BY THE GODS! shorts
There’s so much to say about 2020…but I’ll spare you all of the bad stuff.
This blog was created in preparation for a new project, mainly a magazine, or zine, named BY THE GODS!. But the pandemic happened and everything was put on hold until further notice. Hopefully 2021 will be better than 2020 in regards to everything, including this much delayed project.
There were other disappointments, including the long announced but still missing Blu-ray of SAMSON AGAINT THE VAMPIRES. There’s no need for me to go over it again now since I wrote a couple of articles on this m.i.a. BR.
The best news for the PEPLUM genre were HD TV broadcast/streaming service of PEPLUM movies from mainly Italy, and some from France. A dozen or so titles have suddenly popped up and most of them are beautiful, certainly CONQUEROR OF CORINTH (1961; aka The Centurion) with Gianna in HD.
But recent announcements of new Blu-ray releases have sorta been disappointing as well, with the delayed release of the German BR of DUEL OF THE TITANS and the inclusion of MST3K in the upcoming US Blu-ray of HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN. I mean, why?
Also, Warner Archives have announced new titles for January, and not one single PEPLUM movie listed, or even action movie.
Oh well…good riddance to 2020.
Four new titles on the Blu-ray front:
First, SODOM AND GOMORRAH (1962) – German release. This is good news in that the regular DVD from Germany for this movie had many issues. So a brand new pristine print, hopefully uncut, is a welcome addition to the ever growing list of PEPLUM titles going BR. For now, there’s no cover or any images from this print. Directed by Robert Aldrich and Sergio Leone, though some dismiss this, saying it’s an Aldrich movie all the way. Starring Daniele Vargas and Scilla Gabel (above), among many other familiar PEPLUM actors.
Second, IRONMASTER (1983), directed by Umberto Lenzi. I’m happy about this BR release. I like this movie and seeing in HD will be cool. One of the better PEPLUM movies of the 1980s starring George Eastman, Sam Pasco, Elvire Audray, and veteran PEPLUM actors Benito Stefanelli, Nello Pazzafini, and Giovanni Cianfriglia. Release date: April 13, 2021.
Third, also from Germany, DUEL ON THE MISSISSIPPI (1955) will be released on Blu-ray. Some say this is not a PEPLUM but there’s Lex Barker, there are sword fights in it, and it was directed by William Castle. That’s enough for me. I hope the print will be better that the photos provided at the website.
It was also announced that HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN (1961) will be released on Blu-ray by The Film Detective. I’m not familiar with that company and from reading about them on forums, the prospect doesn’t seem to be that great. From what I’ve read, the version will be the US theatrical cut which is shorter than the original cut known in English as HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS. It’s seems that the print is from a new 4K restoration, which is great news. STUDIOCANAL, the French distribution/production company owns the movie and they usually have great transfers. Unfortunately, STUDIOCANAL are also very strict and the chances of this new copy uploaded to Youtube without some sort of restrictions seems unlikely.
I’m wondering: does STUDIOCANAL also have the US print of this, which has soundtrack bits from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON? Anyway, this is welcome news. The sad part of this release is that it won’t contain the original European cut, instead it’ll have the MST3K episode with the movie. Why would they do this?
To be released on April 13, 2021.
There’s a current batch of PEPLUM titles now available in HD. These titles are not available on Blu-ray but were broadcast in HD or are available for streaming. This bodes well for the genre. Titles long left in obscurity now look absolutely amazing! Looking forward to more titles in the future.
Above and below: CLEOPATRA’S DAUGHTER (1960) starring Debra Paget and Corrado Pani. The most stunning HD print of a PEPLUM title, even surpassing the equally stunning German Blu-ray of THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) starring Steve Reeves. I’m just amazed by the clarity of the image. This movie has not been released on BR but is available as a streaming title in Italy.
Above and below (2): Another beautiful print of a favourite movie of mine, ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES (1962) starring Georges Marchal. Not as stunning as CLEOPATRA’S DAUGHTER or THIEF OF BAGHDAD it’s still great to see.
ULYSSES AGAINST HERCULES was filmed on the Canary Islands. As the image above shows, the image quality is not as perfect as CLEOPATRA’S DAUGHTER.
Above and below: SULEIMAN THE CONQUEROR (1961), starring Giorgia Moll and Alberto Farnese (above) is hard to get movie and previous prints were always disappointing. Not anymore. Though not super pristine as other prints (as the below screengrab shows), is a definite improvement over other releases. Worthy of a Fan Dub.
And last but not least. A recent showing of SON OF SAMSON (1960) on the Italian network, RAI. The image is stunning. Unfortunately, the aspect ratio is not full 1920×1280 HD. It, and Mark, still look great though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This review will be to the point: the 3 movie set is great and should be the standard for all PEPLUM movies.
There’s nothing much to review since everything is fine. I’ll describe the few issues but overall this release is excellent.
It contains the original Italian cut (from a German print!). One can view it with English subs. Tim Lucas gives a detailed commentary over this version.
Then there’s the UK version, with the title HERCULES IN THE CENTER OF THE WORLD.
And finally, there’s the US print, with the colourful Filmation opening credits.
The runtime for each versions:
Italian: 86 minutes
UK: 81 minutes
US: 84 minutes. (with Filmation opening credits)
I haven’t watch all three yet to see the differences and which scenes were left out in the UK and US versions.
The addition of the US print is the best thing here. It’s really fun and though I always prefer watching movies in their original, uncut version, the US version really gets you into the action with a pre-credit introduction with Medea setting up the story. I like it.
It’s well worth buying the Blu-ray for the new US print which previously was only available in an unwatchable pan & scan public domain version. Personally, I’m happy with the US version and the Italian one. The UK version is fine and the it’s great that the title differs from the US one but it’s sorta redundant. I think they added this one because the previous official release, by FANTOMA, was this version.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the image quality.
Italian version (German print)
In the US and UK versions, the print is not a stellar as the Italian one, which has beautiful skin color and no visible scratches or defects. The top two are also slightly cropped.
Now compare this to the FANTOMA copy:
The three copies, certainly the Italian one, are definite improvements over the old FANTOMA release (DVD below)
For the most part though the image quality between the three versions are pretty much identical. See threeway comparison below.
As I stated above, the FANTOMA version, as good as it was back then, looks really bad compared to the new version. Just the size comparison blows the FANTOMA version. I didn’t resize the images’ aspect ratios.
One can see that the FANTOMA version was heavily cropped. In the comparison I made below, I resized the screenshot taken from the FANTOMA copy, aligned it to the KINO LORBER version. You can see what was cropped (in white). In the FANTOMA version, the two cauldrons were gone. The colours in the KINO LORBER version are also much more beautiful.
Overall, the three versions found on this set are excellent. Some have complained about the audio of the US version during the intro and opening credits, and yes the audio is sorta poor but it didn’t really stand-out to me because I’ve watched so many PEPLUM movies with scratchy audio, and I’ve made so many Fan Dubs working with scratchy audio, that it wasn’t much of an issue to me. The audio throughout the film itself is fine.
I watched the US version on my 27″ iMac and widescreen TV. They both looked great.
The swirling opening credits by Filmation. It must have been fun watching this in a big cavernous cinema back in the day. Some scratches are visible during the opening credit (see below, on the far right).
As I said above, the release should be the standard for all future releases of PEPLUM titles: including the original Italian cut and the US print, if there was a major difference between versions of course. If not, then having the original Italian audio as an extra would be good enough. In this case, the US version differed quite a lot from the Italian one so it made sense to include both.
Watching the US print for the very first time made me feel like a little kid. Whichever versions you watch, the film’s immersive qualities truly stand-out in this release and make the movie that much more engaging and fun to watch.