Tuesday, February 28, 2017

By the Gods!

Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) looks out to a splendid city in SINBAD & THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977)

This appears to be a standard matte painting, even though Ray Harryhausen productions were never too keen in using this kind of special effect technique, usually opting for the use of models and forced perspective instead (model is in the foreground). I always like these scenes because they give a sense of placement to the story.  I also like Patrick Wayne as Sinbad in this film. His characterization was more in style with the old Sinbad, which I prefer, even if the acting, from Wayne or the entire cast was pretty uninspired.


Over two weeks ago I posted some screen-tests of Rita Hayworth for JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (1955), a project that was never completed. An example of the a screen-test photo can be seen below. Since I posted that article, I got additional information from Gary Smith on this failed project. Above is a rare screen-test of Kerwin Mathews who was set to play Joseph.

It seems that Columbia Pictures sent out a film crew to Egypt to film some location scenes to be editing in the final film once completed. Since the project was never finished, some of that footage was used in the TV production of THE STORY OF JACOB & JOSEPH, which I posted a screenshot yesterday. This scene, below, appears almost at the very end of the TV film and lasts just a couple of seconds. There's no doubt that this production would have been a fascinating one to watch had it been completed but, alas, these are the only indications left of what the film could have been.

Monday, February 27, 2017

By the Gods!

Tony Lo Bianco as Joseph in THE STORY OF JACOB & JOSEPH (TV, 1974)

I recently acquired this seldom seen film. I haven't watched it yet but from what I know it was made for television. Directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis, who also directed PEPLUM art films like ELECTRA (1962) and THE TROJAN WOMEN (1971). Interesting casting choice of Lo Bianco, who was phenomenal in THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (1970). I'll see if his acting style suits this kind of film.

Movie Poster Mondays

Italian poster for SAPPHO - THE VENUS OF LESBOS (aka The Warrior Empress)

They made more than one poster for this film when it was released and though the films action is portrayed nicely, I find the artist's rendering of Tina Louise to be lacking. She's much more beautiful than this. I recently uploaded the film on Youtube and I received a warning from them about it : they think the film is a porno. God, Youtube sucks!

Friday, February 24, 2017

By the Gods!

Christine Kaufmann and Steve Reeves in THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959)

The first film in which Steve played a Roman centurion. He would also play one in SON OF SPARTACUS. He looked great in both films and he was believable, more so than Robert Taylor in QUO VADIS, who, imo, was miscast. Reeves as a centurion = PEPLUM perfection! This film was the source of inspiration to Ridley Scott's GLADIATOR. They pitched the idea of making one of those old Steve Reeves gladiator films. Ironically, Reeves never played a gladiator in any film, including this one. His character does end up fighting in an arena during the climax but not officially as a gladiator, just as a centurion trying to save Christians from hungry lions. As for Kaufmann, she made a couple of other PEPLUM films but this role would be the one she would be remembered the most for. She was very young in this. I like this film a lot. The pacing is a bit slow but aside from that I have very few complaints in regards to this spectacular epic : great cast, great production, great score!

Retro Friday : Location - Palinuro Arch in Campania

(originally posted December 2011)

The Palinuro arch near the coastal city of Palinuro in the Italian province of Campania. A couple of films went on location there, including JASON & THE ARGONAUTS (1963) and HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961).

 The Palinuro arch as seen in JASON & THE ARGONAUTS

The arch as seen in HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN, with Reg Park above, trying to keep a ship from sailing off, and below Ettore Manni walking towards the arch.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

By the Gods!

Ben-Hur's triumphant parade from BEN-HUR (1925)

I like these scenes. This one looks nice. These scenes in the silent version were better executed and more believable than in the 1959 version.  This scene was also shot in early Technicolor and it featured topless dancers (screenshot below), which were cut in most copies.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

By the Gods!

Salvatore Furnari, Bella Cortez and Iloosh Khoshabe make for an unlikely trio in VULCAN - SON OF JUPITER

A story-less film with two sexy characters (Aetna and Vulcan) who try to battle with Olympian gods. If someone asked me to summarize the story I wouldn't be able to do so. It's just a sexy film with sexy people wearing very little and do sexy things. It's a very...hmm...unique PEPLUM film. I like it and watch it repeatedly but if someone said they didn't like it I would understand.


Steve Reeves takes a stroll around the studio during the filming of HERCULES (1958)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

By the Gods!

Susan Hayward and Victor Mature look upon the statue of Isis in DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS

Continuing with a series of grand spectacle sets from PEPLUM films, here's a brief one, a combination of set, matte painting, and optical effects with the fires in the cauldrons. The scene is very static and lasts just a few seconds. We never see the statue other than from this shot. This was one of the early CinemaScope films and creating these special scenes must have been difficult.

PEPLUM versions of magazines

Here are some faux magazine covers I created as if they existed back in Antiquity.

Edmund Purdom from THE EGYPTIAN

Claudette Colbert from CLEOPATRA

Charlton Heston from EL CID

Monday, February 20, 2017

By the Gods!

Edmund Purdom and Victor Mature (between the women) are at a party in THE EGYPTIAN

A big budget existential PEPLUM which is mostly forgotten today. Nice sets, costumes, cast, etc...but story is not very compelling. It sorta resembles THE PRODIGAL, which also stars Purdom : man becomes obsessed with temptress who is out of his reach and this obsession almost destroys him. The film looks great but compared to other films set in Egypt, like PHARAOH, it now looks hopelessly cliched. The set here looks more like a living room in some Hollywood mansion than actual Egyptian architecture / design. Still, for its time it is a visual feast that leaves one hungry for more.

Purdom and Mature both became stars of the PEPLUM genre, whether it was by choice or by circumstance.

Movie Poster Mondays


Good artwork. In the original version, it's Sinbad and not Ali Baba but the story takes place entirely on terra firms so there's no problem with the name change really.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

By the Gods!

Steve Reeves prepares his men for battle in the climax of THE GIANT OF MARATHON (1959)

The ending to this film is one of the most complex ever filmed : fleet of real ships + models, big cast, practical effects, underwater sequences, stunts,  gore fx, etc. The editing could have been a bit tighter but overall the ending is quite an amazing thing to see. Steve Reeves was in good form here but he did look tired in some scenes. There was a reason for this : THE GIANT OF MARATHON was one of 5 films Steve shot in a row after the success of HERCULES (1958).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

By the Gods!

Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) salutes Caesar after being rolled out of a carpet in CLEOPATRA (1934)

I have mixed feelings about this gorgeous looking film. Every penny of this big budgeted film is on screen. But the pacing is glacially slow. I love long atmospheric films but this one is a bit on the boring side. It was a huge hit back in the day but its success didn't spur a plethora of other PEPLUM inspired productions. The early 1930s were really devoid of these types of films.


Massive background scenery being painted for the Mount Olympus scenes in CLASH OF THE TITANS. Below is how it looked like in the film. That's Jack Gwillim as Poseidon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

By the Gods!


Unlike examples I've shown during the last couple of weeks, this is not a set but a large scale model. Humans were added walking across it afterwards with green screen special effect,s to make it appear like it was a big set. The model is intricate and well made but it would have been very costly so going the model route made sense.

Semiramis - the forgotten PEPLUM icon!

Whatever happened to the Semiramis mystique?

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Semiramis was everywhere. Book, plays, eventually silent films. Semiramis was the reigning Queen of exotica, even more so than Cleopatra. Today, she's barely remembered, or at least here in North America. Semiramis might still be somewhat remember in Europe but few know her and her legend here in the 'New Land.'

What's remarkable about Semiramis is how few films were made of her legend.

I haven't seen the silent film on the left. It looks interesting but it was made over 100 years ago. Trying to find it is probably impossible outside of certain cinematheques.

The legend of Semiramis is quite fascinating. Both of them. Yes, there were *two* famous ladies named Semiramis in Antiquity : one who is associated with Nimrod, the Tower of Babel and their son Tammuz, which dates thousands of years in the past. And the other famous Semiramis, an Assyrian queen who was married to Ninus, with the approximate dates going back in and around 820 BC.

I prefer the first Semiramis, the Goddess who was married to the builder of the Tower of Babel, Nimrod, who, after his death, was reincarnated as the sun and made Semiramis pregnant with sunlight. She eventually gave a 'virgin' birth to the god Tammuz, who, after his death, was resurrected and lived in the heavens with his father Nimrod. Therefore Semiramis was known as the Queen of Heaven, for having given birth to Tammuz and the heavens. It would take too much time to explain the whole story. You can find several websites about this with a quick search on the internet. Some say it echoes the story of Christ.

This Semiramis is apparently the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty and the Columbia Pictures lady. The torch of light of the Statue or the Columbia logo are symbolic of the sun god Nimrod. Very little information can be found on this legend but what information we have says a lot about us and the period.

Aside from the silent film mentioned above, there are only two other full feature length films made about Semiramis. Unfortunately, they have very little to do with the actual legend.


Rhonda Fleming is named Semiramis

Released in 1954, QUEEN OF BABYLON has nothing to do with either legends of Semiramis. It's in name only. It's still a very entertaining PEPLUM but it is disappointing very little of either famous Semiramis made it in the final production. The only thing that's identical is the fact that it takes place in Babylon.

SLAVE QUEEN OF BABYLON (Alternate title : I Am Semiramis)

Yvonne Furneaux is Semiramis

This film has elements of both legends but like the previous film, the final product has very little to do with the historical facts of either famous women. There's no Nimrod or Tammuz. And the ending is nothing like either stories but the filmmakers were inspired by some ideas, including Semiramis wearing a crown of spikes, or rays of the sun (like the Statue of Liberty), and the king being named Ninus. But these are just superficial aspects. It never goes deep into the actual legend. I like this film regardless of the fact that it's not about the actual Semiramis (legends number 1 or 2).

A film based on the legend of Semiramis has yet to be made. It probably will never happen since few people remember her, including the folks in Hollywood.

Monday, February 13, 2017

By the Gods!

Serge Nubret and Gordon Scott in GOLIATH & THE REBEL SLAVE

I have a Spanish version, a German version, a French version, a US version and none of them are the same. It's very confusing. I want to do a Fan Dub of this but there are simply too many scenes missing (up to 20 minutes!). Remarkably enough, the most complete version is the US one but the aspect ration is a standard 4:3, not widescreen. I refuse to do a Fan Dub until I get a a relatively uncut copy in widescreen before doing a FD. As for the stars, Nubrej and Scott, they should have made more films together. Good team up.

Movie Poster Mondays

Italian poster for THE GOLDEN HORDE

Nice poster. Needed a few more elements to really capture the essence of this fun film. This is a great film to watch with a drinking game. Take a shot every time they say 'Samarkand!'

Friday, February 10, 2017

By the Gods!

Kirk Morris and Margaret Lee are getting the scoop from an innkeeper in SAMSON & THE SEA BEAST

One of those hybrids of the PEPLUM genre which always confuses fans and non-fans alike, except for me, of course. The story is nothing earth-shattering but the film is immensely entertaining. Kirk is in top form and Margaret makes for a good companion. Some scenes are unintentionally hilarious, which adds to its entertainment value.

Retro Friday : A PEPLUM that almost was

(originally posted September 2011)

Rita Hayworth was set to star in JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN but the project was shelved when Columbia honcho Harry Cohn refused to have two of her ex-husbands Orson Welles and Dick Haymes work for the film. These test shots are probably the only thing left from the failed production. Apparently Kerwin Mathews was slated to star in the title role.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

By the Gods!


The costumes in this film are amazing. Thy look absolutely authentic. No detail has been spared. It's a shame the script is so...disappointing. Could have been one of the greats, certainly with Marais in the lead. Brad Pitt has been trying to make a film on Pontius Pilate for years now but the project has been delayed many times. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

By the Gods!

Gordon Scott and Cristina Gaioni are having a bad day in KERIM - SON OF THE SHEIK

This is just an average occurrence in the PEPLUM universe. Kidding aside, this scene is often cut from English versions. Alberto Farnese and Moira Orfei are the bad guys enjoying the show (far right).


Director Sergio Corbucci takes a photo with Virna Lisi and Steve Reeves during the filming of DUEL OF THE TITANS

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

By the Gods!

Jack Hawkins, as Quintus Arrius, triumphant return to Rome in BEN-HUR

Unlike the examples I've shown for THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE and CLASH OF THE TITANS, the grand spectacle scene in BEN-HUR takes place outside. It's a combination of live action and matte painting. The perspective in this shot is dazzling. 2/3s of the shot is an actual set while the columns on the left and right were added with a matte painting by Matthew Yuricich. You see Hawkins (on the left) walk up to the Emperor. PEPLUM films were made for the widescreen format.

Then & Now : Loris Loddi

Loris in HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES ; a recent photo of Loris

Monday, February 6, 2017

By the Gods!

Salammbo (Jeanne Valérie) pleads for her father, Hamilcar (Riccardo Garrone) to save the life of her lover in THE LOVES OF SALAMMBO (or simply Salammbo)

Half of SALAMMBO is very entertaining and sexy, while the other half is sort of a mess and cringy over-the-top. The costumes are excellent and probably the best thing in this wildly uneven film. Notice the earrings on Garrone. I love watching it but I understand those who'd say it's not really their cup of tea. The excellent Italian actor died last year. As for Jeanne, she mostly disappeared from the face of the earth, working briefly for a mini-series in the 1990s and then nothing.

Movie Poster Mondays

Spanish poster of SIGN OF THE PAGAN

I don't like the English title. It doesn't really evoke anything. Attila should have been part of the title but it wasn't probably because it was not a very marketable name for US audiences back then.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

By the Gods!

Pam Grier and Margaret Markov are gladiators in THE ARENA

On of the several female-centric PEPLUM films made in the early 1970s. The less prudish mores of the time offered an opportunity for nudity, which was something mostly unseen, certainly on the female side, in films make a decade earlier. The film follows pretty much the same formula as the classic genre films, and it includes many familiar actors like Rosalba Neri and Daniele Vargas. The film itself is okay but it takes itself way too seriously for its own good.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

By the Gods!

Gianni Rizzo, as Claudius Nero, uses a slave as a cushion for his feet, and Mimmo Palmara laughs about it in THE TEN GLADIATORS

Gianni Rizzo often played corrupt emperors or leaders in the PEPLUM genre. He's one of the most familiar supporting actors, and he's a very good actor as well. Mimmo is a stand-out in this film, even set against the other ten gladiators competing for attention. This set is the same set as GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS. The slave is not credited.


Director Melvyn LeRoy shows Deborah Kerr how to take care of a wounded Robert Taylor for a scene from QUO VADIS. Below is how it looks in the final cut.