Monday, April 30, 2018

By the Gods!

Belinda Lee and Spiros Focás in MESSALINA (1960)

A sorta quirky historical retelling of the life and time of Empress Messalina, played by Belinda Lee. Directed by the experimental Vittorio Cottafavi, this film wavers between the super serious and  slapstick. I love the super serious parts. The slapstick stuff seems incongruous with the rest and the subject itself. Even though Messalina is portrayed as a conniving bad woman, Cottafavi also tried to humanize her, such as this love story with Spiros Focás. Does this attempt works? It does. Probably Lee's greatest role, who died at the age of 25.

Movie Poster Mondays

Original Italian poster of HERCULES THE AVENGER (1964)

A different style artwork for an Italian poster. The expression on Reg's face is priceless.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

By the Gods!

Susy Andersen in THOR & THE AMAZON WOMEN (1962)

Susy had a brief acting career, and only made 3 PEPLUM movies, including a personal fave, SAPPHO - THE VENUS OF LESBOS (1961). I wished she had made more of them. She was really good in all 3 movies, including this one. She gave this sorta entertainingly goofy film an air of respectability. Whatever happened to her?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

By the Gods!

Jacques Sernas, as Paris, in HELEN OF TROY (1956)

Directed by Robert Wise, this film is often lost in the shuffle of big epics of the 1950s. It was released the same year as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS so that might have one of the reasons. It's quite big and the story is simplified and abbreviated with, imo, an unsatisfactory ending. Sernas was a PEPLUM star but his career never reached the heights he had reached with this Hollywood production. It must have been disappointing for him to go from massive Hollywood epic to playing supporting roles in PEPLUM movies. As a side note, Sernas has washed up on the beach more than once (already a popular cliché) or is often seen recuperating in bed. Producers really liked putting him in such plot storylines.


Behind the scenes photo of extras for THE 300 SPARTANS (1962)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

By the Gods!

Pam Grier and Margaret Markov are some female gladiators in THE ARENA (1974)

This was released during a brief PEPLUM explosion of the early to mid-1970s. Of course, by this time, nudity and sexually explicit scenes were a major selling point and it was only inevitable that sexualizing gladiators would end up with the female sort. Historically speaking, gladiatrices (female gladiators) weren't very common. They were mostly used as entertainment during lavish spectacles than in actual fights to the death but horny filmmakers and audiences don't care about such details. This is Pam Grier's only PEPLUM film. Should she be considered a 'Queen' of the PEPLUM genre?

Different titles: HERCULES (1958)

Here are titles of opening credits from a couple of different sources of HERCULES (1958) .  I've updated the list with two new additions.

Original Italian version!

German title of HERCULES

International English title, taken from the French DVD. Unfortunately the French title wasn't included.

This is the French home video version. Still no 'official' French title though

The US Avco Embassy opening title with the animated constellation of stars

This is the Russian version, which translates as THE EXPLOITS OF HERCULES

Monday, April 23, 2018

By the Gods!

Peter Lupus, as Spartacus, and Piero Lulli in CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATOR (1965)

I always wonder what actors were thinking in certain scenes, like this one. Certainly with the fact that the actors didn't speak the same language. A language barrier prevented casual chit chat during breaks. I wonder what Piero was thinking here. Lol! Anyway, one of Lupus' best PEPLUM movies, directed by Domenico Paolella, who really understood the genre.

A side note, this is one of those films with some confusion over the title: it's listed (and known) everywhere as CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATOR but the title shown in the movie itself is CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATORS.

Movie Poster Mondays

Spanish poster of MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1964)

Colourful poster really captures the movie's adventurous spirit. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

By the Gods!

Bruno Piergentili, Loris Loddi, Eleonora Bianchi and Reg Park say goodbye and part ways in MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1964)

This ending is sorta sad in that this was Reg's last PEPLUM movie. He wasn't much of an actor but he had undeniable screen presence and made some top genre films, including HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN. Bruno Piergentili was credited as Dan Harrison. He made more Spaghetti Westerns than anything else, often being an indian. Loris Loddi was a regular child actor who appeared in at least 8 PEPLUM films, including CLEOPATRA (1963). As for Eleonora, she mostly starred in small roles before this and went on to act in Euro Westerns. Some think this is one of the best PEPLUM films ever. It's basically a series of pitfalls and 'feats of strength.' On that level, it does deliver.

Fotonovela: THE SINNER (part 4)

part 4 of serialization of THE SINNER fotonovela. Click on image to see a larger size.

Added to the permanent blog page of THE SINNER

Thursday, April 19, 2018

By the Gods!

Richard Harrison is straddled underneath a huge catapult in GIANTS OF ROME (1964)

Some call this THE GIANTS OF NAVA-ROME. A thoroughly entertaining movie, in more ways than one. Director Antonio Margheriti was prized for these kind of super macho action stories. The end result is something that's replete with subtext, whether it was intentional or not. A must see for those in the mood for some Richard Harrison viewing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

By the Gods!

Hercules (Steve Reeves) bending steel in order to remind him that he's Hercules in HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)

Many people today ridicule these scenes as old fashioned, always shouting out that it's not real steel being bent and yet they have no problems with CGI effects, which are 100% fake. Anyway, this is a popular cliché which is part of the whole PEPLUM mystique. Can't have a beefy super strong hero not end up bending something during the story.


Kirk Douglas and Sylvana Mangano chat during a break of filming ULYSSES (1954)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

By the Gods!

Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida in CROSSED SWORDS (1954)

Flynn, who was 45 when he made this, was still young enough and dashing enough for some sword action. Unfortunately, in just five years Flynn would die from a heart attack. Gina starred with many older Hollywood actors at the start of her career. She clearly wasn't a flash in the pan. She apparently learned fencing for this lush production.

Then & Now : Paola Pitti

Paola in THE SPARTAN GLADIATORS (1964); a recent photo of the Italian actress

(I'm reposting this because I had to delete the original post since it was being spammed like crazy!)

Monday, April 16, 2018

By the Gods!

Silvana Mangano as Penelope in ULYSSES (1954)

An early entry in the Italian made PEPLUM genre. I like everything about this (cast, costumes, sets, etc). Silvana is great in a dual role of Penelope and Circe. I only have two big reservations about this: it's way too short (while the TV mini-series that came a decade later was too long). And Kirk Douglas as Ulysses. I'm certain that having Kirk Douglas cast in the main role helped the film to get made (and sorta helped spearhead the PEPLUM genre in Italy, along with other factors) but I think Kirk as Ulysses was a bit of miscasting. And those two aspects are big liabilities, not minor ones one can easily overlook. So close and yet so far.

Movie Poster Mondays

Original Italian poster of THE WARRIOR AND THE SLAVE GIRL (1958)

Nice art even if the artist's representation of both Marchal and Canale are a bit off. The original title translates as THE REVOLT OF THE GLADIATORS. I don't how US distributors came up with the English title.

Monday, April 9, 2018

By the Gods!

I'm taking some time off. I'll be back next Monday. In the meantime keep an eye on PEPLUM TV, PEPLUM TV RETRO, PEPLUM TV FIRE & SWORD and PEPLUM TV WORLD. I'll be uploading stuff to the channels during my blog break.

Thanks to all of those who support this blog and my Youtube channels, and a special thanks to the following:

Jeremy C., Nathalie M.,  Steven Lester,  Shiraz K., Stefanie S.,  Thomas G K. and William N..

PS : If any PEPLUM star die while I'm away, R.I.P..

Friday, April 6, 2018

What's your favourite Reg Park PEPLUM film?

HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS (Hercules & the Captive Women)



HERCULES - PRISONER OF EVIL (Ursus & the Terror of the Kirghiz)


Monday, April 2, 2018

Article of the week: The making of THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS Fan Dub

Posted at the 'Articles of the week' permanent page.

One of the most frustrating things about being a North American fan of the PEPLUM genre is the lack of quality transfers of old favourites, on DVD or in digital format. For example, trying to find a perfect, uncut copy of HERCULES (1958) is nearly impossible. There as many version of that film as there are different languages. There is not one source where someone can find the integral versions of these  titles. One of the solutions for this is to create a Fan Dub. A few months ago I decided to make a Fan Dub of THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS (1958) since there isn't one complete version available anywhere.

Presently, I have 4 different versions in my collection: The US 'full screen' version. Two 'Fan Dubs' in English from a French TV broadcast (they differ from their aspect ratios), and lastly, an Italian widescreen version from a TV broadcast. The opening credits for this version is in Arabic. Why? I dunno. These are the 4 versions which I'll be using to make the final version. For obvious reasons, I've decided to use the widescreen Italian TV broadcast version.

Screenshot of opening credits of the 4 different versions:

On the left: the two French versions with English audio track. The top right is the US English full-screen version. And the one at the bottom right is the widescreen Italian TV broadcast version (with credits in Arab!).

A 'Fan Dub' is a movie made with the video of one source and the audio from another source edited together to make a version that’s not available anywhere. I’ve already written an extensive article on how I create a Fan Dub. I won’t go through the details again. For this article, I’ll just demonstrate how difficult it is to make a Fan Dub of a specific title, this one being THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS (1958). Released the same year as HERCULES (1958), with both films starring Gianna Maria Canale and Sylva Koscina, this movie is, along with HERCULES, one of the seminal films which forever changed the way pulpy historical movies were made back in the 1950s. Its impact is not as wide and far reaching as the Steve Reeves epic but still it was a then modernized approach, shot in color and in widescreen, of making a historical / mythological film under 2 hours without making too many concessions. The great thing about these films, even greater than those made in Hollywood, is that producers and filmmakers had access to real locations and settings Hollywood films could only dream of having. And THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS is one of these films. Beautifully shot in widescreen, with a capable cast, following a typically ‘PEPLUM’ screenplay, the film is a great example of the PEPLUM genre.

The first thing to establish in planning a Fan Dub is to view different versions in order to see which scenes are missing. By watching those 4 different versions simultaneously, I was able to determine that 4 major scenes were missing.

Which one would you prefer to watch?

US English 'full screen' Version 

English Fan Dub full screen version taken from French source

English Fan Dub semi-widescreen version taken from French source

Widescreen Italian TV broadcast (with Arabic opening credits)

Obviously, the last version, the widescreen Italian TV broadcast, is the best version of the 4.

With these 4 different, the main objective was trying to create the most complete version. Here's a quick rundown of these 4 copies.

- US full screen version

This is the first copy I got years ago from another trader. Fuzzy, faded and blurry, this copy is the oldest one from my collection. There are also annoying subtitles.

It’s missing the title in the opening credits. And even though it’s the longest version of all the different copies, at 103 minutes and 29 seconds, it’s, oddly enough, missing a couple of major scenes, mainly the 2 kissing scenes and the dancing scene.

The 2 kissing scenes were blacked out but not cut.

- Two versions in English but with French opening credit

The opening credits are in French but the language spoken is English. I assume these are Fan Dubs. They're almost identical except for the screen aspect ratio and runtime. The one with the wider screen image runs at 88 minutes and 4 seconds, while the more cropped one runs at 87 minutes and 40 seconds. They are incomplete.

- Italian / Arab widescreen version (the one used for the Fan Dub)

This version was most likely taken from an Italian TV broadcast since the copy has some scrolling text at the bottom of the screen during 3 different moments. I had to crop the text out (illustrated below). The question is: if this one was from an Italian TV broadcast, why are the opening credits in Arab?

The running time of this one is at 98 minutes and 22 seconds.

Final assessment:

You can ask why not use one of the English versions? Why make a Fan Dub when there are already two adequate versions in English?

Well, first, those copies are incomplete and their aspect ratio aren't good. The aspect ratio and image quality of the widescreen Italian TV broadcast blew those two away. I had no choice but to use the Italian one.

So, after watching the different versions, I was able to see what scenes were missing from the widescreen Italian TV broadcast version.

The scenes missing in two versions (including the one I was going to use as the main source) were kissing scenes and a sexy dance number. Those scenes were missing from the Italian one, and oddly enough, from the English full screen version as well. In the Italian one, the kissing scenes and the dance number were entirely cut. But in the English 'Full Screen' version, the kissing scenes fade to black while the audio can still be heard (this is something I've never seen before), while the dance number is entirely cut.

To make things even more bizarre, the kissing scene between Francesco Rabal and Sylva Koscina are in the two French versions, but the kissing scene between Gianna Maria Canale and Rik Battalia is missing from all 4 copies.

Since the goal of was to use the widescreen Italian TV broadcast as the main file, I had to:

- remove the Arabic open credits and replace it with an altered French version with English title

- Re-insert the missing scenes, including the kissing scenes and the dance number

- Remove scrolling text from TV broadcast

- Fix audio (not illustrated for this article)

First: New Opening Credit

The first thing I did was to create an opening credit with English title and remove the Arabic credits from the widescreen Italian TV broadcast version.

I couldn't redo the entire opening credits in English because it would have taken way too much time to achieve this. I simply inserted the English title to the French opening credit. It was easy to do: a Photoshop file converted into a movie file.

Credit an opening credit:

Second: Add Cut Kissing Scenes

Second thing to do is to find the most complete kissing scene and insert them in the widescreen Italian version. The kissing scene in the image below is from the 'English Fan Dub semi-widescreen version taken from French source.'

Kiss number 1:

The second kissing between Gianna Maria Canale and Rik Battaglia is incomplete in all 4 versions but in the US English version the scene fades to black but we can still hear the audio. See the Youtube clip below.

Kiss number 2:

Scene is cut not by it being edited out the scene but by fading it to black, while the audio can still be heard. It must have been a hot kiss for it to be censored this way!

Since this kissing scene was cut from all 4 versions, I had to make sure the moments before and after were the most complete.

Third: Add Dance Number

This dance number was cut in two versions, the US English full screen version and the widescreen Italian TV broadcast. I took this scene from the 'English Fan Dub semi-widescreen version taken from French source.'

Fourth: Remove Scrolling Text

The fourth and final thing to do was to remove the scrolling text seen during the run of the film. The scrolling text (in Italian) tells me that this was from a TV broadcast.

Though not a major issue, it's annoying to see scolling text while watching a film. Above is how the text looked like. Below is the same scene with the text removed. And below that is a GIF animation showing before and after. Note that the image is stretch while maintaining same aspect ratio.

All those modified scenes above had to be inserted in the main timeline of the edited movie.

And here's a presentation of the end result.

In the timeline:

In Yellow: new opening credit.

In Orange: scrolling text removed

In Blue: missing kissing scenes inserted

In Green: dance scene inserted to timeline

The final result is the most complete version of THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS available anywhere. The only scene missing is the second kissing scene with Canale and Battaglia (plus a few seconds shaved off here and there to make the audio match the image).

Movie Poster Mondays

Spanish poster of THE TROJAN HORSE (1961)

Great poster!