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 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.

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.

HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (1961) Blu-ray review…

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.

That’s it.

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.

US version

UK version

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.

Where’s Rosalba Neri in HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD?

I’ve watched HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (1961) many times and I still can’t find where’s Rosalba Neri. In the FANTOMA DVD released years ago, it was the British version with truncated opening credits which didn’t include her name but the 100 minute long Italian version (the one on the Blu-ray is actually a German print with Italian audio), her name is listed during the opening credits (see below). And her name also showed up at IMDb. But I still can’t find her. I always suspected that she had a major scene that was eventually left on the cutting room’s floor.

Well…


Her name shows up during the opening credits on the Italian version (with German opening credits). But where is she in the movie?

The actress in chains is supposed to be Rosalba. This would make sense: it’s  a brief role but quite memorable, good enough for a credit. But looking at her, one can clearly see that’s not Rosalba. According to many sources, it’s actually Monica Neri, a relative (or sister) to Rosalba, who would sometime substitute for Rosalba when she was ill or overbooked her acting roles. LOL!

So, Rosalba is credited for a movie, and technically speaking she was to be in it but she’s not.

Scary Gordon Mitchell…

This old article from a French magazine is interesting. It’s purports to be a nice article but hmm…It also mentions ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS (1961) but they use a photo from FURY OF ACHILLES (1962)

Here’s the translation of the text.

Gordon Mitchell, 36, American…He is the most frightening of Macistes. Culturist, accomplished sportsman, he rarely cheats in his cinematographic ‘effects’.

He practices wrestling and judo. Despite his age, he remains one of the most spectacular ‘monumnets’ in cinema.

Correct description? The definition of a backhanded compliment?

It’s hard to believe Mitchell was only 36 years old. That’s a rough looking 36 years old.


Achilles (Gordon Mitchell) in a fight with Hector (Jacques Bergerac) in FURY OF ACHILLES. The top photo in the article is not from ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS.

In the American International Pictures: A Comprehensive Filmography by Rob Craig, the author describes Mitchell: “…certainly must be the most gruesome European “muscleman” ever to grace the screen.” (review of Fury of Achilles).

Was Gordon Mitchell scary?

Steve Reeves candid photos during the making of GIANT OF MARATHON

Here’s a rare glimpse of an Italian magazine, Epoca, with a page showing Steve Reeves and Mylene Demongeot, still in costume for THE GIANT OF MARATHON (1959), walking about a street in modern day Rome, and shopping in a men’s clothing store. I’ve never seen these photos before. Really amazing. I’m going to try to get that issue.

Hercules and Hylas in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

Hylas (Jason Carney) and Hercules (Nigel Green) in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

According to Greek mythology, Hercules and Hylas were companions. They were inseparable. The 1963 Ray Harryhausen movie is one of the few which shows the two together. Same-sex relationships back in the 1960s were a no-no, and to a certain extent, it’s still a touchy subject today. Personally I wouldn’t have any issue with it since their relationship wasn’t the main point of the story. In other words, it’s no big deal. Harryhausen was well aware of their relationship when they incorporated these scenes in the movie. But many would have difficulty seeing Hercules, the very representation of masculinity, be involved romantically with another man. I think most people would have issue with this portrayal of Hercules than the possibility of the relationship itself.

PEPLUM titles advertised in old US newspaper

It’s always cool to see old newspapers with ads for PEPLUM movies. This one is a great example.

Now for those who aren’t aware of this in the past movies were advertised heavily in newspapers, mainly in the ‘Entertainment’ section. It was one of  the best ways to reach a vast audience…back then. Not today. But this selection of ads illustrates the reality of PEPLUM movies released in the US. We see  THE AVENGER (1962) staring Steve Reeves. I never cared for that title. It’s also known as WAR OF THE TROJANS or THE LAST GLORY OF TROY. It was the sequel to THE TROJAN HORSE (1961). As we can see it opened in 4 cinemas (‘starts today’) along with THE SECRET MARK OF D’ARTAGNAN (1962) starring George Nader. So, basically a double feature. Or maybe the two movies shared the same cinemas but patrons had to pay specifically for one movie only. Regardless, it shows how PEPLUM Swashbucklers were paired with ‘mythological’ titles like THE AVENGER. Some people wonder I cover these ‘swashbuckler’ movies or wonder why they’re even considered PEPLUM movies. Well, here’s your proof why.

Side note: There’s also an ad for MUSCLE BEACH PARTY starring future PEPLUM star Peter Lupus (aka Rock Stevens).

HERCULES released by Archway Film Distributors (Brit)

When HERCULES, the Steve Reeves classic, was released in 1958 around the world, the name Joseph E. Levine wasn’t featured on any posters, lobby cards or even during the opening credits. Levine eventually purchased the rights for the movie for distribution in North America and he made a fortune since it became a success in the US. But the movie was also a hit around the world sans Levine’s help.

HERCULES was distributed in Britain (presumably the UK) by Archway Film Distributors. Below are some of the advertising and lobby cards of this release.

This looks like the cover of a press book, and if not then it’s the ad shown in print (newspapers, magazines, etc). It’s really cool since:

1 – Joseph E Levine’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on it.
2 – It states that the movie is making ‘record business’ on its premiere run
3 – It has, in very small print, the name of the original Italian film company

The photos for the lobby cards set are mostly different than the US one. Unfortunately, there are no dates on them.

Stuff from the UK is interesting in that titles released directly to TV in the US were actually released in theatres in the UK. And most often than not their titles differed from the (goofy) ones for the US. In this case though, the title for the US and UK distributions were the same.