Thursday, May 10, 2012


EPIC FILMS by Gary Allen Smith

This is a quick review of a book made up of a list of films filed under the "Epic" category, which includes Biblical films, pulpy Sword & Sandal mini-epics from the 1940s and early 1950s and of course Italian/European PEPLUM films. Unlike the recently reviewed CINEMA ITALIANO, this book is so much better in about every aspect: much more professional, serious and researched. It's still comes up short on a few important  aspects but overall the author lists the cast, part of the crew, alternate titles, etc, much like IMDb and gives a quick synopsis and shares his views of the listed films.

His reviews are fun to read: even if I don't agree with all of them I still enjoyed reading them and looked forward to the next. It's always fun reading something from someone with a good knowledge of this subject I most enjoy, which is the direct opposite of CINEMA ITALIANO which was condescending and uninformed and I didn't even bother reading the entire book. For instance, his review of SAPPHO VENUS OF LESBOS, which is positive, makes many valid points on why it's such a fun film.

Another cool aspect of this book are the photos. I've seen a lot of photos on the internet and remarkably this book contains many photos I've never seen anywhere else. A definite plus.

As I've mentioned, the book comes up short on a few important aspects: it lists over 350 titles which is insufficient. In my collection I have over 600+ titles. Arf. Anyway, Mr Smith doesn't list CONAN THE BARBARIAN, its sequel or any Sword & Sorcery films from the 1980s up to today, which is a HUGE oversight. Some might not consider them Epic films but any story with sword fights taking place in Antiquity is, well, automatically a PEPLUM in my view and the CONAN films and the gazillion copies that came afterwards should be included. The author neglects to list Swashbucklers and a lot of Medieval titles as well. For example, one of the first films I looked up was MORGAN THE PIRATE starring Steve Reeves which to my surprised is not listed. Again, this is a huge oversight. It's one of Steve's best films and should be included in any such lists. Other example: EL CID starring Charlton Heston is included but SWORD OF EL CID starring Roland Carey is not. Hmm...both films are about the same subject so why not include the latter one? I have to admit that the book had many  titles I wasn't aware of so I guess that somewhat compensated a bit.

I could enumerate a few mistakes as well but it wasn't too bad. The book claims it includes 355 titles but 20 of them are just listed with production information: title, crew and year of release. No review as the author probably didn't see them, which is not problem as at least he didn't neglect them but maybe reviews can be included in future editions? And with the current new wave of PEPLUM films like 300, CLASH OF THE TITANS remake or IMMORTALS, well, this book seriously needs to be updated.

The one thing I did find a bit annoying is the price. At $40 it's too much.

Overall, even if I know many titles are missing I still recommend EPIC FILMS. It's a fun book to peruse and with the cool photos it's thumbs up. All of the book's shortcomings can easily be rectified in a third edition.

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