Friday, April 30, 2021

By the Gods!

Steve Reeves as Aeneas in THE AVENGER (1962 ; aka War of the Trojans) 

Along with the DVD set of THE BIG FISHERMAN, I purchased this relatively recent release of this movie on DVD from Italy. It's basically the same print as previous versions but at a higher resolution. The big scene at the beginning available only in the French version is still missing from this cut though. So it's definitely not complete but it's the best version of this movie out there. It includes the Italian and English audio so a definite plus. You can buy it here.

Different Versions: THE LOVES OF HERCULES (1960)

PEPLUM movies made in Europe, mainly Italy, often had different versions of the same movie for different markets: one for Europe and another for North America. Though this practice was not widespread, it happened enough to be an issue. It's one of the reasons why Fan Dubs for some titles are impossible to make: the English audio doesn't match the European print. Here's one clear example.

THE LOVES OF HERCULES (1960) has three versions. I only show two versions here. The version on the left is the original Italian version while the screenshot on the right was taken from the US print. The third version is the one with Mickey Hargitay's real voice (I've never seen that one). The movie was made in 1960 but released in the US in 1966 (direct to TV?). 

Not only is the action of the same scenes different but the one for US market seems to have been made specifically for television. Side by side comparisons show how the framing between the two versions is completely different. In the above example, the US one shows Hercules (Mickey Hargitay) from the waist up while the Italian print shows him from the chest.

The problem is that the US version of the movie has never been released in widescreen (does it exist?) therefore it's impossible to fully know how much more different it it. Needeless to say, this is one of the best examples out there.

I can't imagine what a nightmare it must have been to keep track of all these scenes.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

By the Gods!

Peter (Howard Keel) meets Fara (Susan Kohner) in THE BIG FISHERMAN (1959)

I got the Italian DVD in the mail yesterday (amazingly FAST service). I'm happy and yet disappointed. I'm happy to show screenshots of the movie in widescreen. This being the first movie shot in Super Panavision 70, it needs to be seen in the widescreen format. I won't review the movie itself as I've learned after watching tons of PEPLUM movies with bad prints that watching a movie with a great print is the only way to give it a fair overview. Needeless to say, this movie is more THE SILVER CHALICE (1954) than BEN-HUR (1959). It seems to draw as much criticism as THE SILVER CHALICE. Just check out the reviews at IMDb. That's all I shall say about it for now.  

As for the Italian DVD pack, it comes with two discs. One with the movie in 4:3 aspect ratio. This print is available in Italian and English, at 165 minutes (PAL) while the second disc is only in Italian, in widescreen at 122 minutes (PAL). I'm glad I bought it even though I'm disappointed the widescreen copy is not in better shape and there's no English track. The print in widescreen was reason alone in getting this pack.

Looking at this release I wonder: aside from PEPLUM fanatics like me who's going to buy this?

The movie has many insane massive sets!

Here's a comparison between the Italian DVD above and, below, the only copy available in English. It's almost unwatchable in 4:3. 


Steve Reeves waits patiently as the scene is set up during the filming of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Clip of the week: PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE (1963)

Richard Harrison (Perseus) fights the Medusa. This is the Spanish version which is different from the Italian one. In the Spanish version, the score, special effects (lasers...) and editing are different.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

By the Gods!

Paul Muller and Alan Steel in DUE SELVAGGI A CORTE (1959)

I wanted to write about it for a while but had so many other things going. This rare movie wasn't released in English. The title translates as TWO SAVAGES AT THE COURT. Now if one looks at the IMDb page for this movie, Alan Steel is not credited. Not even under is real name, Sergio Ciani. This movie would be more known if they actually included him in the credits. 
I have to say, Alan looks great in B&W. It's a rare black and white movie shot in widescreen. I have to update my list of B&W PEPLUM titles. Directed by PEPLUM veteran Ferdinando Baldi. It's a gorgeous looking film with a dream PEPLUM cast: Leonora Ruffo, Erno Crisa, Carla Calo, Andrea and Franco Fantasia, Nando Angelini, etc. A true find.

Musings! (04-27)

Searching far and wide for all things PEPLUM! Luciano Marin and Steve Reeves in GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS (1959)


People are slowly realizing how bad the Blu-ray release is. At the '' forum dedicated to the movies, there's an on-going discussion on this release and a link to this blog's review was posted (thanks). Also, someone posted a review at AMAZON re-iterating the points I've made. It's a bad release. People buying it don't realize the Blu-ray is a fail.

On a side note, I registered to that forum and posted a message months ago but the post was rejected or it wasn't posted. I don't (or can't) post there. So this is not some self-promotion. Someone there doesn't like me.

The future of the PEPLUM genre is in streaming...

Last week, I mentioned how TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS was available for streaming on Spain. The print is beautiful. Well, there are already plenty of PEPLUM movies available on Amazon Prime. Some of the prints look good but most of them (from either Sinister Cinema or something like them) seem to be in poor quality.

The title below is actually PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE (1964). PERSEUS AGAINST MONSTERS makes it sound like a kids movie...but it's still better than MEDUSA VS THE SON OF HERCULES. The artwork on the poster or cover is from the French DVD release. I guess Amazon is affiliated with them.

Cinematic Confusion

Speaking of streaming services, the old Cinematic Confusion tradition, which has plagued the PEPLUM genre since forever, continues on with streaming services. In this screenshot of the Amazon page for ATLAS AGAINST THE CZAR (1964), the photo of Kirk Morris, who stars in that movie, is actually from HERCULES, SAMSON AND ULYSSES (1963). Then the 'Starring' credits show Michele Mercier, Richard Harrison and Roldano Lupi. None of them are in ATLAS AGAINST THE CZAR. It's truly baffling how these mistakes keep happening. I truly believe the PEPLUM genre is cursed.

Identify the movie!

Can you identify the movie from this screengrab? It's an easy one...

Last week's IDENTIFY THE MOVIE was a screenshot from THE MONGOLS (1961). No one bothered guessing, which is okay. It was an obscure shot.


The other issue was the misspelling in the credits. Again, no one tried to guess where the error was. The problem was with the Director credit. Pietro Franscici was misspelled as FRANCISICI, which would be a mouthful. 

French DVD problem

The Artus DVD of SAMSON AND THE MIGHTY CHALLENGE (1964) has some sort of odd image issue which is brief but very odd. Below are screengrabs of the bizarre issue. The actors look like ghosts. Beware! 

I posted about this at BY THE GODS! a few weeks ago and I wanted to share it here.


Recent Acquisitions

I didn't receive anything in the mail but I did buy the Italian DVD of THE BIG FISHERMAN (1959). The 2 discs pack says the English track is included and it's in widescreen. Yeah!  There are two discs and the English one is not in widescreen. Oops...Anyway, at least there's a copy in widescreen. The runtimes between the English and Italian ones are also quite different.

I also bought a newer print of THE AVENGER (1962 ; aka War of the Trojans) starring Steve Reeves. I hope this print will be better than all of the previous ones which have all been disappointing up to now.

I should receive these this week so I'll have a review, or a quick overview, of them soon.


Last week, I wrote that I'll have the review of the new German Blu-ray of DUEL OF THE TITANS this week but things have been so hectic here that I'll postpone the review for next week.


I recently joined TikTok and I have to say that the platform is happening. I'm thinking of creating a PEPLUM TV account there. The issue: showing short clips of movies in portrait format. 

I wanted to create a Youtube channel with tons of short clips from PEPLUM movies but Youtube sucks. TikTok is so much better (for now) but showing clips in Portrait mode will be a challenge. TCM already does this and it's quite good. 


In closing, does this movie really exist? What's the other title it's known as by everyone. Of course, try not to use IMDb or search the internet.


Future Musings:

- List of PEPLUM books

- List of movies available in HD / Blu-ray

- PEPLUM Museum?

- A new Twitter account for actresses of PEPLUM movies?

Monday, April 26, 2021

By the Gods!

Spartacus (Massimo Girotti) is seduced by Sabina (Gianna Maria Canale) in SPARTACUS - SINS OF ROME (1953)

As a fan of PEPLUM cinema, I consider this scene iconic. It sums up pretty much the entire genre in one discussion. So I was quite shocked to see that this scene was cut from a new Italian copy I have in my collection. I watched it this weekend and I had to make sure I wasn't seeing (or not seeing) things. But in this copy, we don't see Spartacus giving in to Sabina. It just goes from him being a rebel to him bedding Sabina. It's a weird cut. Why would this scene be cut? Well, the scene is sorta racy. But it is in the US version...and god knows the US back then were touchy with racy scenes. But even in the US version a brief kiss (they kiss twice in the original cut) was removed from the US cut and it shows. The kiss was removed to build up tension between the two and it followed the translated dialogue in the US version with Sabina taunting Spartacus that every men would love to be in his position. The dialogue in the Italian version vs the US version is different but not by much. The thing I love about the Italian version is that Sabina gets excited after she kisses him for the first time and she loves to feel his body tremble with rage and hate. This dialogue was changed in the US version. It's still okay but at the very end of the scene, Sabina mocks Spartacus, claiming he'll always be a slave. In the US version the dialogue was changed, with Sabina claiming he was all hers and he would take care of him. The voices for the English versions are pretty good and suit the characters. Redubbing the movie with new voice actors would be a shame but the slight differences in dialogue favours the Italian version, but just so. Brilliant film by Riccardo Freda.

PEPLUM Movie Posters

Spanish poster of THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES (1961) 

Great art even though Rory Calhoun looks a bit rough there!

PEPLUM TV Official store


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Article of the week: HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961) Blu-ray review


HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961; 1963 US) starring Reg Park (Hercules), Fay Spain (Queen Antinea), Ettore Manni (Androcles), Mimmo Palmara (Astor), Laura Efrikian (Ismene), Luciano Marin (Illo). Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi

As a fan of PEPLUM movies, one of the biggest frustrations is the complete lack of titles available on DVD or Blu-ray in English here in North America. As a big fan, this lack has forced me (and others) to create Fan Dubs: using the usually scratchy English audio taken from an old VHS recording from a TV broadcast and edit this track unto a pristine print taken from a DVD or a TV broadcast from Europe. I've done over 20+ such Fan Dubs. It's the only way to enjoy these movies if one wants to view them in English. 

HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961) is one of the bigger movies of the genre, figuratively and literally. It's the first movie starring big Reg Park as Hercules and the movie itself is big: big sets, big cast, big production, big cinematography. It's one of the few PEPLUM films shot in Technirama, now known as 70 MM. On this side of the Atlantic, the movie was hard to get in a beautiful print in English while the movie itself was available in decent prints in Europe, in Italian or French. The copies here are of the public domain variety, washed out, cropped and barely watchable. Until Retromedia released on DVD in widescreen and in English. It was available individually and also part of the HERCULES COLLECTION pack, which is the one I have. 

There are two versions of this movie, the original Italian edit and the US version, with a different opening credit and many changes to the score. The Retromedia DVD was the first time the US version was available in widescreen. Though not perfect by any means, it was the best print available of this grand colourful PEPLUM in North America. Until now. HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN was released last week on Blu-ray, by The Film Detective. This will be an overview of this release. I'll compare it to the Retromedia copy and a recent Italian TV broadcast. I won't review the extras or if there are scenes missing or abbreviated, etc. This is just a comparison. 

So, just to make sure:

Retromedia DVD
Italian TV Broadcast
New The Film Detective Blu-ray.

Since the opening credit is different in the US version from the original Italian version, I'll only compare the Retromedia DVD and The Film Detective Blu-ray.

Note: I didn't do any image retouching to any of the screengrabs used for this review. They are shown as is.







In the Blu-ray, the oceans are green.




In this scene, when Hercules and friends experience a vision, the image is supposed to be blood red. In the Blu-ray, it's orange. It's awful. 










The orange tint in the Blu-ray is awful.




The above comparison is telling: Ismene's dress is washed out and lacks details in the Blu-ray release while you can see details in the TV broadcast. The same thing can be said about the details in the surrounding rocks and landscape. The clarity of the Italian TV broadcast shows how disappointing the new Blu-ray is.

This GIF comparison shows how bad the new Blu-ray release is. One of the film's central theme is blood and the color red. When Ismene is released from captivity after Hercules kills Proteus, the walls behind her start bleeding. The entire Proteus scene is great and imaginative. But the blood in the Blu-ray is orange. In the DVD and the Italian TV broadcast, the blood is red. In this comparison, one can see the clarity of the TV broadcast. Not only are the colours wrong in the Blu-ray but the image is distorted.

This GIF comparison shows how problematic the new Blu-ray is: the DVD and the Italian TV broadcast are almost identical in terms of maintaining the image. There's no distortion between them. But the Blu-ray is squished, making the actors look taller and thinner than they are. The Blu-ray has more information on all the sides but the colours are wrong. For a Blu-ray release, the clarity of the image is only one step above the Retromedia DVD. The Blu-ray is not really sharp. While the Italian TV broadcast is crystal clear compared to the two. You can see Fay Spain's eyes in that image. 


Impossible to show here in this review but the audio in the new Blu-ray is sometimes out of sync. Some would blame the fact that this is a dubbed movie but this out-of-sync issue is not present in the Retromedia DVD.

In one scene, Hercules jumps down to the floor and you can hear the noise of the feet hitting the floor before he does. After that Hercules puts his hand on Androcles' shoulder and again you hear the tapping sound before the hand actually hits the shoulder. As someone who's done tons of Fan Dubs, this is quite obvious to me.

The Film Detective release wins hands down in regards to the resolution and that's about it. The colours are all wrong. The image is distorted as they crammed the super widescreen image, making everything look squished. And there are obvious issues with audio being out of sync even if the clarity and loudness are good. 

The Italian TV broadcast wins overall in terms of clarity, sharpness and details of the image even if the image is cropped all around, having less information than the there two versions, and the colours, though beautiful, are not as vivid as the Retromedia version. 

The Retromedia DVD is too dark and at times overly saturated, 
the image is very soft, and the audio is fairly weak and it has many scratches and 'pops' but in terms of accuracy, in regards to colour, screen information and 'film look', it beats the Blu-ray hands down. 

So, in closing, the new Blu-ray is very disappointing. The orange tint present throughout ruins it. And the out-of-sync audio issues are annoying. I'm not familiar with The Film Detective but looking at this release, one has to ask: did anyone there actually saw the movie prior to this release? 

4 out of 10.