Friday, April 29, 2016

By the Gods!

Armand Mestral and Edmund Purdom in WHITE SLAVE SHIP

This is an extremely rare film, in English anyway. Mestral starred in MORGAN THE PIRATE. Purdom was a PEPLUM star and eventually lived in Rome until his death. A great looking film which takes place entirely on the boat. I recently got hold of two copies, in French and Italian, but I haven't watched either of them in full, just scanned parts of it, and it looks good.

BEN-HUR statue at Cinecittà

Retro Friday : Old posts updated (originally posted on April 6, 2011)

One of the modified BEN-HUR statues still resides at Cinecittà.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

By the Gods!

Howard Ross (Renato Rossini) and Ken Clark try to coax Gloria Milland in HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS

I like these three actors.  Gloria's character is difficult to describe. She bad and good. This film is crowded with villains but not as crowded as HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS, in which Howard Ross and Ken Clark re-appeared together (not the same roles). I like HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS but I prefer MONGOLS over this one. But it's still very entertaining.


It's the beginning of an extended fight between Steve Reeves and the cool Benito Stefanelli. Great scene.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

By the Gods!

Edmund Purdom and Liana Orfei in NEFERTITI - QUEEN OF THE NILE

The relationship between Purdom and Orfei is much better than the one between Purdom and Jeanne Crain (Nefertiti). I hate it when this happens in movies : the secondary love affair is more interesting than the main one. QUO VADIS suffers from the same fate : the relationship between Deborah Kerr and Robert Taylor pales in comparison to the one between Marina Berti and Leo Genn. Good film though.


Steve Reeves in a publicity photo (in Rome?) at the airport promoting one of his films

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

By the Gods!

Elaine Stewart is pampered by her handmaidens in THE ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA

There's plenty of cheesecake in this old 20th Century Fox Arabian adventure. Out of 10, it would probably rate an 8 for cheesecake. If my memory is correct, this is the first such Arabian adventure  filmed in CinemaScope. The first European-made Arabian adventure filmed in CinemaScope was DESERT WARRIOR.

Erotic Roman Coins

The represented erotic plot was suitable for the provided services. Some of the coins depicted homosexual acts between men.


Monday, April 25, 2016

By the Gods!

Erika (Simonetta Simeoni) pleads with Hercules (Alan Steel) to help her in HERCULES AGAINST ROME

Erika is one of the most annoying characters in any PEPLUM film. I actually understand the character but it doesn't change the fact that she's still annoying. Fun film.

Movie Poster Mondays

US poster for HANNIBAL

You can clearly see the HERCULES influence in this poster's art. Victor doesn't look anything like this in the film.

Friday, April 15, 2016

By the Gods!

Claire Bloom and Richard Burton in ALEXANDER THE GREAT

I like this film. Great production, great cast, great locations. The one major problem : the flat ending. It sorta robs the film's meticulously layered script of a true rousing finale.

As a side note, I'm taking a break.

Retro Friday : Steve Reeves' audition card for SAMSON & DELILAH

Retro Friday : Old posts updated (originally posted on October 2, 2013)

As the story goes, Cecil B DeMille wanted Steve Reeves to play Samson in his upcoming production of SAMSON & DELILAH. Above is the casting card for the role. Things didn't work out, mainly because DeMille thought Reeves' body was too modern for audiences back in 1949. He didn't get the role but he went on to play HERCULES (1958 ; below), which became a huge hit.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

By the Gods!

Rita Hayworth is SALOME

Rita doing the dance of the seven veils. Not a bad film but it's a typical Columbia Pictures production,  which today sorta looks like a TV production.  The script and direction are good but not great. The cast IS amazing (Charles Laughton, Judith Anderson, Stewart Granger, etc). It is entertaining (and shorter than THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) but with a bigger budget and script, this could have been great.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

By the Gods!

Ralf Moeller, Russell Crowe and Djimon Hounsou are gladiators in GLADIATOR

Looks like an NFL football team. This film could be part of the book project posted below. Even though it's different in many aspects from the older PEPLUM films of the Golden Era, the story itself was the same as usual...just with a fresh, new coat of paint.


Harold Bradley takes a photo with Anthony Quinn during the filming of BARABBAS

Book project

Someone asked me if I could help him getting the word out on a book project that will be made of essays on the PEPLUM genre post 1990s. It sounds like a interesting project.

"I have an open call for essays for an upcoming book on neo-peplums. It focuses on the new-wave of peplums after 1990. It's an edited academic anthology, so I have a call for essays and abstracts out there for other academics to see if they would be interested in submitting." - Nicholas Diak

If you're interested in participating, information can be found at the link below.

Neo-Peplum Book

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

By the Gods!


Finally got a hold of a relatively nice copy of this rare film. The only copy available out there is the unwatchable one from Something Weird. I'm very busy these days and once I get some extra time, I'll do a Fan Dub of this : add the English track from the Something Weird copy and edit it to this one. A watchable copy needs to exist. Most of Peter Lupus' PEPLUM films are hard to find, regardless of language or country.

The Real PEPLUM X : Artistic PEPLUM films

The 'Golden Era' of the PEPLUM genre, which was re-ignited back in 1949, re-invigorated after the success of HERCULES (1958), eventually petered out and was all but dead in 1965 after massive flops like CLEOPATRA and THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, and the continuous flood of films from Europe, made audiences tire of the genre.  Big Hollywood productions and pulpy actioners from Italy became passé. The one good thing that lingered on from it was the fact that the human body had been disrobed in that long 16 year span of time. By 1965, the taboo of showing full nudity had disappeared. And out of the ashes of the dead PEPLUM genre came the rise of another type of film set in Antiquity : the artistic PEPLUM films.

All of these films had fee flowing nudity or quasi-nudity. The nudity wasn't titillating (even though some, or many, were probably titillated by it). Films like PHARAON (above) or ROMEO & JULIET by Franco Zeffirelli, didn't shy away from showing flesh. The artistic films didn't last as long as 16 years but their influence was the bridge between the more prudish films of the previous decade and the soon to be raunchy films of the 1970s. I won't go into details about them since it's pretty much self-explanatory : nudity = art.

This doesn't mean there weren't any 'artistic' films made prior to 1965. There were. Films like ELECTRA, directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis is an example of what art-house cinemas had to offer. But those films didn't have any nudity in them. In fact, few of them pushed boundaries but as nudity became more and more acceptable, art films were the first to fully employ this new freedoms of showing the human form with the least amount of clothing, since it was all in the name of art.

Of all those films, the biggest one and the most spectacular one was FELLINI'S SATYRICON. This film did to the PEPLUM genre what 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY did to the science fiction genre. Many don't like it but I think it's brilliant, visually and artistically, and in regards to the PEPLUM genre itself. It was basically the last word of PEPLUM cinema. Nothing could top it, even by today's standards.

So the genre had to die in order to inspire its greatest creation, which is fine by me. I would love to have seen more PEPLUM film made but their stars, like Steve Reeves or Gianna Maria Canale, were just about to retire. And there was an obvious point of saturation. There were just too many films that looked alike, which confused everyone. The genre needed to die to reinvent itself. And re-invent itself it did.

Another film based on the works of Petronius was made to capitalize on the Fellini film, and it was filmed and released before the big budgeted epic. It's often referred to as  SATYRICON BY POLIDORO (bottom left). Not as impressive as the Fellini film, that Satyricon version is still entertaining and watchable.

There were plenty of other films with quasi nudity or full blown nudity in them. The trend would last well into the 1970s, including a couple of PEPLUM films starring former genre superstar, Charlton Heston, but  the bulk of those films would not be considered art films. By the late 1960s, many trashy films began production and they were the same as the PEPLUM films of a few years back but their selling point now was sex and nudity, certainly female nudity. And this is what happened : those who saw Zeffirelli's ROMEO & JULIET loved the sexy scenes of tender lovemaking but they were still pretty chase. This created an audience for more raunchy stories set in Antiquity, for stuff that went beyond just showing breasts or buttocks. And this leads us directly back to the start of this series.

Permanent page for The Real PEPLUM X

Monday, April 11, 2016

By the Gods!

Maciste (Kirk Morris) appears from the rock to help the helpless in MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THUNDERING ECHOES

One of the few films which shows Maciste manifesting out from the rock. This is how Maciste should always make an appearance.

Movie Poster Mondays


Spectacular…and suggestive.

Friday, April 8, 2016

By the Gods!

Kirk Morris shows his strength in SAMSON & THE SEA BEAST

One of those "Elaborate and Impractical Torture devices" I posted about last week. This contraption is a real head scratcher. A boat with a dozen rowers try to row away from the shore with Samson pulling the other way, while surrounded by spears which move towards him if he pulls too hard. Very creative and most likely improbable as well. I love the PEPLUM genre!

Retro Friday : The annual 'Wikipedia PEPLUM page sucks' post!

Retro Friday : Old posts updated (originally posted on January 23, 2015)

This is my annual message to visitors out there not to visit the "PEPLUM' wikipedia page. This is *not* a personal vendetta against them even though they list everything there *except* my blog, which is the most visited blog on the subject on the internet. The personal vendetta is coming more from them than from me.

In 2016, I'll say this : the page has improved...somewhat...clearly because of my dedicated input. A few years ago, the page was a complete mess, now not as much but it's still very condescending and filled with errors. And they still confuse Sword & Sandal with PEPLUM, which was something I specifically mentioned to them back in the da day. Today, they correctly list the genre under PEPLUM but the confusion between the differences still persists.

I've been doing this blog since 2010, which is 6 years now. I might take a break some day but for now it's still going strong.

I was often critiqued by others that the list of films included under the PEPLUM umbrella was too wide or inclusive. I've always disagreed with them and now today, the PEPLUM page lists almost all of those films that I've been saying they were part of the genre. For example, YOR : HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE. I've always listed it as a PEPLUM even though there are sci-fi elements to it. Now the PEPLUM page has YOR listed. Aha! Victory.

Their list is still pretty much incomplete but then if you're interested in the subject you can visit my blog for answers and not the Wiki page. As an example, they still don't list Arabian Adventures of the 1940s as part of the genre, which I've been doing since day one. The sticking point for them is that, according to their way of thinking, PEPLUM means Italian or European films while films produced by Hollywood shouldn't be included. It would be too condescending for those high quality Hollywood films. The Wiki page still holds on to this erroneous, xenophobic and elitist thinking. Oh well...

There are several books out there on the subject, so some might say the slight improvements of the Wiki page were influenced by these books...well, no. Many of the books are good but not great and like I've been saying for a long time, almost all of them are incomplete. They don't list Arabian films, CONAN films or Sword & Sorcery films of the 1980s, which were often made in Italy, often with the same actors or crew from the Golden Era. The list of oversights goes on and on. Most of these books are not awful by any means (while one are downright dreadful). They just don't cover the entire subject like my blog does.

So the 'improvements' at the Wikipedia page were obviously influenced by this blog, a blog they don't want to mention anywhere as reference.

Anyway, here's the post from last year :


This is my annual "Please don't visit the PEPLUM page at Wikipedia" post.

If you search 'Sword and Sandal' at Google like above example and click the first link it'll bring you to the following page (below) which says PEPLUM film genre. Confusing? Not as much as before : Before the name of the page was Sword and Sandal but in the rest of the page they would only use the word PEPLUM to explain the genre. Previously the page was even more confusing but they've made a few changes (recommended by me ; see the Talk section of the page) where I told them how confusing the page says Sword & Sandal but the text only uses PEPLUM.

The page is very condescending and insulting, and full of mistakes.

It's impossible to add anything to it since the hall monitors there categorically refuse any outside input aside from those blessed by them.

The stupid part of the page is they keep saying the PEPLUM genre is cheap knock-offs of Hollywood films when the genre itself was born in Europe. Also, since the whole page is devoid of any logic, how can HERCULES starring Steve Reeves be a cheap Hollywood knock off when that film was the first Hercules film ever made in film history anywhere around the world? How can HERCULES be a knock off when films based on Greek mythology didn't even exist in Hollywood before 1958?

Some other illogical parts of the page mentioned below regarding copyrighted material.

So as a PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT to PEPLUM fans out there: Do not visit the WIKIPEDIA page on the PEPLUM genre.

If you think it's sour grapes or jealousy my blog gets over 1000 hits a day. It's still the most popular website on the internet on the PEPLUM genre. So no it's not that. A more respectful page of the PELUM would be great but alas the one currently available is nothing like that.


Repost from a previous post:

A few years ago I tried to submit my blog to the Sword and Sandal page at Wikipedia. I created an account and logged in and made a few changes and added the link to my blog. Someone monitoring the page removed all my information and said quite clearly that content found at external links have to be copyrighted. I told them that the links listed (see below in red) all fully violate that copyright clause and yet the links are still present today.

Not only that but they actually included links to video distributors whom sell public domain films but of the many titles they sell many of them are not in the public domain.

Also, I've been following the Sword and Sandal page for years now and it's obvious that whoever maintains that page gets info from this blog as the listing changed/improved continuously as my blog kept on going. I never took any info from that page as it was filled with mistakes.

Keep that in mind the next time you go to Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

By the Gods!

Leonora Ruffo and Mark Forest are a couple in GOLIATH & THE DRAGON

Leonora used to headline films back in the 1950s. By the 1960s she mostly played secondary roles, like this one or her role in HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD. She also changed her entire look, making her barely recognizable from previous films. A very talented actress who never got the career she deserved.


Goliath (Hercules in the original, Mark Forest) smashes the blood stone lodged-in on the God of Vengeance statue

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

By the Gods!

Ettore Manni and Georges Marchal in LEGIONS OF THE NILE

It's always great to see either actors in a PEPLUM film, alone and working together such as this one. They were, imo, the best actors in the PEPLUM genre. They both brought a much needed level of quality to their productions even if the film themselves, like this one, weren't that amazing. LEGIONS OF THE NILE is entertaining but not necessarily a great work of filmmaking. 


Reg Park shows a few bodybuilding tips to Fay Spain while filming HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

By the Gods!

Richard Harrison and Salvatore Furnari in REVOLT OF THE PRAETORIANS

The little man is always on the side of the good guys, including in this film. Harrison plays a Roman centurion who disguises himself as the vengeful Red Wolf. Eventually, the little fellow knows about it and this causes problems within Harrison's circle. Fun film. One of the better ones with Richard.

The Real PEPLUM X : Prehistoric Cheesecake!

During the past few weeks, I established the fact that there was a slow, progressive disrobing of the human body, mainly on the male side, and how the PEPLUM genre helped in loosening up the very conservative decade of the 1950s. Mostly due to films from Europe, one could show almost anything of the male physique and seemingly get away with it. Hollywood films were still reluctant in going along with this trend even though some films directed by certain directors did try to capitalize on the Beefcake craze that followed after the success of HERCULES (1958).

I’ve also mentioned in the previous posts how the PEPLUM genre had a kinky side to it with numerous scenes of torture and whippings. This combination would eventually progress to the more provocative stuff made during the 1970s, and beyond, since there was a pretty much established audience for these types of films after the genre resurfaced in 1949 with the success of SAMSON & DELILAH and FABIOLA.

But what about the disrobing of the female body? Since the beginning of cinema, filmmakers have always enjoyed using ‘Cheesecake’ to sell their movies. Bodacious babes dressed in a provocative way always pleased both men and women for a variety of reasons. Films made before the Hayes code, the infamous comity of censors who presided over movies in order to control rampant immoral stuff in them that were becoming mainstream, were often racy and didn’t shy away in showing off women in various states of undress or have immoral female characters, aka prostitutes, in them. But after the Hays code took control, women’s bodies were pretty much covered up. While there was a casual disregard for showing men in any state of undress, censors kept women covered up during this period.

Some European films did show fleeting shots of breasts or even the scandalous belly button here and there, and films like AND GOD CREATED WOMEN began to disrobe the female body beyond the tight dresses women wore in films set in the 1950s, or those set in in the distant past. Then DR NO came along in 1962, it had Ursula Andress in a revealing swimsuit (above, top left) that didn't cover up her belly button well things were finally changing, but oh so slowly. Many movies made after the James Bond hit were still prudish, including those BEACH BLANKET BINGO (above right) type of films were the women wore 'granny' bottoms to make sure their navels were covered up.

With the PEPLUM genre, there was always an equal amount of Cheesecake to go along with the Beefcake. It’s just that Beefcake was more prominent since beefy, muscular heroes wearing next to nothing became a selling point at the time, certainly after HERCULES became a worldwide hit.

The one thing that set women apart from men were the mores of the era in which the stories were set. Historically speaking, women were always covered up in settings of the past. For example, a story during the renaissance could only show women in bosomy, tight fitted dresses. Except for when women took baths, female characters showing too much skin would appear historically inaccurate. And since the PEPLUM genre are stories set in Antiquity or in the distant past, the genre itself wasn't automatically conducive to abundant displays of female flesh, excluding harems of course.

So both Hollywood and Europe were still on the look out for any type of film set in the past in which women wore the least amount of clothes. Then this film came along, called ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966), starring Raquel Welch, who only wore an anachronistic fur bikini throughout the movie. Belly button on full display. This was in 1966, just after the PEPLUM explosion petered out. Though not as big and influential as HERCULES, ONE MILLION YEARS BC did to the display of female flesh what HERCULES and Stevee Reeves did for the male physique.

After the success of the Raquel Welch film, there was simply no going back. The female belly button and thighs were finally free for good! A flood of cavemen films set in prehistoric time were made afterwards, all of them with women wearing next to nothing, such as WHEN WOMEN HAD TAILS starring Senta Berger (above). It was the perfect excuse setting for showing female flesh. Of course, they had very little historical accuracy to them but people didn't complain about this as long as Raquel wore very little. This doesn't mean that the men in these films were covered up. They weren't. John Richardson wore very little in ONE MILLION YEARS BC but that the selling point of these films, Prehistoric Cheesecake, was like the selling point of the majority of PEPLUM films, Heroic Beefcake.

Mind you, ONE MILLION YEARS BC wasn't the first cavemen / prehistoric film ever made. There were a bunch of them made during the 1950s and even during the PELUM explosion. But the women were not very scantily clad. Films like WILD WOMEN OF WONGO (above left) had cave women dressed appropriately (covered navels), and coiffed in style. Though these films were considered "exploitation" movies at the time and few people took notice of them, they were the beginning of a trend which would eventually lead to ONE MILLION YEARS BC, a film produced by Hammer Studios and released by Warner Brothers.

As much 'Cheesecake" there was in WILD WOMEN OF WONGO, the Beefcake in it still dominated. That super low budget film starred future PEPLUM actor Ed Fury (above right) who would go to Europe and find success there as THE MIGHTY URSUS and other muscle bound epics.

One of the genre's foray into prehistorical setting was COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE starring Margaret Lee and Reg Lewis (aka Fire Monsters vs the Son of Hercules). Made in 1962, it was as accurate as the Welch film (meaning not very). The big difference, of course, is that the flesh on display was the male variety. Margaret is covered up in it.

By 1966, after ONE MILLION YEARS BC was released, both the male and female bodies were pretty much disrobed. The buttoned-up 1950s were a distant past. Oddly enough, the PEPLUM genre itself, as they had come to know it back then, since it had re-emerged in 1949 and had lasted up to 1965, had died. No more Beefcake Heroes. And while Cheesecake took over, for a short period, it certainly didn't last 16 years. The big Hollywood epics or the pulpy European films set in Antiquity were dead, but then a new type of PEPLUM film emerged that pushed the limits of nudity on screen : the artistic PEPLUM film.

Permanent page for The Real PEPLUM X

Monday, April 4, 2016

By the Gods!

Jeff Chandler and Rita Gam in SIGN OF THE PAGAN

Rita died on March 22. She was 88 years old. She made a couple of PEPLUM films, including HANNIBAL and KING OF KINGS (1961). In this film she portrays a barbarian woman who falls for Chandler and becomes a Christian. Of course her father, Attila (played by Jack Palance) is not happy about this. RIP Rita.

Movie Poster Mondays

Spanish poster for...ANTHAR THE INVINCIBLE

Hmm...totally different take of the movie. Instead of selling it as a Hero film, distributors in Spain decided to sell it from the female protagonist's angle, which is a bit odd considering the film itself.

Friday, April 1, 2016

By the Gods!

Yul Brynner, as Rameses, leads his army to in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

Last weekend, ABC played the film for the umpteenth time. It's amazing that this film is still viewed on an US TV network after being made 60+ years ago. I haven't seen EXODUS yet. I can't wait to compare it with this. The one thing that's sorta odd is that Easter weekend is about the crucifixion of Jesus and yet they show a film about Moses. Hmm...

Retro Friday : King of Kings vs The Greatest Story Ever Told

Retro Friday : Old posts updated (originally posted on April 27, 2011)

We're still in Easter week. Here's a quick rundown of the two big Jesus films of the 1960s :

King of Kings

- Jeffrey Hunter near brilliant as Jesus

- Robert Ryan totally miscast as John the Baptist

- Siobhan McKenna wasn't convincing as Mary

- Narration was obtrusive

- Intro was super long. 20+ minutes to get story going

- Very episodic script

- Because of narration and quick rundown of story, the film felt like bible studies

- Location didn't look like Israel/Middle East. It looked like, well, Spain where it was shot.

- Fantastic score by Miklós Rózsa

- Ending at the beach fell flat

- Studio-bound and looksHollywood-ish from time to time

- Some beautiful sets and production design

- A bit of a heavy-handedness to it

The Greatest Story Ever Told

- Max Von Sydow totally miscast as Jesus; his voice alone doesn't work

- Claude Rains totally miscast as Herod the Great

- Charlton Heston sounds better than Robert Ryan as John the Baptist but looks ridiculous in fake looking wig and beard

- Almost entire cast is miscast: Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate?

- Constant use of cameos are terrible; with John Wayne's being the worst

- Narration wasn't obtrusive

- Stunning production design

- Stunning cinematography

- Beautiful, realistic locations

- Direction more fluid and organic

- More realistic looking

- Music score is good but film employs classical music which was beautifully incorporated with story

- Relies on classical music and Michelangelo's paintings to set up scene so a bit of laziness in direction here

- Ending has more impact than King of Kings but still sorta flat

All in all, it's a virtual tie with The Greatest Story Ever Told edging out King of Kings because of stunning production design/cinematography, etc. Now if they combined the best qualities from both films then there would be the perfect film: King of the Greatest Story Ever Told! Posted at the Special Features page.