Thursday, December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Thanks everyone for your support!

I'm taking some time off during the holiday period. I'll be back part-time after the new year and will resume the blog full time by the end of January.

Happy Saturnalia!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

By the Gods!

The funeral pyre for Julius Caesar in CLEOPATRA (1963)

There's no doubt that the film spared no expense in recreating the grandeur of Rome. It's a shame the story or script was uninspired and turgid. No CGI here. This is the real stuff.


Mylene Demongeot and Daniela Rocca pose for a photo during the production of THE GIANT OF MARATHON

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

By the Gods!


From left to right : Pietro Ceccarelli, Mario Novelli, Nazzareno Zamperla, Pietro Torrisi, Jeff Cameron, Harold Bradley and Roger Browne.

The concept of disparate set of men ganging up together to overthrow the bad ruler was a very popular concept in the PEPLUM genre. HERCULES (1958) with Steve Reeves was the first one to start this, with Hercules and the Argonauts but the first with a story not set in mythology were GLADIATOR OF ROME and COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA (both films were released on the same date). By the time SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS was made, there had been several films with the same idea. This is more comedy than anything. Lots of high speed action and a repetitive storyline.

RIP : Michèle Morgan

French actress Michèle Morgan died today at the age of 96. Her career started back in the 1930s! She did several costume dramas but her big PEPLUM film was playing the title character in FABIOLA. Released in 1949, it was one of the films which started the Golden Era of the PEPLUM explosion (the other being SAMSON & DELILAH). 

Fabiola (Michèle Morgan) and Rhual (Henri Vidal) meet in a garden at night in FABIOLA

Monday, December 19, 2016

By the Gods!

Jason (Jason London) and crew watch as Hercules (Brian Thompson) gets the Argo into the sea in the TV mini-series version of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS

Not bad...while far from being great. The only inspired aspect is having Brian Thompson play Hercules. The script for this follows HERCULES (1958) more than the Ray Harryhausen 1963 film version, which is odd. Like so many TV mini-series, the production sacrifice a tight narrative for an overextended, somewhat padded retelling of the famous story.

Movie Poster Mondays


Nice art. Nicely sums up pretty much history in Europe : barbarians always going after Rome!

Friday, December 16, 2016

By the Gods!

Morgan (Steve Reeves) addresses his fellow pirates after taking possession of the ship in MORGAN THE PIRATE

It's very cold outside here in Montreal. I think I'll watch this again just to remind me of some warmer climate. It's also cheaper than traveling to some Caribbean island. Great film with the great Steve Reeves.

Retro Friday : SALOME through the years

(originally posted November 2011)

Salome is one of the most popular characters in movie history. There are at least 30 films made on the famous, or infamous, dancer. So here is just a small sample of actresses and films.

Theda Bara in her version of SALOME (1918)

No it's not Lady Gaga but Nazimova in her rendition of SALOME (1923)

Yvonne DeCarlo in SALOME WHERE SHE DANCED (1945) which is a Western not a PEPLUM but Yvonne has a dance bit as Salome.

Rita Hayworth in SALOME (1953), probably the most famous film on the legendary character

Brigid Bazlen is Salome in KING OF KINGS (1961)

Jo Champa in SALOME DI OSCAR WILDE (1986)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

By the Gods!

Chelo Alonso orders Paul Wynter and Dante DiPaolo to do her biding in MACISTE AGAINST THE CYCLOPS (aka Atlas against the Cyclops)

A good PEPLUM film, maybe just a tad on the slow side, but hits all the PEPLUM points just right. Chill plays an evil queen, which is sorta different for her. She's very good in it. The tandem DiPaolo and Wynter work well together, with Wynter being DiPaolo's right hand man. He's quite effective in his supporting part. I wish Paul's role had been more prominent. Fun fact : Dante DiPaolo was a dancer and was related to George Clooney. He died 3 years ago.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

By the Gods!

Sophia Loren and Alberto Sordi in TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA

Not a slap on your knee hilarious comedy but fun enough to watch. Loren plays a dual role (Cleopatra and a common girl who looks Cleopatra). She was very young. It's one of her first films. Sordid plays up the hapless nerd who's caught in between the two bodacious women. I've lost count on how many times I've watched this.


Jacques Sernas and Rossana Podestà wait as a sound technician set-up his equipment during the filming of HELEN OF TROY

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

By the Gods!

Ruth (Elana Eden) is handed some ornate gifts by Mahlon (Tom Tryon) in THE STORY OF RUTH

Good production, if a bit predictable. My only big complaint about this film is the dialogue. Some of it is quite painful to listen to. Because of this the characters often come across as dense. Tom Tryon is very good and fits the role perfectly. Elana is good but her limited grasp of the English language (coupled with the bad dialogue) sorta hurts her performance. In this film, like so many other Biblical films made in the 1950s and 60s, gods which weren't Jehovah or God itself are depicted as evil and pagan. Today, we sorta know better (I think...). In the story child sacrifices are made to the god Chemosh, also known as Moloch. Human sacrificial offerings were a big part of ancient history. Stopping them was one of the big reasons for the rise of Christianity.

Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

Have you heard of the black obelisk of Shalmaneser III? It's an Assyrian obelisk depicting several famous people from history and also from the Bible. One of the scenes depicts King Jehu who is in the Old Testament (Kings).

On the stone, Jehu is described as being from the House of Omri, which is historically incorrect. King Jehu took over the House of Omri in a coup after King Ahab died in battle. Ahab's two sons succeeded him with Joram being killed by Jehu. Ahab was King Omri's direct descendant. Omri handed over his kingship to Ahab, who eventually married Jezebel. The couple had Ahaziah, Joram and Athaliah (who went to become a queen in Judah).  Jehu had every person linked to Ahab, including Jezebel, killed. Jehu wasn't related to Omri or Ahab. Jehu ruled the Kingdom of Israel for many decades. The obelisk confuses Jehu with the actual lineage of the House of Omri. Was this by accident or did the Assyrians try to win the favour of King Jehu?

What's fascinating is how these people are historically supported outside the Old Testament. The obelisk itself has other kings and famous people depicted on it. It's amazing that this incredible piece of history hasn't inspired a film, or several films.

Monday, December 12, 2016

By the Gods!

Tom Baker, as Koura, brings a statue of Kali alive in THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD

Great scene with Baker almost stealing the film from the rest of the cast. He's perfectly evil in this. The statue is definitely from Hindu mythology / religion, even though Sinbad is Arabic in nature. The statue looks like a combo of Kali and Shiva. Special effects master Ray Harryhausen loved mixing up various mythological characters from different religions / cultures in his productions. This includes the Kraken in CLASH OF THE TITANS : the Kraken is from Scandinavian mythology while the story is set in a world of Greek mythology.

Movie Poster Mondays

Spanish poster of SIGN OF THE CROSS

Very atmospheric.

Friday, December 9, 2016

By the Gods!

Virginia Mayo and Paul Newman in THE SILVER CHALICE

Notorious PEPLUM film, even 60+ years after its release. Paul Newman hated it and even printed an ad in a newspaper decrying the film's quality before its initial TV broadcast. It's not really good but  it is visually interesting. I don't mean it's succeeds in what they tried to do with the look of it all but at least they tried something different.

Retro Friday : The massive close-ups of Michele Lupo films

(originally posted June 2012)

Director Michele Lupo came in late during the PEPLUM craze. His first film was made in 1962 when by 1960 most filmmakers had already accumulated a good number of projects under their belt. His films were like the last gasp of the dying craze, and they sorta briefly re-energized the genre but his films weren't enough to save it from its eventual death in 1964-65. His films had a specific style, often super energetic and chaotic. Some absolutely loved this approached and they worship his films while others hated this approach, and his films were an example of what's not to like about the PEPLUM genre by then: it became too cartoonish.

One of the most distinctive aspects of his PEPLUM films was the constant use of ultra massive close-ups. You really had to be comfortable in your own skin as an actor to work in his films as those close-ups were not forgiving and could sometimes end up as being unflattering.


REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS (aka Revenge of Spartacus)



Thursday, December 8, 2016

By the Gods!

Maurizio Cortigiano in KINGDOM OF GLADIATORS (2011)

A really low budget, straight to dvd production. The acting is abysmal as is the direction but...the look of the film is good. Very good. Now if a project like this would be under my supervision and direction, the story and action would be as good as how it looks but alas..


Scene from FURY OF HERCULES starring Brad Harris, Serge Gainsbourg and Luisella Boni

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

By the Gods!

Annie Alberti and Lex Barker in KNIGHT OF 100 FACES

Fun film, if a little on the corny side. Lex made a gazillion of these films back in the 1950s and 1960s. It's sometimes difficult to differentiate one from another. He's good in this and doesn't look bloated yet (from too much drinking). I'm not familiar with Annie Alberti. According to IMDb, she made just a handful of films. I have an English copy but the audio is terrible. Fan Dub is in question.


A spectacular behind the scenes photo of the filming of QUO VADIS (1951)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

By the Gods!

Gordon Scott caused some damage at a tavern in SAMSON & THE 7 MIRACLES OF THE WORLD

This is a regular occurrence in PEPLUM films. This scene is pretty good. Samson (or Maciste in the original Italian version) is a one-man demolition crew.

Then & Now : Edwige Fenech

Edwige in IL FIGLIO DI AQUILA NERA ; a recent photo of Edwige

Monday, December 5, 2016

By the Gods!

A fight erupts between Remus (Gordon Scott) and Romulus (Steve Reeves) in DUEL OF THE TITANS

That's Piero Lulli between Scott and Reeves.

There are a lot of people who dislike the PEPLUM genre and yet love this film. It's an odd situation. I like the film but the script could have been stronger. The film sorta needed some structure. But those who love it mostly like it because it sorta reminds them of a Spaghetti Western, with togas. It's true. The director, Sergio Corbucci, went on to direct many Italian westerns including the original DJANGO. As you might have guessed by now, I'm a *big* PEPLUM fan and when I watch this film I see a western more than a PEPLUM film. In fact, it even reminds me of WESTWARD THE WOMEN starring Robert Taylor, which, IMO, is a great western (I'm not a big fan of westerns. I find the genre pretty dry). There was this odd attempt back on the 1950s / 1960s of trying to sell PEPLUM stories are 'westerns of the old continent,' since westerns were still popular during that period, which drives me crazy since the two genres are as unlike each other as anything I can think of. Apples and oranges.

Movie Poster Mondays

French poster of QUEEN OF BABYLON

The poster says 'écran panoramique' (panoramic screen) and yet the film was shot in standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Hmm...interesting.

I tried to do a Fan Dub of this but the English version, and its audio track, is totally different than the versions from Germany or Italy.  I had to abandon the project. I like this movie but the English copy that I have now is extremely poor. Oh well...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

By the Gods!

Anthony Steffen and Irène Tunc in APHRODITE - GODDESS OF LOVE

Steffen plays a sculptor who's making a statue of Aphrodite (far left) and Tunc is the woman modelling for him. Very interesting film. It's a kind of film that Hollywood would have never made. It has a purely Italian / European sensibility, which I love! Steffen went on to star in Spaghetti Westerns after the PEPLUM genre died. Tunc had a spotty film career, with a handful of Sword & Sandal films. I wrote a review for the blog ages ago.