Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Princess of the Nile, and other exotic treats ...

A fun post today, as we go back to those heady Fifties sword-and-sandal costume movies, often referred to as Peplums, if set in the ancient world, but these I have selected are all Arabian fantasies -  not westerns then, but "easterns": bring on the harem pants and those scantily-clad dancing girls ..... how we loved the in those '50s sunday afternoon duible-bills ... a lot of them could be Trash Classics now.

Few dancing girls were as delectable as Debra Paget - best known now for her sensational numbers in Fritz Lang's 1959 German opus THE INDIAN TOMB (right) - but she also dances up a storm in PRINCESS OF THE NILE, in 1954 with Jeff Hunter - topless and wearing a turban.
Time: A.D. 1249. Shalimar, an Egyptian princess, striving to rid her country of its Bedouin conquerors, forms an alliance with Prince Haidi, son of the Caliph of Bagdad. She practices her intrigues both at the court and, disguised as a dancing girl, in the market place. Here she is:
This is delicious fun as Debra's princess also plays the dancing girl, as Jeff Hunter and evil Michael Rennie fight over her. It is all more Ali Baba and Baghdad than Egyptian.  Jeff and Debra are such a good-looking couple too. 
As an IMDB reviewer puts it: A pretty film with lead actors so beautiful, it almost hurts to look at them. Young Jeffrey Hunter and Debra Paget dazzle in this fun faux- Egyptian adventure/romance. Whether you are straight or gay, male or female, you should appreciate looking at them both.It has adventure, romance, a quick-moving plot, and some comic relief. Dancing girls! Evil henchmen! Scimitar fights! What's not to like?  Debra and Jeff were also in that good western from 1955: WHITE FEATHER, pictured here with Robert Wagner. 

SERPENT OF THE NILE falls into the just Trash or B-Movie category - not even amusing enough to be camp. This William Castle clunker from 1953 may be the cheapest, tattiest costumer ever, as Rhonda Fleming essays Cleo, and burly Raymond Burr walks through the role of Mark Anthony, William Lundigan looks so 50s with his brylcreemed hair!. There are few extras and crowd scenes and it all looks like it was shot over a weekend - or maybe I am being too cruel .... It does though have the stunning Julie Newmar (below) as a dancing girl, covered in gold - a decade before Shirley Eaton in GOLDFINGER! - in a terrific number.
Another early Cleopatra was the 19-year old Sophia Loren in TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA (below) and she was also in ATTILA. Over at Universal, young Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie toiled more varied Arabian Nights fantasies like THE PRINCE WHO WAS A THIEF.
Dale Robertson , a western star (we liked him in SITTING BULL and THE GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ) took to harem pants quite well too as SON OF SINBAD in 1956, where Vincent Price has a camp time as the poet Omar Khayyam. This one - from Howard Hughes - is full of dancing girls, in fact almost every burlesque queen in L.A. must have worked on it - as per:
which makes one wonder who the intended audience for these movies were: kids and adolescents or 'dirty old men' to leer at the lovelies ... 

For real dancing girls try out Anita Ekberg in Terence Young's ZARAK in 1956 - 
 cheesecake does not get much better - Anita of course has the obligatory jewel in her navel - as did Joan Collins, Gina Lollobrigida and others then. 
Anita was sensational then in films like INTERPOL and SCREAMING MIMI - as per other posts on her - Anita label, before heading to Italy and Fellini - LA DOLCE VITA and her giant billboard which comes to life in Federico's episode of BOCCACCIO 70 (where De Sica had Loren, and Visconti Romy Schneider in their episodes) in 1962. I have a Bob Hope comedy she did as well, PARIS HOLIDAY from '57, to see sometime soon. Over 80 now (like her fellow sirens Bardot and Loren) one hopes Anita is doing ok.

John Wayne's THE CONQUEROR in 1956, another Howard Hughes production, is often dismissed as being terrible - and it was certainly a mistake to shoot it near those atomic testing sites in Utah - but Wayne is fun as Genghis Khan with Susan Hayward as his Tartar love - Susie dances up a storm too and there's a terrific exotic dance scene
(We also like the 1965 GENGHIS KHAN, a rather tatty late epic, with a super cast including Stephen Boyd and Francoise Dorleac as the very '60s Bortai.) 

OMAR KHAYYAM was a treat in 1957 - more harem scenes and Debra Paget again. Debra wa also in Elvis's first film LOVE ME TENDER then and it seems Elvis was smitten..... and of course she was in Cecil's daddy-of-them-all, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and also in DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS. She should have had a longer career, but she married well, and she too is over 80 now. Jeff Hunter of course died in 1969 - see label for more

Minnelli got into the act with his stagebound film of KISMET, another Arabian Nights fantasy musical, where Dolores Gray shines. 
Other costumers of the time which we like (see Epics/Peplums labels) include the hiliarious THE PRODIGAL, LAND OF THE PHAROAHS, THE EGYPTIAN, THE SILVER CHALICE, PRINCE VALIANT, BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH, SIGN OF THE PAGAN, and the stupendous THE VIKINGS, and of course those Steve Reeves movies, before the big epics like BEN HUR, SPARTACUS and EL CID took over. Then we got CLEOPATRA and FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE as the epic genre ran out of favour as the Swinging Sixties took off .... but they provided (and still do) lots of pleasure. Below: KISMET, 1955.
And we couldn't leave out Gina's torrid orgy scene in SOLOMON & SHEBA


  1. Excellent post!

  2. Death by PEPLUM...aha about SERPENT OF THE NILE. It's the least convincing Cleopatra ever.