Tuesday, May 31, 2016

By the Gods!

Delilah (Rosalba Neri) and Prince of Gaza (Paolo Gozlino) in GREAT LEADERS OF THE BIBLE

This version of the fabled story is the second part of a film made with two short stories taken from the bible (the first story is Gideon). Not bad but this Italian version, which is just about one hour long, showcases the fundamental problem with the story of Samson & Delilah : there's simply not enough to warrant a full length feature. Even the 1949 Hollywood version by Cecil B DeMille was stretched and padded to the point of being almost a parody. It's a story that can easily be told in 15 minutes. Rosalba makes an interesting Delilah but the fellow who plays Samson, Anton Geesink, gives an even more boring take on the famous role than Victor Mature. But the true star of this short segment is Paolo Gozlino. Every time he's on screen, you can't take your attention away from him.

Identify the movie

Can you identify this film?

The answer : THE TARTARS

Monday, May 30, 2016

By the Gods!

Poppea (Olinka Berova aka Olga Schoberová) tries to seduce Claudio Valerio (Brad Harris) in POPPEA'S HOT NIGHTS

Both Olga and Brad were married for two years. This union produced a small child and this film. A rarely shown film, it was one of the first to add sex and nudity in a film of the PEPLUM genre. You can read The Real PEPLUM X for an overview of how Sword & Sandal films became Sex and Sandal films.

Movie Poster Mondays

Yugoslavian poster for CAESAR AGAINST THE PIRATES

Gordon Mitchell is spelt Micel. Abe Lane is featured more prominently. Different design from the usual Italian stuff. Fun film.

Friday, May 27, 2016

By the Gods!

Hercules (Steve Reeves) and Iole (Sylva Koscina) greet each other after he rescued her in HERCULES (1958)

The film that started the PEPLUM explosion, and the scene in which the two characters (and actors) would be forever bound. The entire beach scene is great and beautifully shot.

Retro Friday : HERCULES - action model

I like these, certainly the first one. But both of them do not look like Steve Reeves (rights issue?)
I'm glad somebody actually remembers these movies from the past.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

By the Gods!

Queen Demeter (Rosalba Neri) and high priest (Nerio Bernardi) prepare Moloch (Pietro Marascalchi) for duties in HERCULES AGAINST MOLOCH

This film is an interesting dichotomy : how to get Hercules fight a real god? Well, it's a film of impostors. Hercules (Gordon Scott, not shown) is not really Hercules but someone using the name as an alias. And Moloch is not the real God Moloch but a living example of the sacrificial evil deity.  Pietro Marascalchi is impressively menacing as the earth-bound Moloch.


Pivotal sacrificial moment from CARTHAGE IN FLAMES

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

By the Gods!

Sophia Loren and Afro Poli in AIDA

A rare and odd PEPLUM musical based on the Giuseppe Verdi opera. None of the actors actually sing. It's dubbed by real opera singers. Sophia and Poli are in blackface (which is not uncommon in current theatre presentations of films made during that time). I doubt anyone today, in our politically correct times, would want to see this. A film to be forgotten?

Unique arena set-ups

One of the cool aspects of PEPLUM films is seeing films with scenes set in the arena with elaborate set-ups. Here are just a few examples. These don't include scenes with standard gladiatorial arenas but just those with added themes or contraptions.

A mock fortress surrounded by a motte in FABIOLA

In SPARTACO : SINS OF ROME, a full ship with oars in a pool of water

An elaborate elevated fighting area in BARABBAS

GLADIATORS 7 : An elevated catwalk area to fight, with wooden spikes waiting below

A bizarre leveraging thingamajig, with Hercules (Dan Vadis) trying to keep his mate (Marilu Tolo) from being killed. It's hard to describe. From TRIUMPH OF HERCULES

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

By the Gods!

Henri Vidal refuses to fight as a gladiator in the ending of FABIOLA

The ending to this very long film is memorable and at the same time too brief and rushed. It needed to be more pronounced but the filmmakers probably thought the film was already too long so they abbreviated the conclusion. IMO, it should have been the centerpoint of the story. It's was also difficult to conceive on film : they had to show him as being brave and not cowardly for refusing to fight. It's good but could have great. 

RISEN trailer

RISEN was released last February with little fanfare. It's now available for home viewing. The story irks me so I doubt I'll be watching it.

The official summary :

"Follows the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Yahshua (Jesus) in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem."

...or another way to tell the story of the resurrection without actually telling the story of the resurrection.

Monday, May 23, 2016

By the Gods!

Theseus (Bob Mathias) meets Amphitrite (Susanne Loret) in THE MINOTAUR

The actual legend of Theseus meeting Amphritite is different than the one in this film. It comes out of nowhere and it's never really satisfying. The actress, Susanne Loret, made just a handful of films. Her inexperienced shows on screen. Because of this, the scene falls flat in what is an otherwise pretty solid production. Amphritite was Poseidon's wife / partner.

Movie Poster Mondays

Italian poster for THE LION OF ST-MARK

That's Gianna tie up to the mast. Gianna's role is not as passive as this poster suggests. Nice but it's mostly a land based Swashbuckler. No ships burning in it.

Friday, May 20, 2016

By the Gods!

Steve Reeves, as Morgan, inspects the booty in MORGAN THE PIRATE

Steve made this great swashbuckler right after THE GIANT OF MARATHON, in which he looked exhausted. After the success of HERCULES, Steve worked nonstop and by the time he made MARATHON he looked gaunt. But in this film he regained his healthy looked and actually appeared younger than some of his previous films. This was his only production in 1960. Steve was always frustrated that people only remembered him as Hercules when he played so many other roles.

Retro Friday : Stock Footage - The Castle

Retro Friday : Old posts updated (originally posted on November 27, 2010)

The shot above showing an army leaving a castle/fortress has been used and re-used in at least a dozen PEPLUM flicks. This screenshot was taken from CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATOR. I still do not know the original source but it looks more medieval than Roman.

The footage was from CONSTANTINE & THE CROSS (below), one of the most 'sampled' titles by other PEPLUM films.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

By the Gods!

Ricardo Montalban plays Pietro Donati (back to us) in THE SARACEN BLADE

Fun little actioner, with typical Columbia Pictures production values (low). Noticed the curtains stand in for a set. Even if it's a low budget effort, I like it. The rest of the cast : Whitfield Connor (seated), Count Alesandro Siniscola and Enzio Siniscola. Directed by William Castle. Would make a good double feature with another Montalban film, DESERT WARRIOR.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

By the Gods!

Alan Steel and Brad Harris battle it out in an awkward duel to the death in SAMSON

This 'duel with blindfolds' is fun but not as good as the one in MACISTE - GLADIATOR OF SPARTA. In other countries, Alan is named Hercules. In the English version, his name is Millstone. The two beefy actors would re-appear in the twin production in FURY OF HERCULES. This one is much better than the latter even though they are both entertaining in their own different ways.


Gordon Scott tests his strength on the set of GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

By the Gods!

Sardanapolo (Howard Duff) crowns his brother, Sammash (Luciano Marin) as king of Babylon while Nira (Jocelyn Lane) watches on in WAR GODS OF BABYLON

There's a heated threesome going on between the three here : both brothers vie for Mira's affection but Mira cares more for one brother than the other. This film was a twin production with SLAVE QUEEN OF BABYLON starring Yvonne Furneaux and John Ericson. Same sets, same music, same costumes, etc. Different directors and cast but the rest was the identical. They probably got some sort of funding deal to make two films with the same budget. Personally speaking, the Babylonian setting is much more realized in this film that the Yvonne Furneaux one. But the acting or actors are better in SLAVE QUEEN OF BABYLON than in this film. Everyone is slumming here, including a bored looking Duff. But it's still a very entertaining PEPLUM film. It would make a fun double feature.

Nimrod : From legendary hunter to idiot

So how did the great Nimrod, king of Shinar, reputed visionary of the Tower of Babylon and legendary hunter, became synonymous with idiot?

From wiki:

"In most English-speaking countries, Nimrod is used to denote a hunter or warrior, because the biblical Nimrod is described as "a mighty hunter". In American English, however, the term has assumed a derogatory meaning, probably because of Bugs Bunny's references to Elmer Fudd as a "poor little Nimrod". While this was most likely using the term's "hunter" sense, it contributed to the development of a sense "one who was easily confounded"."

I wonder how Nimrod himself would feel about his legacy tarnished by...a cartoon!

Monday, May 16, 2016

By the Gods!

Chelo Alonso plays Queen Smedes in SON OF SAMSON

Chelo looks more Egyptian than any other actress that played an Egyptian queen, including Elizabeth Taylor in CLEOPATRA. Chelo was born in Cuba. I'm not crazy about the way her character's fate but I have to say that Chelo a regal air to her which made her convincing in her role as queen and as seducer of Maciste (played by Mark Forest).

Movie Poster Mondays

Spanish poster for THE LION OF THEBES

Colorful artwork of the climax. Not a very flattering rendition of Yvonne Furneaux though.

Friday, May 13, 2016

By the Gods!

Richard Harrison barely escapes death in GLADIATORS SEVEN

Apparently this scene was very dangerous to shoot. Richard recalled that while preparing for this tricky scene, some spears almost grazed him. There needs to be a better copy of this film but it's in the public domain in the US and finding a clean English-dubbed copy is most likely futile so hopefully a good copy from Europe will surface one day, hopefully with additional scenes since it's quite clear that this fun PEPLUM flick was severely cut.

Retro Friday : PEPLUM Cliché: Cast of Thousands

Retro Friday : Old posts updated (originally posted on June 29, 2011)

PEPLUM movies often promised a "cast of thousands" but usually had a cast of hundreds.

From LAND OF THE PHARAOHS. The crowd scenes were huge in this film.



Both photos above and below, from QUO VADIS(1951). Filmed in Italy after WWII, MGM were able to get huge crowds for a cheap price for QUO VADIS because of the poor post-war economy.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

By the Gods!

H.B. Warner, as Jesus, in KING OF KINGS (1927)

The past weekend was the ascension of Jesus. After he was resurrected, Jesus remained 40 days with the apostles before going to heaven for good. This part of the story has rarely or never been filmed (I haven't seen JESUS OF NAZARETH in a long time so I don't know if the Zefferelli mini-series showed this). I think the post-resurection moments in the bible are as interesting as the ones beforehand. There are so many moments rarely shown, including the apostles spreading the Holy spirit around the world, Jesus going to hell, etc, that the whole picture in pop culture is incomplete. 

As for the Cecil B DeMille film. It's well mounted and at times spectacular but it also has its fair share of quirks. For example, Joseph is nowhere to be seen in it. The silent film uses actually bible scriptures for inter titles. Part of the film was shot in early version of Technicolor, which is fascinating. When Jesus is crucified, the film becomes a disaster film with earthquakes, destructive lightning bolts and hurricane strength winds. Almost all other versions of the story of Jesus skipped this part. The film ends with an image of Jesus looking over a then modern day city. The film has been uploaded on Youtube (not by me). If you haven't seen it check it out.


Action scene from the spectacular climax starring Steve Reeves

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

By the Gods!

William Russell and Sean Connery, as Alexander the Great, in ADVENTURE STORY

Alexander with a Scottish accent. This is a TV movie. A very rare production based on a play by Terence Rattigan. There are some clips on Youtube. It's interesting to watch even if Connery tends to chew a lot of the scenery.


Director William Wyler and Charlton Heston goof with a camel while filming BEN-HUR

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

By the Gods!

Mark Antony (Marlon Brando) gives a speech to the public in JULIUS CAESAR (1953)

Great scene, certainly considering Brando is acting on his own for several minutes but John Gielgud disliked it (he's also in the film). In the book, Letters to a Young Actor, Gielgud is quoted of saying "Marlon looks like he's searching for a baseball bat to bash his brains with." Ouch. I still it's great but I get what Gielgud meant. One of the few Hollywood PEPLUM films shot in black & white.

Then & Now : Peter Lupus

Peter Lupus as Hercules in HERCULES & THE TYRANTS OF BABYLON ; a recent photo of Peter

He's one of the few actors left who played Hercules back in da day

Monday, May 9, 2016

By the Gods!

A scene from NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS (1935)

The actors are Alan Mowbray, Florine McKinney, George Hassell, Robert Warwick, Pat DiCicco and Paul Kay. I don't know any of them. What's interesting about this very old and seldom seen film is the fact that Greek mythology is featured front and centre, which is something Hollywood has rarely done, back then or since. Aside from ALEXANDER THE GREAT, HELEN OF TROY, JASON & THE ARGONAUTS and CLASH OF THE TITANS (the original, not the remake), few Hollywood films have been set in Ancient Greece and even less about Greek mythology, which has always been a head scratcher to me. I don't know if it's a cultural blind spot of the people working in Hollywood, but if there's a rich and endless set of fantastic stories and characters, it's surely Greek mythology. Modern day Hollywood has attempted to fix this oversight with several projects, including TROY, 300, IMMORTALS, HERCULES, etc, but few of them are genuine to actual Greek mythos. Oh well...

Movie Poster Mondays

French poster for SANDOKAN THE GREAT

Colorful poster that captures the pulpy quality of the film

Friday, May 6, 2016

By the Gods!

Steve Reeves, as Hercules, tries to survive in a pit with tigers in HERCULES UNCHAINED

Hercules the dentist? Anyway, no real tigers were harm in this scene since the animal was a prop. Steve was really jacked in this film.

Retro Friday : Will the real CAPTAIN HENRI MORGAN please stand up...

Retro Friday : Old posts updated (originally posted on March 17, 2011)

Big and rotund or chiseled and buff?

Laird Cregar in THE BLACK SWAN



Thursday, May 5, 2016

By the Gods!

Roger Moore greets Lana Turner in DIANE

I like this film. In terms of Hollywood, this MGM film seems modest (but not as 'modest' as a Columbia Picture production) but I think it's very entertaining, regardless of its limitations. I'm not a big fan of Turner's style of acting but in this film, her usual mannerisms are not present. It's hard to believe Roger Moore made films in the mid-1950s and he's still alive.