The missing scenes from HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)

HERCULES UNCHAINED is the popular sequel to the worldwide smash hit ¬†HERCULES (1958). It’s as good as the first movie, with some claiming it’s superior to the first one. With the success came a greater scrutiny towards the follow up. And one of the results of this added scrutiny is something HERCULES didn’t really experience: scenes cut from the original vision of Pietro Francisci’s work. HERCULES UNCHAINED was trimmed here and there, and depending on which version you watch, some scenes were removed or shorten. Here are the scenes which usually got the axe.


This cheesecake scene is not in the US version of HERCULES UNCHAINED. It appears when Hercules, Iole and Ulysses are traveling on the wagon and Ulysses happens to see these women just hanging out on the beach. It’s an innocuous moment and the women are all gorgeous but it’s clearly a case of gratuitous cheesecake that doesn’t really add much to the story. I sorta understand why it was removed but then again the scene is so harmless that why not just leave it in? Annie Gorassini is part of this harem.


If you notice, a lot of the scenes cut are scenes with women. In this important scene, Iole learns of Hercules childhood, including the moment he fought with two snakes, as pictured in a wall mural. This scene should have been left uncut. It’s important to the Hercules mythology. In the cut version, we don’t see this and the movie goes straight of Iole and Hercules kissing.


Another scene with Iole. Iole waits impatiently for any word of Hercules. She passes her time weaving while new acquaintances ask her personal questions which upsets her. This scene is either entirely cut or shorten. It’s important in that we see the passage of time while Hercules is a captive of Omphale. Should never have been cut.


In this brief scene, we see Ulysses’ girlfriend, played by Marisa Valenti, listening to a seashell. It’s a nice scene and it establishes Ulysses in a relationship. The scene is so short that it shouldn’t have been cut.


The pyre at the end of the movie for Eteocles (Sergio Fantoni) and Polinices (Mimmo Palmara). The scene is cut from the US, Spanish, French prints I have. The already short scene was shortened in other releases, including the German print. The Italian and the Japanese Blu-ray are uncut.

Upcoming movie: SPARTACUS…

A 1959 edition of MOVIE NEWS magazine, a publication printed in Singapore, had an article on SPARTACUS. It has some interesting bits of info, including the fact that Tony Curtis had been injured and was walking on crutches. The article sorta contradicts itself, claiming the movie will cost $27 million and $18 million which seems to be a lot in both cases.

Anyway, read on…

KNIVES OF THE AVENGER Blu-ray review…

Mario Bava’s KNIVES OF THE AVENGER (1966) is an oddity. In regards to Bava’s career, the movie is pretty straighfoward will no Bava touches to it. It’s also a late comer, having been released in 1966, a time when the PEPLUM genre had been considered dead. It’s also pretty much a Viking version of the classic Western SHANE (1953).

But this is not a review of the movie but the Blu-ray release. Well, it’s not complicated: it’s a great release. The image is crisp and even though the audio could have had more oomph it’s acceptable. The thing is this movie often had fairly good releases so this Blu-ray doesn’t create a ‘WOW’ effect like other PEPLUM movies which had only crappy releases for a very long time.

I like it and the movie itself is fine though it’s more drama than action. Overall, I recommend it but mainly for fans of PEPLUM movies, of Cameron Mitchell or Mario Bava completists.

Here are some screengrabs from it.

Cameron Mitchell

Cameron Mitchell and Elissa Pichelli

Luciano Pollentin and Cameron Mitchell

Giacomo Rossi Stuart. One of the few optical effects in the movie: the ship was obviously not there (no reflection in the water).

ULYSSES (1954) Blu-ray review

I finally acquired the Blu-ray version of ULYSSES (1954) starring Kirk Douglas, Sylvana Mangano, Anthony Quinn, and many soon to be PEPLUM stars, like Rossana Podesta, Umberto Silvestri and Alberto Lupo.

The review will be short: the image quality is excellent. The details of the sets and costumes are eye-popping. The one issue, like so many transfers to HD, have to do with the many dark scenes ¬†which are very dark. I don’t know what’s the process which leads to this but it’s something I’ve noticed in nearly all new Blu-rays. It’s very annoying. But aside from this somewhat important point, the rest, meaning the not so dark scenes, are stellar. Beautiful.

The one big problem with this version is the English audio. It’s absolutely horrible. I have an old version of the movie, from a VHS source, and the audio is nearly as bad as the VHS version, minus the VHS noise in the background. The audio sounds like it was recorded in a toilet. So, great image (when it’s not dark) but horrible English audio.

This copy is NOT the soon to be released version from KINO, which will be released on August 25…Note: the release date has changed to Nov. 17. Hopefully the audio from that version will be much better. I will purchase it.

Here are some screengrabs from the HD version.

Kirk Douglas

Rossana Podesta

Sylvana Mangano

Alberto Lupo (far left) and Anthony Quinn

A word on PEPLUM books…

It’s funny how things work. I’ve been writing and blogging on the PEPLUM genre now over 10 years and I’m always amazed how some things just go under the radar.

I’ve recently discovered two books on the PEPLUM genre and I had never heard of them, from any other place or person lurking around the many websites/social media sites I maintain.

Now I won’t mention these two books since I’m going over one of them at the moment and I’m waiting to receive the other one. Needless to say, these discoveries are fun but also worrisome. What else am I missing?

A recent book I acquired, on the career of Riccardo Freda, which cost over $90.00, is a disappointment. I thought the book would be more on the details of his movies but the writing (which is good…) reads more like a novel than anything else. Personally, I don’t feel the need to read it or even discuss it any further. The PEPLUM ‘community’ is very small and word gets out quickly and I don’t feel I’m in a position to say anything further on that (expensive) book. I like Riccardo Freda and I’m disappointed that the book didn’t live up to my (modest) expectations. I’m also disappointed because it’s so damn expensive.

I’m in the (very long) process of working on a PEPLUM book myself. It takes a lot of time and work to do this. There are things in the work right now, which I hope will come to fruition. A book or two is the logical end result of accumulating so much knowledge on one subject.

This website…

I created this website last summer in anticipation for a new major project. It’s no secret, the new project was to be a magazine. I was working on it for some time and then the whole coronavirus issue occurred which delayed everything since I had to take care of an elderly parent 24/7. I had very little time to do anything aside from the usual posts.

Because of the pandemic and its consequences I have tons of projects I set aside for months. I need to take a break. Next week, I won’t be posting and the weeks after will depend on how I’ve achieved in re-focusing everything as they were before the pandemic. I don’t have any time frame for that but it might take some time. Don’t worry, I’ve recently renewed the hosting service for this website so it’s good for another year. But for now, at least in July, postings for most of the month will be minimal. It’ll be a Herculean effort and hopefully I will be able to post regularly in a couple weeks.

Thanks!

THE SILVER CHALICE, Paul Newman and a $1200 ad…

Here’s a screengrab of text from the book, PAUL NEWMAN: A LIFE by Shawn Levy describing Newman’s hatred for the first movie he ever starred in, THE SILVER CHALICE (1954). I won’t reprint the text here. Read it. It’s quite funny and sad.

Did Paul hate the movie because critics thought he looked a lot like Marlon Brando? Yes, the movie itself is not successful in a standard narrative kind of way. But the movie is sometimes visually fascinating. It’s amazing that he spent that much movie for an ad and it created the opposite effect: people who caught the ad now wanted to see the movie.

His statement about ‘wearing a cocktail dress’ pretty much sums up the way many view PEPLUM movies. Modern day audiences have trouble seeing men in clothes from Antiquity.


Paul Newman and Pier Angeli

Delilah…who’s your favourite

Delilah of the Bible is one of the most famous female characters ever and has been often portrayed on screen, at the movies or on TV. Which of the following Delilahs is your favourite? Now, this is not a critique of the movies themselves, meaning one could like a Delilah and not necessarily care for the final movie…or like the actress and like the movie but her portrayal is not the ultimate one.

Hedy Lamarr in SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949)

Liana Orfei in HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES (1963)

Rosalba Neri in THE GREAT LEADERS OF THE BIBLE (1965)

Belinda Bauer in SAMSON AND DELILAH (1984; TV)

Elizabeth Hurley in SAMSON AND DELILAH (1996; TV)

Caitlin Leahy in SAMSON (2018)

My favourite, of course, is Hedy Lamarr. Then it’s Rosalba Neri, who’s really good in that role. And in third it would be Elizabeth Hurley, not necessarily because of her portrayal but because of the direction, by Nicolas Roeg, makes the whole project interesting.

I like Liana Orfei and I really like HERCULES, SAMSON & ULYSSES but her portrayal is more campy or comical than tragic. As for Belinda Bauer, well, she’s my least favourite for sure. I can’t say anything of Caitlin Leahy.

Note: I didn’t include Suzzanna from SAMSON AND DELILAH (1987) because that movie is insane.

The Last Days of Sodom & Gomorrah novelization…

I like collecting all things PEPLUM and I came across this novelization of the movie SODOM AND GOMORRAH (1962). I’m like ‘cool, I want it.’ For some reason, this book is expensive on eBay, at least the shipping is expensive for such a pulp publication. Has anyone read it? How does it differ from the movie.

Now, just by accident, I came across this other pulp publication.

It doesn’t have anything to do with the movie. It was published first but still I was wondering if it has any connection with the movie. How different is it from the screenplay for the 1962 movie.

Also, are there any other novelizations of PEPLUM movies? I’d be interested in them.

The influence of HERCULES and Steve Reeves in one trade ad!

This ad, published in MOTION PICTURE DAILY, shows the two big upcoming movies from Paramount in the *fall* of 1959: LI’L ABNER and the re-release of SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949)

The re-release of SAMSON AND DELILAH was set after the success of HERCULES, which was made in 1958 but released in August of 1959 in America. Remarkably enough, Steve Reeves auditioned for the role of Samson but his physique was considered too much by DeMille who eventually cast Victor Mature. Just to show you how influential the success of HERCULES was, just look at the original poster of SAMSON AND DELILAH when it was released in 1949 and compare it to when it was re-released in the fall of 1959.

The new poster amplified the muscular action hero and replicated the look of Steve Reeves as Hercules even though Victor Mature wasn’t even close to having the body of Reeves. Even the text “THE MIGHTIEST MORTAL WHO EVER LIVED!” is a direct line taken from HERCULES’ trailer. And notice how SAMSON is huge and ‘…AND DELILAH’ is much smaller. DeMille and Paramount finally took notice of Reeves.

Second, Steve Reeves tried to audition for the role of Li’l Abner.

He didn’t get the role which wasn’t a big loss considering how bizarre the movie was. It might have been a big loss for Paramount though. Had Steve starred in LI’L ABNER and the film released right after HERCULES, who knows how successful it might have been. I’m certain someone back then at Paramount mused about this. Even so, the apparent influence of Reeves and the success of HERCULES was obvious in the trade publication ad above.