That ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA VHS tape…

The 1985 release on VHS of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1972) is the only uncut copy available in English. There’s a VHS dupe of the movie going around but it’s from Norway with intrusive Norwegian subtitles. There has to be a copy of the US VHS tape available somewhere but alas it’s not. The solution then is to buy a copy of the VHS tape and try to transfer it in digital format. I have a combo VHS / DVD recorder somewhere. I have to find it if it still works. The problem: finding a TV that can connect to it. So, I purchased the tape and once I’ll get it I’ll try to think of the ways I could get it on a DVD disc.

The colours from the new HERCULES & THE CAPTIVE WOMEN Blu-Ray…

The new Blu-ray of HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN has some major issues. I mean major. First and foremost the colours are all wrong….

The larger image is from the Blu-ray…the smaller one is from the DVD. The walls are supposed to be red, like the DVD…not orange.

More on this problematic Blu-ray release next week at the main blog…

Transferring movies to digital…

Here’s a comparison of two good prints of COLOSSUS OF THE STONE AGE (1962), aka Fire Monsters against the Son of Hercules.

In this comparison, we see Reg Lewis and Luciano Marin. The screen grab at the top is from a German TV broadcast. The bottom screen grab is from a recent HD Italian Broadcast. Now the HD one is beautiful. It makes all the difference in the world to see such a crisp image at such a high resolution. But in transferring the movie, the end product is often too smooth or non-film looking. In comparison, the German TV broadcast looks like a movie. Personally, I like both. I love seeing old movies in a crystal clear state but sometimes the transfer is so good it doesn’t look like film anymore.

A good example would be the MESSALINA Blu-ray I posted about in the previous post. It looks clear and beautiful but it still looks like film.

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 region B  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.

 

HD releases of…HERCULES (1958) and HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)…(update)

Lo and behold, two new HD releases of HERCULES  and HERCULES UNCHAINED by Artus in France.

(The problem, I can’t find these releases anywhere, including at Artus’ website or even Amazon. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on here.)

I just got news that these might be available in May. The ‘sold out’ notice is not an actual current status of the product.

Here are covers of these releases. They both come with booklets, and a Blu-ray disc and a standard DVD. No English tracks though.

HERCULES (1958)

HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)

Here’s the link to the website.

It says that they’re already sold out for both titles (in red at the bottom left corner).

If anyone out there has more info on these releases please leave a comment.

PEPLUM cinema mourns two actors…

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.

The score that’s making videos disappear from Youtube…

The PEPLUM TV channel has had several videos pulled by Youtube not because the movie or clips are copyrighted but because the score of a certain movie is. The score for SWORD OF THE CONQUEROR (1961) by Carlo Rustichelli is currently being used to invalidate uploads, even uploads that have been there for years. As it’s often the case with PEPLUM movies, the score for this movie starring Jack Palance was re-used countless of times in other movies. By claiming the score is protected, the PEPLUM TV channel has lost about a dozen uploads, just from that one score. The claimant, a giant multination music corporation, is going after other scores in order to remove uploads which have on Youtube without issues for years. It’s a terrible tactic but for now it’s working. I don’t mind if a music score is claimed and revenues go its artist but to block or ban an upload just because of that is ineffective. These films are popular and keeping them in obscurity does more of a disservice to these movies than anything else.

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.