Pietro Francisci film anytime over these films. Pietro knew how to balance humor with action and drama with some kitsch and camp along with the beefcake and cheesecake.


Jason Apuzzo said...

Greetings and I'm glad you caught the article. And actually, you and I probably agree about this subject much more than you think.

First of all, let me unequivocally state that I prefer the old peplum films to the new ones! You are entirely right that the new films are much too serious, indeed often "oppressively" so. Which is another way of saying that they're dull. I'll take a Steve Reeves film any day over the current fare. I think much of this has to do with the spirit of the older films - which tended to be much sweeter, more romantic, and nobler in the depictions of their heroes. They caught the adventurous, uplifting qualities of the myths much better than today's films.

Also, the villains were more clever and devious - real schemers. And as I mentioned in the article, there were so many more women! That may be the most important factor of all ...

I think you may have misunderstood my comments about the abs(!). What I was really trying to get at was the spoiled, vacuous, narcissistic quality of today's peplum stars. I know that they used to show more skin back then, but the stars still came across as more rugged and heroic. That's the vital issue.

Keep up the great work on this site - I really love it, and visit it all the time. It's a great resource for peplum fans ... and PLEASE see if you can find a decent copy of that peplum movie that Jayne Mansfield did with her husband. I've been trying to find a copy of that film for years!

- Jason Apuzzo, Libertas Film Magazine

PEPLUM cinema said...

Hey Jason

I was pleased with the article even though I disagreed with several points. I might have misunderstood you re: abs but it's still a prominent aspect of the genre that can't be dismissed.

I think what you were describing (and what I misunderstood) about the Abs bit is exactly what I described as films being too serious, with every character shouting, growling in a super-macho way (read: compensating way), which is a turn off to me. I can barely watch 300 because of the nearly all male cast screaming their dialogue.

I think movies in the past were also more authentic to the tone of the settings. There's almost nothing authentic in IMMORTALS, whether it's the Olympians in the sky or what's on Earth. It seems Hollywood is terrified of all things Greek and they need to re-imagine it for today's audiences.

I have LOVES OF HERCULES (aka Hercules vs the Hydra). It was released on DVD a few years ago, on a Hercules compilation. The image is 4:3 but it's in English. The widescreen version is only available in Europe, in French or Italian.

Thanks for dropping by! I'll try to catch your PEP articles in time so this way I can comment on them.