Any fan of Richard O'Brien's "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" knows the line from the song "Sweet Transvestite" about Steve Reevers, BUT do they know who Steve Reeves was? This is a look at not only Reeves, but the whole worldwide phenomena during the first half of the 1960's known as the "Sword and Sandal" movie.
CLARIFICATION OF AN URBAN LEGEND:
Body Builder/Actor Steve Reeves is not related in any way to Actor George Reeves who played "Superman" on early 1950's television. Nor are either of these two actors related to Actor Christopher Reeve who played "Superman" in a 1978 movie EXCEPT for the similarities in their last names.
When Joseph E. Levine released the English language dub of "Hercules" in 1959 it seemed that suddenly a whole new form of entertainment was created. It had not been. What could qualify as "Sword and Sandal" films had been around since the motion picture industry began. The only real difference was most of those films had a Religious and Biblical cover story to them.
The first such film was in 1903 produced by the French company Pathe based upon the story of "Sampson and Delilah". These "Biblical" films seemed to have a taste for subtle sex. During 1923 Cecil B. De Mille figured a way around the U.S. Censors while filming his two part original "The Ten Commandments". The first half told the story of Moses and the Israelite's quest for freedom from the bondage of Egypt's Pharaoh in pure biblical terms. While the second half allowed De Mille to prove his point about censorship and the bible. That half of his epic was about two brothers one of who became a minister while the second broke everyone of the Ten Commandments. De Mille had the full approval of the U,S, Censors, because to them he was presenting a morality tale. Yet, any other film made at the time and not attached to a biblical story would have been immediately censored and condemned by Christian organizations.
Moving to 1949 Cecil B. De Mille would remake that 1903 French film starring Victor Mature as Samson, Hedy Lamarr as Delilah and Angela Lansbury as Delilah's sister Semadar. The motion picture was based upon the Bible story, but De Mille continued making his point. |
Variety described the finished motion picture not as religious, but as a:
lusty action story with a heavy coating of torrid-zone romance
1951 brought MGM's lavish all star production of Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel of Roman decay under the Emperor Nero "Quo Vadis" to the screen with Nero being played with flair by Peter Ustinov. Its a tale about Roman Centurion Robert Taylor falling in love with a Christian girl played by Deborah Kerr. "Sword and Sandal" action with that needed touch of Christianity and the Bible. As a side note the Assistant Director of the Italian production company was Sergio Leone who would create the first successful Spaghetti western "A Fistful of Dollars" in 1964.
1953 would see the first motion picture in CinemaScope "The Robe". Although the process in another form called "Grandeur" was used in the 1930 Western "The Big Trail" directed by Raul Walsh and starring the newly named John Wayne.
"The Robe" was freely based upon Lloyd C. Douglas's novel about what happens to the Robe worn by Jesus at the Crucifixion, Shades of "Quo Vadis" as once more we see a Roman Centurion this time played by Richard Burton falling for a Christian women this time played by Jean Simmons. In a supporting role was Victor Mature as a Christian slave named Demetrius. The film was such a success that 20th Century Fox created a sequel for 1954 "Demetrius and the Gladiators" starring Mature and co-starring Susan Hayward as Caligula's sexy wife Messalina, Also in 1954 was a strange Biblical film. It had Art Deco sets and obvious method acting by its young star Paul Newman then in vogue. The motion picture was based upon the Thomas B. Costain novel "The Silver Chalice" about a Greek Artisan, Newman, asked to make a silver chalice to hold the cup used by Jesus at the last supper. Virginia Mayo and Jack Palance co-starred using other new age acting styles and adding to the pure weirdness of the movie.
These Sudo-Biblical films were being made as were Westerns, because they were deemed safe during the paranoia of America's Cold War environment that I was growing up in at the time. Also who could question a film about the Bible as being bad for Americans? This stage of the evolution of the "Sword and Sandal" film was about to change though.
The tone of these movies changed to more historical than biblical in Hollywood sense in 1955 and 1956. The first film of this type that I remember starred Kirk Douglas and was "Ulysses". The motion picture was actually made in Italy by Carlo Ponti in 1954, but not released in the United States until 1955 when I would see it at the Wiltern Theater. I have a download of the original Italian language version with subtitles. The film was based upon Homer's "The Odyssey", but as the motion picture was Italian the names used are not the original Greek. So instead of the Greek "Odysseus" we have the Roman "Ulysses" being played by Douglas. The script was co-written by Ben Hecht and co-directed, unaccredited, by cinematographer Mario Bava. It is interesting to watch the original Italian film as Kirk Douglas' voice had to be dubbed and even though he spoke the language for some reason Anthony Quinn's also. I have attached a portion of the climatic scene, from the English dub, where Ulysses has returned home to find his wife besieged by suitors intent on marrying her for his Kingdom of Ithaca.
Moving to 1956 we find two more "Sword and Sandal" films from Hollywood. The first I remember seeing in the theaters was directed by American Robert Wise and was the big budgeted "Helen of Troy". The motion picture is loosely based upon Homer, but from the prequel piece to "The Odyssey" "The Iliad". This was another major Hollywood star studded production of the period on an international scale. The film was a joint American, Italian, French,U.K. endeavor. For example playing Helen was Italian actress Rossana Podesta, French leading man Jacques Sernas was Paris, Achilles was British actor Stanley Baker. Just to give you some idea of this mixed cast all speaking English. Miss Podesta had to learn her English lines phonetically. As Helen's handmaiden was an unknown French actress named Bridgette Bardot.
Richard Burton was back in 1956 in the title role of "Alexander the Great" and even Cecil B. De Mille went biblical again with his lavish remake of "The Ten Commandments" running 3 hours and 25 minutes not including the 15 minute intermission which originally accompanied the roadshow engagement I saw. Into this world of mega mini-epics Joseph E. Levine, who had co-produced the extremely successful 1956 American re-edit of the Toho Studios 1954 film "Gojira" into "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", would release the English dubbed Italian film "Hercules" to unexpected success.
So now the story of Steve Reeves and the "Sword and Sandal" films of the 1960's is set.
BEFORE THERE WAS "HERCULES" THERE WAS "MR. UNIVERSE"
On one of the two Facebook Pages I founded: "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" https://www.facebook.com/groups/Godzilla.KOM/
I posted a preview of this article as a coming attraction in the style of the 1950's and one of the member's remarked that to his father Steve Reeve is the only "Hercules". I would agree, but add we have a generation gap in place. As most of those on that page only know two or three other actors including another "Mr.Universe" Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who followed in Reeves' footstep with 1969's "Hercules in New York". However, that motion picture was a perfect example of the need for dubbing as the Greek Demi-God had a very strong Austrian accent in this comedy.
Steve Reeves was born in GLASOW--not Scotland, but Montana on January 21, 1926. After his father was killed in a farming accident. Steve at the age of ten moved with his mother Goldie Reeves to Oakland, California and became interested in body building while attending Castlemont High School. His body building training began on his own in the garage, but he would join Ed Yarick's Gym in Oakland and continued under Yarick's tutor-ledge to improve his body. By 1944 Steve Reeves stood Six Feet One Inch and weighed in at 203 pounds.
With World World 2 in full force after graduating from Castelmont Reeves enlisted in the army and served in the Philippines until the war's end. He was 20 at the time and returned to body building winning in 1946 the"Mr. Pacific Coast" title in Oregon. At the time acting, or any other future for him was not in his mindset.
1947 found Steve Reeves repeating as "Mr. Pacific Coast". He set his body building sights higher and also in 1947 Reeves became "Mr. America". During 1948 Steve Reeves made his first attempt to become the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association (NABBA) "Mr. Universe", but placed second. However, in 1948 Reeves did win the "Mr. World" title and in 1949 he would slip to Third Place in the "Mr. Universe" contest. During these years Steve Reeves also started to study acting full time until he had a falling out with Stella Adler at her famed acting studio and left it.
At the time Cecil B. De Mille was casting for "Samson and Delilah" and Steve Reeves was asked to try out for the part of Samson. According to the story he actually refused De Mille's offer of the role, because De Mille wanted him to loose 15 pounds and that would affected the muscle structure Reeves had worked so hard to build up. As mentioned earlier the part of Sampson went to Victor Mature,but the fact that De Mille had asked Steve Reeves to try out for the role reflected on his actual ability to perform. One has to speculate as to where his career might have gone had he won that coveted role in such a high profile film and if he would have ever made the Italian film that became "Hercules" in 1958. This is just a "What If" question and of course there are so many "What if's" that we will never know the answer too.
After being passed over he was given a shot later in 1949 in a pilot for a purposed Television Show entitled "Kimbar of the Jungle" which was a Tarzan rip off.
In 1950 Steve Reeves obtained one of his goals by being named "Mr. Universe" and started a WorldTour in that capacity, but acting now had become his dream. Reeves would make his official acting debut in the classic (?) film "Jail Bait" produced and directed by Ed Woods released May 2, 1954. This was Ed Wood's attempt at film noir. Steve Reeves played detective Bob Lawrence who along with fellow detective Inspector Johns played by Lye Talbot, become involved in a case about a famous doctor's son who admires a noted criminal. Producer Edward Small had written a story back in 1935 about a gangster having plastic surgery to avoid being discovered by the police and that formed the basis for the film's plot.
Steve Reeve's second motion picture part was 1954's "Athena" a musical comedy starring Jane Powell, Edmund Purdom and Debbie Reynolds. Reeves was listed 18th in the part of Ed Perkins a young man Athena's Grandfather has been training for the "Mr. Universe" competition. Can you say type casting?
"Athena" was followed by walk-on's on many television shows, but no more film acting roles. On January 31, 1955 Steve Reeves married Sandra Smith Schakel. George Helmer co-founder of the Steve Reeves International Society provided the above video. The couple would only remain married for one year and get a divorce.
Reeves kept appearing in television walk-on's until fate in the form of. Italian director Pietro Francisici stepped in after seeing "Athena". Francisici approached Steve Reeves to come to Italy were he was producing a film called "Le fatiche di Ercole (The Labors of Hercules)". The movie was very loosely based upon the Greek Poem "Argonautica" by Apollonius of Rhodes written in the 3rd Century B.C. and other myths. Except instead of Jason being the central character Francisici made Hercules giving Reeves the star billing. The cinematography was by Mario Bava and the film was a hit in Italy after being released on February 20, 1958 and would have "Labored" there as an unfulfilled one from Jupiter (the Roman equivalent to Zeus) by Hercules had not American producer/promoter Joseph E. Levine stepped in.
Warner Brothers advanced Levine $300,000 in 1959 for what they called "THE PRIVILEGE" of releasing the film out of Italy. Before Levine's campaign was completed the film would gross in the United States and Canada alone 4.7 million of those 1959 dollars for Warner Brothers. When the average price of an Adult admission was a staggering one dollar.
The above was one of Levine's newspaper ads and he had a major television campaign going for the film. As I remember every daytime pre-teen and teen program in the Los Angeles area was running trailers for the motion picture. The film was released in the United States on July 22, 1959 right in the middle of Summer Vacation which in 1959 usually occurred across the country at the same time each year. Thereby creating one large available audience for a smartly promoted motion picture.
Both the Hollywood Studios and the film critics panned the film, but American's loved it. I owned both the tie in Dell Comic Book, a lot of movies had Dell tie in's, and the phonograph record released for sale with the English dub sound track on it and illustrations from the film on the front and back covers. Story records were still a popular item in the United States at the time and Joseph E, Levine's publicity department was on a roll. Also racking in side revenue for Levine's "Embassy Pictures" distribution arm.
With the success of "Hercules" in 1959 Pietro Francisici brought Reeves back in "Ercole e la regina di Lidia (Hercules and the Queen of Lydia)". The English title was "Hercules Unchained".This was an Italian/French co-production and as with the Italian/Spanish Westerns of the late 1960's the first of such multiple country enterprises. Sylvia Koscina was now back as Hercules' wife Iole and the film tells about their adventures in Lydia and how that countries Queen wants Hercules for her own. The film brings back characters and actors from the first picture. They aide Iole against the Lydian Queen who has given Hercules a drought to forget who he is and everyone he knew.
The film received better reviews than the previous quickie as both Reeves and the other actors had time to improve their skills and the budget was much larger. Playing the Queen of Lydia was French actress Sylvia Lopez who dominated the picture even in the dubbed version. Sadly this up and coming actress died at the age of 28 from leukemia.
1959 would not only see Steve Reeves make "Hercules Unchained", but four other films as well. The sequel to "Hercules" was not released in the United States until July 13, 1960 and the delays in the release dates often confused Western viewers as Reeves of course looks younger in some motion pictures as a result.
The first non-Hercules film in that other 1959 grouping to reach the United States was "ll terrore del barbari (The Terror of the Barbarians)" aka: "Goliath and the Barbarians" released here in November of 1959. Eight full months prior to "Hercules Unchained". The film was the first of many from American International Pictures and in the English dub Steve Reeves went from being "Emilliano" to the more biblical sounding "Goliath". As was AIP's practice the original score was replaced by one from Les Baxter and for their $20,000 investment the studio made $1.6 million in North America alone. A sure sign that Steve Reeves' was a money maker. On the same bill was "Sign of the Gladiator".
The first of the wave of non-Reeves Italian/French "Sword and Sandal" films. It starred Swedish actress Anita Ekberg soon to be seen in Federico Fellini's classic 1960 film "La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life)". The actual title of the motion picture that opened with "Goliath and the Barbarians" was "Nei Segno di Roma (The Sign of Rome)" aka: "Sheba and the Gladiator". The film on its own earned AIP an additional $1.25 million dollars. American International Pictures had discovered a money maker.
The next film from 1959 and released in the United States on December 3rd of that year was "La battaglia di Maratona (Battle of Marathon). Known in this country as "The Giant of Marathon" and starring a clean shaven Steve Reeves. What makes this particular movie even more interesting to the film buff and illustrates the direction being taken by Italian "Peplum" is that "The Giant of Marathon" was co-directed by Jacques Tourneur and Mario Bava. Very soon it would be "in" for Americans to appear in such films as would happen to Foreign Westerns after Clint Eastwood.
Starting during the silent motion picture era around the World Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel "TheLast Days of Pompeii" has been a film favorite. Merian C. Cooper two years after bringing the audience the original 1933 "King Kong" made his version. As recently as 2014 a new filmversionwas released in 3-D. Back in 1959 Cineproduzioni Associate in Italy, Procura in Spain and Transocean in Germany came together to tackle the 1834 novel. The film starred Steve Reeves as Glaucus, ChristineKaufmann as Ione four years before she would marry American actor Tony Curtis and Fernando Rey (Alain Charnier aka: Frog One in the "French Connection" movies) as Arbaces the evil high priest.
Sergio Leone co-directed the film and co-wrote the script with Sergio Carbucci who in 1966 created the character "Django", Along with Ennio de Concini who wrote the script for the Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn 1956 "War and Peace" and in 1960 Mario Bava's "The Mask of Satan" aka: "Black Sunday" among others.
The film was released in Italy November 1959 and on July 17, 1960 in the United States four days after "Hercules Unchained". So in less than a week we saw both a bearded and clean shaven Steve Reeves..
Finding information about Steve Reeves' second wife Aline Czartjarwicz on line was very hard. I thank "The Steve Reeves International Society: Newsletter for 1999, Volume Five, Issue Two" for the following information:
Well into the shooting of the film, Gertz (Steve's agent) got word that another studio wanted Steve for "The White Devil" (aka The White Warrior). Gertz sent Philippo Fortuni, his representative in Rome, to talk to Steve about the script. Steve was seeing Aline Czartjarwicz at the time, a lovely blue-eyed beauty whom he'd met at a dinner during the making of "Hercules."
Aline was working with the Italian studios and was able to help Steve review the contract for the White Warrior. After reviewing it through Aline's translation from Italian to English, Steve wanted some changes. She gave him the name of lawyer and Steve presented the revised contract to the studio and to Fortuni. All parties were in agreement and Steve signed the contract agreement.
"The White Warrior" was scheduled to start shooting a month after "Hercules Unchained" was finished. Aline was a very good businesswomen and handled business in just about any language. She spoke six languages fluently and was a quick study with others when needed. She developed many important working relationships with the studios in Rome. Her background afforded her the opportunity to learn many languages. Aline's father was a Polish Prince and as a child she had an English governess, a French maid and they lived very close to the Russian border in Poland. She attended school in Switzerland and had friends who lived in Spain and Italy. She picked up some Italian and Spanish from them. Early in her adult life she went to Italy on vacation and found a job there. Within three months she could speak Italian fluently. Steve and Aline started dating on a regular basis towards the end of the filming of Hercules Unchained. Their common directions would not only create a successful business relationship for them but also began a deep love for each other.Steve Reeves and Aline Czartjawicz would be married during 1963.
Which now brings my reader to one of my two favorite Steve Reeves films. The first could easily and truly be described as "Steve Reeves Plays Errol Flynn" and the second is considered the finest film he ever made.
On November 17, 1960 Italians were the first to see Steve Reeves in a non-Pellum, role as Pirate Henry Morgan in "Morgan il pirata (Morgan the Pirate)". Once again it would not be until July 6, 1961 that I was able to enjoy this very good old fashion swashbuckler. The motion picture was co-directed by American Andre de Toth. Who is best known for the 1953 Vincent Price 3-D film "House of Wax". Not because he directed it, but because de Toth was blind in one eye, wore an eye patch, and was directing a movie that depended upon depth of field. His co-director was Primo Zeglio who was known for writing the screenplay for 1954's "Attila, The Scourge of God" starring Anthony Quinn and Sofia Loren which was an earlier directed motion picture by the previously mentioned Pietro Francisci.
Although this film tells of Morgan's rise and his taking of the impregnable Panama City from the Spanish by crossing the jungles and entering it from the blind side. A lot of the earlier story is right out of the Errol Flynn and Olivia deHavilland's motion picture from 1935 "Captain Blood".
The my second favorite Steve Reeves film was "ll Ladro di Bagdad (The Thief of Bagdad)", Released in both Italy and the United States in 1961. From a film history point of view Steve Reeves was now going to be compared to two classic films. The first was the original 1924 silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks. The second was the 1940 version produced by Alexander Korda and directed by Korda and his brother Vincent. Along with William Cameron Menzies. Reeves' film would be there equal in many ways.
Directed by American Arthur Lubin whose credits span many genres. Among his works were the 1943 "Phantom of the Opera", several Abbott and Costello comedies, the "Francis the Talking Mule" series which lead him to create the 1950's sitcom "Mr. Ed" and the Don Knott's movie "The Incredible Mr. Limpet".
The basic story line has an evil wizard putting a curse upon the beautiful Princess and it is up to the thief to overcome dangers and find the "Blue Rose" who will lift the spell. Of course there was a Dell Comic to add to my long lost collection.
While these films were being made in 1961 a friend and fellow body builder in the "Mr. Universe" competition Reg Park entered the World of Pellum strongmen also as "Hercules". Another actual American actor known for his portrayals of "Tarzan" in a series of 1950's films also came over to Italy. This was Reeves' friend Gordon Scott and he would battle Steve Reeves in the United States for Box Office dollars.While on television Joseph E. Levine's Embassy Pictures put together a group of 14 Italian "Sword and Sandal" films under the banner "The Sons of Hercules" and sold them to television. The series even had a theme song and suddenly Samson, Ulysses and Atlas were all Hercules' sons and were edited in some cases to fit into a one hour time slot including commercials.. The films mainly featured Ed Fury actually body builder Edmund Holovchi and Dan Vadis actually Constantine Daniel Vafiadis who had been born in Shanghai China.
Speaking of Reg Park he would make one of the most interesting and popular of all the "Pellum" films: "Ercole al centro della terra (Hercules in the Center of the Earth") aka: "Hercules in the Haunted World" aka: "Hercules Conquerors the Vampires". A great film directed by, co-written and filmed by cinematographer Mario Bava. The film also featured Christopher Lee as the evil King Lico. As with all such films when it came to English dubbing who knew what the actor would sound like and in Lee's case it was obviously not his. In fact you never heard Steve Reeves' actual voice in any of his English dubbed motion pictures..
In the Hollywood that had laughed at the 1959 release of Steve Reeves "Hercules" their point of view would change as the popularity of the films grew. Kirk Douglas started that change with his already planned film "Spartacus" on October 6, 1960. This was the first true American "Sword and Sandal" film since the early 1950's. Douglas hired director Stanley Kubrick and an all star cast to back him up. It consisted of Lawrence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov and Tony Curtis.
On May 3, 1961 multi-Oscar winning producer George Pal released "Atlantis, the Lost Continent". Not based upon Homer,but Plato. This was a fantasy film about a Greek fisherman rescuing the Atlantean Princess and becoming involved in a political struggle on the Lost Continent. The normally excellent Pal made a film of the quality of those turning up on the "Sons of Hercules" television program. It starred unknown Italian actor Sal Ponti under the name Anthony Hall. Pal used props on the MGM lot from "Forbidden Planet", clothing from "Ben Hur" and stock footage from "Quo Vadis" and his own "The Naked Jungle". As bad as it was I still liked it and of course had the Dell Comic Book.
After delays caused by the long illness of his female star on July 31, 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz released his four hour and thirteen minute, not including intermission, Pellum film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton "Cleopatra". The following year Samuel Bronson got into the act when on March 26, 1964 he released the Anthony Mann directed "Fall of the Roman Empire" starring Alec Guinness, Stephen Boyd, Sophia Loren, Christopher Plummer and featuring James Mason, Mel Ferrer, Omar Sharif and John Ireland. This three hour and eight minute telling of the last days of Marcus Aurelius and the rise and fall of his son Commodus would be remade 36 years later by Ridley Scott as "Gladiator".
He was the son of actor John Barrymore and actress Dolores Costello. John Drew Barrymore is remembered today not for his alcoholic binges famous within the Barrymore Family, or his motion pictures, but as the father of actress Drew Barrymore. Barrymore started acting in Italian films in "Ti aspettero all'inferno (I'll See You in Hell)" released in Italy on October 29, 1960. The motion picture was about three robbers whose diamond heist goes wrong and they are being pursued by the police. His final film before returning to United States television was a fun little piece released in Italy in 1964 and here in March 1965. "Roma contro Roma (Rome Conquerors Rome)" aka: "Night Star: Goddess of Electra" aka: "War of the Zombies". Barrymore as Aderbad brings back the dead to help him conqueror Rome and the world/
Also in 1961 production was to start on "Romolo e Remo (Romulus and Remus)" aka"Duel of the Titans". Directed Sergio Corbucci wanted Steve Reeves to play both parts as they were twins. Apparently Reeves objected stating that was going to be too involved from both a acting and filming perspective. Corbucci agreed and further agreed to Reeves suggestion of using his friend Gordon Scott in one of the roles. Scott went to Italy to play Remus the quick tempered brother and Reeves was Romulus the level headed and slow to burn brother. Scott was getting the highest salary he had ever had and would remain in Italy to film eleven additional motion pictures through 1968.
The production under the American title of "Duel of the Titans" was not released until June of 1963. Two years after it was filmed and after several motion pictures with both Gordon Scott and Steve Reeves had played in the United States.
I received an early discharge from the Navy in late 1969 to attend "The Pasadena Playhouse" in their set design and lighting classes. However, the school closed down over lack of funding and I enrolled in Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California in Dramatic Arts and Theater Management. On my non-class days, or when I had only a morning one. I would sometimes go to a little bar around the corner from my parents home where I was staying. I only went when the bar had just opened for the day. So I could spend time in that empty room discussing motion pictures and theater design with the bartender who was a Cinema Student at USC.
One day, though, at one end of the bar and by himself in the shadows was an elderly, to me at the time, looking man. It clicked in my brain that I was looking at Gordon Scott. So I went over and introduced myself and we had a pleasant conversation. When he left I had the impression that he was both a lonely person and bitter over some of his experiences in Italy. Some of the language he used in describing the actress Rosanna Podesta and other names familiar to me was anything but flattering. I often wondered where he went afterwards. According to Gordon Scott's biography the last two decades of his life were spent touring Movie Conventions.He passed away April 30, 2007 as a result of lingering complications from several heart surgeries at the age of 80.
Back to Steve Reeves:
In 1961 the search was on by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli for an actor to play James Bond in "Dr.No". Actors were turning down the role for various reasons and when it came to Steve Reeves he refused it for one simple reason: Money. Saltzman and Broccoli wanted him to take far less than he was currently being paid in Italy. Why knowing his current salary they would offer Steve Reeves less money is strange, but in hindsight this was his Second "What If" moment. One solid point without debate was had he accepted there never would have been a Sean Connery and we can speculate today, IF that excellent actor would have gone beyond supporting roles had he never been offered the role of 007,
On August 24, 1962 "ll figlio de Spartacus (Son of Spartacus) came out in Italy. It would be May 29, 1963 before I would be able to see the film as "The Slave: the Son of Spartacus". The story takes place 25 years after his father's rebellion and Spartacus might be a little surprised to find his son now a Roman soldier. However, eventually Randus learns of his birthright and will free slaves himself after having been captured by Slavers. A simple, but effective story that anyone knowing the genre and wants "something visual that's not too abysmal" like myself enjoyed back when it came out.This was another fun entertainment from Sergio Corbucci.
Also in the cast was Jacques Sernas who had played Paris in Robert Wise's 1956 "Helen of Troy".
On November 28, 1962 La leggenda di Enea (The Legend of Aeneas) was released in Italy. It wouldn't be until June 1, 1964 the film now called "The Avenger" arrived in the United States. For U.S. television the film's name was changed to "The Last Glory of Troy" and in the U.K. the title used was "War of the Trojans".
The film is a sequel to "La guerra di Troia (The Trojan Horse)" and instead of Homer. The audience was now seeing a motion picture loosely based upon Publius Vergillus Maro's epic poem "The Aeneis". For those of my readers who have read "Virgil's" work the film tells a condensed version of the Poem's second half. Also the original Italian running time was 105 minutes while the English dub was ten minutes shorter. I could not locate anything about what was removed.
In 1895 an Italian writer named Emilio Salgari wrote a novel "I Misteri della Jungia Nera (The Mystery of the Black Jungle)" and created the character Sandokan. This would be the first in a series of 11 books that still thrill Italian youngsters and adults. The character of Sandokan a Malaysian Pirate fighting colonialism, a favorite topic of Salgari, first appeared on screen in 1941 with two films. The character would have a mini-television series 1976 and a Spanish animated series in 1992. We are interested in the first two of a series of four films which starred Steve Reeves. The last two starred Ray Danton another American actor best known for two biographical films "The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond" (1960) and 1962's "The George Raft Story". At the time he made his two Sandokan films Diamond was still married to actress Julie Adams ("The Creature from the Black Lagoon).
Steve Reeves' first film was entitled: "Sandokan, la tigre di Mompracem (Sandokan the Great)" released in Italy on December 19, 1963. The movie would be released in the United States on May 1, 1965. On October 16, 1964 in Italy "I pirati della Malesia (Pirates of Malaysia)" was released with Reeves reprising his role of Sandokan. The motion picture would also be known as "The Pirates of the Seven Seas" and "Sandrokan: Pirate of Malaysia" released during 1966.in the United States.
What was the first Spaghetti western is debatable as is the year the genre actually started. However, with the sure volume being turned out in 1964 that year could be considered the actual International starting point. The most influential of these films was released that year in Italy directed by Sergio Leone and starring another American from the popular "Rawhide" television series Clint Eastwood. Its title was of course: "Per un pugno di dollari" whose literal translation to English is "For a Fistful of Dollars", but became known as "A Fistful of Dollars". Although the on screen title was: "Fistful of Dollars". In any event 1964 marked the end of the "Peplum" movies.
On April 5, 1968 the western "Vivo per la tua morte (I Live for Your Death)" was released in Italy. The screenplay was co-written by the film's star Steve Reeves based upon the novel "Judas Gun" by Gordon D. Shireffs. The film had been shot the previous year and directed by Alex Burks who in actuality was Camillo Bazzoni. Bazzoni's use of an English language name instead of his own was part of a practice in the Italian Spaghetti Western industry. It was thought the audience would believe the films were made by American's and starring American actors. Thereby bringing in larger revenue. Two prime examples of major acting players at the time were Bud Spencer who was actually Carlo Pedersoli and Terence Hill whose birth name was Mario Girotti. Both actor's legally changed their names as their success mounted.
This motion picture would finally be released in an English language dub in New York City on February 25, 1970 as "A Long Ride From Hell".The film is a tale of two brothers falsely accused of a bank robbery who are sent to Yuma Prison. After escaping Reeve's Mike Sturges seeks revenge on those responsible.
Producer George Pal had plans to turn Lester Dent's "Doc Savage" novels into a series of films. He approached Steve Reeves to play the part and he accepted it. The director was hired and as the script was being finalized there was a writers strike and the film fell through. So "A Long Ride From Hell", became the last motion picture made by Steve Reeves.
Using the money he had saved Steve Reeves and his wife Aline moved to the community of Valley Center near Escondido a city within San Diego County, California. There he would purchase a ranch to breed horses. What should have been an ideal life for the couple ended tragically when Aline Reeves had a stroke and died in 1989.
I have already mentioned "The Steve Reeves International Society" in this article. It was founded in 1994 by Reeves and his business partner George L. Helmer. It is a source for everything Steve Reeves including a detailed 249 page biography by Mr. Helmer, cook books and body building books written by the actor and more. Attached is the direct link to the Society.
In Moose, Montana on June 24, 1994 Deborah Ann Engelhorn became the third wife of Steve Reeves, or did she? All the information on line I can find indicates this occurred, but then I found a link a Facebook Page and an article dated January 21, 2014.
On of the comments appears to have come from George L. Helmer and reads:
I went to their current Facebook Page and found "Super Strength Training" is a Body Building Book Publisher. In fact on their page today, January 28, 2015 they are advertising two books by Reg Park. Their website for those interested is:
So what the real story is about Deborah Ann Emgelhorn and Steve Reeves I can not say for certain.
On May 1, 2000 Steve Reeves passed away. He had surgery on April 29th and a blot clot developed. Steve Reeve was cremated and his ashes scattered in Montana the state of his birth.