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…

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!

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.

Upcoming Blu-rays…

There are a couple of titles to be released on Blu-ray or Ultra-HD Blu-ray (aka 4K).

Two Kirk Douglas movies. SPARTACUS will be released in 4K and ULYSSES (1954) will finally have an official Blu-ray release in the US. This was probably prompted with Douglas’ recent death. Good news for the latter. If it’s as good as the one in Europe or Japan, I won’t need to buy them.

Click on title for more information.


SPARTACUS 4K


ULYSSES


GLADIATOR 4K

Two Maria Montez movies coming on Bl-ray. These should be nice to watch in HD.


ARABIAN NIGHTS


ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES

And this one as well…


SON OF ALI BABA

No other European PEPLUM titles on the horizon…

Steve Reeves TV Times…

I collect vintage magazines from the 1950s and 1960s, always hoping to find some cool stuff that pertains to the PEPLUM genre. In a vintage VIM magazine, they wrote about recent TV appearances of Steve Reeves…

Steve appeared on the Ray Bolger show, and on the Steve Allen show in support of ATHENA! I have to find some footage of these appearances, if they still exist.

In the same issue, they also mention future PEPLUM star Ed Fury who made an appearance on MY LITTLE MARGIE show. I have the clip of that appearance.

THE REVOLT OF THE SLAVES (1960) Blu-ray review

A must see in widescreen!

I recently acquired two new Blu-ray editions, of HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (1961) and REVOLT OF THE SLAVES (1960). I’ll give a quick overview of the latter. I won’t be reviewing the movie itself (I’ll do that on the main blog) but I’ll still mention a few things about the quality of the movie itself.

So much grain on Rhonda Fleming you’d think she was covered in freckles.

Released by KINO LORBER, REVOLT OF THE SLAVES was one of those PEPLUM movies which languished in obscurity: it never got an official VHS or DVD release. It was released on VHS by Nostalgia Family but I don’t think it was legit (I have the VHS tape). And what copies were available were often in a poor state, such as the one by Nostalgia Family. I was pleasantly surprised when KINO LORBER decided to release this on Blu-ray. From their website, I suspect they did this just for Serge Gainsbourg and Fernando Rey completists, not because of their love of the PEPLUM genre.

A visible scratch on the image, over Lang Jeffries’ face.

As for the image and sound quality: it’s very good but both could have been better. The image is spectacular, showcasing the excellent camerawork by cinematographer Cecilio Paniagua but the grain is everywhere, and white dots and scratches are visible throughout. And the audio is very flat and weak. I wished they had punched it up a notch or two. The score is excellent (some new stuff combined with some familiar score heard in many PEPLUM movies) but the transfer doesn’t do it justice.

Fernando Rey, Ettore Manni and Gainsbourg.

I watched the movie from my 27″ iMac and on a HD Toshiba TV (below). The audio and image issues were present in both instances.

Scenes like this one really showcase the excellent composition of the camerawork.

The quality of previous versions were so bad that I shouldn’t complain but when a movie is released on HD I always expect the presentation to be tops and even though this release is excellent, it’s not really top. It’s a shame because this is one of those PEPLUM movies I can watch over and over again.

Wandisa Guida

As for the movie itself, some say it’s a knock-off of QUO VADIS (1951) or FABIOLA (1949). Personally, I don’t see the similarities. There could be more than a couple of movies about the same subject without having to be compared to other works. I think it stands well by itself without having to be pigeonholed in some category. It’s first and foremost an action movie, which the other two epics weren’t. They were big dramas with action scenes.

As for extras, there are only a couple of trailers, including the trailer for this movie. It’s pretty barebones. They could have at least included the Italian track as an extra.

Overall I’m pleased with it and I’ve already watched it three times. I just hope a stellar version will be released in the not so distant future.