NERO & POPPEA – AN ORGY OF POWER (1982) is one of many notorious sex / shock movies released in the wake of CALIGULA (1979). Though this Bruno Mattei movie is not on the same scale as the massive Tinto Brass / Bob Guccione sex epic, it’s still has its outrageous moments.
I recently acquired an Italian VHS copy of it and to my surprise many scenes were cut and others were changed to cover up the nudity in some scenes. This version still has nudity and the lurid storyline is the same but when compared to the different releases of this title I already have in my collection shows that these other versions have much more stuff going on. Much more. It’s very odd to see a ‘Sex & Sandal’, in Italian no less, that’s censored.
Above and below: the version showing more nudity and simulated sex (above) while the Italian version (below) has both actors covered.
Discovering these two different copies is a good example of why it’s important to view the majority all versions from different countries or releases. You never know what you’ll find.
Will any of these notorious movies ever be released in HD?
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.
Here’s an old article on Steve Reeves and GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959). It looks like it’s from a press book but I saw the press book and it’s not from it. The article is unintentionally funny.
Here’s just a sample of the many intertitles in COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960). It’s odd that these weren’t translated in any version. They are only seen in the original Italian version. They are cute and their exclusion from the movie diminishes the spirited goofiness of this PEPLUM comedy.
I recently got hold of a high definition copy of DEMETRIUS & THE GLADIATORS (1954) starring Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, Jay Robinson and a host of other actors. The copy was impressive in that I could finally see details, like faces in a crowd, that were hard to see in previous releases. The problem with it was the image was truly murky or grubby looking, and the audio was not that good. So I decided to purchase an actual release of the movie. The only official Blu-ray release for North America is Out-OF-Print (OOP). Only 3000 copies were printed. And now that release is being sold for big bucks online. Since I wasn’t about to spend $200 on its Blu-ray edition, I decided to see if there were any other official releases in other languages. Mind you, I always prefer buying the version released for the NA market but since it was OOP, the only option was one from Europe. Well, I got hold of a Spanish Blu-ray from an eBayer in Switzerland, for only 5 euros. I got it today and the murky, grubby image with the poor audio is present as well. This tells me one master copy was made for all markets and they got it from the same source. Mind you, I don’t know if the US Blu-ray is as poor as the HD copy I got or this Spanish Blu-ray but both are identical, so I presume the US copy is the same. The Blu-ray has multiple languages available, including English. At 5 euros, I won’t complain too much though.
Images below can be made bigger if opened in new window.
The image is terrible. Too dark or too much contrast going on here.
The arena scenes are spectacular, even if the image is grubby.
Faces of extras are now visible or clearer, which is a plus if one is looking to spot a familiar face.
Spectacular scenes like this one really shine in HD. Even if the image is grubby and grainy, one can really sense the scope here.
The arrow points to a hair stuck at the bottom of the image. The hair is there for the duration of the scene. This tells me this print is an old print and they simply up-converted it.
Right off the recent release of the spectacular Blu-ray presentation of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) comes the recent Blu-ray version of ARABIAN ADVENTURE (1979), which, in terms of image quality, is quite frankly the complete opposite of the Steve Reeves classic. How can a film that’s newer look this murky? I don’t know if it’s the film process or anything else but this Blu-ray transfer is disappointing. It looks exactly like the previous version but simply upconverted to HD.
The cinematographer was Alan Hume, so it’s definitely not the way the movie was shot. The image of the Blu-ray is very grainy and at times murky. It’s very average.
Emma Samms, Oliver Tobias and Puneet Sira
The great Christopher Lee as Alquazar
The mechanical, fire-breathing monsters. The same concept as MACISTE IN THE VALLEY OF THE THUNDERING ECHOES (1964)
The elaborate flying carpets chase/battle scene during the movie’s climax, the highlight of the entire production, still looks murky.
The German Blu-ray of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) starring Steve Reeves arrived this week, just in time for Christmas. It’s such a nice edition that I’m very happy. Is it perfect? Not really but it’s simply the best edition available anywhere. I’ll have more on this at the PEPLUM TV blog.
The Blu-ray of BEATRICE CENCI (1969; US title: THE CONSPIRACY OF TORTURE), starring Adrienne La Russa and Tomas Milian, was released recently. Directed by none other than Lucio Fulci. Even if the Fulci name guarantees interest in many Eurocult fans out there, this release still signals a new phase of European titles becoming available in HD. This movie is not really as famous as other Fulci titles so it’s nice to see it get such a great treatment. Just to give you an idea, there are only 8 reviews for this movie at IMDb. Pretty low for a Fulci title. The movie is grim. Really grim. But I like it. The cinematography is especially noteworthy.
The story of BEATRICE CENCI was filmed many times. There has been 5 different movies made. There was one in 1956 with Micheline Presle in the titular role. This one is decidedly different in that it’s quite violent and fleshy. In probably the most shocking scene in the movie, Tomas Milian’s character is repeatedly torture, in the nude (see screenshot below).
There are so many titles that need to be release, such as LUCREZIA GIOVANE (1974). Maybe with this release other neglected titles will get the green light.
What’s with Japanese poster art and design which makes things so cool and dramatic? Anyway, these vintage ads and article were taken from old magazines.
HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959). Great montage which includes stuff from the first film.
I can’t read Japanese so don’t ask me what it’s saying. Haha!
I got a copy of THE GOLDEN ARROW (1962) from the recently released Blu-ray edition and wow what a stunning transfer. The film looks like a million bucks. The film stars Tab Hunter and Rossana Podesta. The blog’s limitation do not do the screenshots justice. They’re almost perfect. Check out the detail in the ‘tent’ screenshot. One of the disappointing things in watching the old copies was how murky the image looked. Not anymore. Whether you like the movie or not (some people absolutely despise it!), it’s worth watching in this gorgeous transfer.
The black & White scenes are crisp and vivid.
Look at all the details!
Is there room for improvement? Yes, I’m waiting for the 4K version. Haha!
Here’s a comparison of the old version I had (actually, I had more than one version…) vs the Blu-ray print.