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.
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.