Tuesday, February 9, 2021

PEPLUM: A Look at the Sword and Sandal Motion Pictures from the 1950's and 1960's

Kirk Douglas, Richard Burton, Anthony Quinn, Christopher Lee, John Drew Barrymore, Directors Robert Wise and Robert Aldrich, and, yes, Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott. They all came to Italy, from the United States, to make Peplum features. This is an overview of what became generically known, from the mid-1950's into the mid-1960's, simply as, SWORD AND SANDAL motion pictures, because they involved heroes with Swords and they all wore Sandals

In 1905, the Italian silent film, "The Sack of Rome" was released. Although, a lost film, it is considered the first Peplum motion picture. The Italians would make a total of forty-six Sword and Sandal features between 1905 and 1927. Of which twenty-six were about a strongman character named, "Maciste". More about that character later.

Between 1922 and 1943, Italy was under the control of the founder of the "National Fascist Party", Benito Mussolini.

During the "Fascist Period", the motion picture, "Scipione l'africano (Scipio the African)", was released in Italy, on August 4, 1937. The feature would be dubbed into English under the title, "Scipio the Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal". 

Although, that Peplum motion picture told the story of the Carthaginian General, "Hannibal", being driven out of Italy by, "Publius Cornelius Scipio", after the "Battle of Zama" in 202 B.C. The picture was funded by Mussolini and was a piece of pro-"National Fascist Party" propaganda. 

During the Second World War, Italy made few Peplum movies, but turned to historical settings and intrigues. Along with modern drama and love stories that would pass Mussolini's censors.

On March 3, 1949, Italy released a major Peplum film, the first since the end of the war. The film was a love story between the daughter of a Roman Senator, the title character, "Fabiola", and the forbidden love with a lowly gallic gladiator. The motion picture was a complete success and brings me to 1951.


QUO VADIS premiered on November 8, 1951 in New York City

What made this American produced Biblical motion picture truly Peplum, besides being set during Emperor Nero's Rome. Is the fact that it was shot at the "Cinecitta Studios", using an Italian film crew and thousands of Italian extras. 

The idea of going to Italy to film an American motion picture came from Producer Sam Zimbalist. He was thinking of how to save money and not necessarily production values. There had been other American films set in Rome, such as Cecil B. DeMille's, 1932, "Sign of the Cross", also during Nero's Rome and starring Frederick March and Claudette Colbert as the "Empress Poppaea" with the actresses famous, total nude, milk-bath scene. It took decades for DeMille's feature to make back its budget for Paramount Studios.

That budget problem would not occur with the Biblical motion picture, "Quo Vadis", that starred Robert Taylor as Roman Military Officer, "Marcus Vinicus", Deborah Kerr as the Lygian Christian Slave, "Lygia", Leo Glenn as the Arbiter of Elegance in Nero's Court, "Petronius", and Peter Ustinov as the "Emperor Nero".

The motion picture was Directed by Meryn Leroy and an uncredited Anthony Mann. Another uncredited Director came from Italy, named Sergio Leone.

Unlike, Cecil B. DeMille and Paramount Pictures 1932 production. Sam Zimbalist's gamble for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer paid off. The stated budget for "Quo Vadis" was $7.6 million, and its initial box office was $21 million dollars. 

At the same time that MGM was making their feature film. The Italian film industry started what would become the Peplum craze around the World.

SPARTACO (SPARTACUS) released January 28, 1953 in Italy

The film was Directed by Riccardo Freda. Freda refused to go with the post-war neo-realism trends of the other Italian directors and continued to make historical stories. However, late in the 1950's, he turned to Horror and became a pioneer in the field. One of his first Horror films, was 1957's, "I vampiri (The Vampire)" that didn't make it to the United States until 1963, as "Lust of the Vampire". Riccardo Freda's screenplay came from a story by Mario Bava, that pictures uncredited second director. 

Massimo Girotti portrayed "Spartaco". Girotti, during the war years, appeared in motion pictures by three of the greats of Italian cinema, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconte and Vittorio De Sica.

The motion picture would be dubbed into English and released as, "Sins of the Rome", in August of 1953, in the U.K. 

RKO Pictures distributed "Sins of Rome", in the United States, in June 1954, and other countries.

In 1960, the producers for the Kirk Douglas motion picture, "Spartacus", bought up every known copy of the 1953, Italian language, "Spartaco", and the English language, "Sins of Rome". They were afraid the motion picture would be re-released, by someone, and take away from Director Stanley Kubrick film's box office.

Some reviewers list the Douglas-Kubrick feature as Peplum, but only the battle scenes were filmed, not in Italy, but Spain. While the majority of the motion picture was shot in North Hollywood, California, the location of "Universal International Studios". Thousand Oaks, California's "Wildwood Regional Park", and the "California Lutheran University". The picture's opening was filmed by Director Anthony Mann, in "Death Valley Nation Park", near the California-Nevada border, before he suddenly was off the production and replaced by Kubrick.

While, Kirk Douglas', "Spartacus", can be debated as truly Peplum. There was a classic Italian Peplum film, from 1954, that he starred in.

UILSSE released October 6, 1954 in Italy. 

The motion picture would come to the United States as "Ulysses", on August 17, 1955.

Note the reversal of the two leading actors between Italy and the United States on the above posters.

The motion picture was Produced, by soon to be major names in Worldwide cinema, Dino De Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti. It was an American and Italian co-production.

The adaptation of Greek poet Homer's work, "The Odyssey", was by American Ben Hecht. Among Hecht's screenplays are, 1934's "Viva Villa", that starred Wallace Beery and Fay Wray, 1939's, "Wuthering Heights", Directed by William Wyler, the Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara, 1942, pirate story, "The Black Swan", and Alfred Hitchcock's, 1946, "Notorious", starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

The initial screenplay was written by Franco Brusati. Who wrote Director Franco Zefferilli's adaptation of William Shakespeare's, "Romeo and Juliet", in 1968, and would be nominated, in 1974, for the "Academy Award for the Best International Feature Film", "Bread and Chocolate". Which, Brusati, wrote the screenplay and Directed.

There were several other contributing screenplay writers as the filming progressed. These are, Ennio De Concini, Hugh Gray, Ivo Perilli and American author, Irwin Shaw, the novels, "The Young Lions" and "Rich Man, Poor Man".

Mario Camerini, in 1926, had Directed, "Maciste contro lo sceicco (Maciste Against the Shiek)" and assisted as both a Director and screenplay writer on this feature.

Kirk Douglas portrayed "Ulisse (Ulysses)". Douglas had just been seen in Walt Disney's version of Jules Verne's, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", and would be seen, next, in 1955's, "The Racers".

Silvana Mangano portrayed two different roles, "Penelope" and "Circe". Mangano raised herself from poverty to become one of the major dramatic Italian actresses of the 1950's and 1960's. 

Above, she is the enchantress, "Circe".

Antony Quinn portrayed "Antinoos (Antinous)". This was the second of three feature films Quinn made, at this time, in Italy. He had already been seen, Internationally, in Director Federico Fellini's, 1954, "La Strada", and would follow this feature with the next one I will be discussing.

Rossana Podesta portrayed "Nausicaa". Podesta was five films away from International Stardom. That fifth film will be discussed shortly.

The movie opens in the palace of the "King of Ithaca". "Ulysses", has been missing for seven years, since the sacking of the City of Troy, and his wife, "Queen Penelope", has many suitors for his crown including "Antinous". In point of fact, these suitors are all freeloaders, and "Penelope" has been putting them off with one excuse after another, but time is running out for her.

On the nearby island of Phaeacia, a man washes ashore without any memory of who he is, and is found by Princess "Nausicaa". 

The stranger is taken to "Nausicca"s parents, "King Alcinous", played by French actor Jacques Dumesnil, and "Queen Arete", played by Turkish actress Ludmilla Dudarova. As time passes, the stranger still has no memory of his life before Phaeacia, but both, "Nausicca", and him, are starting to fall in love. 

One morning, the stranger goes, alone, to the edge of the Mediterranean Sea and looks at the waves coming ashore. As the stranger watches, he starts to remember that he is "Ulysses", King of Ithaca, and the events leading him to Phaeacia.

The movie now switches to the sacking and burning of Troy. "Ulysses" is confronted by "Cassandra", played by Argentine actress Elena Zareschi, the daughter of the King and Queen of Troy and sister of "Paris", within the temple of the God, Neptune. "Cassandra?", the Temple's Priestess, places a curse upon the King of Ithaca.

As his ship sets sail from Troy for Ithaca, a strange storm comes up, and blows the ship off course.

After the storm ends, an island is seen, and "Ulysses" and his crew go ashore to find food. There, they will encounter the  Giant Cyclops, "Polyphemus", played by Italian actor Umberto Silvestri, son of Neptune.

"Ulysses" and his crew find a cave and upon entering, they discover food, but more important a large vat of wine. The crew becomes very drunk as "Polyphemus" enters, finds "Ulysses" and his crew, blocks the entrance with a large boulder and plans to eat them all. "Ulysses" is able to get a large wooden stake into a fire pit and with some of his remaining crew. They ram the hot tip of the stake into the eye of the cyclops. Who is next tricked into thinking that somehow the crew has escaped his cave, he removes the boulder, and now they do get out. Following "Ulysses" to the cliffs above the bay his ship is in, "Polyphemus" falls to his death.

Back at sea, the ship approaches the rocks of the sirens that drive seamen crazy with their song. "Ulysses" tells his crew to lash him to mast pole to hear the call of the sirens, but orders his crew to put cloth, covered in wax, in their ears to avoid going mad.

After passing the rocks of the sirens, the ship is pulled to another island. "Ulysses" and his crew go ashore to replenish once again and he leaves them to explore the island.

When "Ulysses" returns, he finds, first, his crew turned to pigs and, second, "Circe". 

"Circe" is a sorceress and makes "Ulysses" fall in love with him. He stays with her for years, but he finally realizes what she's been doing to him. "Circe", now calls upon the dead crew of "Ulysses", to return from the Underworld, to make him stay. "Circe" having called back the dead has made a mistake. One of the phantoms is "Anticlea", played by Italian stage actress Evi Maltagliati, the mother of  "Ulysses". Who gets him to remember and helps her son escape from "Circe's" island. He builds a raft and sets out to sea and this is how he came to Phaeacia.

The Stranger, now reveals that he is really, "Ulysses, King of Ithaca" and asks for help to return home to his wife "Penelope". "Nausicaa" is heartbroken, but as a royal princess, understands. "Ulysses" is told about the suitors for his wife's hand. So, when he returns, he hides his identity, as a beggar, to see what is happening.

Earlier, "Penelope", has revealed her plan to stop the suitors. She shows them the bow of "Ulysses", and tells the group, that whomever can string and shoot the bow will be her husband. "Ulysses", unseen and watching from the shadows of the great hall and hearing his wife, now turns to leave. However, his pet dog comes up to him and he pets the animal. Also, having watched from the shadows, the strange beggar, is "Telemachus", played by Italian actor Franco Interlenghi, the son of "Ulysses" and the two reveal themselves to each other. Together they hatch a plan for the following days archery contest.

Besides, stringing the bow, an arrow must be shot through twelve axe heads with holes in them. Everyone fails and the beggar approaches and askes "Penelope" for a chance to string the bow. The suitors laugh at him, but "Penelope" lets the beggar try.

With no problem at all, the beggar strings the bow and shoots an arrow through the axe heads.

One of the suitors calls out that the beggar's "Ulysses". "Ulysses" turns and starts killing each of his wife's suitors with the help of his son. In the end husband and wife are reunited.

The success of "Uilsse" was so unexpected by the two producers. They immediately decided to cash in on the film's success and made an historical action biography. That picture starred Anthony Quinn, in the title role, and Sophia Loren, in the role of "Honora", the captured women that will bring him down.

"Attila, il flagello di Dio (Attila, the Scourge of God)", was released in Italy on, December 27, 1954, but didn't come to the United States until May ,17, 1958,  with the simple title of "Attila".

In the United States, "Universal International Pictures", having become aware of the buzz around the Quinn and Loren motion picture and knowing it wouldn't becoming to the States in 1954. Quickly, filmed in North Hollywood, "The Sign of the Pagan", released December 18, 1954, to play off the other films publicity and trick American audiences into the theaters thinking this was the Italian production.

In "Universal's" picture, Jack Palance portrayed "Attila", Jeff Chandler portrayed Roman Soldier, "Marcian", and unknown, French prima ballerina, Ludmilla Tcherina, portrayed the captive, "Princess Pulcheria". Rita Gam portrayed "Kubra", the daughter of Attila.

However, Allison Hayes, 1958's, "The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman", portrayed Ildico". Who will plunge the fatal dagger into "Attila".

My article, "Peggie Castle, Allison Hayes, Gloria Talbott and 1950's Sci-Fi Movies", will be found at:


Above Jack Palance, next to him is Rita Gam and kneeling is Ludmilla Tcherina.

1956 saw two big budget Peplum motion pictures made in Italy and Spain, but by Americans.

HELEN OF TROY released January 26, 1956 Worldwide

Although the motion picture ran only one hour and fifty-eight minutes, the producers had a overture and exit music on the roadshow print.

The motion picture was Directed by Robert Wise.

Who, at the time, had Directed, producer Val Lewton's, 1944, "Curse of the Cat People", and Lewton's, 1945 version, of Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Body Snatcher", starring Boris Karloff. Along with, 1951's, Science Fiction classic, "The Day the Earth Stood Still",  and the Richard Burton and James Mason, 1953, World War 2, "The Desert Rats".

My article, "Director Robert Wise: Horror, Science Fiction and the Greek Homer", can be read at:


Like 1954's, "Uilsse", the screenplay was based upon another poem by Homer, "The Iliad". Which was the story of the "Trojan War". 

The adaption of Homer's work was by Hugh Gray. This was Gray's last screenplay of 16, four of which were documentaries. He had adapted, A.E. Mason's novel, "The Drum", in 1938, for the Korda Brothers. Gray worked on the screenplays for the Joan Fontaine, Burt Lancaster and Robert Newton, classic Film-Noir, 1948's, "Kiss the Blood Off My Hands", and as I've mentioned, 1954's "Ulisse".

N. Richard Nash co-wrote the screenplay. Nash was known for adapting plays into motion picture treatments. Two of his most known works, are his own Broadway play, for 1956's, "The Rainmaker", and George Gershwin's American Opera, "Porgy and Bess", for the 1959 motion picture.

John Twist was the main screenplay writer. Twist had written screenplays since 1927. and two in the style of this motion picture are, 1947's, "Sinbad the Sailor". That starred Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Maureen O'Hara and featured Anthony Quinn. The other was, 1954's, "King Richard and the Crusaders", starring Rex Harrison, Virginia Mayo and George Sanders.

Rossana Podesta portrayed "Helen". This was her first English language motion picture. She did not speak English when she made "Uilsse". Later, in 1956, Podesta would co-star with Alan Ladd and Lloyd Nolan in the Adventure picture, "Santiago".

Jacques Sernas as Jack Sernas, portrayed "Paris". Lithuanian born Sernas had been appearing in Italian and French films prior to this picture. He would appear in several Peplum films including "Nel segno di Roma (In the Sign of Rome)", released in Italy March 5, 1959, and as "Sign of the Gladiator", in the United States, on September 23, 1959. Another film, was with British actress, Belinda Lee, "Le notti di Lucrezia Borgia( The Nights of Lucretia Borgia)". Which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on July 8, 1959.

Sir Cedrick Hardwicke portrayed "King Priam". Hardwicke was about to be seen in two major films  in 1956. The two are, Cecil B. DeMille's Biblical epic, "The Ten Commandments", and Michael Todd's version of Jules Verne's, "Around the World in 80 Days.

In the above still, Sir Cedric Hardwicke is on the far right, Jacques (Jack) Sernas is the far left, Rossana Podesta is kneeling in front of "Queen Hecuba", played by Nora Swinburne. As "Casandra", played by Janette Scott, of 1963's "The Day of the Triffids", watches intently.

Above, Torin Thatcher as "Ulysses" and Robert Douglas as "Agamemnon".  Torin Thatcher is known to fans of Fantasy and Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhausen. He was the evil magician in 1958's, "7th Voyage of Sinbad". My article, "TORIN THATCHER: The Career of a Great British Character Actor" will be found at:


Stanley Baker portrayed "Achilles".  In 1961, he was one of men going after "The Guns of Navarone". In 1964, he starred and co-produced that outstanding "Zulu". About the British defense of "Roark's Drift" against thousands of Zulu warriors. His name will be mentioned in the next motion picture and another later.

Harry Andrews portrayed "Hector". Among Andrews' varied motion pictures are, Director John Huston's, 1956, "Moby Dick", Samuel Bronston's, 1963, "55 Days at Peking",  1965's, "The Agony and the Ecstasy", 1969's, "Battle of Britain", 1971's, "Nicholas and Alexandra", and 1973's, "Theatre of Blood". That starred Vincent Price and Diana Rigg. Harry Andrews is also in the next motion picture.

Above, Harry Andrews, between Nora Swinburne and Sir Cedric Hardwicke.

Above far left, Stanley Baker, Jacques Sernas, Niall MacGinnis, Robert Douglas and Torin Thatcher, far right. MacGinnis would also be in the following feature, but is probably best known to Horror fans, for portraying "Doctor Julian Karswell", in 1957's, "Night of the Demon" aka: "Curse of the Demon".

Brigette Bardot portrayed "Andraste". Bardot had been acting since 1952, but it would be her sixth motion picture for her husband, French Director Roger Vadim, 1956's, "And God Created Woman", that would propel her to International Stardom.

"King Priam" of Troy, entrusts his younger son, "Paris", with  a peace treaty to offer the Greeks at Sparta. A strong storm comes up and "Paris" is washed overboard. His ship returns to Troy and everyone believes he is dead. However, the current carries the young Prince to a beach in Greece, near Sparta. There he is found by a young woman, who says she's a handmaiden to the Queen.

The young woman takes "Paris" to a home of a couple identified as the two people who raised her. He identifies himself as "Prince Paris" of Troy, on a mission to the Greek Kings with an offer of peace from his father.

The young woman advises "Paris" to find a ship back to Troy and do not go to the palace of "Agamemnon". Where all the Kings of Greece are meeting and looking for a reason to sack Troy of its riches. She leaves, and "Paris" not looking anything like a Prince, goes to the palace.

The Greeks do not believe this ragged looking young man is "Paris", but as "Paris" is known for his boxing skills. They ask him to box their champion and should he win. The assembled Greek Kings will acknowledge that he is "Paris of Troy". Just before the match is to begin, in walks the young woman from the beach, and "Paris" is introduced to the wife of "Agamemnon", "Helen". "

Paris" wins the boxing match and is provided proper clothing for his station and the Greek King's listen to "King Priam's" plea for peace. 

Two events take place:

First, the Greek King's send a group of men to murder "Paris", but "Andraste" is sent, by "Helen" to warn him. "Andraste's" tells "Paris" about a ship paid to take him back to Troy. As "Paris" heads for the docks, "Helen", who is in love with him, appears to say her own farewell.

The two are attacked by the assassins and escape together to the ship. This becomes the Second event, the kidnapping of "Helen" and the excuse the Greek Kings have been looking for to attack Troy. 

"King Priam" and "Queen Hecuba" are pleased to meet this young woman their son has brought to Troy. Also there, are both "Casandra", a priestess and sister of "Paris", and his brother "Hector", the head of Troy's army. Sensing something, "Casandra" asks who the young woman is and receives the reply, "Helen". Things immediately change with the recognition of who "Helen" really is, but "Hector" is pleased. He has also been looking for his own excuse to fight the Greeks.

The Greeks arrive and "Cassandra" declares that "Helen" is:
The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships

However, as Troy is a fortress city and has water and food for a long siege by the Greeks. Nobody, is really worried as all the people of Troy have entered the walled city for safety.


Ten years pass and the Greeks haven't gotten within the city's walls. 

An attempt to end the siege and declare a victor. Will be a one-on-one fight between the Greek King, "Achilles", against "Prince Hector" of Troy. 

"Achilles" kills "Hector", and ties him to his chariot and drags the body, across the ground, behind it. "Paris" gets his bow, asks for the help from the Gods to find the weakness in "Achilles". His arrow flies and hits the Greek in his heel and "Achilles" falls off his chariot dead. 

The body's of both combatants are taken to their respective sides and in the morning the Greeks are gone. Left on the beach, by the Greeks, is a giant horse.

"Casandra" agrees with "Helen" not to bring the horse into the city. "Helen" warns the people of Troy to:
 Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

The horse contains "Ulysses" and some of his men. Who after the citizens of Troy have celebrated and are drunk, come out of the horse's belly. They open the gates and the Greek's, who have returned as planned by "Ulysses", murder and loot Troy. "Paris", his parents and sister, are killed and "Helen" is taken back to Sparta by her husband.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT released March 22, 1956 at a Royal Premier in London, England

American Robert Rossen, Produced, Wrote and Directed this epic film. The motion picture was filmed in Spain at the C.B. Films S.A. Studio. The finished Director's cut ran over three hours, but United Artists thought it was too long and had Rossen's motion picture reduced to one hour and twenty-one minutes. This caused lapses in the story line and long portions without any action. 

Richard Burton portrayed "Alexander". He had starred in the first CinemaScope Motion Picture, the 1953, Biblical Epic, "The Robe". Burton had just been seen in 1955's, "The Rains of Ranchipur".

Frederic March portrayed "Phillip of Macedonia", "Alexander's Father and Macedonian King"March received the "Best Actor Academy Award", for the 1931 version of Robert Louis Stevenson's, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", and another for 1946's, "The Best Years of Our Lives". Also, in 1931, March portrayed a Roman Officer in Cecil B. DeMille's Biblical epic, "The Sign of the Cross" and would play the William Jennings Bryan character, opposite Spencer Tracy's Clarence Darrow character, in 1960's, "Inherit the Wind". Based upon the Broadway play that is itself, based upon the 1925, "Scopes Evolution Trial".

Claire Bloom portrayed "Barsine", "Alexander's plotting mother". Among Bloom's work, after this feature are, 1958's, "The Brothers Karamazov", co-starring with Yul Brynner, Maria Schnell and Lee J. Cobb and 1959's, "Look Back in Anger", with Burton. She was also in, Producer George Pal's, 1962, "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" and Robert Wise's Ghost Story, 1963's, original, "The Haunting".

Harry Andrews portrayed "Darius", Ruler of the Persian Empire. In 1959, Andrews would be in the Biblical epic, "Solomon and Sheba", starring Yul Brynner and Gina Lollobrigida. 

Stanley Baker portrayed "Attalus". He would follow this feature with a British television mini-series of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" in the leading role of "Mr. Rochester".

Niall MacGinnis portrayed "Parmenio". 

Above, Niall MacGinnis is to Frederick March's right, on horseback. MacGinnis would join Kirk Douglas, in 1956's, "Lust for Life". The story of Vincent van Gogh with Anthony Quinn. 

Peter Cushing portrayed "General Memnon". Cushing was two on-screen appearances from a major change in the course of his career, with 1957's, "The Curse of Frankenstein", for England's Hammer Films.

Rossen's screenplay follows "Philip of Macedonia's" army and hisconquests. While, his wife, "Barsine", dreams of putting her son, "Alexander", on the throne. The boy is tutored by "Aristotle", played by Barry Jones, along with other young men. The group will become "Alexander's" generals.

"Phillip" is assassinated by a man hired by "Barsine" and "Alexander" becomes King at the age of 20. He immediately exiles his mother and starts a campaign to conqueror the World. The Gordian knot has always challenged men attempting to untie it. "Alexander" looks at it and solves the puzzle by simply cutting it in two with his sword. 

Marching into Persia, he takes on "Darius" and his Empire and defeats him. "Darius" is killed by some of his officers thinking that would please "Alexander", but instead he has them executed and marries the daughter of "Darius". Thereby, uniting the Greek and Asian empires into one.


At the age of 32, he dies, as prophesied a young man, leaving his empire:
To the strongest!

In 1958, a small Peplum film with an American actor and body builder, in the title role, went unnoticed in  Italy. Then, American Producer and Film Distributor, Joseph E. Levin, acquired the rights, and with his English dubbed version, would start the Worldwide Sword and Sandal craze. 

The year before, Levine and three others, took another obscure motion picture from Japan. They re-edited it, added American scenes, and  English language narration. Then released the picture as if it was made-in-America. The movie was 1956's, "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", and Joseph E. Levine added the last four words to the title.

LE FATICHE DI ERCOLE (THE LABORS OF HERCULES) released in Italy on February 20, 1958

The movie would come to the United States as, "Hercules", on July 22, 1959.

The motion picture was Directed by Pietro Francisci. Francisci had Directed 1952, "La regina di Saba (The Queen of Sheba)" and,1954's, "Attila, the Scourge of God". 

Francisci adapted a Greek poem by Apollonios Rhodios (Apollonious of the island of Rhodes), about Hercules, for his plot and four other writers contributed to the screenplay.

Cinematography was by Mario Bava. As where the Special Effects and some of the camera work.

Steve Reeves portrayed "Hercules". Reeves was "Police Lieutenant Bob Lawrence", in Director Ed Woods', 1954, "Jail Bait", and would become the major American associated with the 1960's Peplum craze.

My article, "STEVE REEVES: A Look At His Films", can be found at:


Sylva Koscina, actually Croatian actress, Silvija Koscina, portrayed "Iole". This was her ninth motion picture and besides this and its sequel. Koscina, would be known for Director Federico Fellini's, 1965, "Juliet of the Spirits".

 The plot is simple, as "Hercules" meets and falls in love with "Iole", the daughter of "King Pellias", played by Ivo Garrani, Mario Bava's, 1960, "The Mask of the Demon" aka: "Black Sunday". "Hercules" and the "Argonauts" are sent to find "The Golden Fleece". Along with way, "Hercules", encounter a traitor among the crew, a Sorceress Queen, and a monster guarding the tree with the "Golden Fleece" hanging in it. "Hercules" will learn the truth about the murder of "Iole's" father that has plagued her in nightmares. Literally, as did, Victor Mature, in Cecil B. DeMille's Biblical movie, 1949's, "Samson and Delilah", brings down the house, and in the end marry the girl.

Above Steve Reeves, below Victor Mature

The sequel entitled "Ercole e la regina di Lidia (Hercules and the Queen of Lidia)" was released in Italy on, February 14, 1959. Joseph E. Levine would bring the dubbed version, "Hercules Unchained", to the United States on, July 13, 1960.

Pietro Francisci once again Directed and with no credit, Mario Bava, Directed some sequences. He also was the Cinematographer. Both Steve Reeves and Sylva Koscina were back in their roles, but now as a married couple. However, the villain is, "Queen Omphale of Lydia", played by French actress Sylvia Lopez, actually Austrian actress Tatjana Brent. 

"Hercules" is called to negotiate a peace between two brothers fighting for the Throne of Thebes. At one point, "Hercules" looses his memory and becomes the prisoner of the Queen of Lydia. He regains his memory, leaves the Queen, battles both brothers and returns to the arms of his wife.

Steve Reeves made fourteen feature films in Italy. Which are part of a total on-screen career of only twenty-four motion pictures.

His Italian entries began with the previously mentioned ,"Le fatiche di Erocle (The Labors of Hercules)", and ended, upon my 18th birthday, October 16, 1964, with "l pirati della Malesia (Pirates of Malaysia)". Five of those fourteen Italian films are not considered Peplum, two are Adventure, one, a remake of the classic, 1940, fantasy film, "The Thief of Baghdad", and two are about Pirates.

Besides, "Ercole e la regina di Lidia (Hercules and the Queen of Lidia)", Steve Reeves had four other motion pictures released in 1959. I want to mention two of these:

The first, is one of the two film titles shown upon the poster at the start of this article. The movie was loosely based upon the 568 A.D., Lombard Invasion of Italy. The hero fights the local Lombard's that destroyed his village and killed his father. The title was:


The motion picture would come to the United States, in November 1959, as "Goliath and the Barbarians".

American International Pictures decided the Italian title, even in translation, was not marketable in the United States and changed the name of the hero, played by Steve Reeves, "Emilliano", in the Italian original, to "Goliath", in the English language dubbed version.

The motion picture became a financial success and the Italian motion picture industry made the decision to use that characters name in four motion pictures. Reeves was replaced by American's Brad Harris and Gordon Scott, more on Scott to come. Along with Alan Steel, who was actually Italian actor Sergio Ciani, and Rock Stevens. Who was actually Peter Lupus, "Willy Armitage", on the original television series, "Mission Impossible".

In 1935, Merian C. Cooper and Earnest B.Schoedsack, 1933's "King Kong", made the first sound version of  Edward Bulwer-Lytton's, 1834, Biblical novel, "The Last Days of Pompeii". Now Italy turned the novel into another Peplum motion picture.


The motion picture came to the United States on July 17, 1960.

The Italian version of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel was Directed by Mario Bonnard. Bonnard had started Directing motion pictures in 1916 and this was his 83rd.

Five writers worked on the screenplay and among those five was Sergio Corbucci. He would create the Western anti-hero, typical for Spaghetti Westerns, "Django". Along with Directing the characters first appearance in 1966. Another, rarely seen in the United States, of Corbucci's Spaghetti Westerns, is the excellent revenge story, starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Klaus Kinski, 1968's, "The Great Silence". A must see for fans of the genre.

Another of the screenplay's writers was Sergio Leone, Director and co-writer of American actor, Clint Eastwood's, the "Man with No Name" trilogy. Along with the Italian answer to Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" trilogy, 1984's, "Once Upon a Time in America". Another must see feature film in the original uncut version. Sergio Leone also Directed some sequences, without credit, in "The Last Days of Pompeii".

The matte painting work was done by an uncredited Mario Bava.

Steve Reeves portrayed Roman soldier, "Glaucus Leto". Just days before shooting began on the feature, Reeves was announced as its star. The screenplay was revised to fit his image from the two "Hercules" pictures and the Biblical tone reduced greatly.

Christine Kaufmann, billed as Cristina Kaufmann, played the "Ione" in the Italian original. The character's name was changed to "Elena", for the English language dub. In 1963, the Austrian born actress, married her co-star in the film "Taras Bulba", "Tony Curtis. Who had divorced Janet Leigh the previous year,

Fernando Rey portrayed "Arbaces, the High Priest of Pompeii". The Spanish actors first American motion picture was 1966's, "The Return of the Seven", starring Yul Brynner. However, he is best known, in the United States, for portraying "Alain Charnier" aka: "Frog 1". In both, Director William Friedkin's, 1971, "The French Connection", and 1975's, "The French Connection II".

Roman centurion "Glaucus" is returning home from duty in Palestine and sees a runaway chariot.

He rescues "Ione", the City Council's daughter, and then heads to his own house to discover his father was murdered by a band of hooded thieves. In reality, they are working for the evil Priest, "Arbaces".

"Glaucus" will start to solve his father's murder, fall in love with "Ione", Who will turn out to be Christian and both will face death in the arena.

They will be saved by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Above the two young lovers, the blind "Nydia", played by Barbara Carroll, and the young thief and friend of "Glaucus", "Antonius", played by Angel Aranda, as theydie together as Pompeii is destroyed.

The following month in Italy American Victor Mature starred in an Historical Biographical Peplum entry.

ANNIBALE (HANNIBAL) released in Italy on December 21, 1959

The movie would come to the United States as "Hannibal" on June 18, 1960.

The motion picture was co-financed by the American studio, Warner Brothers. That had made money off the costly, 1956, "Helen of Troy". Now, this was be a low cost Italian made production and with the success of the Steve Reeves movies. The bean counters, in Burbank, California, were looking for large box office receipts.

The motion picture was Directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia. Who been making movies since 1931 and in 1952, made the swashbuckler, "A fil di spada (Sword's Edge)", and in 1955, "La cortigiana di Babilonia (The Courtesan of Babylon". Which would have the English language title of, "Queen of Babylon", because a "Courtesan" is equal to a prostitute and America's morality had to be protected from what the word implied. The motion picture starred American actors, Rhoda Fleming and Ricardo Montaban.

Victor Mature portrayed the Carthaginian General "Hannibal". Mature had just been seen in the Adventure film, "Timbuktu", with Yvonne DeCarlo, and would follow this picture with the 1961 Peplum, "I tartari (The Tartars)", co-starring with Orson Welles.

My article, "Victor Mature: 'One Million B.C.' to 'The Big Circus'---The Leading Man As A Character Actor", will be found at:


Gabriele Ferzetti portrayed "Fabius Maximux". Ferzetti immediately followed this picture with Director Michelangelo Antonioni's classic, 1960's, "L'Avventura", with Monica Vitti. American audiences would know the actor for his later work. Such as portraying, "Morton-The Railroad Baron", in Director Sergio Leone's, 1968, "Once Upon a Time in the West", and "Draco", in 1969's, "James Bond" film, "One Her Majesties Secret Service".

Rita Gam portrayed "Sylvia". Gam would follow this picture with the role of "Herodias", in Producer Samuel Bronston's, 1961 Biblical story, "King of Kings".

The story begins with "Hannibal" crossing the Italian Alps with Elephants. 

"Hannibal's" men capture "Sylvia", the daughter of Roman Senator "Fabius Maximus", and the two fall in love.

Some of "Hannibal's" men oppose his marriage to the daughter of the Roman Senator and a failed attempt on her life takes place. The Roman Senate doesn't listen to "Fabius", about stopping "Hannibal" with a war of attrition and blocking his supply lines. The Senate votes for a full frontal attack and Rome suffers the historic loss at Cannae.

"Fabius" is now put in charge of the Roman Army, as "Hannibal's" wife and child now arrive in his encampment.

"Sylvia" returns to Rome and commits suicide over the discovery that "Hannibal" was married and had a child. While, her father's tactics are working. The movie ends with "Hannibal" moving to other countries and continues to war and win.


During the 1960's there were over 206 Peplum motion pictures made in Italy alone. Not all of them came to the United States, but many did. I will look at a selected few and not necessary in order.

I mentioned the Italian character of  "Maciste", at the start of this article. Between 1960 and 1965, there were twenty-five motion pictures produced with that character. When those films of the series that came to the United States. The name, "Maciste", was normally changed into "Goliath", "Hercules" and even "Samson" and "Atlas", but in a couple stayed "Maciste".

The first of this series that I want to mention is found on the poster at the start of this article. "Maciste contro il vampiro (Maciste vs the Vampire)" was released in Italy, on August 21, 1961. 

Seven of this series featured Brooklyn, New York, born Mark Forest. Three examples about how these pictures came to the United States with Forest are:

"Maciste l'uomo piu forte del mondo (Maciste the Strongest Man in the World", released in Italy on, October 10, 1961. The plot has Mark Forest's, "Maciste", taken to the underground city of a band of white clad marauders. Whom he will fight and free the people that disappeared and were made slaves.

However, when the film arrived in the United States, the title was now, "Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules". Although, Forest remained being called "Maciste" and there is no mention of "Hercules". This was part of a syndicate American television series, from American International Pictures, called "The Sons of Hercules". They took 14 dubbed into English, Italian Peplum films, and divided each into two televised episodes. 

"Maciste, l'eroe piu grande del mondo (Maciste, The World's Greatest Hero", was released in Italy on, August 22, 1963.

In this feature, Mark Forest's, "Maciste", battles for the freedom of the Babylonian people against a tyrant. When the motion picture came to the United States, on Christmas Day, December 25, 1963. Mark Forest was no longer "Maciste", but "Goliath" and the tile of the film was, "Goliath and the Sins of Babylon". 

The third, Mark Forest picture I want to mention is "La vendetta di Ercole (The Vengeance of Hercules)", released, August 12, 1960, in Italy.

One would think that AIP would keep the name "Hercules" on a picture coming to the United States. Especially, as it was only a year after the second Steve Reeves movie, but the studio had announced a sequel to, 1959's ,"Goliath and the Barbarians", and a sequel they got! The picture became, "Goliath and the Dragon", released in November of 1960.

Mark Forest portrayed, "Ercole", in the Italian original, but was now "Emilius the Goliath", in the English language dub.

Broderick Crawford portrayed "King Eurystheus". The winner of the Best Actor Academy Award, for 1949's, "All the King's Man", and known to American television audiences, as "Chief Dan Matthews", on "Highway Patrol", from 1955 through 1959, had come to Italy for a change of pace. 

Leonora Ruffo portrayed "Dejanira". Ruffo had the title role in Pietro Francisi's 1952. "Queen of Sheba", but was mainly an Italian television actress. 

The plot of the original Italian production, centers upon the 12th labor of "Hercules", being used by the evil King as a means of killing the "Son of Zeus". So that the King can consolidate his power base in Thebes and beyond. However, for the English language version, the plot was changed to use names and situations related to the previous Steve Reeves motion picture. The movie has other monsters besides the title's dragon.

At this time another American actor arrived in Italy to contend for Steve Reeves' Peplum crown. Gordon Scott, between 1955 and 1960, had portrayed Edgar Rice Burroughs "Tarzan", in six motion pictures. Scott's first Peplum entry and is first of two as "Maciste" in is found on the poster at the start of this article. "Maciste contro il vampiro (Maciste vs the Vampire)" was released in Italy, either on, July 21, 1961, or August 24, 1961, depending on the source. It would come to the United States in, April 24, 1964, as "Goliath and the Vampires". 

Gordon Scott portrayed "Maciste" in the Italian original and "Goliath" in the English language dub. As I mentioned, Scott would be one of only four actors to actually play "Goliath" in an Italian language Peplum film. In his casem that was, 1963's, 
"Goliath e la schiava ribelle (Goliath and the Rebel Slave)". Later, the actor would portray, "Zorro", and be considered the only real challenger for Steve Reeves stardom. While, Gordon Scott ended his Italian career by making more Peplum pictures than the Reeves and more Spaghetti Westerns than the other. In the early 1970's we discussed those pictures.

Leonora Ruffo portrayed "Guja". 

Jacques Sernas portrayed "Kurtik". Sernas would follow this feature with "Orazi e Curiazi (Orazi and Curiazi)", released in Italy on, October 19, 1961, and would come to the United States on, July 14, 1964, as "Duel of the Champions". starring Alan Ladd. 

Above, Leonor Ruffo, Gordon Scott and Jacque Sernas.

Another five films had "Maciste" portrayed by Kirk Morris. Who was in reality, Italian strongman actor, Adriano Bellini. An interesting, Kirk Morris, film was "Maciste all'inferno (Maciste in Hell)" released in Italy, on April 11, 1962. 

This Peplum-Fantasy motion picture was Directed by Riccardo Freda.

Three years earlier Freda had Directed one of Steve Reeve's Adventure films, "Agi Murad, il diavolo bianco (Hadji Murad, The White Devil)", released in Italy on, June 21, 1959. That came to the United States on, February 10, 1961, as the "The White Warrior", and based upon a Leo Tolstoy story. The production had gone very smoothly.

For this picture, Freda had problems with both Kirk Morris' acting and voice. So he made "Maciste" almost entirely a mute throughout the feature.

When the motion picture came to the United States as "The Witches Curse", in November 1963, the title gave a hint to the Horror aspects Riccardo Freda had used.

The story starts in Scotland during the 1500's and a witch is burned at the stake. She places a curse upon the village and over the years women have committed suicide and no one has dared to touch the burnt tree. Now, the descendent of the witch has returned.

On May 23, 2003, the French Heavy Metal Band, Gojira, recorded an album while watching the 1925 silent version of "Maciste all' inferno".

A still follows from the 1925 feature with Bartolomeo Paganoas as "Maciste", wearing contemporary clothing.

Another actor who portrayed, "Maciste", was British body builder Roy "Reg" Park. Who was an idol and mentor to an American body builder named, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Park's movie was, "Maciste nelle miniere de re Salmone (Maciste in King Solomon's Mines)", released in Italy on June 25, 1964.

When the motion picture came to the United States, on television, as part of the syndicated series, "The Son's of Hercules". The title was now "Samson in King Solomon's Mines".

There was a series of seventeen, "Hercules", motion pictures that didn't have Steve Reeves in the role. Four of these starred Reg Park. "Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (Hercules Conquerors Atlantis)" was released in Italy on, August 1, 1961. It would come to the United States, on April 15, 1963, as "Hercules and the Captive Woman". The movie co-starred American actress Fay Spain, 1957's "Dragstrip Girl", 1958's "God's Little Acre", starring Robert Ryan, and 1959's, "Al Capone", starring Rod Steiger. In this picture, Fay Spain portrayed "Queen Antinea of Atlantis".

Reg Park's next Peplum, co-starred British actor Christopher Lee, who spoke fluent Italian.


In, April 1964, the motion picture arrived in the United States as, "Hercules in the Haunted World".

The motion picture was Directed by Mario Bava. Earlier, in 1961, Bava's Comedy, "Le meraviglie di Aladino (The Wonders of Aladdin)", starring Donald O'Connor, was released. It would come to the United States under the same translated title.

My article, 'Dario Argento and Mario Bava: Two Italian Masters" will be found at:


The screenplay was written by Mario Bava and three others, Sando Continenza, Francesco Prosperi, and Duccio Tessari.

Reg Park portrayed "Hercules". 

Christopher Lee portrayed "King Lico". British actor Lee was fluent in Italian and several other foreign languages. It is his voice heard in the original Italian release, but he was dubbed in the English language release, go figure! Christopher Lee, had just appeared in the West German Crime Drama, speaking German, 1961's, "Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzissen (The Secret of Yellow Daffodils)"

My article, "CHRISTOPHER LEE: Foreign Language Motion Pictures 1959 to 1970". is available for reading at:


Leonora Ruffo portrayed "Princess Deianira" in the Italian language version and "Princess Daianara" in the English language dub.

Upon returning to Italy, from many adventures, "Hercules" learns that his lover, "Deianira", has lost her senses. According to the oracle, "Medea", played by Gaia Germani, the only way to save her is to retrieve the Stone of Forgetfulness. However, the stone is found only in Hades and "Hercules" enters the world of the evil "King Lico". 

This is a very atmospheric movie from Bava.

In 1963, Director and Writer, Sergio Corbucci, must have had both a sense of humor and a realization of box office gold. He cast both Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott as brothers who would fight against each other, before founding Rome.

ROMOLO E REMO (ROMULUS AND REMUS) released in Italy December 6, 1961

Which would come to the United States on, in June 1961, as "Duel of the Titans".

Eight screenplay writers worked on the picture including Corbucci and Sergio Leone.

Steve Reeves portrayed "Romulus". Reeves had just been seen in 1961's, "La querra di Troia (The Trojan War)", which I will talk about next. He would follow this picture with, 1962's, Il figlio di Spartacus (The Son of Spartacus)".

Gordon Scott portrayed "Remus". Just before this film, Scott appeared in 1961's, "Maciste alla corte del Gran Khan (Maciste at the Court of the Grand Khan)". Which somehow, when it came to the United States, in 1962, had become, "Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World". After this picture, the actor appeared in the 1962, "Il figlio dello sceicco (The Skeik's Son)".

Virna Lisi portrayed "Julia".  Among her English language films are the 1965 Comedy, "How to Murder You Wife", co-starring with Jack Lemmon and Terry-Thomas, and 1966's, "Assault on a Queen", co-starring with Frank Sinatra and Anthony Franciosa. 

The movie follows the mythic legend of the brothers who founded Rome. Born of a God and a Mortal woman, are "Romulus and Remus, left as babies by a river, and raised by a wolf. The two grow up to lead a band of thieves, split up and battle each, but join forces to defeat two wicked Kings and establish Rome.

The original Italian release has a running time of an hour and forty-eight minutes, but when it came to the United States. The feature had been cut down to one hour and twenty-nine minutes,

Back in 1956, as I wrote, Robert Wise had Directed the Warner Brothers feature, "Helen of Troy". On October 21, 1961, Italian Director Giorgio Ferroni, released the previously mentioned, "La guerra di Troia (The Trojan War)".

As was typical with many Peplum motion pictures. This was a combination of studios, from Italy, France, and Yugoslavia, financing the initial one hour and fifty-five minute release. Like, "Duel of the Titans", when "The Trojan War", came to the United States as, "The Trojan Horse", the film only ran one hour and forty-five minutes. When the picture came to the U.K. and Ireland, it was entitled "The Wooden Horse of Troy", but ran the full one hour and fifty-five minutes.

Giorgio Ferroni had been Directing motion pictures since 1936, starting with a documentary on "Pompeii". Throughout his career, Ferroni, was known for making documentary shorts and feature films. In 1960, he joined the Italian Horror film craze with, "Il mulino delle donne di petra (Petra's Women's Mill)". Which was about a 19th Century Professor of Fine Arts. Who is kidnapping and draining women of their blood, to keep his own daughter alive! Then, he turns the dead women into works of art.

Giorgio Ferroni followed this feature with, 1963's, "Ercole contro Moloch (Hercules Conquerors Moloch)", starring Gordon Scott as "Hercules". As my reader already expects, the movie came to the United States under a completely different title, the "Conquest of Mycene", with Scott as a character named "Glauco".

Ferroni co-wrote this screenplay with three other writers and it wasn't based upon Homer's "Iliad". 

Steve Reeves portrayed "Aeneas of Troy".

Juliette Mayniel portrayed "Creusa". French actress Mayniel, had co-starred in the very good, French Horror film, 1960's, "Les yeux sans visage (Faceless Eyes)". About the daughter of surgeon who is in a disfiguring accident and her father kills other young woman to give her a new face. 

John Drew Barrymore portrayed "Odysseus" in the original Italian version and "Ulysses" in the English language dubBarrymore was the son of actor John Barrymore and actress Dolores Costello. His daughter is Drew Barrymore. The actor made several Peplum entries between 1960 and 1964.

My article, "A Fan Remembers the Films of JOHN DREW BARRYMORE" may be found at:


Eddie Vessel, as Hedy Vessel, portrayed "Helen". The Italian actress was in Steve Reeves', 1961, "Thief of Baghdad", in Jack Palance and Guy Madison's, 1961, "Sword of the Conqueror", Rod Taylor's, "Seven Seas to Calais", and Director Federico Fellini's classic, 1963's, "8 1/2".

Lidia Alfonsi portrayed "Cassandra". Among the Italian actresses motion pictures are, Steve Reeves, 1958, "Hercules" and 1960's, "Morgan the Pirate". Alfonsi was a major Italian Historic mini-series television actress.

The story is told around, "Aeneas", the cousin of "Paris", played by Warner Bentivegna, and "Cassandra". "Hector" is not in the movie, or is he mentioned. Some of "Hector's" feats, at the battle for Troy, are rolled into those of  "Aeneas" in this version of the city's destruction.

"Aeneas", according to Greek and Roman mythology, mentioned by the Roman poet, Virgil, in his, "Aeneid", was the son of "King Priam of Troy's", played by Carlo Timberlani, first cousin, "Anchises" and the Goddess "Aphrodite".

The basic screenplay tells of the Greek's arrival and the siege of the Walled City of Troy. Which leads to the plan, by "Ulysses", to use the wooden horse to gain access into Troy. The major difference between this version and, 1956's, "Helen of Troy". Is that "Aeneas", leads his wife, "Creusa" and others out of the city and to safety. 

Above, "Ulysses" over the body of "Achilles", ;played by Arturo Dominci.

The next motion picture was supposed to star John Derek, Humphrey Bogart, 1949, "Knock on Any Door", Broderick Crawford's, 1949, "All the King's Men" and Cecil B. DeMille's, 1956, "The Ten Commandments", but Derek and film Director Sergio Leone, didn't get along. So, "B" Cowboy actor, Rory Calhoun. was hired for:

Il COLOSSO DI RODI (THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES) that premiered in Madrid, Spain, on June 15, 1961

As, "The Colossus of Rhodes", the picture came to the United States on, December 13, 1961

Besides Director Sergio Leone, there were six other writers on the motion picture. As to what the actual statue looks like, no one is sure, and so the imagination of the Italian designers went to work.

Rory Calhoun portrayed "Darios". The year prior to this feature, Calhoun had finished his three-year run as televisions, "The Texan". After this picture, the actor would be seen in the modern-day search for 1961's, "The Treasure of Monte Cristo".

The predictable plot has returning, Athenian hero, "Darios", becoming involved with two different sides of a conflict to overthrow a dictator. Then, finding himself a prisoner within the Colossus. he leads a revolt that frees Rhodes.

Then there was "Urus", who appeared in nine Peplum films, between 1960 and 1964, and was a reimagining of wrestler Buddy Baer's character, of that name, from 1951's, "Quo Vadis". Which, with 1954's, "UILSSE", were still playing in Italian movie theaters in 1966. When I was stationed at the American Naval base in Naples.

The following is a mention of three of these Italian entries:

"La vendetta di Urus (The Vengeance of Ursus)", was released in Italy on, December 7, 1961. Portraying the title character, was Canadian Samson Burke, that's his real name. It is up to "Ursus" to rescue a princess from an evil King, before their agreed marriage take place, because her future husband is planning to murder her father and rule both kingdoms. Below is Samson Burke as "Ursus:

"Ursus e la ragazza tartara (Ursus and the Tartar Girl)", was released in Italy on, December 30., 1961. The feature came to the United States as, "Tartar Invasion", some time during 1963. 

Buried with eighth billing, was British strongman Joe Robinson as "Ursus". Who will defend his friend, a Polish Prince, and the Tartar Princess the Prince loves, against the evil Poles.

Above, that's Ettore Manni as "Prince Stefan", in the red Chinese style jacket, but it is the actress portraying "Princess Ilba", that I am interested in. She's French born, Japanese, one time Parisienne dancer, Yoko Tani. In 1960, Yoko Tani, co-starred with Anthony Quinn, in American Director, Nicholas Ray's, "The Savage Innocents". Which was about an Eskimo who accidently kills a man and is being pursued over the Alaskan frontier

However, it is her second film that year, that she is known for by Science Fiction fans.

The motion picture was originally entitled, "Der Schweigende Stern (The Silent Star)" and was made by East Germany and Soviet controlled Poland. It would come to the United States, on October 31, 1962, as "First Spaceship on Venus".

"Silent Star" is part of my article, "Five Influential Soviet Block Science Fiction Movies". which may be read at:


On July 31, 1964 in Italy, Reg Park became "Urusus". The movie was "Ursus il terrore dei Kirghisi ( Ursus the Terror of the Kyrgyz". The plot has "Ursus" being given a potion that turns him into a werewolf at night and he starts killing many innocent people. Finding out the truth, he seeks the cure and the one who did this to him. When the motion picture came to the United States, no date stated, the title and character was changed to, "Hercules, Prisoner of Evil".

Sometimes motion pictures become allegories. The following two features are such examples.

THE 300 SPARTANS released August 29, 1962

This was an United States, U.K., Greece, and Italy, co-production. That was originally developed as another Italian Peplum picture of the period. However, the Greek governments co-operation with providing both members of the "Hellenic Army" and access to locations in Greece. Enabled the producers to change directions with a larger amount of funds available for casting the leading roles.

The motion picture was by Hungarian Cinematographer turned Director Rudolph Mate. Mate was also one of the Producers. Among Rudolph Mate's Directed motion pictures, are the classic Film-Noir, starring Edmond O'Brien, 1949's, "D.O.A.", the 1951. George Pal Science Fiction, "When World's Collide", 1954's, "The Black Shield of Falworth" and the 1957 Western, "Three Violent People", starring Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter and Tom Tyron.

The screenplay was written by five Italian screenplay writers. 

Richard Egan portrayed "King Leonidas". American Egan's career prior to this motion picture, included, 1952's, "Blackbeard the Pirate", starring Robert Newton, Producer Ivan Tors', 1954, 3-D, Science Fiction film, "GOG", Elvis Presley's first motion picture, 1956's, "Love Me Tender", and Walt Disney's, 1960, "Pollyana". Immediately before this release, Richard Egan was part of the title of the Biblical feature film, 1960's. "Esther and the King", co-starring with Joan Collins.

Sir Ralph Richardson portrayed "Themistocles of Athens". British actor, Richardson, had just been seen with Katharine Hepburn and Jason Robards, in the 1962 version of Eugene O'Neil's, "Long Days Journey Into Night".

Diane Baker portrayed "Ellas". American actress, Baker, had just been part of the ensemble cast of 1962's, "Hemmingway's Adventures of a Young Man" and would follow this film with 1963's, "Nine Hours to Rama", about an attempt on Mahatma Gandhi.

Barry Cole portrayed "Phylon". American actor, Cole, had been in Elvis Presley's, 1956, "Love Me Tender", the scandalous, for its time, 1957, "Peyton Place", and just had completed the run of his television series, "Follow the Sun".

David Farrar portrayed "King Xerxes". This  was British actor Farrar's final motion picture. Prior, he had been seen in 1951's, "The Golden Horde", co-starring with Ann Blyth,1954's, "The Black Shield of Falworth", starring Tony Curtis and his wife Janet Leigh, 1955's, "The Sea Chase", co-starring with John Wayne and, 1959's, "Solomon and Sheba", starring Yul Brynner and Gina Lollobrigida.

Kieron Moore portrayed "Ephialtes". Irish actor, Moore, portrayed "Uriah", in the 1951, Biblical epic, "David and Bathsheba", starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. The actor is associated with British Science Fiction and Horror including, 1956's, "Satellite in the Sky", 1961's, "Dr. Blood's Coffin", 1963's, "The Day of the Triffids", and 1965's, "Crack in the World". He was also Sean Connery's opponent in Walt Disney's, 1959's, "Darby O'Gill and the Little People".

Laurence Naismith portrayed the "First Delegate". Among British character actor Naismith's roles are, "Dr. Bosman" in Kirk Douglas', 1956, "Lust for Life", "Captain Edward John Smith" of the "Titanic", in 1958's, "A Night to Remember", "First Sea Lord-Sir Dudley Pound", in 1960's, "Sink the Bismarck", "Doctor Willers" in 1960's, original, "Village of the Damned", starring George Sanders and Barbara Shelley, "Merlyn" in the 1967 musical, "Camelot", starring Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. Not to forget two of Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhausen's movies, 1963's, Peplum, "Jason and the Argonauts", and 1969's, "The Valley of Gwangi".

The screenplay tells the story of "King Leonidas" taking 300 of his Spartan soldiers to the very tight pass at "Thermopylae" to stop the on-coming Persian army under "King Xeres". The group is backed up by another 700 men, from Thespiaen, lead by "Demophilus", played by Greek actor Yorgos Moustsios. 

As history records, all the defenders were killed, by a Persian Army of unlimited size and resources. That today, is believed to be around 250,000. Their action led to two more battles between the Greeks and Persians and the end to the invasion of Greece.

About that allegory, my reader must remember the "Cold War" was at its peak between the United States and the Soviet Union. While the United States was, also, becoming stuck deeper in the quagmire of Viet Nam.

The screenplay, for "The 300 Spartans", ends with showing the audience the stone memorial for the defenders of Greece and the narrator reads the words written upon it:
Oh stranger, tell the Spartans that we lie here obedient to their word
The narrator next adds:
...But it was more than a victory for Greece, it was a stirring example to free people throughout the world of what a few brave men can accomplish once they refuse to submit to tyranny!

At the time of the film's release, Worldwide film critics saw the story through the eyes of the "Cold War". An example, comes from Alex Beam, in his review of the motion picture, no date given, in "The New York Times International Edition", in which he implies the Greek City States were the bastion of Democracy as:
the only stronghold of freedom remaining in the then known world. 

 While, inferring the exact opposite of the Persian Empire as a:

 Slave Empire!

In August, 1960, the Italian film company Titanus, announced its plans to make a movie based upon the Biblical story of "Sodom nd Gomorrah". Between, November 1959 and mid-February 1960, in a co-production with 20th Century Fox, the studio filmed the Biblical picture, "The Story of Ruth". The production starred Israeli actress Elan Eden and American actors, Stuart Whitman and Tom Tryon. 

Now on January 11, 1961, a second American-Italian-French Biblical co-production began. 

SODOMA E GOMORA released in Italy on October 4, 1962

The complete English language title was, "The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah", released in the United States on, January 23, 1963. The title was seen on some of the prints, but the title was shorten for advertising purposes, to "Sodom and Gomorrah"

However, the official paperback novel used the entire title:

The motion picture was Directed by Robert Aldrich. His Western, "The Last Sunset", starring Rock Hudson and Kirk Douglas was released the year before, but later in 1962, his Bette Davis and Joan Crawford vehicle, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane", would be released. 

Canadian screenplay writer and author, Hugo Butler, received on-screen credit for the motion picture. Butler had been writing American screenplays since 1937, including two in 1940, "Young Tom Edison", starring Mickey Rooney, and "Edison, the Man", starring Spencer Tracy.  

Along with Italian screenplay writer, Giorgio Prosperi. Who wrote the screenplay for the 1958, Ava Gardner and Anthony Franciosa biography of the painter, Goya, "The Naked Maja".

The cast was a mix of British, French and Italian actors. 

Stewart Granger portrayed "Lot". He had been seen co-starring with John Wayne in 1960's, "North to Alaska", and would follow this picture with another Italian made Adventure film, "La congiura dei dieci (The Conspiracy of the Ten)", in October 1962, that would come to the United States, in December 1962, as "Swordsman of Sienna". In fact, at this point in his career, Stewart Granger started making a series of motion pictures in Italy and Westerns in West Germany.

Pier Angeli portrayed "Ildith". The Italian actress, in 1954, co-starred with Virginia Mayo, Jack Palance, and an unknown Paul Newman, in the Biblical film, "The Silver Chalice". In 1956, she co-starred with Newman in, "Somebody Up There Likes Me", and in 1958, Pier Angeli, co-starred with Danny Kaye in "Merry Andrew".

Stanley Baker portrayed "Astaroth". Just prior to this picture, in 1962, he co-starred in the French motion picture, "Eva", with French actress Jeanne Moreau and Italian actress, Virna Lisi. Baker would follow this picture with the West German Crime Drama, "A Prize of Arms", also in 1962.

Rossana Podesta portrayed "Shuah". Podesta had just been seen in two other 1962 Peplum films. They were, "Solo contro Roma (Only Against Rome)". That would come to the United States in December 1963, as "Alone Against Rome". The actress had co-starred in the feature with American, Lang Jeffries, the 1958 through 1960, television series, "Rescue 8". The other picture was, "L'arciere delle mille e una notte (The Archer of the Thousand and One Nights)". That came to the United States as, "The Golden Arrow", in May of 1964, and co-starred Tab Hunter.

Anouk Aimee portrayed "Queen Bera". French actress Aimee, had starred in both Director Federico Fellini's,1960, "La Dolce Vita", and  1963's, "8 1/2". She also would star in Director Claude Lelouch's, 1966, "A Man and a Woman".

The story tells of "Lot" leading his band of Hebrews to the twin cities of "Sodom and Gomorrah" ruled jointly by the brother and sister, "Astaroth" and "Bera". What the do not have is an army to protect them and "Lot" arranges for his Hebrews to become farmers and that army outside of the city. There will be battles with invaders.

Because of the immortality of both "Sodom and Gomorrah", "Lot", will not let the Hebrews enter the twin cities. As the story progresses, one of his daughters, "Shuah", blinded of his sins, believes she's in love with "Astaroth". While, "Queen Bera", attempts to seduce "Lot", but the widowed "Lot", meets and a slave girl, named "Ildth", and will narry her. Who, because of her high position with the Queen, first appeared to him as being a wealthy woman!

Below, "Lot", after finding "Shuah" and "Astaroth" in the cane break about to have sex. Now, punishes her for not obeying his rules and God's as "Ildith" looks on. 

The allegorical aspect of this motion picture comes at the end. First, Angel's appear to "Lot" and tell him that God is displeased with the twin cities and the sins of the Hebrews. God is going to destroy "Sodom and Gomorrah", but "Lot" convinces them to spare the city. If he can find ten who will repent their sins. His two daughters think "Lot' hypocritical, because of what they know of his own actions.

Of course, "Lot" can not find his ten and he warns the Hebrews not to look back at "Sodom and Gomorrah". As they start to leave, earthquakes and fires begin under the twin cities.

"Ildith", now, looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt.

So far, Director Robert Aldrich, is following the Biblical story. Then behind the Hebrews as they continue to walk away from the twin cities. God's final destruction takes place from Director Aldrich with a nuclear explosion and an atom bomb like cloud swirling up into the atmosphere. As some critics noted, at the time, Robert Aldrich appeared to be attempting to compare the destruction of the Biblical cities to the World's situation and fear of Atomic War. 

The "Jackson State University Press of Mississippi", in 2004, published interviews with Robert Aldrich, that contains his defense of "The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah".

I think we did a goddam respectable job with the film. I don't think you could do any more with that. If you had a guy you believed was Lot I think the picture would have worked. Also, half an hour was cut out. Everybody should do a biblical picture – once 

I could go on and on with examples of this genre from the first half of the 1960s alone. By 1964, even in Italy, Peplum films were going by the wayside. The new craze would become known as the "Spahgetti Western". Although, many were shot in Germany and even the Soviet  Union. My article, "American Westerns European Style", will be found at:


In 1934, on both the Paramount Studio Lot, in Hollywood, and the wilds of the beach community, outside of Los Angeles, proper, El Segundo, Cecil B. DeMille filmed his "Cleopatra". The motion picture, released on, August 16, 1934, starred Claudette Colbert in the title role, Warren William as "Julius Caesar" and Henry Wilcoxon as "Marc Anthony". The motion picture was nominated for Five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won for Best Cinematography. The final budget for the production was $842,908 and the feature ran one hour and forty-minutes.

Above, Henry Wilcoxon and Claudette Colbert.

Claudette Colbert had developed an appendicitis while working on her previous film. As a result she could only stand for short periods of time and that problem was heighten by the weight of her costumes. This resulted in shooting delays and changes in the filming schedule Cecil B. DeMille had set up. 

Then on July 1, 1934, the "Motion Picture Production Code" went into effect and Joseph Breen was on set cutting sequences to protect America's morality. 

I mention all the above to speak to the most lavish and expensive Peplum motion picture of the 1960's. Producer Walter Wanger's, 1963:

CLEOPATRA that premiered in New York City, on June 12, 1963 


Don't recognize Walter Wranger's name? How about the following motion pictures, John Ford's 1939, "Stagecoach", Alfred Hitchcock's 1940, "Foreign Correspondent", John Ford's 1940, "The Long Voyage Home", Ingrid Bergman's 1948, "Joan of Arc", 1956's, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and Susan Hayward's, 1958, "I Want to Live".

Wagner was hired by 20th Century in 1958 to make a new picture about the Egyptian Queen. The studio wanted to spend no more than $2 million dollars, but Walter Wagner talked them into $5 million. hired Elizabeth Taylor, who had just been seen as "Maggie the Cat", in Director Richard Brooks version of Tennessee Williams', "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". To play the title role of "Cleopatra", Taylor, at the time, set the record with a $1 million dollar contract. As the film's Director, Wagner hired Rouben Mamoulian. Who had just Directed Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, in the 1957 musical, "Silk Stockings". 

Filming began in England, but by January 1961, production shut down. Elizabeth Taylor was ill and couldn't work for six weeks. While, Rouben Mamoulian, at a cost of $7 million dollars, had only ten minutes of film shot. He was fired and Joseph L. Mankiewicz was hired.


Elizabeth Taylor as "Cleopatra".

Richard Burton portrayed "Mark Anthony". Burton had just been seen, as part of the ensemble cast, of Daryl F. Zanuck's 1960, "The Longest Day", playing real-life, "R.A.F. Flying Officer, David Campbell". Richard Burton would follow this picture with 1963's. "The V.I.P.s", co-starring with his now wife, Elizabeth Taylor.

Rex Harrison portrayed "Julius Caesar". Harrison proceeded this motion picture with the Comedy Crime Drama,, 1961's, "The Happy Thieves", and would follow the picture. By recreating his long running Broadway Musical role of, "Professor Henry Higgins", in Jack L. Warner's production of Lerner and Lowe's "My Fair Lady" with the dubbed singing voice of co-star Audrey Hepburn, because Warner thought Julie Andrews didn't have name recognition.

The screenplay was written by five writers and based upon three Roman histories. 

However, the basic story lines between 1934 and 1963 are almost identical with only minor differences. "Julius Caesar" comes to Egypt, falls in love with Cleopatra, makes her ruler of all of Egypt, she comes to Rome, beware the "Ides of March" by a soothsayer, Caesar's assassinated, "Mark Anthony" and "Octavian" come to power, "Anthony" falls for "Cleopatra", goes to war against "Octavian" ,who is now "Caesar", "Anthony" is defeated and killed, "Cleopatra" kills herself.

The running time for 1963's, "Cleopatra", was four hours and twenty-three minutes. At a cost of $31.1 million dollars. Total U.S. and Worldwide Box Office was $98 million dollars. 

The motion picture was nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture. It won, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Special Effects.

I will end my article with a link to another article. I have been mentioning Biblical movies throughout and my article, "The Bible According to Hollywood", may read at:


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