A word on PEPLUM books…

It’s funny how things work. I’ve been writing and blogging on the PEPLUM genre now over 10 years and I’m always amazed how some things just go under the radar.

I’ve recently discovered two books on the PEPLUM genre and I had never heard of them, from any other place or person lurking around the many websites/social media sites I maintain.

Now I won’t mention these two books since I’m going over one of them at the moment and I’m waiting to receive the other one. Needless to say, these discoveries are fun but also worrisome. What else am I missing?

A recent book I acquired, on the career of Riccardo Freda, which cost over $90.00, is a disappointment. I thought the book would be more on the details of his movies but the writing (which is good…) reads more like a novel than anything else. Personally, I don’t feel the need to read it or even discuss it any further. The PEPLUM ‘community’ is very small and word gets out quickly and I don’t feel I’m in a position to say anything further on that (expensive) book. I like Riccardo Freda and I’m disappointed that the book didn’t live up to my (modest) expectations. I’m also disappointed because it’s so damn expensive.

I’m in the (very long) process of working on a PEPLUM book myself. It takes a lot of time and work to do this. There are things in the work right now, which I hope will come to fruition. A book or two is the logical end result of accumulating so much knowledge on one subject.

THE SILVER CHALICE, Paul Newman and a $1200 ad…

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

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.

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.

BY THE GODS! magazine

I created this blog in the prospect of a new project: a magazine dedicated to the PEPLUM genre. I planned this for some time (years in fact) but I started it in and around last summer. Well, I besieged with personal and professional stuff that prompted me to delay the project. I’ll be working on the magazine full time during the month of January, which means I have to spend slightly less time here and my other projects. Once it’ll be completed I’ll return full time to the blogs and such.

I’ll have more details on it as the project becomes fully complete. For now this is a just a teaser.

I’m taking a break next week and will take things from there.

Here are some fake magazine covers I created years ago.

Guess the PEPLUM movie…

Can you guess which movie this is? It was re-titled as ‘BEAUTY OF THE BARBARIAN’ though it’s more known under its original title. This ‘edition’ was for a very obscure VHS release in the U.K. in the 1980s.

‘Man against woman’!

Artwork has very little to do with the actual movie. And it’s rated 18+. It makes it look like a porn movie of some sort, which is really not. There’s some nudity and tuff but it’s nothing like a porn movie.

Can you figure it out without doing a Google search?

The art is by Chris Achilleos…authorized or not.

How a Mark Forest movie became a Giuliano Gemma one…

HERCULES AGAINST THE SONS OF THE SUN (1964) is one of Mark Forest best PEPs. It’s colourful, action packed and the setting is sorta original. Giuliano is barely featured in the movie’s posters. Well, when the film was re-released in the 1970s all reference to Mark disappeared. It became a Giuliano Gemma movie. Giuliano is on the movie but he’s not the main star. Mark was. But by the 1970s, Mark had disappeared from the world of acting and Gemma was a popular star, thanks mainly to his Spaghetti Westerns. Even the VHS home release had Giuliano on the cover. Mark is nowhere to be seen.


ULYSSES in HD

I recently posted about getting the Blu-ray version of ULYSSES (1954), wondering which one to get: the German print or Japanese print. Well, someone (Alan) sent me a link to a HD version of a TV broadcast of the movie in France. It is gorgeous. Makes the movie look like a million bucks. I’m still wondering which Blu-ray to get but in the meantime this one will suffice. It’s only in French with no other language available. Starring Kirk Douglas, Sylvana Mangano and Umberto Silvestri. These screenshots don’t do it justice.