Some early classy peplums - those sword & sandal mini-epics of the '50s and early '60s, the heyday of the genre. 1955's HELEN OF TROY is a Warners film made in Europe by Robert Wise (who has turned his hand to most genres after editing CITIZEN KANE, with films like I WANT TO LIVE, THE HAUNTING, THE SOUND OF MUSIC and his STAR! which I posted about here recently, see below). His HELEN is one of the better epics with great sets and is very visual and utilises a great cast even if the leads are rather blank.
Iride is Rank Organisation starlet Belinda Lee, who looks terrific here. Sernas is the macedonian on the run whom the army is looking for, but she and Praxitiles take him in and shelter him - but as Iride and Sernas fall in love Praxitiles (Massimo Girotti) gets jealous and betrays them .... it looks great with good production values and there is a happy ending for our lovers overlooking the sunlit sea. We also get lots of waves crashing on the beach .... (more on Belinda at Belinda Lee label).
By the late '50s Steve Reeves had arrived with all those HERCULES movies which Joe E Levine shrewdly packaged for international audiences and soon other like Gordon Scott and Ed Fury were heading to peplum-land. I have just seen Steve Reeves in THE GIANT OF MARATHON (which seems to be his best, direted by Jacques Tourneur and lensed by Mario Bava, with Mylene Demongeot),and still have THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII and THE WHITE RUSSIAN to catch as well as Palance and Anita Ekberg in THE MONGOLS, Jeffrey Hunter in GOLD FOR THE CAESARS, while Belinda was a terrific MESSALINA, and in JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS and CONSTANTINE AND THE CROSS with Cornel Wilde; and Jeanne Crain as NEFERTITI QUEEN OF THE NILE as well as Jeffrey Hunter and Debra Paget in the hilarious PRINCESS OF THE NILE.
|Steve and the boys in whities at Marathon|
One I like a lot is Oliver Stone's take on ALEXANDER and his determination to get it made and then the reaction to it (as middle America did not want a gay or bisexual hero). Its a splendid looking film with some staggering set-pieces - even the CGI recreation of Babylon looks stunning. Its not really a peplum as such but a major work by a visionary director. More on this at epics label. By contrast Fox's 1956 ALEXANDER THE GREAT is rather turgid with a blonde Burton, but Claire Bloom, Stanley Baker and Harry Andrews again and Peter Cushing all command attention. This impressed me as a kid though - Andrews as the fleeing Persian king Darius, and those great shots of Danielle Darrieux as Alex's mother Olympias on the castle battlements ...
A brilliant site by the way is: http://peplums.blogspot.co.uk/