MESSALINA French Blu-ray…

This is not a review of the Blu-ray or of the movie. I just wanted to share some screngrabs of the French Blu-ray release of MESSALINA (1960). The BR was available from back in 2018 and had I known this I would have bought because it’s really beautiful. If you’re capable of playing Blu-rays, from a stand alone player or from your computer, this edition is really worth it, certainly since it includes the English track. Here are some scenes from the movie.

Belinda Lee as Messalina

Spiros Focas and Belinda

Gorgeous production!

Belinda looks amazing!

Is the movie historically accurate? Does it matter? Enjoy it for what it is, one heck of a PEPLUM directed by Vittorio Cottafavi.

 

ROMULUS UND REMUS German Blu-ray news…

The date for the release for ROMULUS UND REMUS (1961) German Blu-ray has been set. It changes considerably since the announcement late last year. At one point it was set to be release on Dec 31, 2021, which was insane. Now the official date of release is March 11.

Unfortunately, since I’m in Canada, I still cannot purchase the BR from Amazon.de. This is truly bizarre. I never had any difficulty buy stuff from the German portal of Amazon. Someone who lives in Europe will purchase it for me. I will report on it asap.

Two Blu-rays under the radar…

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.

Update on upcoming Blu-rays from Germany…

Update: when I’m logged in into Amazon.de, the Blu-ray says it’s ‘out of stock’ but when I view the listing without being logged in to Amazon.de, it says it’s available.

The new Blu-ray for DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961) is now out of stock. It’s been out of stock since I posted about it a month ago. I know this blog is popular but wow…haha!

Also, the NEFERTITI – QUEEN OF THE NILE (1961) Blu-ray from Germany is extremely expensive. They now charge an extra 20 Euros for packaging and an extra 17.00 Euros for import fees. So the Blu-ray now costs 3 times as much. I won’t be buying it. Why should someone pay 20 Euros for packaging for an item sold through Amazon? And a Blu-ray is tiny. It’s a rip-off.

NEFERTITI – QUEEN OF THE NILE Blu-ray…

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.

Amazon Germany

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.

DUEL OF THE TITANS Blu-ray…

Great news! DUEL OF THE TITANS (1961) starring Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Virna Lisi and many others, will have a Blu-ray release in Germany in January. From the provided screenshots, the movie looks stunning. Can’t wait to see it.

Thanks to Joe for the info.

Amazon Germany

(the Amazon page claims the Blu-ray can’t be shipped to my location. I never had issues buying stuff from Amazon Germany before. Hmm…hopefully this will change by the end of January)

Steve Reeves and Virna Lisi. Beautiful clarity.

Stunning shot. With Massimo Girotti and Jacques Sernas.

Still waiting…

November 2019 KINO LORBER announced the 4K restoration of GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES (1961), renamed here as SAMSON AGAINST THE VAMPIRES. As the screenshot shows, the movie was supposed to be released in 2020, or early 2020. As of October 8, 2020, there’s still no news about it.

People posted messages supporting this news and added how much they would love to see more PEPLUM movies get the same treatment and yet nothing is done about it. There’s a HUGE market for these movies around the world, including North America, and no one is capitalizing on it. Like I’ve said so many times, the PEPLUM genre gets no respect.

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…

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.

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.