Thursday, February 28, 2019

By the Gods!

Hercules (Alan Steel) lifts a Roman soldier in HERCULES AGAINST ROME (1964)

How can a mortal man challenge Hercules? A favourite film of mine, with Alan in top 'Peplum' form: he clearly had fun making this movie.


US lobby card set of ALONE AGAINST ROME (1962) yes, this proves the film was released in theatres in North America. A weak set. Only one card featuring the actors in full view. There are two cards with Lang Jeffries but you can barely see him. No Gabriele Tinti. Three cards with gladiator. One card for the dance number! This set could have been much better.

PEPLUM that never was: CLEOPATRA

Peter Finch and Harry Baird in a pre-production still of CLEOPATRA (1963). Because of production problems, Finch and director Rouben Mamoulian as well. Stephen Boyd was also set to play Mark Antony but the role went to Richard Burton. Baird would eventually star in a couple of PEPLUM films, including THOR & THE AMAZON WOMEN (1963).

Peter Finch as Caesar.  IMO, a much better choice than Rex Harrison. 

Above and below: Stephen Boyd as Mark Antony. 

Keith Baxter, Stephen Boyd and director Rouben Mamoulian. British actor Keith Baxter was set to play Octavian but was replaced by Roddy McDowall. 

A test shot. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

By the Gods!

Caligula (David Brandon) tries to seduce Miriam (Laura Gemser) in CALIGULA 2: THE UNTOLD STORY (1982)

Like so many quasi-porn PEPLUM flicks from the 1970s and early 80s, this one is a combination of depravity and sheer boredom. The big budgeted CALIGULA (1979) was a notorious film known throughout the world, so of course that film inspired many to produce low budget knock-offs like this one in an attempt to capitalize on the infamous one. Brandon is actually an interesting choice for Caligula but the script is terrible and it doesn't give him a real chance to give a performance. The beautiful Laura Gemser's star, so popular in the 1970s 'Eurocult' films, was beginning to fade. Laura is a beautiful woman who starred in many not-so beautiful films, and this one is no exception. On the far right is Charles Borromel, a Scottish actor who actually appeared in PEPLUM films of the Golden Era, including THE LAST GLADIATOR (1964; aka MESSALINA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES). Who has seen this movie?

Sergi Constance as Zeus in JUSTICE LEAGUE!

Last Sunday I wrote that Spanish bodybuilder Sergi Constance has the potential of becoming a new star of the PEPLUM genre. Well, someone commented that Sergi has already appeared in JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017), playing Zeus (thanks Fabio). I purchased the movie and checked it out. His screen time lasts just a few seconds but it is somewhat pivotal to the story. Personally, I think this is the best scene in the movie. In fact, all the scenes set in the past were pretty good, including the ones with the Amazons. The modern scenes...meh. I'm not a fan of CGI. Nonetheless, this is a good start for Sergi.

At the moment, the PEPLUM genre is all but dead. It needs a new emerging star to revitalize it. The reason HERCULES (1958) was such a huge hit was because the movie was very entertaining but mainly because of Steve Reeves. Same thing with Arnold, CONAN and the films of the 1980s. Sergi is the closest thing there is at the moment.

My PEPLUM film

In the 1980s I helped a professor of Opera at some University here in Montreal with the production of a short film based on Oedipus. I'm the fellow on the right in the photo above (and the last photo below). I'm making that face for the 'role'. I also played a cheesy monster, as seen in the photo below. That's the university teacher, as Oedipus, next to me, in full PEPLUM costume. He was Italian and loved old movies he grew up watching as a kid. Sadly I've never seen the finished film. But I have these photos.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

By the Gods!

The ending to SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR (1959), with Queen Zenobia (Anita Ekberg) on 'trial' and with Marcus Valerius (Georges Marchal) defending her. Lorella De Luca and Jacques Sernas are at the far right. Gino Cervi is on the far left.

This film which had a multitude of directors and writers involved, including Riccardo Freda, Michele Lupo, Michelangelo Antonioni and Sergio Leone. The end result sorta reflects this 'too many cooks spoil the broth' situation: some of it is very good but some of it is a mess. For example, the ending is odd because of one thing: we never see a close-up of Anita even though she's on trial. She's kept in the distance. This was most likely due to the anachronistic dress she wore. She's stunning in it but it doesn't really fit the setting. I'm sure all of those directors and writers were present on the set that day.

Future PEPLUM star: Sergi Constance

Like everything today, the world of bodybuilding is a mess and it's going through a lot of changes. One of the reasons it's not as popular as its once was is the inability of the BB world in creating new 'stars' like it was in the 1950s with Steve Reeves or the 1970s/80s with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Well, not anymore with Sergi. The Spanish bodybuilder is setting the world of bodybuilding on fire. They call him The Beast. One thing going for him: we know how he looks like with a beard, if he's ever cast as Hercules. Sergi's Facebook page.


When the PEPLUM genre died out from its ashes came the Spaghetti Western genre and the greatest SW is no doubt Sergio Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. What's cool about this film, which I love, is spotting all the PEPLUM stars in it. There are more of them than listed here but all the following actors made PEPLUM films way before making SW or this classic Leone epic.

Posted at the SPECIAL FEATURES permanent page

 Antonio Casas, who was also in a couple of PEPLUM flicks including REVOLT OF THE SLAVES

 Aldo Giuffre who played Seren, King of the Philistines in HERCULES, SAMSON AND ULYSSES

Benito Stefanelli, profiled here at the blog, was also seen in REVENGE OF THE GLADIATORS

Chelo Alonso had a role at the very beginning of THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY. She was a major star of the PEPLUM genre, including MORGAN THE PIRATE.

Claudio Scarchilli, profiled here at the blog, was a regular PEPLUM actor and was a bad gladiator in COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA.

Livio Lorenzon appeared briefly in the Leone epic; Lorenzon was one of the busiest PEPLUM actors of the bunch and can be seen in TERROR OF THE RED MASK.

Toni Dimitri can be seen during the hanging scene in TGTBATU; prior to that he was seen in a couple of PEPLUM films including ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS.

Friday, February 22, 2019

By the Gods!

Chelo Alonso and Steve Reeves; the ending to GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959)

Riding off into the PEPLUM sunset!

Chelo Alonso, R.I.P.

Popular PEPLUM star Chelo Alonso passed away last Wednesday at the age of 85. The Cuban-born beauty was one of the 'Queens' of the genre with some claiming she was THE Queen. A dancer, she was 'discovered' after a stint at the Folies Bergère in 1957. Chelo had a successful run with a career that lasted pretty much a decade, from the late 1950s to the late 1960s but the bulk of her PEPLUM films were made in a short span of 2 years! Her first film was SIGN OF THE GLADIATOR (1959) and her last one was ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS (1961). She made 4 PEPLUM films in 1959 and 4 in 1960. R.I.P..

Chelo Alonso's first movie had her shaking her hips. She apparently had a tumultuous working relationship with director Riccardo Freda (who was one of many directors for this film),


She's the lead female role in this film starring Steve Reeves. She was very good in it and had two dance numbers.

Chelo Alonso visits Steve Reeves on the set of HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959). Both Steve and Chelo starred together in GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959)

Princess Miriam (Chelo Alonso) and Dragon Drakut (Lex Barker). Another starring role for Chelo.

Chelo had a good role in this epic adventure. No dance number from her

Chelo in a behind the scenes photo from this production

Chelo Alonso and Jacques Sernas

Chelo's only leading role in a PEPLUM film. She's good in it. She pretty much shoulders the entire production.


Chelo and Steve Reeves starred in this epic pirate adventure. The two worked well together. 

Chelo Alonso plays Queen Smedes

Queen Smedes (Chelo Alonso) tries to seduce Maciste (Mark Forest) just to kill him

Capys (Chelo Alonso) is about to kill an ineffectual soldier

Chelo doesn't dance in this film, which, oddly enough, is a nice change. Her last role in a PEPLUM movie.

Chelo in 2011

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

By the Gods!

Maciste (Mark Forest) says goodbye to Pharaoh Kenamun (Angelo Zanolli) in SON OF SAMSON (1960)

Though Maciste has a female 'love interest' in this movie (not in image), his character has zero chemistry with any of the women. Even Chelo Alonso, plays the evil queen, only tries to seduce Maciste in order to kill him. Instead, director Carlo Campogalliani focused more on the relationship between Maciste and the Pharaoh, who's played throughout the story as someone who's clearly smitten by him. The Evil Queen 'hypnotized' the Pharaoh in order to marry her against his will and it's Maciste task to make him snap out of it. The Pharaoh is basically the story's 'damsel in distress' or 'gentleman in distress'. The role is oddly well played by Zanolli, shows no interest in anyone but his rescuer Maciste. All secondary female characters wear the same wigs or head gear, which makes them all look alike and difficult to set their characters apart (see below). It's one of the movie's most annoying aspects. But the subtle Maciste - Pharaoh relationship gives the movie an unexpected contemporary feel to it.


Steve Reeves and Chelo Alonso practicing a scene for GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959). Chelo has died today. I'll have more on her career on Friday.

Through the years: ALEXANDER THE GREAT

For such an colossal historical figure, there are few films based on the man's legendary life. Are there simply too many touchy aspects about his life that even today is deemed too taboo for a major production? A TV series, or mini-series, would probably be ideal since cramming his entire life in a couple of hours might not be enough.

What's your favourite production and who's your favourite actor that played him?

Prithviraj Kapoor in SIKANDAR (1941)

The earliest film appearance of Alexander wasn't a Hollywood film but a movie made in India. I haven't seen it yet.

Richard Burton in ALEXANDER THE GREAT (1956)

Probably the only 'respectable' film adaptation of the life of the legendary man. Excellent production and great cast don't overcome the uninspired and cold direction. I like it and it's fairly solid but I wouldn't call it fantastic by any means.

Sean Connery in ADVENTURE STORY (TV; 1961)

This TV production based on a play by Terence Rattigan. Few people have seen this early starring role for the future James Bond star.

William Shatner in ALEXANDER THE GREAT (TV; 1963)

Shatner starred in this TV pilot which failed to impress viewers and TV network execs. Therefore, a potential series on the life of Alexander wasn't picked up.

Gabriele Antonini in GOLIATH & THE REBEL GLADIATOR (1963)

Alexander is relegated to supporting character in this pulpy action movie. Fun film but Alexander is kinda weak here (nothing against Gabriele though)

Colin Farrell in ALEXANDER (2004)

Personally, I think this version directed by Oliver Stone is a complete disaster and Farrell entirely miscast. It wasn't a success at the box office, which basically doomed any future projects on Alexander the Great.