Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vintage article on the PEPLUM genre

The article is not complete but it's interesting to read.


Michael O'Sullivan said...

Ha! Well done ! Where did you find this? As I mentioned before I have the magazine with the full seven page feature, plus 2 other vintage articles on peplums from magazines of the early 60s, which I can either scan or photocopy for you.

Unknown said...

Parallel between Fairbanks and Reevs seems to me to be very accurate. Reeves could be Italian Fairbanks, (Thief of Baghdad, is the best proof of this) if he just took his career seriously and took acting lessons to be (he was charming enough). The article is not found, but I have a strange certainty that there is nothing about that what fascinated me in the peplum long ago: innovative cinematography (this camera drive-in!), stunning visual flair, cheap but very imaginative special effects, monumental matte paintings and a lot of great talent on their side jobs, which later went its own way: Bava, Leone, Corbucci, Morricone, Lambardi, Gastaldi, Rustichelli, Pogany among others.
Peplum is a big piece of cinema history.
Ps.What we see in the picture is a shot from "Omphale episode" and that was directorial effort of Mario Bava. Francisci was not there.

PEPLUM cinema said...

Yes, Michael I'd love a scan of any articles. I don't remember where I found this I have tons of photos in several folders so...

As for what Bava did in a film is unimportant. Pietro Francisci did more films without Bava than he did with him and his career was still great. For example, THE QUEEN OF SHEBA is one of my favorite PEPLUM films and Bava was not involved in that production. Everything about that film is great: sets, costumes, cinematography, etc. Pietro didn't need Bava to make a great film. Bava was great but he never made a fun film like QUEEN OF SHEBA.

Unknown said...

Okay, you're such a Francisci fan as I am Bava fan, but I protest against the suggestion that Bava hard work on both Hercules was unimportant. The idea in both production was such that Francisci leading actors (in that he was a whole lot better than Bava) and Bava doing all around the actors (in that he was a whole lot better than Francisci)-cinematography, matte paintings and matte shots, papier mache sculptures, lighting trick, battle scenes, opticals, set design, scale models of ancient Mycenae and God knows what else.This idea was broken (however Francisci gave him a carte blanche for mise-en-scene) and Bava partly directed both Hercules-the Omphale episode with Steve Reeves and Sylvia Lopez (with design taken by Bava from early silent GW Pabst films) is almost half of the film! I am not insinuating that Francisci not doing great films without Bava, but both gentelman work together for a long time-begining the Francisci shorts from 1957 (Cristo in Gerusaleme, Musica nel cielo, Passagio del mare) by featured films Natale al campo (dp), Il leone di Amalfi and Antonio di Padova (dp, special effects), Attila (additional footage, special visual effects), Roland the Mighty(dp, sfx and co-directed by Bava) and ending of Hercules. Bava often working uncredited, so the question of his involvement in "The Queen of Sheba"(which was create in a period of increased cooperation between the two filmmakers) is still open.
In the 1961 interview Riccardo Freda said:
"Onetime, I practically ruined an Italian director by taking away the possibility of having Bava as cameraman, I prefer not to mention this character's name...". But I prefer-it was Pietro Francisci who wants Bava to his next film "Siege of Syracuse".
And the fact is that Francisci never repeated the commercial success of Hercules. His career ended after the "Star Pilot", which he filmed using the set desing created by Bava and Carlo Lambardi for "Planet of Vampires"!
So much about our differences of opinion. I'm not Bava fanatic, but after years it must do him justice for both Hercules.
Ps. GLI INVASORI is a lot of fun.

Unknown said...

My mistake, the shorts was from 1947.

PEPLUM cinema said...

I'm not saying Bava's work in both Hercules films is not important. It is. I love some scene just for the cinematography BUT if you look at the bigger picture: Francisci *wrote* both HERCULES films and he directed both of them. And we've heard a lot of quotes from Steve Reeves on Francisci's direction but most importantly, if you look at QUEEN OF SHEBA, it's basically a template for many PEPLUM films to come, including both HERCULES films. So there's a style that one can trace between QOS and both HERCULES films. Bava's role is creating the look is important but not the direction or story because everything you see in the HERCULES films one can *already* see it in QUEEN OF SHEBA and Bava wasn't involved in that film.


Unknown said...

Sure. I have no doubt that both Hercules were Pietro Francisci movies. And i have no dobut that he had a decisive influence on their final shape. But your assumption about style that one can trace between QUEEN OF SHEBA and both HERCULES films is only partly true. Bava cinematography is easy to recognize as well as his directorial efforts (always in shakespearian tone and stormy/lollipop lights): Iole nightmarish night when she dreams of the supposed execution of Arturo Dominici (as shadow on the wall), first Dominici appearance after the "execution",(when he comes out of the shadow!), Hercules talk with Oracle (typically Bava pathos in a stormy red and blue frames), scene of the storm at the sea and short scene, when Gianna Maria Canale talk with amazonian matron priestesses-all this scenes have strong Bava signature. In "Hercules Unchained' is a much more of that. Of course, these are little things, but put together and well integrated into the film (certainly by Francisci), make up the climate. Francisci next film L'ASSEDIO DI SIRACUSA doesn't have that visual flair what HERCULES and the visual effects are not as well integrated.
I take the view that artistic and commercial success of both Hercules was the result of two great talents work and commitment, and that's all.
Ps.Interesting: on you tube is very short 42 seconds of Francisci pseudo-documentary "Antonio di Padova" (under the title of "Si gira di S. Antonio), mixed with a footage from movie set when Bava behind the camera and Francisci next to him are visible for about two seconds. Aldo Fabrizi play episode role of Ezzelino Da Romano.


Pal said...

I would disagree on that "Francisci next film L'ASSEDIO DI SIRACUSA doesn't have that visual flair what HERCULES and the visual effects are not as well integrated".

To me, the cinematography of ARCHIMEDES is just excellent, and the film's matte paintings are beautiful - and even more sophisticated than that of HERCULES.

PEPLUM cinema said...

I have to agree with Pal here. ARCHIMEDES/SIEGE is one of the best looking PEPLUM films ever made. Big and lush.

And I also agree that later Francisci films, such as ARCHIMEDES/SIEGE, don't have the Bava look. The flashback scene in HERCULES is one of the coolest moments ever. I've always said that the first HERCULES film is a great atmospheric PEPLUM/Action film that few people "get" and Bava's cinematography is responsible for this. It's a great collaboration between Francisci and Bava.

But Francisci's later films didn't need the Bava look, like SAPPHO or ARCHIMEDES/SIEGE which is a quasi-historical/ Romance film and Bava's super atmospheric style wouldn't have worked. It's perfect for mythological heroes fighting amazons and monster, like the Francisci HERCULES films or Bava's own HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD but not a sweeping Historical Romance. As it is, ARCHIMEDES/SIEGE is a beautiful tapestry, and like Pal said, visually speaking, it's often more sophisticated than HERCULES. The siege at the end is more complex than anything Francisci did before even if the battle at the Seaside Fortress evokes the similar exciting battles in QUEEN OF SHEBA and HERCULES UNCHAINED.

As for Riccardo Freda, who was also a great visual stylist, his work has often been credited to Bava (Freda was fired from I VAMPIRI and Bava took over) but Freda has nothing to prove or worry since his work in SPARTACO and MACISTE IN HELL, all made without Bava, speak for themselves and his amazing visual flare.

Thanks for that Youtube clip, Harry_Roat.

Unknown said...

"but Freda has nothing to prove or worry since his work in SPARTACO and MACISTE IN HELL, all made without Bava, speak for themselves and his amazing visual flare".
I hate to be dick, but unfortunately it's not true. As I wrote Bava often worked uncredited and his contribution to the many film after years are coming to the light.
Tim Lucas, in his high-precision Bava biography "All the colors of the dark" describes retail the period of 1953-1964 when Freda and Bava work together, including such films as SPARTACO, TEODORA, IMPERATICE DI BISANZIO, BEATRICE CENCI, NEL SEGNO DI ROMA, THE WHITE WARRIOR, I GIGANTI DELLA TESSAGLIA, MACISTE ALLA CORTE DE GRAN KHAN, LE SETTE SPADE DEL VENDICATORE, MACISTE ALL'INFERNO and ORO PER I CESARI (officialy Andre de Toth film). With all of these productions Bava was present in a variety of roles and different was the severity of his involvement, but he was always close to the camera. It is also worth mentioning that most of the "Caltiki-the immortal monster" was directed by Bava, Freda took about 10% of the film. Most of this information comes from Freda himself, but also from cast crew and actors.

PEPLUM cinema said...

Because someone made coffee for the crew one day doesn't mean he directed, produced, wrote, edited the film.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, but Lucas (and Freda too) doesn't write anything about making coffee, but lots of second unit direction and second unit cinematography, matte paintings and matte shots, scale models, opticals, lighting techniques, additional footages, special effects
supervisions, postproduction works and scenes in these films which have a very strong signature of individual Bava style. And all of this is very well documented. Facts may be surprising, but never silly.
Freda: "In any case, it must be said that Bava was, in effect, the true maker of many films, because his contributions qualified him to replace other directors of renown on several occasions-Pietro Francisci for LE
FATICHE DI ERCOLE (1958), Jacques Tourneur for LA BATTAGLIA DI MARATONA (1959), etc.".
And Freda once more: "We made a lot of movies together, and some of these his name dos not even appear, sucha as SPARTACO (1953), for which he shot all of the scenes at the arena in Verona".
Much more Freda quotes you find in the book, if you only can.

Anonymous said...

The article reference is:

Richard Whitehall, 'Days of Strife and Nights of Orgy', Films and Filming, vol. 9, no. 6, March 1963, pp. 8–14.