Here's a quick overview of all the PEPLUM books I have in my library.

WITH FIRE & SWORD by Patrick Lucanio

An expensive book (over $100.00), it was seemingly published more for Academia than for the general public. 

- Great format and text. Easy to read.
- A good overview of the genre, no matter how error filled it is
- Great name for book

- Unnecessarily repetitious and padded
- Many errors
- Dubious knowledge of the genre
- Super expensive
- Few images or illustrations

RETRO STUD by David Chapman

The first PEPLUM book I ever bought. Like almost all books listed here, this one has good aspects to it and some truly horrendous ones as well (yes, horrendous!). I don't even know where to start!

- Good layout
- Excellent selection of posters

- Author dislikes the PEPLUM genre (!!!)
- A boatful of titles that don't exist
- Generally lazy

CINEMA ITALIANO by Howard Hughes

Well, I won't beat around the bush with this book: avoid

- None to list

- Doesn't care for the genre
- Out of 300 pages, only 75 pages dedicated to the PEPLUM genre
- Expensive

LE PEPLUM by Laurent Aknin

A small book (123 pages or so) that's nearly all about Hollywood. 

- Covers recent PEPLUM films
- Good layout
- Cute

- Little interest in Italian PEPLUM films
- Nearly all Hollywood

EPIC FILMS (second edition) by Gary Allen Smith

Very well researched and the layout is beautiful. Needs updating though.

- Excellent layout
- Well researched
- Includes titles of projects that weren't completed.

- Missing titles or genres (like Arabian genre...but all PEPLUM books have this problem...)
- Pricey!

IL GRANDE LIBRO DI ERCOLE by Steve Della Casa and Marco Giusti

Reviewing this hefty book is difficult since it's in Italian.

- Actors list, with photos, is excellent
- Good but not great layout
- Illustrated

- Authors favour Hollywood films
- Missing titles, genres, etc
- Name of the book doesn't make any sense

ITALIAN SWORD & SANDAL FILMS  by Roy Kinnard and Tony Crnkovich

This 'book' only contains listings. 

- Nothing

- Everything. A rip-off.


This magazine (is it really a magazine?) covers the subject of films from the 1950s (and early 1960s). 

- Glossy publication
- Rare interview with Steve Reeves

- Photos, photos, photos
- Expensive (nearly $40.00 with shipping and handling)

HEROES NEVER DIE! by Barry Atkinson

One of the latest books covering the genre.

- Excellent publication (print, design...)
- Illustrated (photos, posters...)

- Dubious reviews of movies that are impossible to get
- Overwrought writing style
- Comes in two editions: black and white, and in colour. The colour edition is very expensive.


Here are 3 additional books from my library. They are added to the list found at the permanent page. Note that the formatting of the reviews is different since the old reviews were published using the old Blogger formatting which is not available anymore.



- Includes Italian productions
- Some interesting features, including a five page historical timeline
- Author clearly likes these movies
- The least expensive PEPLUM book I ever bought: $8.00


- Confusing chapters: categorized by subject which often muddles up things.
- Dismissive of Italian movies
- Terrible cover
- Many mistakes including incorrect photo credits!

I'm glad I have this book in my library and it was so cheap that I can't complain about it but I don't recommend this confusing book. 

GUIDA AL CINEMA PEPLUM by Oscar Lapena Marchena


- Lists movies by year of release, which gives a good chronological overview of genre and how it progressed
- Book translated in English
- Lists X-rated PEPLUM movies of the 1970s and 1980s
- Chapter on directors
- Eye-catching cover


- Horrid page layout and photos which look like photocopies.
- Index is incomplete (only titles)
- Incomplete
Book translated in English but I don't have it yet. If I had known the book was translated in English I probably wouldn't have bought this version.

This book was originally published in Spanish. I got the Italian one. I like this book because there are some good ideas in it but it was clearly not made by professionals. 

MUSCLES, MYTHS, AND MOVIES by Stephen Flacassier


- Pretty good overview of the genre
- Author clearly likes these movies
- Includes cool icons or illustrations indicating what is included in movie. For instance, if there are monsters in the story an image of a monster is included within a square with 4 illustrations.


- Nothing really bad about it
- Reviews based from viewing poor copies of movies.
- More zine than book
- Incomplete
- Published before the internet so errors are understandable

The author was kind enough to send a free copy.
 I like it. An update would be fun.


More books from my library*. Two of these books are in French which, I know, not everyone can read but since I can I'll give you an idea of what they are.




- Excellent print material
- Beautiful typeface
- Batch of photos in the centre of the book. Nearly all Hollywood productions. Almost all in color.


- Insulting book
- Hollywood-centric
- Inadequate in every way
- Author starts by stating he hates PEPLUM movies

Great idea. Terrible execution. This fellow's idea of the PEPLUM is a joke. He's only someone who has connections in France and got this idea and proceeded to make a mockery of the genre. Some of the stuff I've read in this dictionary boggles the mind. The author thinks he's a 'enfant terrible' and everything is beneath him, well, except for Hollywood movies. I was thinking of doing a dictionary of the genre before buying this. The idea is cool. Unfortunately, this is not it. Someone who doesn't know anything about the genre and reads this first won't be more informed after reading it. I'll have a full review of it soon.


LE PEPLUM by Christophe Champclaux and Linda Tahir Meriau


- Photos, photos, photos
- Easy to read
- More of general overview of the genre than anything else


- Too many photos
- Bland
- Authors are not really PEPLUM fans

If you're someone like me, this book is pointless. If you know nothing about the genre though, this is a fun introduction. This book reminded me of the FANTASTIC FIFTIES magazine reviewed previously. It's mostly big photos with generic writing on the genre. The authors have written and published several books on other genres, which told me they weren't really interested in these kind of films. They do have Michel Eloy participate in it, who is a fan of the genre and runs a website on the PEPLUM genre. 

*Note: I didn't buy the book. A friend took photos of every page, which I read. I'm glad I didn't buy it. 


This review is not like the others I've written before since this book is more of a critique of the genre than a listing of movies, actors, etc. It's academic in nature and very much serious. It's not just a historical overview of PEPLUM movies but a deconstruction of the entire genre, including topics like the hero's skin. The author admits researching and writing the book, his friends 'tolerated' his 'obsession' with these movies. I'm thinking, "I won't expect much of this" and I was right. The author goes over the muscle men, bodies and even skin of heroes in PEPLUM movies. Okay...but do they actually like these movies? The fact that the author wrote pages and pages about the hero's skin and used VENGEANCE OF URSUS as an example and not MACISTE IN HELL (1962) starring Kirk Morris as an example shows the author has no clue of what he's talking about. If there's one more which perfectly exemplifies the use of the hero's physique or skin, it's MACISTE IN HELL. 

There are many of these types of 'academic' books and for me they are totally perplexing. Who are these people? I started the blog in 2010. I've had Youtube channels with PEPLUM movies since 2007. I have tons of contacts of fans and people interested in the genre and yet all of the authors of these types of books are nowhere to be seen. The author lists a number of people who helped him on the subject and oddly enough few of them seem to be interested in the PEPLUM genre. In one line, the author wrote: 

"Anonymous readers and staff at 'Cinema Journal' gave amazing suggestions, as did Amanda Klein and Barton Palmer, editors of 'Multiplicities: Cycles, Sequels, Remakes, and Reboots in Film and Television,' who helped me think through how to give an overview of Peplum history."

I'm like "what?" The author clearly wasn't a fan of the genre if he needed this from 'anonymous readers'  or people with no prior history of covering the PEPLUM genre. BTW, the actual title is "Cycles, Sequels, Spin-Offs, Remakes, and Reboots: Multiplicities in Film and Television."

I'm confused by these 'academic' books. Are they really interested in PEPLUM movies, are they fans or are they someone who's connected and found an easy subject to write about, a subject few people know about and can't critique them correctly since only a handful people out there, like me, know something about the subject. After reading this book and the MACISTE one (both printed by Indiana University Press), I believe it's the latter. 


More PEPLUM books, this time a digital edition. Here are 3 additional books from my library. They are added to the list found at the permanent page. 

What do I look for in a book which covers the PEPLUM genre?

I'm basically looking for a fun book filled with reviews, articles on some themes/subjects seen in such movies and a listing of titles, actors, etc. A good index.

The reason why I've asked this is because the 3 following books are not such books. I feel bad 'reviewing' them because they're definitely not the kind of PEPLUM compendium-style books I'm looking for. They're more like the academic kind, which doesn't really interest me. The main reason why: most people who write these books or articles have a superficial understanding or limited grasp of the PEPLUM genre. I still haven't encountered a single mind blowing 'academic book' which appeared to know everything, and I mean everything, about the genre, therefore their opinion would be fascinating to read. So, I always take these kind of books with a grain of salt.

I won't be reviewing them because the first two are not what I was looking for and the third book is in Spanish. I'm just listing them since they are in my collection. I'm also listing a couple of chapter titles to give an idea what the books are about.

OF MUSCLES AND MEN - edited by Michael C. Cornelius


This was one of my first digital books I bought and I was looking forward to reading it. I quickly realized it's not what I expected. The author clearly knows his stuff and the intro makes for an interesting read, a quick summarization of the genre. The chapters are not as dismissive as most PEPLUM books out there but the emphasis is still low budget movies, bad dubbing, etc. If one writes an essay or a book on the PEPLUM genre, these details shouldn't even be an issue. One could not if the dubbing or voices are good or bad but dubbing or low budget productions are a fact of the genre. One should get over it.


- Hercules, Politics, and Movies

- From Maciste to Maximus and Company: The Fragmented Hero in the New Epic

- Beefy Guys and Brawny Dolls: He-Man, the Masters of the Universe, and Gay Clone Culture

THE NEW PEPLUM edited by Nicholas Diak


This compilation of essays is interesting in that it covers recent PEPLUM movies, which are often missing or neglected. Note: I was approached by the editor, Nicholas Diak, to write an essay. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn't write one even though I did have a subject which would have been interesting to write about. But looking at the other essays, my essay wouldn't have fit in. Unlike most writers I've come across, Diak is a big PEPLUM fan and loves the genre. 


- From Crowds to Swarms: Movement and bodies in Neo-Peplum Films.

- There Are No Boundaries for Our Boats: Vikings and the Westernization of the Norse Saga

- Male Nudity: Violence and the Disruption of Voyeuristic Pleasure in Starz's SPARTACUS



The book chronicles the presence of HERCULES and other heroes in movies, with HERCULES (1958) and subsequent Hercules movies profiled in chapter 3. The book is illustrated with photos and posters.

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EPIC FILMS by Santas, Wilson, Colavito, Baker.

Looking at the cover and the title, I thought "Wow, I have to get this now!" I bought it on eBay, sorta expensive and lo and behold, the book covers not only PEPLUM movies but films like THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, COLD MOUNTAIN, OUT OF AFRICA, TITANIC and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME! I kid you not. This is why buying books on the internet is often a fail. I didn't care for it at all even if it does have PEPLUM titles in it. Deceptive.



This review will be short. The daughter of PEPLUM star Edmund Purdom decided to write a book on her famous, or infamous, father. The book is awkward and confusing. She knows very little of the PEPLUM genre or what her father worked on (in theatre or movies) and her approach is a mix of disdain, embarrassment and curiosity. Yes, it's a strange mix. I didn't like the book because her lack of information on her father's career, handed down by her mother, who, albeit was abandoned by Purdom after the actor had a decade long 'secret' affair with Linda Christian, also a star of PEPLUM movies. Their relationship began in the kookie MGM musical ATHENA (1954), which also starred future PEPLUM superstar Steve Reeves. Edmund's relationship with Linda Christian is fascinating. Such a strange one. There's an interview with Linda on Youtube which is more detailed than this book. I like Edmund as an actor. His career was strange as well. He almost became a superstar but a series of scandals made him persona non grata in Hollywood so Edmund moved to Rome, and PEPLUM movies, for the rest of his life. I did learn a couple of things that were unknown to me (Lana Turner hated working with him...) but this book is a fairly sad affair.


100 BIBLE FILMS by Matthew Page

This informative book lists and reviews 100 well known and not so well known movies based on the bible. This book points out the interesting aspect of the PEPLUM genre and why the term PEPLUM is important  as an umbrella term. As I've mentioned for over a decade here at the blog, many people categorize films set in the past as the same. Epic movies. Historical dramas. Sword & Sandal. Biblical, etc. HERCULES (1958) is not a biblical movie like the THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) and yet a big chunk of the population out there actually don't see a difference between the two. The stories of both films are set in the past. People were togas or similar looking costumes. There are chariots in HERCULES and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. The list goes on. So once one sorts out the movies based on the bible, like this book does, an entirely different picture is created. 

There are still super-productions like COMMANDMENTS or BEN-HUR (1959) but there's no CLEOPATRA (1963) or SPARTACUS (1960) or THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964). With so many big titles from Hollywood missing or Italian productions, one can see how many movies based on the bible were actually made. Of course, the list is incomplete. The author, Matthew Page, had to pick and choose the most prominent ones or the most interesting ones. Page writes on his selection at the beginning of the book.

This means many Italian titles like THE SWORD AND THE CROSS (1957) starring Yvonne de Carlo or PONTIUS PILATE (1962) starring Jean Marais, or the numerous movies with Christians being persecuted, like THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959) or REVOLT OF THE SLAVES (1960), are not listed.

Even with this fault, I recommend this book. It's one of the best books on the PEPLUM genre or the biblical movies. With so many books on the PEPLUM genre that hates the genre itself, it's refreshing to read a book that doesn't denigrate it. I don't necessarily agree with some of his reviews, which is fine. There are interesting tidbits on the making of these movies, like the production issues behind KING OF KINGS (1961). There are tons of photos and the format and layout make the book easy to read or simply peruse. As I'm thinking of publishing my own book or books on PEPLUM movies one day, the format I'm thinking of closely resembles this one though with different layout. 

I bough the paperback version which goes for around $35 in Canada and $26 in the US. The book was creased during the delivery so thanks Amazon. :(

If you want to know more on Matthew Page, he has a great blog called BIBLE FILMS. He goes over every bible movies, including those he didn't list in the book. Make sure to check it out.

More to come...


Steve Della Casa said...

I'm Steve DellaCasa, trhe author of Il Grande libro di Ercole. The Title: it's a joke, it's like the titles of the books for children. I' don't undestand why you say Hollywood for us is more important than Italian Cinema....

PEPLUM TV said...


The only reason why I wrote that is that most books on the PEPLUM genre are very dismissive of Italian productions. In fact, nearly all of them are. So when I read the reviews in the book some of them were identical in tone to other books. This automatically means a preference for Hollywood movies. That's all. I've removed that part if that makes you happy.