Peplum Paradise Part 1: Italian Historical and Fantasy films 1949-1969by PeplumParadise | created - 19 Dec 2012 | updated - 25 Oct 2015 | Public
This is a list of historical (set pre-1800) or historical-fantasy films produced or co-produced by Italy between 1949-1969 - the golden years of peplum/sword and sandal films.
The list is alphabetical using the most common English titles (where applicable), so the IMDb titles may appear to be all over the place alphabetically.
Hopefully this list is as complete as possible, but I would welcome any suggestions of titles I may have omitted.
I have included a few additional titles at the end of the main list which bear some relevance to the subject.
I will be updating the list regularly with new and expanded reviews and any new titles that I may discover.
Latest Updates: Expanded Review: Women Of Devil's Island (1962) Expanded Review: Charge Of The Black Lancers (1962) New Review: The Magnificent Adventurer (1963) New Review: Zenabel (1969) New Review: Tower Of Screaming Virgins (1968)
To keep up with my latest reviews join my "Peplum Paradise" Facebook group.
Please note that I am not in the business of selling copies of films, only exchanging with other collectors.
This list is a companion piece to my other lists - I did have them linked but IMDb messed them up so I'm afraid you'll have to search by title on Google or look in my "Other Lists" box if there is one in the right panel: Peplum Paradise Part 2: Italian Historical and Fantasy films from 1970 onwards Peplum Paradise Part 3: International Historical and Fantasy films 1949 onwards Peplum Paradise Part 4: Asian Historical and Fantasy films 1949 onwards Peplum Paradise Part 5: Animated Historical and Fantasy films 1949 onwards Peplum Paradise Part 6: Historical and Fantasy films Pre-1949 Peplum Paradise Part 7: Historical and Fantasy Dramatic TV Productions
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1. Adriana Lecouvreur (1955)
100 min | Biography, Drama
2. Don Juan's Night of Love (1952)
102 min | Adventure
Mandrin, the French army deserter, becomes the leader of a gang of smugglers in Piedmont. He is loved by the beautiful innkeeper Rosetta but draws attention to the Marquise de Montbricourt,... See full summary »
THE ADVENTURES OF MANDERIN
Like quite a number of 50’s and 60’s Italian productions, this one originally received a wide international release but today remains noticeable in it’s absence in any DVD or video release in any language, though fortunately I was able to discover an Italian language print online and it is this one I am reviewing. Raf Vallone plays the title character, a notorious real-life thief and highwayman in 18th century France and a hero to the poor. Anyone viewing it under either of the alternative English language titles might understandably feel short-changed since it is not much of a romance, does not feature Don Juan, and the character of Madame de Beaudricourt (Michele Phillippe), a favourite of the King whose character resembles the notorious Madame de Pompadour, only appears half way through and then only briefly. There are apparently a number of historical inaccuracies (for instance there is no evidence that Manderin and Madame de Pompadour ever met), but these aren’t really relevant to your enjoyment of the film. It is a fairly lively and likeable adventure, which doesn’t take itself too seriously and can be enjoyed even without a full understanding of the language you are watching it in.
3. The Adventures of Scaramouche (1963)
98 min | Adventure
The adventures of Robert Lafleur, alias Scaramouche, are the sensation of his time, thanks to his talent as an actor and charm as an incorrigible seducer. He becomes the enemy of the ... See full summary »
THE ADVENTURES OF SCARAMOUCHE
Enjoyable period costume romp, with all the intrigue and infidelity you would expect from this particularly French genre (unusually shot in Spain). Primarily of interest today for it’s featuring four female genre stars; Gianna Maria Canale, who has surprisingly little screen time given her third billing status, Michele Giradon, who forayed into peplum with “Devil of the Desert against the Son of Hercules”, Yvette Lebon, who had featured roles in “Cleopatra’s Daughter” and “Ulysses against the Son of Hercules”, and an unbilled Helga Liné, whose next film, “Goliath at the conquest of Damascus” established her as a peplum name. Gerard Barray is on familiar ground playing the title role, an actor who spends more time in women’s boudoirs or duelling than he ever does on stage, which will be familiar to western audiences from the 1952 Hollywood version, which starred Stewart Granger. It’s all inconsequential fluff of course, but well directed and edited at such a relentless pace that you barely have time to pause for breath.
4. Three Sergeants of Bengal (1964)
97 min | Action, War
This action-packed adventure/jungle film starts out when three British soldiers stationed in Malaysia are sent to Fort Madras to help the commandant fight off an elusive bandit who is terrorizing the countryside.
This above average entry in the ‘British in India’ peplum sub-genre is far more fun than any of the ‘Sandokan’ series. Richard Harrison, Ugo Sasso and Nazzareno Zamperla are three renegade officers given a second chance when they are sent on a hopeless mission, surviving elephants, scorpions and headhunters along the way. All three play it tongue firmly in cheek, though it’s Sasso as the alcoholic doctor sneaking a drink at every opportunity who steals the show. On the minus side Harrison keeps his shirt on throughout, and Guida is wasted as little more than window dressing. The following year Harrison and Zamperla appeared together again in the similarly themed ‘Jungle Adventurer’.
Boyd's Review: Richard Harrison stars in one of the best Raj Peplums … Three soldiers have to find and destroy some guy called Sikki Dahma … Great name … And of course Wandisa Guida turns up as female eye fodder … Though the men were doing perfectly well without her … This one moves along at a great pace… All fairly tongue in cheek … Umberto Lenzi really does excel with this and turn it into a great Saturday afternoon fun family movie … And that’s not meant as a putdown … Well worth watching if it turns up an a screen near you soon
5. Odissea (1968– )
GP | 109 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Odysseus' journey told in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. After fighting in the Trojan War, Odysseus spends years trying to return home to Itaka.
THE ADVENTURES OF ULYSSES
Following the inexplicably rapid demise of the peplum film industry in 1965-1966, several of the genre’s stars found work in this epic Italian mini-series produced three years later by the man responsible for launching the genre a decade earlier, Dino De Laurentis. Beautifully shot, but a little slow moving and dreamy, particularly for non-Italian or German speakers viewing the only available commercial options of the full-length version. Somewhat of an endurance test at over 6 hours in length (originally 7 ½ hours), but a rewarding one if you can last the talky first hour, and infinitely preferable to it’s nearest peplum relative, “The Giants Of Thessaly”. A fitting epitaph to the genre. The only English language version currently available from Video Screams runs 25 minutes shorter than even the US theatrical version, and only offers a frustrating glimpse of how this epic should be seen.
Boyd’s Review: This was one of my favourite discoveries of the year … How this 1968 Italian television adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey isn’t more well known is beyond me … It is visually totally spot on … I watched the whole 6 hours in Italian with no subtitles and it held me throughout … And Bava’s work on the Cyclops segment was wonderful to see … The set and costume design are just perfect … This is so obviously not a Hollywood production … It all looks real and possible … Perhaps a bit clean … But that is acceptable … It outshines Fellini’s Satyricon in as much as it has the wonderful design but non of the over indulgence …The acting … Even from Barbara Bach … Is perfect … Bekim Fehmiu and Irene Papas are superb … And the film lingers on endless beautiful faces… Male and female … Stylishly taking you into another world … And if this film proves one thing … Nobody could light a film like the Italians … Try and see this … Its marvellous … And it really does deserve a subtitled release
6. My Uncle Benjamin (1969)
90 min | Comedy
Frankreich 17.Jh: Landarzt Benjamin liebt die reizende Gastwirtstochter Manette. Doch Manette kennt ihn als unverbesserlichen Schürzenjäger und verlangt vor der Liebe die Heirat. Als ... See full summary »
To be reviewed
7. The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
Approved | 138 min | Biography, Drama, History
The biographical story of Michelangelo's troubles while painting the Sistine Chapel at the urging of Pope Julius II.
This is pretty much what you would expect from a biography of a man who spent the majority of his life sculpting and painting, namely it’s a lot less interesting than the subject matters of it’s subject. Before the actual film begins you are treated to a ten minute retrospective of the artist’s work, which while interesting and informative, is also rather frustrating while waiting for the story to start. That the film is likeable at all is, surprisingly, totally down to the central performance of Charlton Heston as Michaelangelo, though he is playing an annoying and arrogant ass (no comment). He is surprisingly, but somewhat effectively, paired with Rex Harrison as an unlikely Pope who doubles as military leader, while Diane Cilento is rather drab as the love interest the artist isn’t interested in. It probably comes to life about as much as is possible given the subject matter, but just remember that at times you will be watching paint dry – literally. Keep a look out for a number of familiar peplum names in small featured roles who are inexplicably missing from IMDb's credits including Rosalba Neri, Daniele Vargas and Giulio Donnini.
8. Aida (1953)
Approved | 95 min | Musical
Aida, featuring the actress Sophia Loren, is a film adaptation of a theatre performance written by Verdi. The plot revolves around the character Radames who falls in love with what he ... See full summary »
A strange operatic adaptation which visually and thematically definitely falls within the peplum genre. It’s sumptuous to look at and contains some stunning sets, set pieces and dance routines, but the modern viewer has to contend with the decidedly odd sights of a pre-international fame Sophia Loren in black face and a pre-Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell singing/shouting at each other in other peoples voices as Ethopian slave and princess respectively. Add to that the ‘English language version’ having English narration, but no subtitles for the singing in Italian, and it’s pretty much all round bizarre. Of definite interest as an early peplum oddity though.
9. Si le roi savait ça (1958)
Pascal's life should have been normal and happy. A shepherd in his native Provence, he was a friendly young man who very naturally fell in love with Vivette, the daughter of a rich farmer. ... See full summary »
AL SERVIZIO DELL’IMPERATORE
10. Simbad contro i sette saraceni (1964)
80 min | Action, Adventure, Romance
A rebel leader returns to his city for a final confrontation with the evil king he is fighting. However, he finds himself attracted to the king's beautiful niece.
ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS
Colourful, visually untypical peplum, looking more like some 40’s Maria Montez opus. Otherwise it’s business as usual, with 8 representatives of opposing tribes (the Saracens) battling it out for rulership of the land, including nasty Omar (Gordon Mitchell looking far more at home as the over-tanned mascara wearing villain than he ever did as a hero) and the rather puny Ali Baba (Dan Harrison-real name Bruno Piergentili). Carla Caló, given a chance to play nasty for a change, relishes every lash of the whip she inflicts on her slave girls. Of note is that the scenes in the English and European language versions play in completely different order with little change in the end result. Be warned, this film contains an annoying dwarf AND an even more annoying mute eunuch!
Boyd’s Review: Now I might as well be honest from the outset, Gordon Mitchell frightens me. He looks like an untrustworthy cat and has one of those sinewy muscular bodies that I have always found a little repulsive. He is also a very bad actor. In this he plays Omar, the villain of the piece, and as soon as we get away from him ponsing round with some tart, to a scene in a torture chamber, you realise that it could all have been so much better without him. Anyway old Omar wants to take over the throne and to do that he has to fight 7 warriors who each represent one of the tribes of the country. Ali Baba is the head of the Mahariti, Omar’s most hated tribe. Princess Fatima meets Ali Baba when she finds him unconscious in the sand dunes, and later falls in love with him as soon as he starts pushing her around !!! They are captured by Omar’s forces, Ali meets a dwarf in prison, and Fatima ends up in the harem. The dwarf is small enough to squeeze through tunnels and take messages between them. Featuring dancing boys, face painting tramps, a harem revolt and dwarves with spears, you would think it would be more amusing than a bag of lambs intestines … but it isn’t.
11. Alone Against Rome (1962)
100 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
A Roman Consul, on his way to fight a border war, stations a garrison of soldiers in a provincial town. The townspeople aren't happy with this situation but decide it's in their best ... See full summary »
ALONE AGAINST ROME
A more apt title would have been “Everybody Against Rome”, since when the Romans invade a town the locals do all they can to fight back. Poor Fabiola (Rossana Podesta) has it worse than most, as her family and household are humiliated, imprisoned and killed, her fiancé Brenno (Lang Jeffries) is whipped and taken off to gladiator school, and she herself is made plaything of Silla (Philippe Leroy), leader of the Roman garrison. Sub-par performances and a weak script mean there’s little of value here other than for diehard genre fans, though there are a couple of impressive gladiatorial sequences which appear to have been filmed in the actual Coliseum in Rome.
Boyd’s Review: Lang Jeffries and Rossana Podesta, who is as beautiful and glamorous as ever, can’t manage to save this rather pedestrian historical ‘Romans getting it wrong but everything turning out right in the end’ snooze fest...marred once again by insidious Christianity.. That is probably going to be the longest sentence I use in a while, but it’s all I have to say about this really. There’s nothing wrong with it...but there’s nothing right either. Having said that, Riccardo Freda directed the action scenes in the arena...he should have done the whole film. Although the print I saw was pan and scanned and sepia, I can’t see that seeing a crisp new transfer would make this anywhere near as good as a lot of people seem to think.
12. Alvaro piuttosto corsaro (1954)
90 min | Musical
To be reviewed
13. Amazons of Rome (1961)
Not Rated | 93 min | Adventure, Drama
A warrior chieftain dashes between his barbaric allies and a beleaguered city that's being defended by embattled women warriors.
AMAZONS OF ROME
Some of the most bizarre peplum casting finds Sylvia Syms as Clelia, leader of a band of mini-skirted female rebel Roman warriors (around 50 in number, although the script and tagline claim 1000). Equally unlikely mis-casting finds Louis Jourdan as Drusco, leader of the barbarian forces. Naturally the pair fall in love, and their union brings about a truce between the warring Italian factions. Standouts as always are the bad guys of the piece, Nicole Courcel as the vengeful Lucilla who demands Clelia be tied to a post, whipped and stripped naked (we get 2 ½ out of 3), and her scheming cohort Rasmal (Nicolas Vogel). Enjoyable as light entertainment, but historically dubious.
Boyd’s Review: Not a beefcake movie, this one more of a minor historical epic. With a good cast who take it all fairly seriously and for once it pays off. Louis Jourdan, Michel Piccoli and Sylvia Syms in a rare Euro movie outing, and she is really good. She was obviously going through a bit of a St Joan phase and she really has star quality in this film. It’s the Etruscans and the Barbarians against Rome in this one, good Battle scenes, decent storyline. Different in as much as it concentrates on the Roman women’s determination to fight for justice, if not alongside their men then on their own. Not that imaginative visually but up there with most higher budget material of the day and certainly worth watching for the scene where Syms is flogged and then stripped naked...and the trick played by the Barbarians to shield her modesty : )) The idea of course that being naked in Roman times would not bother anyone, but seeing this happen to Silvia Syms is another matter altogether. Well worth catching on a Sunday afternoon.
14. Gli amori di Angelica (1966)
88 min | Adventure, History
15. The Amorous Corporal (1958)
87 min | Adventure
THE AMOROUS CORPORAL
16. Andrea Chenier (1955)
17. Angélique, marquise des anges (1964)
TV-14 | 115 min | Adventure, Drama, History
In the first of the Angélique series, the beautiful feisty teenage heroine becomes entangled in a political assassination plot and is betrothed to a stranger who is twelve years her senior and a reputed sorcerer.
It’s not difficult to see why this production had the great international success it did, though it’s hardly the stuff that one would imagine would have led to four sequels. It certainly has it’s charms, the production values are high, the photography attractive, and the performances likeable if unexceptional. The storyline however is mostly fluff along the lines of Beauty and the Beast, about a rude and rebellious girl in 1600’s France, forced to marry a disfigured man against her will, who eventually succumbs to his charms, only to see him sentenced to death for witchcraft. Michele Mercier, already a peplum veteran, turns in a feisty performance, and her willingness to frequently disrobe certainly can’t have hindered the box office. The film also has more peplum credentials than are initially apparent – in addition to the presence of Giuliano Gemma as Angelique’s true love, and Rosalba Neri inexplicably way down the cast list, the film was also partially filmed at Italy’s Cinecitta studios, as were all it’s sequels…and there’s a dwarf!
18. Angelique and the King (1966)
TV-MA | 100 min | Adventure, History, Romance
In the third of the Angélique series, the heroine is sent on a mission by King Louis XIV, and later finds herself the subject of rumors.
ANGÉLIQUE AND THE KING
The third part of the Angelique saga gives you more of the same, with our heroine (Michele Mercier) seducing various kings, princes and assorted other males, but while the quality remains high and it works perfectly well as a continuation of the story, it does not work so well as a stand alone entertainment since it relies too heavily on a knowledge of what has gone before. The convenient disappearance of her second husband and reappearance of her first also stretches credibility somewhat. While there is less nudity on view than in previous episodes, there is a scene between Angelique and the Persian ambassador (Sami Frey) which is certainly as bizarrely kinky as anything that DeSade ever came up with, and also a devil-worship subplot which is never satisfactorily concluded. This is also the least ‘Italian’ of the series, having lost Gemma and Neri, and without the other familiar faces that would turn up in the following instalments.
19. Angelique and the Sultan (1968)
TV-MA | 105 min | Adventure, Romance
In the fifth and final of the Angélique series, the beautiful heroine is sold into a sultan's harem.
ANGÉLIQUE AND THE SULTAN
The fifth and final instalment in the Angelique saga carries on directly where Untameable Angelique left off and finds our heroine (Michele Mercier) a prisoner in the harem of the Persian sultan. This one boasts some beautiful locations and cinematography, but is the weakest in the series as a standalone entertainment. Another familiar peplum face crops up with Erno Crisa as the Turkish ambassador.
20. Merveilleuse Angélique (1965)
Not Rated | 105 min | Adventure, History, Romance
In the second of the Angélique series, the heroine joins a group of bandits, rescues her children, becomes a successful businesswoman, and once again becomes entangled in politics and matters of the heart.
The second instalment in the Angelique saga picks up where the first left off, with Angelique using all her wiles to regain her position in French society which she lost in the first film. Most of the cast return, including Michele Mercier as the flamboyant heroine, Giuliano Gemma, who rescued his childhood sweetheart at the end of the first part but dies early on here, and Rosalba Neri in an expanded role as a feisty gypsy trollope. The pace here is brisker, and the plot a little lighter, but the production values remain high and the picture is on a par with its predecessor.
21. Anthony of Padua (1949)
78 min | Drama
Fernando, a boy growing up in 1920's Italy, is inspired by reading a biography of Saint Anthony of Padua (after whom the city of San Antonio, Texas is named.) The wife of a young Roman ... See full summary »
ANTHONY OF PADUA
22. Aphrodite, Goddess of Love (1958)
91 min | Drama, History
Antigonus, archon of Corinth, wants to build a magnificent temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, for which the people are oppressed by new and very high taxes. The sculptor Demetrius, ... See full summary »
APHRODITE, GODDESS OF LOVE
“Gossips of Rome” would be a more apt title for this dull drama of backstabbing, dancing girls and Christians - in which the titular goddess fails to put in an appearance other than in statue form. Despite the best efforts of some of peplum’s most reliable supporting players to camp it up (the outrageously costumed Irene Tunc, along with Ivo Garrani and Mino Doro, are stand-outs), they fail to atone for the lack of action and muscle and two uncharismatic leads. Notable for containing some rare peplum nudity from Tunc.
Boyd’s Review: Good peplum cast, even Clara Calamai, “THAT” lady from Profundo Rosso, but it couldn’t save it for me, much too much religious nonsense. Well at least I think there was, only saw it in Italian. OK to look at, burning of Christians at stake and then getting bored and shooting arrows into them. Brief scene of tumbling beefcake, but unless there was a bloody good script then I think this one probably bombed. Bored me silly even though the baddie died of the plague in the end : )
23. Arms of the Avenger (1963)
95 min | Action, Drama
ARMS OF THE AVENGER
As far as I was able to gather from the only available review copy in German, and no information on the internet whatsoever, what we have here is a costume revenge drama, with John Drew Barrymore, Giacomo Rossi Stuart and one other donning masks and becoming bandits after some event which happened before the opening credits drives them to it, in a Robin Hood sort of way. Good to see Barrymore surprisingly at ease in a non-villainous role for once.
24. At Sword's Edge (1952)
79 min | Adventure
AT SWORD'S EDGE
25. Atlas Against the Czar (1964)
91 min | Adventure, History
The czar Nicolas sends a secret mission of experts to find a hidden treasure. But at the same time he prepares a group of mercenaries who should kill the members of the mission after their ... See full summary »
ATLAS AGAINST THE CZAR
While searching for lost treasure some Russians uncover a sarcophagus containing the body of the blonde, permed Kirk Morris as Maciste (where did Atlas come from?). Rubbing some oil on his left nipple soon brings our hero back to life, and before you know it he is up and running around, stuffing his face, grunting fluent English/French/Italian/German (delete as appropriate), and wrecking havoc on the royal court, throwing Russians, horses, barbells and other heavy objects around, and managing to stay warm with only his skimpy posing pouch while all around him are decked to the nines in furs. Massimo Serato is on villain duty as the Czar of the title, ably assisted by Dada Gallotti and Giulio Donnini. This is as enjoyably daft as they get, though the first half hour is a bit slow with lots of people whose names all end in vich riding around and plotting, and not much action takes place until Maciste finally appears.
Boyd’s Review: OK, this one is set in Russia though some of the cast seem to be dressed as Eskimo’s and the palace looks distinctly Middle Eastern to me. Also I’ve only seen this in French, which isn’t the best language to watch these things in, especially when you don’t speak it. Anyway, Maciste doesn’t turn up till about 25 minutes into the film, when the Cossacks discover him buried in a cave. Then it takes them a couple more minutes to bring him back to life. Kirk Morris is Maciste, buff and horny, and manages to look not too farcical as he runs round in his loincloth when everyone else is dressed as Russians. Now I’m a bit vague as to the plot of this due to the language barrier, and unfortunately the director and cameraman are a bit lacking in style and imagination. It’s OK, but nothing special, really only worth watching for big Kirk Morris fans.
26. Atlas Against the Cyclops (1961)
Not Rated | 100 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Strongman Maciste must battle the one-eyed Cyclops monster that is ravaging the land of Sadok, while at the same time fending off the advances of the evil Queen Capys, who wants to do a little ravaging of her own.
ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS
Lively entry with Gordon Mitchell in better physical shape than usual in his peplum debut, and Chelo Alonso on top form as an evil queen with an angry Cyclops to appease. When Queen Capys (Alonso) orders that the last descendent of Ulysses be killed, her soldiers mess up and kill the boys father and the baby escapes, while Penope (Vira Silenti), the boys mother, winds up among the prisoners waiting to be given to the Cyclops on a nearby island. Meanwhile Maciste (Mitchell) wakes up on a beach just in time to save the child by cuddling a lion to death. Leaving the child in safe hands, Maciste sets out to rescue Penope, on the way inadvertently saving Capys’s life. Maciste is captured, and Capys falls for his charms, belatedly switching sides, but will their alliance be in time to save the life of the baby whom Ifito (Dante DiPaolo), her former right hand man, is taking to be sacrificed to the Cyclops (Aldo Podinotti)?
Boyd’s Review: Chelo Alonso is the evil queen who keeps a Cyclops in a cave on an island and feeds her enemies to it...and Dante Di Paulo (George Clooney’s uncle) is her sidekick, and suffers a very nasty fate a la Deodato’s “Cut and Run”...though obviously not as graphic. The muscle is played by Gordon Mitchell (groan), who saves the wicked queen when an earthquake strikes as she’s in another cave consulting an oracle. Raffaella Carra (of “Do it, Do it again” fame), is in there too...as is Massimo Righi, one of De Paulo’s co-stars in Bava’s “Blood and Black Lace”. Of course Mr Mitchell could make wood look emotive, and this film does suffer a little due to that...and some of it is incredibly stage bound, especially one scene where GM enters a glade of maidens playing, causing one of them to faint when she takes off her blindfold and sees his face : ) Then he gets captured and has to play tug-of-war over some lions. Chelo falls for Gordon of course, and the usual shenanigans ensue. To be honest, not too bad really...I was thinking I should try and get over my Gordon Mitchell phobia...but I just saw him ponce about the set again and I can’t!
27. Attack of the Moors (1959)
80 min | Adventure, Drama
ATTACK OF THE MOORS
With perennial bridesmaid Rik Battaglia the nominal star, a virtual who’s who of peplums finest supporting players are given their chance to shine. There must have been some mix-up in the casting department the day that Chelo Alonso was cast as an Arab princess while Liana Orfei was given the role of a feisty Spanish dancer, but casting curiosities aside this is a highly enjoyable romp, with the unimportant plot having something to do with battles between French nobility, Spanish gypsies and Arabian infidels. Anyone who studied Othello at school may be somewhat confused by a distinct lack of moors! The (rather posh) English language version has been dubbed on top of, rather than in place of, the Italian original, giving the effect that there are constantly people talking in the background, amusing at first but it does begin to grate after awhile (adding to the confusion the opening credits are in German!).
28. Attila (1954)
TV-14 | 80 min | Biography, Drama, History
Attila, the leader of the barbarian Huns and called by the Romans "The Scourge of God", sweeps onto the Italian peninsula, defeating all of the armies of Rome, until he and his men reach the gates of the city itself.
Expensive and well acted tale of Attila the Hun (Anthony Quinn, suitably barbaric and demented) and his romance with Honoria (Sophia Loren, pre-Hollywood, glamorous and aloof), sister of Roman Emperor Valentiniano Caesar (Claude Laydu, playing the emperor as mad spoiled child card). A little slow to start, but it eventually pulls you in if you persevere, and the sets and costumes are impressive. In addition to the leads, acting honours are also due to Irene Papas as the wronged woman in Attila’s life, a young Ettore Manni as Attila’s brother, and Colette Regis as Sophia’s mother. Director Pietro Francisci went on to direct the film that started the peplum explosion, Hercules, two years later.
29. The Avenger (1962)
95 min | Adventure, Drama
Aeneas leads escapees from the Trojan war to new land in Italy, and must deal with new threats to his people.
Steve Reeves’ post Hercules pictures tended to take themselves a little too seriously, and this pseudo-historical effort set in the years following the Trojan war stretches a little intrigue a long way. It was sold as a sequel to the previous years superior ‘The Trojan Horse’, and for anyone who was not aware of this Reeves suffers from hallucinations showing flashbacks. As always it’s the baddies who steal the picture, in this instance Gianni Garko and Lulla Selli as the evil Queen. Then there’s Liana Orfei, who has little to do and struts about in a leather mini-skirt, looking like she belongs in some other film altogether, ideally one set in the swinging sixties. Impressive battle scenes though.
Boyd’s Review: One of Steve Reeves non-Hercules films and he is completely underused. Reeves is best with plenty of action scenes to show off in, and this doesn’t deliver. Instead it is more like a bad piece of talky Shakespearean drama about the Trojans after the battle of Troy looking for a land to settle down in and getting involved in various double dealing with the Etruscans. A good peplum cast can’t save a blandly written and directed story, and its nothing special visually, although the print I saw was very faded and 16.9 instead of scope. This is really only one for real peplum fans … or Steve Reeves freaks ; )
30. Avenger of the Seven Seas (1962)
90 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
It's 1790 and British Naval Commander Redway is driven by greed for money and will stop at nothing to get it. His second in command, David Robinson, questions his allegiance when Redway ... See full summary »
AVENGER OF THE SEVEN SEAS
Rollicking pirate adventure on the high seas with Richard Harrison on top physical and acting form. Unusually violent for the time it was made, it features a novel angle where the pirates are the good guys and the British navy the baddies. David Robinson (Harrison) is on the warpath after crooked British naval Captain Redway (Roldano Lupi), his former commander and the man responsible for the downfall of his family. To achieve his goal he teams up with jolly pirate Van Artz (Walter Barnes). Michele Mercier, making one of her three Italian peplum appearances here playing the role of Jennifer, Van Art’s daughter and David’s love interest, went on to become a major European star with the “Angelique” series a few years later. You also have some of the most unconvincing blackface this side of Al Jolson courtesy of “mulata” Marisa Belli, not the most attractive of women in the first place, and boot-polished up she just looks strange. Things briefly take a turn for the very odd towards the end when Jennifer is sold to some natives who have a man-eating plant to placate and David has to come to save her – this sequence is so bizarre, even filmed with different colour filters, that it looks like it belongs in another film altogether. It’s all good uninvolving Saturday matinee style fun.
Boyd’s Review: Not a sword and sandal film, more of a skull and crossbones movie. Richard Harrison is David Robinson, not a bodybuilder, but well fit and horny none the less. Starts off as an officer on a British ship that is sent to oversee the ex-crim inhabitants of some Aussie seaside place called Freetown, however his dad is one of the head honchos there and his brother, Gary, hangs out there too, so there is a bit of a family reunion. Before long the captain of the British ship shows his true colours and turns out to be a right swine, causing Richard/David to indulge in a quick swapping of sides and ending up being chained to the rocks in the sea when he fails to stop the captain from seriously maltreating the citizens and stealing all their wealth - chests of pearls which they dive for in the shark infested seas off Freetown. He is saved from a watery grave by pirates when they attack, and through a series of captures and escapes we go on rather a good ride. We are talking damn good visuals here, this is one good old pirate romp. Pirates, hunks, blacked up villainesses … and I think this may have been a slightly trimmed for kids version cos I’m sure I saw the end of what looked like a man eating plant scene : )) Well worth checking out.
31. The Avenger of Venice (1964)
91 min | Adventure
Rolando, who was close to marrying the daughter of the Doge, is condemned after a highly unfair judicial process and locked up in Venice. Digging a tunnel with the aid of his cellmate, Rolando succeeds to escape.
THE AVENGER OF VENICE
This tale of intrigue in Venice is full of scheming and backstabbing but a little short on swashbuckling action. It is principally of note today for marking the final film appearance of the queen of Italian peplums, Gianna Maria Canale, who, at 37, was admittedly getting on a bit for playing temptresses like the one she plays here, though one would imagine she was more affronted at being cast as a mother and being given very little to do despite her second billing. It was also the the last of the three peplums in which former Hollywood bad boy Brett Halsey starred, though he went on to a lengthy career in Spaghetti westerns and American TV. Falsely imprisoned after his father (Jean Murat), the Doge, is blinded and overthrown, Candiano (Halsey) teams up with his former rival Scalabrino (likeable fellow American Burt Nelson). The pair escape and set about gaining revenge. An enjoyable enough time filler, but hardly a classic.
32. The Avenger, Zorro (1969)
78 min | Drama, Romance, Western
THE AVENGER, ZORRO
To be reviewed
33. Bondage Gladiator Sexy (1961)
102 min | Action, Drama, Fantasy
The god Dionysus decides to pay a visit to the city of Thebes.
Someone had quite possibly had a little too much to drink when they came up with the incredibly daft plot for this one. There’s a drought in Thebes, so unfortunate virgin Manto (Alessandra Panaro) is to be sacrificed to appease the gods. Her best friend and queen-to-be Dirce (Finnish former ballerina Taina Elg, who had featured in The Prodigal six years earlier) strips to her skimpies and performs a dance for forbidden god Dionysus (Pierre Brice in a very unfortunate violet wig and salmon lipstick), who conveniently comes to Earth in human form and saves her, but when the youth of the city embark on drunken orgies and his bride-to-be becomes one of the bacchantes (aka Dionysus’ scantily-clad tom-tom playing maidens), the emperor is not a happy bunny. Everything that happens in the film takes place because a Sybil has prophesied it! Not as much muscle on show as your average peplum, but an abundance of exotic dance routines almost compensates.
Boyd’s Review: Warning to those of a delicate nature … This film is plagued by random outbreaks of bad interpretive dancing and bongo playing … Also it was in Spanish and confused me completely … I think Dionysus comes down to earth … But I’m not sure why … And he chooses a very ostentatious purple wig to wear which is probably part of the reason he gets into a few little scrapes … Pierre Brice is particularly arrogant looking in this … But then I suppose a god might be … It is all much to stagy without being visually inventive … Even the acting comes over as if they are on the village stage … Who knows … Perhaps I just missed the importance of it all due to being a bit challenged in the language department … You’ll have to let me know, if you watch it : )
34. Balboa (1963)
96 min | Adventure, History
Film inspired on the life of Vasco Núñez de Balboa.
A predominantly Spanish historical co-production, apparently filmed on authentic locations in Panama, with genre regular Frank Latimore leading a Spanish supporting cast as explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, discoverer of the Pacific. It’s all rather earnest and as historically dubious as you would probably expect. It certainly helps that the Spaniards and natives are able to communicate in perfect English, but this is lacking in the energy which a more experienced Italian production team would have brought to the proceedings.
35. Barabbas (1961)
Not Rated | 137 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama
Barabbas, the criminal that Pontius Pilate induced the populace to vote to set free, so that Christ could be crucified, is haunted by the image of Jesus for the rest of his life.
Hollywood financed, though Italian produced by Dino De Laurentis, this is a bigger-budgeted affair than your average Italian peplum and looks appropriately impressive. For those of you not of a religious disposition, Barabbas (Anthony Quinn) was the condemned man chosen for release by the crowd over the Jesus option, whose life subsequently is forever haunted by this event. Quinn turns in a powerful and moving performance, appearing in practically every frame. The arena battle between Quinn and peplum regular Jack Palance (as heathen gladiator Thorvald) is itrue classic, as is the destruction of the Sicilian sulphur mine. Silvana Mangano and Katy Jurado as the women in Barabbas’ early life also turn in strong support. British wrestler Joe Robinson (star of ’Taur The Mighty’) appears in a minor role as a trainer of gladiators alongside a number of lesser known peplum supporting players and a couple of future stars. This is slightly over-preachy in the religious department, as you would expect, as well as being rather long and a bit slow in parts, but it’s well written, more palatable than many similarly themed offerings and well worth a look.
Boyd’s Review: Now some of the sword and sandal pics are just much too full of religion and like everything else it touches it can spoil it, this is totally based on that old peasant belief nonsense but it does have quite a bit going for it nonetheless. Anthony Quinn is Barabbas and gets off the death sentence whilst the Jesus guy gets it. Silvana Mangano is his girl and looks amazing, but goes and gets stoned to death pretty early on. Barabbas ends up in the sulphur mines for years and only gets out due to a rather spectacular earthquake. From there he gets sent back to Rome and gets trained up as a gladiator, and ends up topping a completely barking Jack Palance. After which he is made a free man, but then gets arrested during the burning of Rome and the poor bugger ends up on a cross anyway. A rather good comment on Christianity, or indeed any other religion if you ask me. The Coliseum sequences are seriously impressive for the time, in fact the film is seriously good on the eye throughout...in fact the eclipse in the crucifixion scene in the beginning is the real thing and is amazingly eerily caught on 70mm. Not bad at all if you can ignore the religious aspect...oh and there is even a dwarf gladiator : ))
36. The Barbarians (1960)
90 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Revak is an Iberian prince from Penda, a small island where the Carthagian fleet ransacked and enslaved the surviving native men, including him. After an eventful passage aboard a galley, ... See full summary »
Quite possibly the only film ever to open with a prisoner being force-fed molten gold! Celtic prince Revak (Jack Palance) is taken prisoner by the invading Carthaginians, but instead of being treated with the Royal respect he is due, he is degraded and treated like a slave by Kainus (Guy Rolfe), captain of the fleet. Fortunately Princess Cherata (Milly Vitale) takes a fancy to him, but unfortunately this means he is to battle with more muscular champion gladiator Beliase. Revak wins of course, Her palace seems to be staffed entirely by foreign prisoners ripe for rebellion, and they choose Revak to be their leader, a job made all the easier when the Princess takes 15 minutes to fall in love with him. They don’t waste any time planning the rebellion for the following day, with only a slight hold-up while Revak falls for Roman slave Valeria (Deirdre Sullivan). The revolt is a roaring success, with Revak personally taking his revenge against Kainus, but sparing his sister, Cherata. He then sets sail for Rome with Valeria at his side and they all (presumably) live happily after. With a thin storyline stretched well beyond it’s limits, and poor performances all round, this one is strictly for die hards. Oddly for a film shot in Italy at this time the supporting cast are largely Americans.
Boyd’s Review: Jack Palance is the muscle in this one (!!!) He plays a Celtic prince (!!!) As you will already gather this one is not going for historical accuracy. There is a rather unpleasant scene at the beginning where a captive Celt is executed by drinking a goblet of molten gold, but from then on it settles down into pure lunacy, and all played in a very well spoken Theatre manner. It is just so bizarre it carries you through the simple plotline on pure nuttiness … As Palance and his sister are captured only to have her drown herself straight away as the Carthaginian captain tales a shine to her and decides he wants to shag her … One sister down, Palance gets vengeful … Made a slave in Carthage he catches the eye of the Queen (and rarely a plainer queen have I seen in a peplum) and it all hurtles towards what seems like a very hurried climax. Worth watching cos it’s mental : )
98 min | Adventure
The rightful heir to the throne of Babylon leads a slave revolt against an evil ruler.
Votes: 80 | Gross: $1.80M
BEAST OF BABYLON AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES
The entire cast have a ball chewing up the scenery in this tale of slavery and cruelty in Babylon, all that’s missing is Livio Lorenzon. When what appears to be a flaming flying saucer explodes in the sky, the Babylonians are naturally panic stricken, and evil King Balthazar (Piero Lulli-in an excellent portrayal of pure evil), quite understandably and on the advice of Priestess Ura (Moira Orfei), orders that some big-haired women be rounded up from the local quarry to be sacrificed to appease the gods. Fortunately for Tamira (Genevieve Grad), exiled Prince Nipur (Gordon Scott-who appears to have had a shaving accident as half his beard is missing) just happens to be passing, and comes to her rescue. Scott winds up with the throne and the girl, as if you expected anything else. Strangely, given that this was titled “Goliath” in several territories, said hero is nowhere to be seen. The campy dialogue and flamboyant costumes make this a must-see.
Boyd’s Review: Though I take issue that a woman would wear a white evening dress while imprisoned and being made to work in a quarry, I actually think this is a good peplum and think these little details just add to the enjoyment ; ) Mind you I did manage to find a wide screen Italian version of this with English subs (excuse me, who found it?.....Nick), which always makes such a difference to all these films. Gordon Scott is Nipur, the exiled son of the deposed ruler of Babylon, who returns to the city to avenge the overthrow of his father. The new leaders seem to have a nasty habit of hurling fair maidens into a fiery pit as a sacrifice to Ishtar, which Gordon thinks, is in bad taste. Moira Orfei is at her evil queen best...and there’s plenty of virgin burning and whippings on crosses on the walls of Babylon to keep everybody happy...great fun for all the family : )
38. Beauty and the Devil (1950)
Approved | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
The Faust story retold, with an aged alchemist accepting the gift of renewed youth from the devilish Mephistopheles.
BEAUTY AND THE DEVIL
To be reviewed
39. Behind the Mask of Zorro (1965)
106 min | Western
BEHIND THE MASK OF ZORRO
To be reviewed
40. Ben-Hur (1959)
G | 212 min | Adventure, Drama, History
When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.
Votes: 188,789 | Gross: $74.70M
Not really a true Italian peplum, since, while it was produced entirely in Italy and utilised an Italian crew and supporting cast, the production was entirely American funded-from profits MGM had made in Italy and which the country would only release for productions filmed there. Arse-numbingly epic in length and scope, purposely to provide an alternative for audiences to the threat of television in the fifties, this was a remake of a 1925 production involving a fictional character, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), who interacts with various historical and biblical characters. Visually and technically amazing, MGM hedged their bets by casting leads who had already been tried and tested in the genre, Heston (The Ten Commandments) and Jack Hawkins (Land Of The Pharaohs), while Haya Harareet and Stephen Boyd would go on to appear in several genuine Italian peplums in the Sixties. What made the film so successful at the time of it’s production (it amazingly won 11 Oscars, including best picture, actor and director) are what tend to work against it today, the length, and the serious religious tone, and while I realise I’ll have plenty who disagree with me here, despite it’s great technical achievements, as a viewing experience this film is basically a bore with odd flashes of genius (the chariot race).
41. Bertoldo, Bertoldino e Cacasenno (1954)
42. The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966)
Unrated | 174 min | Drama
Extravagant production of the first part of the book of Genesis. Covers Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood and Abraham and Isaac.
Votes: 3,961 | Gross: $34.90M
Most of the stories dealt with here had already featured in their own individual films, but it fell to producer Dino De Laurentis to bring them all together in one big mess, aided and abetted by John Huston, multi-tasking as director, narrator as the voice of God and actor playing Noah. The first half hour is exceedingly dull, with the non-scientific creation of the planet in seven days, followed by Adam (Michael Parks) and Eve (Ulla Bergryd), and only begs the question of why does the tree bearing forbidden fruit make a noise like a triffid? The sins of their offspring are then quickly passed over in the rush to get to the next big set piece, the building and filling of Noah’s Ark, which is admittedly pretty impressive (and overlong at 40 mins), though you can’t help but giggle when Noah repeatedly calls out to “Ham”! Following a welcome intermission, we quickly pass by nelly Nimrod (Stephen Boyd) and a lot of begatting to get us to the lengthy final section on Abraham (George C. Scott-in an early tryout for his Beauty and the Beast make-up), via an all too brief respite from the tediousness as some genuine peplum stars (Gabriele Ferzetti, Eleonora Rossi Drago, Maria Grazia Spina) whisk us through the tale of Lot and his family in Sodom and Gomorrah. It should be noted by filmmakers that adding “eth” to the end of words does not maketh them authentically historical. The only real achievement here is as an exposé of what a lot of nonsensical twaddle the source material really is, but even so the good book is still more entertaining than this film.
43. The Black Archer (1959)
Not Rated | 75 min | Adventure, Drama
A mysterious archer who dresses in black is out for revenge against the bandits who killed his father.
THE BLACK ARCHER
Spirited vehicle for Gerard Landry, star of many an early peplum period romp before the musclemen took over in the sixties and he was relegated to supporting roles. As usual it is the villains who steal the piece, in this case Livio Lorenzon (overacting valiantly as a sadistic vengeful cripple nicknamed ‘the devil’s hoof print’!), Erno Crisa (as his dandy brother) and Carla Strober (as Landry’s spurned love, and very handy with a whip on her female prisoners). The story is the standard one of good and evil forces battling for control of some throne or other, with no prizes for guessing who wins. With pacing that never slows and acting that is constantly engaging this is a little gem that deserves rescuing from obscurity.
44. Il capitano nero (1951)
92 min | Adventure, Drama, History
45. The Black Devil (1957)
80 min | Adventure, Drama
Duke Ubaldo of (fictitious) Roccamontana wants to overpower neighboring Italian states by concluding an alliance with the mighty Spaniards. The barons of his council are frightened or ... See full summary »
THE BLACK DEVIL
Pretty run of the mill masked bandit piece, with Gerard Landry, likeable as ever, doing the double service as nobleman Osvaldo de Marzi by day and as the rebel of the title by night. Andrea Aureli and Romanian import Nadia Gray are on duty as the villains, who, as always, get all the best scenes. There’s not much to it apart from lots of daring rescues through secret passages in castles, torture in dungeons and of course plenty of sword play. With nothing to set it apart from the pack it’s only really recommended for completists.
46. The Black Duke (1963)
Not Rated | 105 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance
Cesar Borgia--a cardinal in the Catholic church, a confidant of the Pope and a member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in 16th-century Italy--must deal with a host of ... See full summary »
THE BLACK DUKE
Dull take on the oft-filmed tale of the Borgia family scandals. Cameron Mitchell, wearing more eye shadow than a well-heeled drag queen, looks lost without the Viking regalia that was his peplum norm, while Maria Grazia Spina and Gloria Milland look decorative but lack the dramatic chops their roles demand. Mitchell apparently dubbed his own voice in the English language version, something very rare in peplums, even for Italian language dubs, but he really needn’t have bothered . The script drags, the tinkling music irritates, and the lack of action inspires yawns. Have a nap instead, or seek out the vastly superior Sins Of The Borgias.
Boyd's Review: Cameron Mitchell as Cesare Borgia … Playing the part as if possessed by the spirit of Orson Welles crossed with Shakespeare … And spouting lines like “ Get away from me you strumpet of death “ … This one is a real stinker unless you are pissed and with some mates and in the mood for a really bad movie … We all known the story of Cesare and Lucrezia so I won’t go into the plot … Which varies somewhat from history : )) … But there is a nice visual theme of carnations and red hoods … But there’s no getting away from the odour of ripe cheese with this one
47. The Black Invaders (1962)
89 min | Adventure
THE BLACK INVADERS
This fairly obscure entry has an Italian title which translates as “Deadly Hatred” and a German title of “The Knights Of The Grey Galley”, which, like the English title, bear little relevance to a plot involving a former governor of a Spanish colony turned pirate and his battle against the corrupt Spanish, French and British authorities. Aging Italian romantic star Amedeo Nazzari had a number of supporting roles in peplum pictures, but here shows he still had what it took in his only genre lead as pirate captain Ruiz. Familiar support comes from Renato Baldini as the crooked French governor of his former colony and Aldo Bufi Landi as a captain who joins forces with Ruiz. While hardly a forgotten classic, this is a well shot piratical adventure with a cohesive plot, enough swashbuckling action to keep genre fans satisfied, and even a couple of songs thrown in for good measure.
48. Blood and Defiance (1962)
92 min | Drama
BLOOD AND DEFIANCE
49. Black Magic (1949)
Passed | 105 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance