In less than a week, the world of PEPLUM cinema lost two great actors. Haya Harareet and Christopher Plummer.
Haya’s star making role was in BEN-HUR (1959) playing Esther. She was truly memorable in it. She also starred in JOURNEY BENEATH THE DESERT (1961), playing Antinea, Queen of Atlantis. She was 89 years old.
Now this Friday, it was announced that Christopher Plummer, who’s most famous PEPLUM role was Commodus in THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1964), died at the age of 91.
Christoper was the best thing about the humongous movie. The Shakespearean trained actor also played Oedipus in OEDIPUS THE KING (1968).
Such a sad week for the world of PEPLUM cinema.
I usually post about Blu-rays of Non-Hollywood movies. Aside from certain titles, nearly all PEPLUM movies made in Hollywood have been released on Blu-ray or HD. I’m talking about the big Hollywood productions. In fact, they’re now releasing some of these titles in 4K.
Two new titles have been released and they’re sorta flew under the radar. THE GOLDEN BLADE (1953) and SWORD OF THE VALIANT (1984). The latter is not really a Hollywood movie since it was made by Cannon Group but it’s now own by MGM. Cannon Group were always outside of Hollywood though some of there titles were sometimes released through a Hollywood studio.
These Blu-ray releases are excellent.
I always thought SWORD OF THE VALIANT looked cheap back in the good old days of VHS but with this BR release, the movie looks quite good. Much better than it ever did. It still sorta looks on the cheap side but the pristine widescreen image gives the movie a cool classy look. It’s a shame about that wig Miles O’keeffe had to wear throughout the movie.
THE GOLDEN BLADE is one of those small Arabian adventure movies, only 81 minutes long, which are often overlooked by fans of the genre or in general. This one is one of the best of the bunch. Fun, colourful, well acted certainly by Piper Laurie. The Blu-ray is beautiful. It’s not a widescreen production and the movie was clearly made in a Hollywood studio lot but I have to say that the BR really makes this movie shine. Some of the lighting, usually seen as flat in previous releases, now looks quite beautiful and elaborate (here’s a comparison of the movie). A fun little movie with Rock Hudson as the action hero. I’ll have full reviews of these titles at PEPLUMTV.com in the near future.
More good news. NEFERTITI – QUEEN OF THE NILE (1961) starring Jeanne Crain, Edmund Purdom and Vincent Price, will have an official Blu-ray release in Germany. The Amazon link doesn’t have any screengrabs but if a recent print I acquired recently will tell well the image quality will be stunning.
Edmund Purdom and Jeanne Crain. A screengrab of a HD copy I got recently. I dunno the source of it (from this upcoming disc or TV broadcast…?) but needless to say it’s beautiful.
Advertising placed in a Hollywood trade publication in 1957 touting the success of 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. I love these ads. They say more about the movie than the movie itself, even if these ads were stuff straight from the publicity department of the studios, in this case COLUMBIA PICTURES.
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…
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 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).
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