Saturday, March 30, 2019

By the Gods!

A clairvoyant (Liliana Gerace) tells Diala (Irène Tunc) some future events which will seal her fate in APHRODITE - GODDESS OF LOVE (1958)

An unofficial remake of FRINE - COURTESAN OF THE ORIENT (1953). Both films directed by Mario Bonnard. Okay, remake is probably not the best way to describe it but both films have different stories but they both have identical scenes, characters that look alike, settings, etc. It's not a 'Twin Production' even if both films were directed by the same man and both films resemble each other, they are not from the same productions. It's just the director love these things and loved using the same look for the characters and sets. I really like both films, with this one being gorgeous in colour. Scenes of mediums or seers or clairvoyants are pretty common in PEPLUM movies. They're always fun to watch. Irene was a regular actress of the genre while Liliana was an actress who, from looking at her credits, worked sporadically. She did star in one of my favourite films, FISTS IN THE POCKET (1965) as the doomed mother.

Julius Caesar: why so difficult to cast?

Why is Julius Caesar so difficult to cast? Here's a partial list of mostly miscast actors. 

Bust of Julius Caesar

The very short Claude Rains played Julius Caesar in CAESAR & CLEOPATRA (1945). I love this film. Very underrated and overlooked. Even good as Rains is I recognize that he was totally miscast. Rains is such a good actor that even when he's miscast he's still fun in that role.

While the very tall Louis Calhern played Caesar in JULIUS CAESAR (1953). Excellent actor but not my favorite by any means.

John Gavin as Julius Caesar in SPARTACUS (1960) was an interesting choice but alas his character had minimal screen time and Gavin, good looking as he was, wasn't the best of actors.

Gustavo Rojo was Caesar in JULIUS CAESAR AGAINST THE PIRATES (1962). As miscast as he was, he gave such a good performance that in the end it didn't matter.

Rex Harrison in CLEOPATRA (1963). Regal, yes, but his Caesar had very little gruff.

Steve Reeves and Ivo Garrani in SON OF SPARTACUS (1962). Garrani is a good actor but, like so many others, miscast as Caesar.

Gordon Scott played Caesar in A QUEEN FOR CAESAR (1962). I like Gordon but no, not as Caesar. His role was more a cameo than anything else.

Cameron Mitchell in CAESAR THE CONQUEROR (1962). Of all the miscast actors, he's the one who sorta comes closest to Caesar but his portrayal was too calm or poised.

John Gielgud as an old Caesar in JULIUS CAESAR (1970). Gielgud is a great actor and he can hardly do any role wrong but I can't see him as Caesar.

Meanwhile...'s Alberto Lupo as Octavian in SON OF CLEOPATRA (1964). Lupo never played Caesar but if I had my way Lupo would have been my ONLY choice to play the famous emperor. An excellent actor who always gave sharp performances, always gave the impression that he was in control of everything and was very gruff while still looking intelligent, not barbaric or simple.


Serge Nubret @ PEPLUM Xtra

Thursday, March 28, 2019

By the Gods!

Mark Forest as Hercules (Maciste in original) in HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS (1964)

"Are you the Hero?"

The contrast between Mark's exposed body and the uniformed soldiers works great in this shot. He  stands out for sure. A great way to introduce our Hero. Mark appears roughly five minutes into the movie.  I made a fabulous Fan Dub of this.


US lobby cards set for THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959): very good set if a bit repetitive (3 scenes from the arena?) but it does give a good overview of the film. Colorful and good shots of Steve and Christine Kaufmann and one with Mimmo Palmara. I like it but it needed one showing the destruction of Pompeii.


KATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA is a film that was released in 2014. Well, it was barely released under any of its 3 different titles. It was released Direct-to-DVD for the US market. The whole thing is quite confusing. More confusing than anything released from Italy.

The initial story is that of St Catherine. The movie was titled KATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA and it starred Peter O'Toole, in one of his last roles. The titular role of Katherine was played by Nicole Cerna, in her first and seemingly last role. Full disclosure: I haven't seen any of these different versions. I guess I will one day.

This production has three 'official' trailers:


For its British theatrical release, the film was re-titled FALL OF AN EMPIRE. Different trailer than the one above.

It was re-titled once more as DECLINE OF AN EMPIRE for its American DVD release. You have to watch the trailer below:

This trailer omits everything about St Catherine. It's as if they're totally different movies and yet they are not. It's truly mind-boggling.

I guess the religious aspects of the story made it difficult to sell. From the reviews I've read, depending on which version viewed, the film is horrid or good. I'll have to see for myself. It doesn't look promising. The main actress is terrible.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

By the Gods!

Tarkan (Kartal Tibet) awaits his fate in TARKAN & THE BLOOD OF THE VIKINGS (1971)

While the PEPLUM genre basically died in and around the mid-1960s, other countries, like Turkey, kept the tradition going. The Tarkan films were basically PEPLUM movies made in Turkey. There are so many of them that I don't know if I should dare go down that rabbit hole but I'm familiar with two of them. This one and the first TARKAN (1969), which has gladiators in them. The editing in this one is pretty much choppy. The movies were so popular that parents would name their newborn sons Tarkan.

You can view this particular Tarkan epic on Youtube. The channel has more Tarkan titles.

Then & Now: Vassili Karis

Vassili in THE THREE AVENGERS (1964); a recent photo of him

Who wore it best?

Steve Reeves in SON OF SPARTACUS (1962) ; this was the first screen appearance of the costume

Carl Mohner in FALL OF ROME (1963)

Jeff Cameron in SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS (1965)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

By the Gods!

Steve Reeves, as Randus, and Enzo Fiermonte in SON OF SPARTACUS (aka The Slave; 1962)

This is the scene when Randus learns he might be the son of Spartacus. Though I like this film, there are a couple of underwhelming scenes in it, including the ending, and this one. Fiermonte's characters explains to him the origin of Randus' amulet (below). It's told in a casual way. It's not too dramatic since it takes some time for Randus to realize the truth but this scene is too undramatic. Sergio Corbucci's direction or vision was sorta lacking here. It needed some 'oomph' certainly when one considers that the long lost son of Spartacus, a man who fought against and was persecuted by the Roman army, ended up as a Roman tribune. Quite the irony. Reeves is always up to the challenge of his roles. He never appears overwhelmed by the hefty task of shouldering another epic film. One has to recognize that. Fiermonte appeared in many other films of the PEPLUM genre, including a reoccurring role in the TEN GLADIATORS series.

The amulet that leads to the discovery that Randus is the son of Spartacus


Not many covers of this film starring Steve Reeves. I couldn't find a single release in English. VHS covers are cool because they're so different than the packaging of DVDs or anything else. The countries: German; Greek, Spanish, French. 

Vintage article: Steve Reeves in Egypt

Small article (from an unidentified magazine) on Steve Reeves filming in Egypt for SON OF SPARTACUS (1962). He met with a bodybuilder named El Gindy. I don't know if this article is longer than this one page. If anyone has more, let me know.

Steve Reeves, as Randus, with Renato Baldini and Ivo Garrani. Film clearly shot on location in Egypt.

Friday, March 22, 2019

By the Gods!

 Rex Harrison, as Julius Caesar, and Elizabeth Taylor, as Cleopatra, in CLEOPATRA (1963)

If you've followed this blog for some time, you know that I've been critical of this super-production from day one. Oddly enough, I believe I wouldn't so critical of it...I would be more receptive towards this problem plagued production if it wasn't for this pairing. Harrison and Taylor have no chemistry whatsoever. Peter Finch was set to star as Julius Caesar and I can see how this might have worked better, for the 'love scene' parts of the gigantic movie, but not with these two. It doesn't help that the kissing scene (below) is one of the most awkward ones ever filmed in the history of cinema. That scene is not helped by the awful, cringe inducing dialogue and the fact that we have a good view of Taylor's nostrils. No amount pf spectacular production (third image) can overcome these insurmountably weak aspects of this production. This is not just the fault of the choice of actors (even though they have no chemistry) but the director and producers for not seeing this and rectify it, and at least not film that love scene that way. But even so, I truly believe that without this unlikely pairing the film would have flowed much more smoothly.


US lobby cards set for CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). This set is missing some big moments, including the Stygian Witches and no cards with Maggie Smith or Ursula Andress, etc. Good selection but somewhat lacking.

Now playing at the cinema

QUO VADIS (1951) playing at Cinema Eliseo, somewhere in Italy. Nice.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

By the Gods!

Kirk Morris, as Samson, in a spectacular 'feat of strength' moment from SAMSON & THE SEA BEAST (1963)

This set up is quite amazing. Not a big budgeted film by any means and yet since these were Italian productions, beautiful locations and ships were readily available, something even big budget Hollywood films couldn't easily get at the time. The 'death trap' is quite elaborate: the small boat with the rowers are pulling away, bringing the lances closer to Samson. Samson is not in danger as long as he keeps the boat close to the dock but with so many men rowing, it's a fight for dear life.

Director Tanio Boccia directed Kirk in the all time PEPLUM classic, TRIUMPH OF MACISTE (1961). IMDb's profile of Kirk has the absolute worst photo (headshot) imaginable, taken from this movie.


Behind the scenes photo of Pier Angeli during the filming of SODOM & GOMORRAH (1962). Note that the clapboard is in Italian.

Kirk Morris - stuntman in SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE?

A new DVD of SAMSON & THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964) was released in France. The image is very clear, so much so that we see details we weren't supposed to see, like the stuntman standing in for Alan Steel, who played Hercules. The stuntman looks more like Kirk Morris than Steel. In fact, I'd swear the stuntman was Kirk Morris. The only thing which tells me that's not Kirk is the stuntman is not as muscular as him. But he's an almost exact copy of Kirk from HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES (1963). Both Morris and Steel worked as stuntmen during their career. It's odd to see a stuntman in lieu of Steel in these action scenes.

The three following screenshots show the stuntman in action.

Above: Kirk Morris in HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES (1963). The stuntman in the 3 screenshots above look more like him than Alan Steel in the movie (below).

Monday, March 18, 2019

By the Gods!

Publicity photo of the cast of CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)

Athena (Susan Fleetwood), Aphrodite (Ursula Andress), Burgess Meredith (Ammon), Hephaestus (Pat Roach), Laurence Olivier (Zeus), Jack Gwillin (Poseidon), Perseus (Harry Hamlin), Hera (Claire Bloom), Andromeda (Judi Bowker) and Thetis (Maggie Smith).

Great cast. Unfortunately, most of the Gods had very little to do. Their roles were more cameos than anything else. It's always odd seeing a photo of characters that were never together in the story, that is Hamlin, Bowker and Meredith with the Gods. Hamlin and Andress became a couple after making this film and had a son together.

Excluding mythical creatures, such as the Medusa, there are many characters missing in that cast photo including Calibos, Thallo, Cassiopeia (played by Sian Phillips, above), the Stygian witches and of course, Bubo. Athena's owl would become Bubo, one of the most polarizing characters of all time. Part stop-motion and part animatronic (depending on the scenes). Personally, Bubo didn't bother me but many absolutely loathed the cute mechanical owl.

Flora Robson (don't ask me who of the three she was) is one of the Stygian Witches. Great scene.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Original Italian poster of HERO OF BABYLON (1963; aka Beast of Babylon Against the Son of Hercules)

Great poster. I'd like to buy it.