Tuesday, March 31, 2020

By the Gods!

A scene from SHE (1935)

I admit I have yet to see this movie. It's been eluding me since forever. Yes, it's available on DVD but I alway forget about it. As a movie poster collector, I know of it, and I know almost everything about it, and its connection to KING KONG (1933) and yet I have to see it. There's a colonized version of it which doesn't look good. But I have to say that there's nothing quite like such big scenes done in Art Deco design. It's truly unique.

The Bud Spencer & Terence Hill PEPLUM connection

Terence Hill and Bud Spencer in TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME (1971)

One of the most popular duos in cinematic history was the teaming of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, two Italian actors who changed their names and went on making dozens of popular movies from the 1960s to the 1990s. Like so many Italian actors or directors or producers, the two actors began their careers in PEPLUM movies before they became the famous duo. In fact, both Terence and Bud starred in HANNIBAL (1959) even though they don't share scenes together.

Bud Spencer aka Carlo Pedersoli

Carlo was an Olympic swimmer who began his film career in bit parts. One of these bit parts was in QUO VADIS (1951). He went on to appear in HANNIBAL (1959) but then stopped acting until 1967 in GOD FORGIVES...I DON'T! Thanks to happenstance, Terence Hill would be cast in that movie after the original actor was injured.

Peter Ustinov and Bud Spencer in QUO VADIS (1951)

Bud in HANNIBAL (1959)

Terence Hill aka Mario Girotti

Unlike Carlo, Mario was a full time actor and had substantial roles in the 1950s and 60s. He and Carlo both appeared in HANNIBAL but shared no scenes.

Mario with Rita Gam in HANNIBAL (1959)

Mario in CARTHAGE IN FLAMES (1960)

He was still credited as Mario Girotti when he appeared as the handsome prince in THE WONDERS OF ALADDIN (1961)

He changed his name to Terence Hill for GOD FORGIVES...I DON'T! which also starred Carlo, who also changed his name and became known as Bud Spencer. The movie was a big hit and the rest is history.

You can read Terence's account of their careers at the official Terence Hill website.

Monday, March 30, 2020

By the Gods!

Deborah (Christiane Lenier), Magdala (Nathalie Nerval) and Saul of Tarsus (Jean-Marc Tennberg) in LE CHEMIN DE DAMAS (1952)

A rare, seldom seen French PEPLUM of the story of Saint Paul. We learn at the start of the story that Saul was hired to get rid of the apostles and anything to do with Jesus. We follows his long and torturous journey in becoming an apostle and eventually be known as Saint Paul. It's quite dark for its time though the staginess of the direction keeps it from being too depressing.

Production wise, it's quite good. It's very theatrical (it was almost entirely filmed in a studio). There are many scenes where the studio setting is quite obvious but the production is still good, including matte paintings. Everything is theatrical, certainly the acting. Everyone shouts their dialogue. This aspect dates the movie a lot but the movie is also quite atmospheric. Lots of quiet moments, which was rare for movies back then.

The movie has a famous stoning scene of Saint Etienne (Claude Laydu). There are also whippings and the usual stuff seen in PEPLUM movies. The portrayal of the many characters is odd. For instance, Peter, aka Simon the Fisherman, is portrayed as a sort of a weak man who jokes and mocks people. Not exactly what I envision as the man who lead to the founding of the church.

From what I can determine, the movie has no English dub. The title would be THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS. Some have criticized the movie as being anti-semitic.

I like the concept of the film. It has an almost fantasy feel to it but for me the overacting is a real liability. This wasn't uncommon in other French PEPLUM movies back then. SINS OF POMPEII (1950) suffers from the same annoying acting style.

6.5 out of 10. Production: 8 out of 10.

Etienne (Claude Laydu; in white) witnesses the torture of Simon the Fisherman (Jacques Dufilho)

Very good production values.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Italian poster of THOR THE CONQUEROR (1983)

Good art and not that different than the one from the Golden Era but this sorta looks more like a Tarzan movie than a 'Thor' movie.

PEPLUM TV Official store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

Friday, March 27, 2020

By the Gods!

Alan Steel and Brigitte Heiberg

This movie was planned as a PEPLUM movie but after the success of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), the producers decided to switch everything into a Western. The end product is still pretty much a PEPLUM but in a Western setting.

One of the movies with more 'official' titles than any other PEPLUM.

The original Italia title: SANSONE E IL TESORO DEGLI INCAS





Without searching Google or IMDb, which of the 4 English titles above is the title seen in the TV broadcast?

I'll post a screenshot of the answer on Monday.


BY THE GODS!: Steve Reeves as Li’l Abner

Steve Reeves missed out on many roles. One of them was Li’l Abner.

Only at BY THE GODS!

PEPLUM movie cards

These are movie cards called Fiches de Mr Cinema. Included in their 'fiches' (or files) are PEPLUM movies. Here's a small sample of these. There's more information on the movies on the back of these cards. These are not lobby cards or anything to do with the release of movies but more like an encyclopedia of movies.

HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961) starring Reg Park

THE ROBE (1953) starring Richard Burton

DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS (1954) starring Susan Hayward and Victor Mature

SAMSON &DELILAH (1949) starring Victor Mature

THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (1963) starring the 3 Stooges and Samson Burke

DAUGHTERS OF DESTINY (1953) starring Raf Vallone

Thursday, March 26, 2020

By the Gods!

David Carradine in THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS (1984)

One of many 'Sword & Sorcery' movies released in the 1980s after the success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982). It sorta went under the radar back then (it opened in only 238 theaters in the US). It was a popular rental in video shops though.

The boring story, borrowing heavily from Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), which borrowed from Kurosawa's YOJIMBO (1961): a mysterious stranger, Kain (Carradine), comes between two waring gangs which are terrorizing a town. Kain manipulates the two groups into killing each other: First, BaL Car (Guillermo Marin) and then Tyrant Zeg (Luke Askew). Kain is also known as the Dark One.

Unlike movies of the time, this one doesn't have any barely dressed muscle-bound hero crushing skulls, a major selling point for these kind of movies. Almost the entire cast is 'aesthetically' challenged.

The movie feels like the crew set-up everything, such as the cheap looking sets, costumes, etc. And then David showed up, filmed his scenes and left. It's not a very vigorous tale. It's definitely not as trashy or exploitive as the DEATHSTALKER series, or most Sword & Sorcery movie made at the time. This also means it's not as entertaining. As bad as many of the Sword & Sorcery movies were back then, many were actually fun to watch. That doesn't mean it's not trashy or exploitive. Just less. The somnambulant pace keeps it from being as memorable as other movies of the time.

Are the most important part of the movie, the action scenes, good? They're okay but nothing memorable.

What can you say about a movie in which a dancing girl with 4 breasts is its most memorable scene? The movie does have nudity: every women appears nude throughout, and there is some brief male nudity during an unimpressive orgy of sorts. The abundance of female nudity solidly keeps this movie in the R-rated category.

The music is a complete rip-off of many other scores, including Jerry Goldsmith's STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979)!

It was shot in Argentina.

I have the VHS and HD versions of this.

A sleepy 4 out of 10 (the dance sequence is a 10 out of 10 though).

The predictable climax between Kain and Kief (Anthony De Longis), captain to Zeg. The sets look like, well, cheap looking sets. De Longis is the only beefcake in the movie.

The movie's stand-out scene: dancer (Cecilia Narova) entertains the grungy cast of characters. What's a PEPLUM movie without a dance sequence, 4 breasts or not? Side note: this scene was re-used in MARQUIS DE SADE (1996). (I edited photo).


Original US lobby cards set of SLAVES OF BABYLON (1953) starring Richard Conte and Linda Christian. This set is actually very good. Has almost all the best scenes from the movie. The problem is not many people have seen this so it's sorta meaningless to them but since I like this movie, it's a solid set. This includes a photo of Julie Newmar's excellent dance seen. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

By the Gods!

 Gordon Scott as Mucius in COLOSSUS OF ROME (1964; aka Hero of Rome)

Directed by Giorgio Ferroni, this PEPLUM is very solid. It's a quasi-serious movie in that it's based on an actual person, Gaius Mucius. In fact, after the opening credits, we see text setting up the story and how the movie is dedicated to this 'colossus' of Rome. But many people find historically correct movies boring and therefore this was made into an action-packed adventure, and it takes major liberties with many aspects of the real history of Mucius. In one scene, below, Gordon Scott is seen lifting up big tree trunks which would have been way too heavy for an ordinary man to lift. But these 'Feats of strength' scenes were expected in order to sell PEPLUM movies and this one was no exception. Mucius wasn't Hercules but audiences back then (and today) wanted to see such scenes. Incorporating such 'Feats of strength' in 'serious' PEPLUM movies make them less serious. I still like it and understand, and enjoy, such scenes (I've tons of compilations of such moments) but in this case, was it really needed? Couldn't Mucius just get 5 or 6 guys to let the tree with him?

Of course, Gordon Scott is impressive in this and one could somewhat believe that someone with his physique could achieve such a feat.

Then and Now: Anne Helm

Anne in THE MAGIC SWORD (1962); a recent photo of the actress

Monday, March 23, 2020

By the Gods!

Hercules (Steve Reeves) says goodnight to Iole (Sylva Koscina) in HERCULES (1958)

Though Steve was over 6 feet tall, oddly enough he wore lifts for his role as Hercules, as you can see for his sandals, which are thicker than usual. It's probably because Sylva was a tall gal. She was nearly 5'9". I've read comments on some of her non-PEPLUM movies uploaded at Youtube how tall she was, like a giraffe. Personally, I thought she was just right. It seems the producers thought Hercules should be that much taller than Iole. Without the platform sandals, Steve would still be taller than her. I always found this interesting.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

German poster of HERCULES - PRISONER OF EVIL (1964)

Great poster if a bit inaccurate (there's no scene of a near naked woman in it). The German title translates as URSUS AND THE DEVIL'S SLAVE.

PEPLUM TV Official store

The PEPLUM TV store for 2020!

Friday, March 20, 2020

By the Gods!

Luciano Marin watches as Maciste (Reg Lewis) shows how to start a fire in COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE ( aka Fire Monsters against the Son of Hercules)

I always see these scenes in stories set in prehistory. In this instance, Maciste (named Maxus in the English version) shows the tribe how to start a fire. They all cheer when it happens (below). It's always one person teaching another tribe how it's done when I believe everyone pretty much knew how to start a fire. This was the entire plot of QUEST FOR FIRE (1981). Cave people weren't that dumb. But the whole  debate is still on-going.


Princess Helene (Anne Helm) is to be sacrificed to the two-headed dragon 

THE MAGIC SWORD (1962) starring Gary Lockwood, Anne Helm, Estelle Winwood and Basil Rathbone. Directed by Bert I. Gordon.

A fun, amiable fantasy movie many have probably seen as a kid and loved it then and might still enjoy it today. I won't write an extensive movie review since the movie itself is pretty much straight-forward. A hero, Sir George (Gary Lockwood) has to save a princess (Anne Helm). He acquires a magic sword and with a small crew of knights, goes on the quest. His mother is a sorceress, Sybil (Estelle Winwood), who helps him throughout the story. The villain, Lodac, is played by Basil Rathbone.

I've seen this movie several times since I was a kid. It's still fun to watch but it is borderline 'kiddie' stuff even though there are some dark moments here and there.

Gary Lockwood is an interesting choice for the role of Sir George. His American accent pretty much clashes with the setting and other actors. His style of acting, sorta the James Dean school of acting, is also at odds with the more classical style from the rest of the cast. Even so, I like Lockwood in this role. It's obvious he liked his role and he had fun making the movie, which adds so much to the amiable tone of the movie. I can't see anyone else playing Sir George. Anne Helm has a lot of screen time with Rathbone.  I'm not too familiar with her since she was mainly a TV actress during the 1960s. Her first screen appearance is the 'Bathing Beauty' cliché.

The veterans steal the show, with Basil relishing his role as the baddie. And Estelle Winwood is a hoot as the goofy but determined witch. Their sparring is one of the movie's highlights.

Gary Lockwood as Sir George. One of his most memorable roles.

Basil Rathbone and Estelle Winwood compete against each other. It's wizard vs witch. This battle between is one the best part of the movie.

Villain Lodac watches as the princess and hero show their love for each other. Haven't we seen this scene in plenty of other movies? 

Nice scene!

For a such a small movie, the technical aspects are pretty good. It has every kind of special effects, including makeup, masks, small and large practical effects. There's the miniature scenes with the little people carrying the sword. It's quite amazing how much visual effects stuff crammed in it. Are they all effective? Not really. Some are stand-outs (dragon and big practical sets) but some of the makeup effects and optical ones show their age. For instance, the makeup of the Ogre (Jack Kosslyn) is clearly dated but the optical effects of him being a giant monster fighting the smaller knights on horseback is very effective so, in the end, it doesn't really matter.

The use of color is interesting. Lotsa garish reds and primary colours blended with the greyish medieval settings.

A lot of the action has Lodac or Sybil watching events via magic mirrors or projections, as if they're watching stuff on TV.

The movie was shot almost entirely in a studio, though there are some exterior scenes, which look decidedly like California and not some setting somewhere in Europe. And that monkey seems out of place but kids will like the chimp.

I have 2 versions, the standard DVD release and this new Blu-ray print. I wrote a brief review of the Blu-ray release at BY THE GODS!

7 out of 10.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

By the Gods!

Stuart Whitman as Boaz in THE STORY OF RUTH (1960)

Stuart Whitman died on March 16 at the age of 92. He had a long acting career, in movies and TV. I remember him mainly as a familiar face in TV shows in the 1980s and the horror movie EATEN ALIVE (1976) but he appeared in a couple of PEPLUM movies early in his movie career. He's very good in STORY OF RUTH. R.I.P..

Elena Eden played Ruth. Here, Ruth was castigated by locals when trying to get some water. Boaz fetched it for her.

For a good part of the movie, Stuart appeared on horseback, riding here and there until his character settled down. It reminded me of a Western.

Stuart Whitman in FRANCIS OF ASSISI (1961), also starring Bradford Dillman in the titular role.

Stuart had a small part as the squire to Prince Henri (Roger Moore, not shown) in DIANE (1956)


Lou Ferrigno rides a chariot somewhere in Hollywood as part of a promotion for HERCULES (1983)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

By the Gods!

 Turhan Bey and Maria Montez in SUDAN (1945)

A colourful adventure/romance movie that's rarely shown anywhere these days. Like all Maria Montez movies of the 1940s, it's an over-the-top colourful adventure. Not as over-the-top as COBRA WOMAN (1944) but it's a close second. The Maria Montez - Jon Hall - Sabu - Turhan Bey movies of the 1940s were very popular (Sabu is not in this movie). Today, they evoke a time that's long gone. I'll have a full review of this soon.

Look at Maria's expression. 

Different titles: THE SON OF CLEOPATRA

Today, it's THE SON OF CLEOPATRA (1964) starring Mark Damon and a host of Italian actors. Pretty straight forward translation. Nothing too wild. Can't find that many other title versions. 

Original Italian title. This title also appears in different languages versions. 

English title (US or UK).

The wordy German title translates as THE SON OF CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA

The movie stars Mark Damon.