Monday, December 30, 2019

Happy New Year!

I'll see you again next year on Thursday!

By the Gods!

Elissa Landi and David Manners in THE WARRIOR'S HUSBAND (1933)

Can't review the movie or give any details of it because the movie is out of circulation. There is a 16mm print that's been shown in museums but it never surfaced on TV or any home release or even bootleg. Not even a trailer. It's a shame because I'd love to see it. It's based on a successful play which starred Katherine Hepburn who didn't play the role for the movie. Elissa Landi, of SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932), starred in the lead role. I'm sure it wouldn't be missing in action if Hepburn had been in it. Can only say, from the photos, that it looks great. There were so few PEPLUM movies in 1930s that any missing title from that decade is a sad thing.

The title is a play on that a warrior wouldn't have a 'husband' (even though Spartan warriors did have 'partners'). The warrior in this story is an Amazonian warrior (Landi). Today, that 'comical' significance would be lost since same sex marriage laws. The story would be seen as  politically incorrect.

It's also the only pre-HERCULES (1958) movie from Hollywood featuring Hercules, played by Tiny Sandford (last photo). Prior to the Steve Reeves movie, Hercules was often portrayed as some sort of caveman-like, barrel-chested man.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Original Italian poster of HERCULES AGAINST ROME (1964)

A montage of photos instead of the usual artwork. With Alan Steel, Wandisa Guida, and Mimmo Palmara. I like it. The fortress is from CONSTANTINE & THE CROSS (1961).

Friday, December 27, 2019

By the Gods!

Princess Fazia (Elaine Stewart) is confronted by the Great Banah (Amanda Blake) while Hajji Baba (John Derek) watches on in THE ADVENTURES OF HAJJI BABA (1954)

An early entry in the CinemaScope / Sword & Sandal / PEPLUM movies, this colourful adventure has everything: great looking cast, excellent (and familiar Californian) locations, excellent production, memorable song (sung by Nat King Cole which is heard throughout the movie), etc. The one thing it lacks is a good story. Don't get me wrong. It's a fun movie but the barely there story is barely able to keep my attention. This scene happens 49 minutes or so into the 90 minutes long movie and I already had enough. The characters or situations are not compelling enough. I like it. I'm just not crazy about it. Both Elaine and John would go to Italy to make the same type of movie. In fact, this one looks a lot like a PEPLUM movie from Europe.

An ALLIED ARTISTS PICTURES production with financing from 20th CENTURY FOX (AA got domestic gross while FOX got overseas grosses). FOX also helped with the CinemaScope process.

These screenshots are taken from an HD copy and the movie looks amazing. The cinematography is excellent, as these screenshots show. Aside from some grain here and there, the image is remarkable pristine and clear. Many titles are now finally coming out in HD and I'm glad for this new trend.

Mistakes and goofs in GWENDOLINE (1984)

Here's a small sample of the many mistakes in GWENDOLINE (1984) starring Tawny Kitaen, Brent Huff and Zabou. These screenshots were taken from the new Blu-ray release. It's very good. Not necessarily great but very good nonetheless. BTW, I've noticed these mistakes decades ago so don't blame HD transfer. Many of these mistakes or goofs drive me crazy!

Above and below: A continuity mistake. From one angle, Tawny's hand is above the wire but in the other angle, her hand is below it. This mistake drives me crazy. It's a good scene and yet this glaring continuity issue is unnecessarily distracting.

A side note: just to show how clear the image is, you can see the tiny hole of Tawny's pierced earlobe in the screenshot below.

Above and below: A female warrior is thrown on a set of mirrors. The scene is very brief but it's obvious the woman is a mannequin. Also, you can see the crew, camera and lights in the silver vase. Even more so now in HD.

During the movie's chariot race, one of the female warriors pulling the chariot is in the process of losing her bottom gear. This scene should have been reshot. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

By the Gods!

Maid Marian (Dee Lockwood) is saved by Robin Hood (Ralph Jenkins) in THE RIBALD TALES OF ROBIN HOOD (1969)

The word 'ribald' here denotes 'adult', meaning the movie is peppered with (awkward) sex scenes. Reading some of the reviews at IMDb and you'd think this was a movie of quality. One reviewer wrote that aside from the classic Errol Flynn movie of the 1930s, this one is a close second. I'm like what? The film is pretty much poor: bad acting, bad cinematography, cheap sets, etc. The costumes are all over the place: sometimes okay but mostly looking more like stuff seen at a high school play, well except for Robin's super tight tights which leave nothing to the imagination. Jenkins' fighting skills are pretty good or at least believable but his face wasn't meant to be on screen. He appears handsome in some shots but then in close-ups he looks like below. In the last part of the movie, a plump Maid Marian is tortured endlessly by the villainess (which I can't show here on the blog). The dialogue is more elaborate than most movies of this kind but it's not enough to elevate it from its tawdry soft core qualities. A German - American co-production. Also known as THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.

"The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood, his Lusty Men and Bawdy Wenches!"

Lobby Cards Set: THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961)

Original US lobby card set of THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) starring Steve Reeves. Great set. It just needed one extra close up shot of Steve and it would have excellent. A card with Steve and Giorgia Moll would have been great. But as it is it pretty much covers the movie's highlights.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

The three wise men follow the 'Star of Bethlehem' in KING OF KINGS (1961)

Personally speaking, a PEPLUM style adventure film with the Three Wise Men, or Three Kings, on a quest would make a great film. There is one Italian movie, with Raoul Bova, called THE FOURTH KING (1997), but it's not exactly spectacular.

I wish all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Steve Reeves, as Karim the thief, and Daniele Vargas.

The German Blu-ray edition of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) starring Steve Reeves, Giorgia Moll, Edy Vessel, Arturo Dominici and Daniele Vargas, and directed by Arthur Lubin (along with Bruno Vailati), is a great release. Previous releases were always poor or had the incorrect aspect ratios. This one is nearly perfect. I've uploaded quite a number of screenshots (and I could have uploaded more) but I think the images speak for themselves. Just to make sure, these screenshots are not retouched. I present them exactly as how the movie looks like in HD. Is it really nearly perfect? Not really. There are some issues which I'll explain soon but it's close to it.

The Blu-ray comes with German, Italian and English audio tracks. I watched the German and Italian versions briefly. The audio seemed a bit weak and low. The English audio seemed more dynamic but there's an issue with the English track: it's both in English and Italian since the US version was cut and the missing scenes edited out of the US version this version revert to Italian during those scenes. I believe there are about 8 or 9 scenes cut so therefore the movie switches to Italian from time to time. It's like one of my Fan Dubs. I'm happy the distributors did this. Even though it's annoying to hear two separate languages, the movie itself is intact. The Blu-ray can be set so English subs can appear during those scenes (see below). Were the scenes cut from the US version important? Not really but Gloria Milland is more present and the scene where they dress Karim (Reeves) into his blue clothes, entirely cut from the US copy, is important.

The issues with the Blu-ray edition, aside from the language switching issue mentioned above, mostly have to do with the English track. There are some audio problems, problems that could have been easily fixed but I guess they wanted to fix it in the least amount of time. Had they spent a bit more time on fixing it the audio it would have been without issues. The main problems are some popping sounds and audio looping, such as 49 minutes in where the audio is repeated twice for no reason. Generally, the image is excellent. It could have been a bit more vibrant. I have to say that the movie looks more vibrant when played directly from the disc than from a MKV file ripped from it (these screenshots were mostly taken from the MKV file I made from it). Looking at it in this Blu-ray and you can help but think that this is how people saw in it in movie theatres back in the day.

The runtime of the Blu-ray is 93 minutes, PAL conversion, which means 25 frames a second. The US copy I have is 91 minutes at 24 frames a sec. IMDb lists the original runtime at 100 minutes, at 24 frames a second. So the German version is pretty much uncut and it would come close to the original length if it wasn't presented in PAL format.

The film holds up very well. It has a nice magical sense to it which always make it fun to watch. For some reason, it has a nice Christmassy feel to it. The opening credits are in Italian and not the US version, which I find more appealing than the original one. Steve has never looked better even if he wasn't as buff as his previous movies. The cast is good and the production values are excellent throughout. This Blu-ray edition doesn't make it look cheap. The music by Carlo Rustichelli is memorable, even though one of his tracks from THE GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960) can be heard at one point, which always takes me out since that music is so familiar.

For extras, there's a short documentary with Giovanni Cianfriglia (see below), and a short presentation of photos and movie posters. Just a reminder: this is not the US version but the pretty much uncut version with different opening title. Will the US version ever get such a great Blu-ray release?

So, in closing: I'm very happy with it. If every PEPLUM movie had this treatment I'd be in heaven. And I get to watch it during this Christmas season.

Giorgia Moll  is princess Amina

 Karim steals from the rich to help the poor. 

Gloria Milland (right) has a small role as the Princess' handmaiden. Her role was literally cut out of the US edition available in 4:3 aspect ratio. Since she always stands on the sides, she was cropped out of nearly all of her scenes. So, for someone who has seen this movie several times in 4:3 it's nice to finally see Gloria.

A scene cut from the US version. The audio is in Italian but if you set the Blu-ray to display English subtitles, English subs will appear during those scenes.

 Karim and the princess fall in love

 Arturo Dominici is Prince Osman. Great actor.

 Karim in forced labor.

I don't think Steve has ever looked better than in this movie. The cinematographer and the lighting, or the direction by Lubin, made him look especially great.

 The production values are excellent. The HD format really makes it look good. Nothing looks cheap.

 Karim gets dressed in a blue suit. The entire scene is cut from the US version.

 Karim is greeted by beautiful women. Shot at Monte Gelato waterfalls. 

The Monte Gelato waterfalls were incorporated with a matte painting. The entire movie has plenty of matte paintings which is fun to watch.

 Kadeejah's lair.

 Edy Vessel as the mysterious seductress Kadeejah.

 Something is afoot. Karim notices that these statues resemble the suitors.

Matinee idol!

 The winged horse. Nice shot.

Karim becomes Sultan, with the approval of the Sultan of Baghdad (played by a confused Antonio Battistella).

Above and below: The movie is filled with nice matte paintings, a definite change from the usual Italian production. They still look nice in HD.

The opening credits for the US version. I prefer this version over the original Italian one which is pretty ordinary.

The Blu-ray has a mini documentary (a little over 7 minutes long) with the great Giovanni Cianfriglia explaining his stunt work, including his work with Steve Reeves, and also for THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD, which is pretty much seamless. Usually it's easy to spot Giovanni doing his stunt work but not in this movie. The doc is dated from 2006. So it wasn't made specifically for this Blu-ray. It's only in Italian with no English subs available.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

BY THE GODS!: My Christmas present…THIEF OF BAGHDAD Blu-ray

More on this tomorrow here at PEPLUM TV. 

By the Gods!

The Nativity scene from BEN-HUR (1959)

The Christmas holiday is always a difficult period for the blog. There are so few movies about the birth of Jesus. It's one of those perplexing things about the genre: the most famous story set in Antiquity is also the least filmed. There are plenty of movies about the Christmas holiday and there are plenty of movies with Jesus as an adult but few centred around his birth. Even in this brief moment in BEN-HUR, when the Three Kings visit the manger, we barely see Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. PEPLUM star José Greci played Mary, in the ever so brief scenes from this Hollywood epic. Laurence Payne was Joseph.

Steve Reeves on stage!

Carol Channing and Steve Reeves in the play "DELILAH". It's also known as THE VAMP. This was a couple of years before Steve would star in HERCULES (1958)

You can see that Steve was billed on the playbill. The 1955 pre-Broadway play was short-lived.



Starring Adrienne La Russa and Tomas Milian. Lucio Fulci's version of the often filmed tale is not for the squeamish. The recent Blu-ray is worth watching though. US title: THE CONSPIRACY OF TORTURE.

More at BY THE GODS!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

By the Gods!

Allan Jones and Irene Hervey in THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE (1940)

The movie is based on a famous Brodway musical. Still no official release from Universal. I have yet to see it in its entirety but you can view scenes here and there, including this one. It looks good to me. One of those rare and mostly forgotten PEPLUM movies from the 1930s. And even though the photo is in color, the movie itself is one of those black & white PEPLUM productions. 

PEPLUM Prop : The Gong

It's well known that Italian PEPLUM flicks recycled props (among other things) and here's one funny example: that gong! The gong has appeared in so many Sword & Sandal films that I've lost track. It even appeared in films of the 1980s. It's fun to spot it whenever I watch a movie.