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.
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).
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.
Alberto Lupo (far left) and Anthony Quinn
Just a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have a copy of A STORY OF DAVID (1960) and now I have three versions of it. It’s a rarely shown movie, made for British TV and for ABC, produced in Britain and also filmed in Israel. It stars Jeff Chandler, who also appeared in SIGN OF THE PAGAN (1954).
This is not a review of the movie but the quality of the copies. Since this was made for TV it doesn’t have a widescreen format. I have a German TV broadcast, one US broadcast and one Canadian broadcast (Moviepix). Overall, the German copies is much better than the other two. It looks more cinematic and the frame not as cropped as the other two copies.
Angela Browne and Jeff Chandler
The German copy is much better. The other two are way too dark. There’s virtually no difference between the US and Moviepix copies aside from the resolution. If you clearly, the already small frame in the US and Moviepix copies are more cropped. The German one has more information on the sides.
Basil Sydney as King Saul
The German one looks less like a TV movie.
The major difference are the opening/ closing credits. Since it’s a TV movie, the credits are different than a regular theatrical release. In the US and Moviepix versions, the full credits occur at the end while those end credits are shown at the beginning in the German version. The US and Moviepix versions’ full title is actually A STORY OF DAVID – “The Hunted”. It definitely looks like a TV movie title. The German one is simply A STORY OF DAVID.
I’ll have a full review of this movie at PEPLUMTV.com soon.
One of the fun things in scoping old magazines dedicated to the movie industry is finding ads which indirectly dealt with the PEPLUM genre. Here’s a good example: the durability of the prints for SPARTACUS (1960). It seems Hollywood used the epics of the time to boost new technological advances, including THE ROBE (1953) being the first movie shown in widescreen.
Just a simple post to remind the world that SAMSON & DELILAH star, Angela Lansbury, is still alive. The movie was released 71 years ago. It’s incredible when you think about it.
One of the most interesting aspect of Steve Reeves’ career is not necessarily the roles he got but the long string of roles he was set to play but missed out. One of them was Li’l Abner.
The movie role went to Peter Palmer. The movie musical itself is not that great (in fact, it’s pretty odd…), and it’s sorta forgotten today. So, Steve didn’t really missed out. Needless to say, he would have been perfect in the role.
Peter Palmer played Li’L Abner, a role he played on Broadway.
This is just one of many roles Steve could have gotten but didn’t, including playing Samson in Cecil B. DeMille’s SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949).
THE MAGIC SWORD (1962) was recently released on Blu-ray. It’s a fun movie with a good cast. It is very colourful and it’s a borderline kids movie (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Now I won’t review the movie itself (I’ll do that on the main blog), just the Blu-ray release. The quality of the transfer is uneven, to say the least. Some parts of the movie, the image is super clear while during other scenes, the grain is very obvious to the point of being distracting and quite annoying. The mostly studio bound set looks even more like a studio-bound movie. But was the quality of the movie itself meant to be seen in HD or even in 4K. The resolution of 35mm film is super high (15k or so) but I believe the print quality of this movie wasn’t the highest and would explain these inconsistencies.
Gary Lockwood played the hero.
Above & below: the climax with the dragon. I’m always amazed by how good this dragon looked, certainly compared to the Hydra in THE LOVES OF HERCULES (1960). But the image is very dark and can’t see that much. The dragon reminds me of GORGO (1961).
Above is a screen grab taken from the DVD release. Compare it to the images above.
The visible grain in the movie is apparent in many scenes, including this foggy one. The transfer cannot replicate the fog and grain is everywhere. Hard to believe this is a Blu-ray release.
Compared to other recent releases, such as THE GOLDEN ARROW (1962) or the spectacular THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) starring Steve Reeves, this one is disappointing.