Peplum film genre

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This poster from a 1962 Maciste film illustrates many people's expectations from films of this genre.

The peplum film (pepla plural), also known as sword-and-sandal, is a genre of largely Italian-made historical or biblical epics (costume dramas) that dominated the Italian film industry from 1958 to 1965, eventually being replaced in 1965 by the Spaghetti Western. The pepla attempted to emulate the big-budget Hollywood historical epics of the time, such as Spartacus, Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments.

The terms "peplum" (referring to the tunic-style Greek and Roman garment often worn by characters in the fims) and "sword-and-sandal" were used in a condescending way by film critics. Italian director Vittorio Cottafavi called the genre "Neo-Mythology".[1]

Background[edit]

While Hollywood filmmakers, such as D. W. Griffith with his 1916 Intolerance, peopled their historical epics with dramatic conflicts and naturalistic protagonists, many of the pepla merely took a real historical or Biblical event and used it as a backdrop for a simplistic heroic adventure tale. The pepla are a specific class of Italian adventure or fantasy films that have subjects set in Biblical, medieval or classical antiquity, often with contrived plots based loosely on mythology, legendary Greco-Roman history, or the other contemporary cultures of the time, such as the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Etruscans.

Most pepla featured a superhumanly strong man as the protagonist, such as Hercules, Samson, Goliath, Ursus or Italy's own popular folk hero Maciste. These supermen often rescued captive princesses from tyrannical despots and fought mythological creatures. Not all the films were fantasy-based, however. Many featured actual historical personalities such as Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Hannibal, although great liberties were taken with the storylines. Gladiators, pirates, knights, Vikings, and slaves rebelling against tyrannical kings were also popular subjects.

The Maciste silent film series (1914–1927)[edit]

The 1914 Italian silent film Cabiria was one of the first sword-and-sandal films to make use of a massively muscled character, Maciste (played by actor Bartolomeo Pagano) who served in this premiere film as the hero's slavishly loyal sidekick. Maciste became the public's favorite character in the film however, and Pagano was called back many times to reprise the role. The Maciste character appeared in at least two dozen Italian silent films from 1914 through 1926, all of which featured a protagonist named Maciste although the films were set in many different time periods and geographical locations. Here is a complete list of the silent Maciste films in chronological order:

  • Cabiria (1914) introduced the Maciste character
  • Maciste (1915) a.k.a. "The Marvelous Maciste"
  • Maciste bersagliere ("Maciste the Ranger", 1916)
  • Maciste alpino ("Maciste The Warrior", 1916)
  • Maciste atleta ("Maciste the Athlete", 1917)
  • Maciste medium ("Maciste the Clairvoyant", 1917)
  • Maciste poliziotto ("Maciste the Detective", 1917)
  • Maciste turista ("Maciste the Tourist", 1917)
  • Maciste sonnambulo ("Maciste the Sleepwalker", 1918)
  • La Rivincita di Maciste ("The Revenge of Maciste", 1919)
  • Il Testamento di Maciste ("Maciste's Will", 1919)
  • Il Viaggio di Maciste ("Maciste's Journey", 1919)
  • Maciste I ("Maciste the First", 1919)
  • Maciste contro la morte ("Maciste vs Death", 1919)
  • Maciste innamorato ("Maciste in Love", 1919)
  • Maciste in vacanza ("Maciste on Vacation", 1920)
  • Maciste salvato dalle acque ("Maciste, Rescued from the Waters", 1920)
  • Maciste e la figlia del re della plata ("Maciste and the Silver King's Daughter", 1922)
  • Maciste und die Japanerin ("Maciste and the Japanese", 1922)
  • Maciste contro Maciste ("Maciste vs Maciste", 1923)
  • Maciste und die chinesische truhe ("Maciste and the Chinese Trunk", 1923)
  • Maciste e il nipote di America ("Maciste's American Nephew", 1924)
  • Maciste imperatore ("Emperor Maciste", 1924)
  • Maciste contro lo sceicco ("Maciste vs the Sheik", 1925)
  • Maciste all'inferno ("Maciste in Hell", 1926)
  • Maciste nella gabbia dei leoni ("Maciste in the Lions' Den", 1926)
  • il Gigante delle Dolemite ("The Giant From the Dolomite", 1927)

Sound film era[edit]

The Italian film industry released several historical films in the early sound era, such as the big-budget Scipione l'Africano (Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal) in 1937. In 1949, the postwar Italian film industry remade Fabiola (which had been previously filmed twice in the silent era). The film was released in the United Kingdom and in the United States in 1951 in an edited, English-dubbed version.

During the 1950s, a number of American historical epics shot in Italy were released. In 1951, MGM producer Sam Zimbalist cleverly used the lower production costs, use of frozen funds and the expertise of the Italian film industry to shoot the large scale epic Quo Vadis in Rome. In addition to its fictional account linking the Great Fire of Rome, the Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire and Emperor Nero, the film featured a mighty protagonist named Ursus. MGM also planned Ben Hur to be filmed in Italy as early as 1952.[2]

Riccardo Freda's Sins of Rome was filmed in 1953 and released by RKO in an edited, English-dubbed version the following year. Unlike Quo Vadis, there were no American actors or production crew. The Anthony Quinn film Attila (directed by Pietro Francisci in 1954), the Kirk Douglas epic Ulysses (co-directed by an uncredited Mario Bava in 1954) and Helen of Troy (directed by Robert Wise with Sergio Leone as an uncredited second unit director in 1955) were the first of the big peplum films of the 1950s. Riccardo Freda directed another peplum, Theodora, Slave Empress in 1954, starring his wife Gianna Maria Canale. Howard Hawks directed his Land of the Pharaohs (starring Joan Collins) in Italy and Egypt in 1955. Robert Rossen made his Alexander the Great in Egypt in 1956, with a music score by famed Italian composer Mario Nascimbene.

To cash in on the success of the Kirk Douglas film Ulysses, Pietro Francisci planned to make a film about Hercules, but searched unsuccessfully for years for a physcially convincing yet experienced actor. His daughter spotted American bodybuilder Steve Reeves in the American film Athena and he was hired to play the mighty demigod.[3]

The genre's instantaneous growth began with the 1959 U.S. theatrical release of Hercules, a 1957 Italian/ French co-production. American producer Joseph E. Levine acquired the U.S. distribution rights for $120,000, spent $1 million promoting the film and made more than $5 million profit.[4] This spawned the 1959 Steve Reeves sequel Hercules Unchained, the 1959 re-release of Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949), and literally dozens of imitations that followed in their wake. Italian filmmakers resurrected their 1920s Maciste character in a brand new 1960s sound film series (1960–1964), followed rapidly by Ursus, Samson, Goliath, Sandokan and various other mighty-muscled heroes. These films all featured similar bodybuilder stars such as Reg Park, Gordon Scott, Mark Forest, Brad Harris, Dan Vadis, and Alan Steel. European audiences tended to prefer an Anglo-American in the lead, so Italian bodybuilders would adopt English pseudonyms for the screen (Sergio Ciani became Alan Steel, Lou Degni became Mark Forest, etc.).

In the formulaic plots common to many of the films, two women vied for the affection of the bodybuilder hero: the good love interest (a damsel in distress needing rescue), and an evil femme fatale queen who sought to dominate the hero. The films often featured an ambitious ruler who would ascend the throne by murdering whomever stood in his path, and often it was only the muscular hero who could depose him. Most of the films involved an impending clash between two warring populations, one civilized and the other evilly barbaric. Thus many pepla begin with the scene of a peaceful, defenseless village being burned to the ground by a wild barbarian horde. For their musical content, most films contained a well-choreographed belly-dancing sequence or a colorful ballet, meant to underline the pagan decadence of the villains. The contrived plots, poorly overdubbed dialogue, novice acting skills of the bodybuilder leads, and primitive special effects that were often inadequate to depict the mythological creatures on screen all conspire to give these films a certain camp appeal now.

To be sure, however, many of the films enjoyed widespread popularity among general audiences, and had production values that were typical for popular films of their day. Some films included frequent reuse of the impressive film sets that had been created for Ben Hur and Cleopatra. Although many of the bigger budget pepla were released theatrically in the USA, fourteen of them were released directly to Embassy Pictures television in a syndicated TV package called The Sons of Hercules. The movies were made into a series of sorts by splicing on the same opening and closing theme song and newly designed voice-over narration that desperately attempted to link the protagonist of each film to the Hercules mythos, since few American viewers had a familiarity with Italian film heroes such as Maciste or Ursus. These films ran on Saturday afternoons in the 1960s. Often ridiculed for their low budgets and bad English dubbing, several of them have been subjects for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment.

Hercules series (1957–1965)[edit]

A series of 19 Hercules movies were made in Italy in the late 50s and early 60s. The films were all sequels to the successful Steve Reeves peplum "Hercules" (1957), and each film was a stand-alone story not connected to the others. The actors who played Hercules in these films were Steve Reeves followed by Gordon Scott, Kirk Morris, Mickey Hargitay, Mark Forest, Alan Steel, Dan Vadis, Brad Harris, Reg Park, Peter Lupus (billed as Rock Stevens) and Mike Lane. In a 1997 interview Reeves said he felt his two Hercules films had much better production values than the successors that Reeves didn't want to be lumped in with, so he refused any more Hercules films.[5]

The films are listed below by their American release titles, and the titles in parentheses are their original Italian titles with an approximate English translation. Dates shown are the original Italian theatrical release dates, not necessarily the U.S. release dates (which were years later in many cases).

  • Hercules (Le fatiche di Ercole / The Labors of Hercules, 1957) starring Steve Reeves
  • Hercules Unchained (Ercole e la regina di Lidia / Hercules and the Queen of Lydia, 1959) starring Steve Reeves
  • Goliath and the Dragon (La vendetta di Ercole / The Revenge of Hercules, 1960) starring Mark Forest (this Hercules film had its title changed to Goliath when it was distributed in the U.S.)
  • Hercules Vs The Hydra (Gli amori di Ercole / The Loves of Hercules, 1960) co-starring Mickey Hargitay & Jayne Mansfield
  • Hercules and the Captive Women (Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide / Hercules at the Conquest of Atlantis, 1961) starring Reg Park (alternate U.S. title: Hercules and the Haunted Women)
  • Hercules in the Haunted World (Ercole al centro della terra / Hercules at the Center of the Earth) 1961 (directed by Mario Bava) starring Reg Park
  • Hercules in the Vale of Woe (Maciste contro Ercole nella valle dei guai / Maciste vs Hercules in the Vale of Woe) starring Frank Gordon as Hercules, 1961
  • Ulysses vs The Son of Hercules (Ulisse contro Ercole / Ulysses vs Hercules) starring Mike Lane, 1962
  • The Fury of Hercules (La furia di Ercole / The Fury of Hercules) starring Brad Harris, 1962 (alternate U.S. title: The Fury of Samson)
  • Hercules, Samson and Ulysses (Ercole sfida Sansone / Hercules Challenges Samson) starring Kirk Morris, 1963
  • Hercules vs Moloch (Ercole contro Molock / Hercules vs Molock) starring Gordon Scott, 1963 (a.k.a. The Conquest of Mycenae)
  • Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (Ercole l'invincibile / Hercules the Invincible) starring Dan Vadis, 1964. (This was originally a Hercules film retitled "Son of Hercules" for inclusion in the U.S. syndicated television package The Sons of Hercules).
  • Hercules vs The Giant Warrior (il trionfo di Ercole / The Triumph of Hercules) starring Dan Vadis, 1964 (alternate U.S. title: Hercules and the Ten Avengers)
  • Hercules Against Rome (Ercole contro Roma / Hercules vs Rome) starring Alan Steel, 1964
  • Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun (Ercole contro i figli del sole / Hercules vs the Sons of the Sun) starring Mark Forest, 1964
  • Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon (Ercole contro i tiranni di Babilonia / Hercules vs the Tyrants of Babylon) starring Rock Stevens, 1964
  • Samson and His Mighty Challenge (Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus: gli invincibili / Hercules, Samson, Maciste and Ursus: The Invincibles) starring Alan Steel as Hercules, 1964 (a.k.a. Combate dei Gigantes or Le Grand Defi)
  • Hercules and the Princess of Troy (No Italian title) starring Gordon Scott, 1965 (a.k.a. Hercules vs the Sea Monster) --- This U.S./ Italian co-production was made as a pilot for a Charles Band-produced TV series that never materialized & it was later distributed as a feature film.
  • Hercules, the Avenger (Sfida dei giganti / Challenge of the Giants) starring Reg Park, 1965 (This film was composed mostly of re-edited footage from the two 1961 Reg Park Hercules films.)

A number of English-dubbed Italian films that featured the Hercules name in their title were never intended to be Hercules movies by their Italian creators.

  • Hercules Against the Moon Men, Hercules Against the Barbarians, Hercules Against the Mongols and Hercules of the Desert were all originally Maciste films. (See "Maciste" section below)
  • Hercules and the Black Pirate and Hercules and the Treasure of the Incas were both retitled Samson movies. (See "Samson" section below)
  • Hercules, Prisoner of Evil was actually a retitled Ursus film. (See "Ursus" section below)
  • Hercules and the Masked Rider was actually a retitled Goliath movie. (See "Goliath" section below)

None of these films in their original Italian versions involved the Hercules character in any way. Likewise, most of the Sons of Hercules movies shown on American TV in the 1960s had nothing to do with Hercules in their original Italian incarnations. (See also The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962) an American-made genre parody starring peplum star Samson Burke as Hercules.)

Maciste series (1960–1965)[edit]

Main article: Maciste

There were a total of 25 Maciste films from the 1960s peplum craze (not counting the two dozen silent Maciste films made in Italy pre-1930). By 1960, seeing how well the two Steve Reeves Hercules films were doing at the box office, Italian producers decided to revive the 1920s silent film character Maciste in a new series of color/sound films. Unlike the other Italian peplum protagonists, Maciste found himself in a variety of time periods ranging from the Ice Age to 16th Century Scotland. Maciste was never given an origin, and the source of his mighty powers was never revealed. However, in the first film of the 1960s series, he mentions to another character that the name "Maciste" means "born of the rock" (almost as if he was a god who would just appear out of the earth itself in times of need). One of the 1920s silent Maciste films was actually entitled "The Giant from the Dolomite", hinting that Maciste may be more god than man, which would explain his great strength.
The first title listed for each film is the film's original Italian title along with its English translation, while the U.S. release title follows in bold type in parentheses. (Note how many times Maciste's name in the Italian title is altered to an entirely different name in the American title):

  • Maciste nella valle dei re / Maciste in the Valley of the Kings (Son of Samson, 1960) a.k.a. Maciste the Mighty, starring Mark Forest
  • Maciste contro i cacciatori di teste / Maciste vs the Headhunters (Colossus and the Headhunters, 1960) starring Kirk Morris
  • Maciste nella terra dei ciclopi / Maciste in the Land of the Cyclops (Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops, 1961) starring Gordon Mitchell
  • Maciste alla corte del gran khan / Maciste at the Court of the Great Khan (Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World, 1961) starring Gordon Scott
  • Maciste contro il vampiro / Maciste vs the Vampire (Goliath and the Vampires, 1961) starring Gordon Scott
  • Maciste, l'uomo più forte del mondo / Maciste, the Strongest Man in the World (Mole Men vs the Son of Hercules, 1962) starring Mark Forest
  • Maciste contro Ercole nella valle dei guai / Maciste Against Hercules in the Vale of Woe (Hercules in the Vale of Woe, 1962) starring Kirk Morris as Maciste
  • Maciste all'inferno / Maciste in Hell (The Witch's Curse, 1962) starring Kirk Morris
  • Il trionfo di Maciste / The Triumph of Maciste (Triumph of the Son of Hercules, 1962) starring Kirk Morris
  • Maciste contro i mostri / Maciste vs the Monsters (Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules, 1962) starring Reg Lewis
  • Totò contro Maciste / Totò vs Maciste (No American title, 1962) starring Samson Burke; this was a comedy satirizing the peplum genre (part of the Italian "Toto" film series) and was never distributed in the USA; it is apparently not available in English
  • Maciste, il gladiatore piu forte del mondo / Maciste, the World's Strongest Gladiator (Colossus of the Arena, 1962) starring Mark Forest
  • Maciste contro lo sceicco / Maciste vs the Sheik (Samson Against the Sheik, 1962) starring Ed Fury
  • Maciste, l'eroe piu grande del mondo / Maciste, the World's Greatest Hero (Goliath and the Sins of Babylon, 1963) starring Mark Forest
  • Zorro contro Maciste / Zorro vs Maciste (Samson and the Slave Queen, 1963) starring Alan Steel
  • Maciste e la regina de Samar / Maciste and the Queen of Samar (Hercules Against the Moon Men, 1964) starring Alan Steel
  • Maciste nelle miniere de re salomone / Maciste in King Solomon's Mines (Samson in King Solomon's Mines, 1964) starring Reg Park
  • Maciste alla corte dello zar / Maciste at the Court of the Czar (Atlas Against The Czar, 1964) starring Kirk Morris (a.k.a. Samson vs the Giant King)
  • Maciste, gladiatore di sparta / Maciste, Gladiator of Sparta (Terror of Rome Against the Son of Hercules, 1964) starring Mark Forest
  • Maciste contro i mongoli / Maciste vs the Mongols (Hercules Against the Mongols, 1964) starring Mark Forest
  • Maciste nell'inferno di Gengis Khan / Maciste in Genghis Khan's Hell (Hercules Against the Barbarians, 1964) starring Mark Forest
  • La valle dell'eco tonante / Valley of the Thundering Echo (Hercules of the Desert, 1964) starring Kirk Morris, a.k.a. Desert Raiders, a.k.a. in France as Maciste and the Women of the Valley
  • Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus: gli invincibili / Hercules, Samson, Maciste and Ursus: The Invincibles (Samson and His Mighty Challenge, 1965) starring Renato Rossini as Maciste (aka Combate dei Gigantes or Le Grand Defi)
  • Gli invicibili fratelli Maciste / The Invincible Maciste Brothers (The Invincible Brothers Maciste, 1965) starring Richard Lloyd as Maciste
  • Maciste il Vendicatore dei Mayas / Maciste, Avenger of the Mayans (no American title, 1965) (Note* This Maciste film was made up almost entirely of re-edited stock footage from 2 older Maciste films, Maciste contro i mostri and Maciste contro i cacciatori di teste, so Maciste switches from Kirk Morris to Reg Lewis in various scenes; this movie is very scarce since it was never distributed in the USA and is not available in English.)

In 1973, the Spanish cult film director Jesus Franco directed two low-budget "Maciste films" for French producers: Maciste contre la Reine des Amazones (Maciste vs the Queen of the Amazons) and Les exploits érotiques de Maciste dans l'Atlantide (The Erotic Exploits of Maciste in Atlantis). The films had almost identical casts, both starring Val Davis as Maciste, and appear to have been shot back-to-back. The former was distributed in Italy as a "Karzan" movie (a cheap Tarzan imitation), while the latter film was released only in France with hardcore inserts as Les Gloutonnes ("The Gobblers"). These 2 films were totally unrelated to the 1960s Italian Maciste series.

Ursus series (1961–1964)[edit]

Ursus was a superhuman Roman era character who was used as the protagonist in a series of Italian adventure films made in the early 1960s.

When the "Hercules" film craze hit in 1959, Italian filmmakers were looking for other muscleman characters similar to Hercules whom they could exploit, resulting in the 9-film Ursus series listed below. Ursus was referred to as a "Son of Hercules" in two of the films when they were dubbed in English (in an attempt to cash in on the then-popular "Hercules" craze), although in the original Italian films, Ursus had no connection to Hercules whatsoever. In the English-dubbed version of one Ursus film (retitled Hercules, Prisoner of Evil), Ursus was actually referred to throughout the entire film as "Hercules".
There were a total of 9 Italian films that featured Ursus as the main character, listed below as follows: Italian title/ English translation of the Italian title (American release title);

  • Ursus / Ursus (Ursus, Son of Hercules, 1961) a.k.a. "Mighty Ursus", starring Ed Fury
  • La Vendetta di Ursus / The Revenge of Ursus (The Revenge of Ursus, 1961) starring Samson Burke
  • Ursus Nella Valle dei Leoni / Ursus in the Valley of the Lions (Valley of the Lions, 1961) starring Ed Fury
  • Ursus e la Ragazza Tartara / Ursus and the Tartar Girl (Ursus and the Tartar Princess, 1962) a.k.a. "The Tartar Invasion", starring Joe Robinson
  • Ursus Nella Terra di Fuoco / Ursus in the Land of Fire (Son of Hercules in the Land of Fire, 1963) starring Ed Fury
  • Ursus il Gladiatore Rebelle / Ursus the Rebel Gladiator (Rebel Gladiators, 1963) starring Dan Vadis
  • Ursus il Terrore dei Kirghisi / Ursus, the Terror of the Kirghiz (Hercules, Prisoner of Evil, 1964) starring Reg Park
  • Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus: Gli Invincibili / Hercules, Samson, Maciste and Ursus: The Invincibles (Samson and His Mighty Challenge, 1964) starring Yan Larvor as Ursus (a.k.a. "Combate dei Gigantes" or "Le Grand Defi")
  • Gli Invincibili Tre / The Invincible Three (Three Avengers, 1964) starring Alan Steel as Ursus

Samson series (1961–1964)[edit]

A character named Samson was featured in a series of 5 Italian sword-and-sandal films in the 1960s, no doubt inspired by the 1959 re-release of the epic Victor Mature film "Samson and Delilah". The character was similar to the Biblical Samson in the 3rd and 5th films only; in the other three, he just appears to be a very strong man (not related at all to the Biblical figure). The titles are listed as follows: Italian title/ its English translation (U.S. release title in parentheses)

  • Sansone/Samson (Samson) 1961, starring Brad Harris
  • Sansone contro i pirati/Samson vs The Pirates (Samson and the Sea Beast) 1963, starring Kirk Morris
  • Ercole sfida Sansone/Hercules Challenges Samson (Hercules, Samson and Ulysses) 1963, starring Richard Lloyd
  • Sansone contro il corsaro nero/Samson vs the Black Pirate (Hercules and the Black Pirate) 1963, starring Alan Steel
  • Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili/Hercules, Samson, Maciste and Ursus: the Invincibles (Samson and the Mighty Challenge) 1965, starring Nadir Baltimore as Samson (a.k.a. Samson and His Mighty Challenge, Combate dei Gigantes or Le Grand Defi)

The name Samson was also inserted into the U.S. titles of six other Italian movies when they were dubbed in English for U.S. distribution, although these films actually featured the adventures of the famed Italian folk hero Maciste. Samson Against the Sheik (1962), Son of Samson (1960), Samson and the Slave Queen (1963), Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World (1961), Samson Vs. The Giant King (1964), and Samson in King Solomon's Mines (1964) were all retitled Maciste movies, because the American distributors did not feel the name Maciste was marketable to U.S. filmgoers. Samson and the Treasure of the Incas (a.k.a. Hercules and the Treasure of the Incas) (1965) sounds like a peplum title, but it was actually a spaghetti western.

Goliath series (1960–1964)[edit]

The Italians used Goliath as the superhero protagonist in a series of adventure films (pepla) in the early 1960s. He was a man possessed of amazing strength, although he seemed to be a different person in each film. After the classic Hercules (1957) became a blockbuster sensation in the film industry, a 1959 Steve Reeves film Terrore dei Barbari (Terror of the Barbarians) was retitled Goliath and the Barbarians in the USA. The film was so successful at the box office, it inspired Italian filmmakers to do a series of four more films featuring a generic beefcake hero named Goliath, although the films were not related to each other in any way. (The 1960 Italian peplum David and Goliath starring Orson Welles was not part of this series, since that movie was just a historical retelling of the Biblical story). The titles in the Italian Goliath adventure series were as follows:

  • Terrore dei Barbari/ Terror of the Barbarians (1959) (retitled Goliath and the Barbarians in the USA), starring Steve Reeves as Goliath (although he is referred to as "Emiliano" in the original Italian-language version)
  • Goliath contro i giganti/ Goliath Against the Giants (1960) starring Brad Harris
  • Goliath e la schiava ribelle/ Goliath and the Rebel Slave (a.k.a. The Tyrant of Lydia Vs. The Son of Hercules) (1963) starring Gordon Scott
  • Golia e il cavaliere mascherato/ Goliath and the Masked Rider (a.k.a. Hercules and the Masked Rider) (1964) starring Alan Steel (Note* - Goliath is referred to as "Hercules" in English-dubbed prints)
  • Golia alla conquista di Bagdad/ Goliath at the Conquest of Baghdad (a.k.a. Goliath at the Conquest of Damascus, 1964) starring Peter Lupus

The name Goliath was also inserted into the English titles of 3 other Italian pepla that were retitled for U.S. distribution in an attempt to cash in on the Goliath craze, but these films were not originally made as "Goliath movies" in Italy. Both Goliath and the Vampires (1961) and Goliath and the Sins of Babylon (1963) actually featured the famed Italian folk hero Maciste in the original Italian versions, but American distributors didn't feel the name Maciste meant anything to American audiences. Goliath and the Dragon (1960) was originally an Italian Hercules movie called The Revenge of Hercules, but it was retitled to "Goliath and the Dragon" in the U.S. since at the time "Goliath and the Barbarians" was breaking box-office records, and at the time, the distributors may have believed the name "Hercules" was trademarked by distributor Joseph E. Levine.

The Sons of Hercules (TV syndication package)[edit]

Main article: The Sons of Hercules

The Sons of Hercules was a syndicated television show that aired in the United States in the 1960s. The series repackaged 14 randomly chosen Italian sword-and-sandal films by unifying them with memorable title and end title theme songs and a standard voice-over intro relating the main hero in each film to Hercules any way they could. In some areas, each film was split into two one-hour episodes, so the 14 films were shown as 28 weekly episodes. None of the films were theatrically released in the USA.
The films are not listed in chronological order, since they were not really related to each other in any way. The first title listed below for each film was its American broadcast television title, followed by the English translation of the original Italian theatrical title in parentheses:

  • Ursus, Son of Hercules (Ursus) 1961, starring Ed Fury (a.k.a. Mighty Ursus in England)
  • Mole Men vs the Son of Hercules (Maciste, the Strongest Man in the World) 1962, starring Mark Forest
  • Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (Maciste vs the Monsters) 1962, starring Reg Lewis
  • Venus Against the Son of Hercules (Mars, God Of War) 1962, starring Roger Browne
  • Triumph of the Son of Hercules (The Triumph of Maciste) 1962, starring Kirk Morris
  • Ulysses vs the Son of Hercules (Ulysses Against Hercules) 1962, starring Mike Lane
  • Medusa vs the Son of Hercules(Perseus The Invincible) 1962, starring Richard Harrison
  • Son of Hercules in the Land of Fire (Ursus In The Land Of Fire) 1963, starring Ed Fury
  • The Tyrant of Lydia vs the Son of Hercules (Goliath and the Rebel Slave) 1963, starring Gordon Scott
  • Messalina Against the Son of Hercules (The Last Gladiator) 1963, starring Richard Harrison
  • The Beast of Babylon vs the Son of Hercules (Hero Of Babylon) 1963, a.k.a. Goliath, King of the Slaves, starring Gordon Scott
  • Terror of Rome Against the Son of Hercules (Maciste, Gladiator of Sparta) 1964, starring Mark Forest
  • Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (Hercules the Invincible) 1964, starring Dan Vadis
  • Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules (Anthar the Invincible) 1964, (a.k.a. The Slave Merchants, a.k.a. Soraya, Queen of the Desert) starring Kirk Morris, directed by Antonio Margheriti

Steve Reeves Pepla (in chronological order of production)[edit]

Steve Reeves appeared in 14 peplums made in Italy from 1957 to 1964, and most of his films are highly regarded examples of the sword and sandal genre. His pepla are listed below in order of production, not in order of release. The films are listed by their American release titles, followed by the translation of the original Italian title in parentheses:

Other (non-series) Italian pepla[edit]

There were many 1950s and 1960s Italian pepla that did not feature a major superhero (such as Hercules, Maciste or Samson), and as such they fall into a sort of miscellaneous category. Many were of the Capa e spada (swashbuckler) variety, though they often feature well-known characters such as Ali Baba, Julius Caesar, Ulysses, Cleopatra, The Three Musketeers, Theseus, Perseus, Achilles, Robin Hood, Sandokan, etc.. The first really successful film of that kind was Black Eagle from 1946.

  • Adventurer of Tortuga, The (1964) starring Guy Madison
  • Adventures of Mandrin, The (1960) a.k.a. Captain Adventure
  • Adventures of Scaramouche, The (1963) a.k.a. The Mask of Scaramouche, Gianna Maria Canale
  • Alexander The Great (1956) U.S. film with music score by Mario Nascimbene
  • Ali Baba and the Sacred Crown (1962) a.k.a. The Seven Tasks of Ali Baba, starring Richard Lloyd
  • Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens (1963) a.k.a. Sinbad Vs. The Seven Saracens, starring Gordon Mitchell
  • Alone Against Rome (1962) a.k.a. Vengeance of the Gladiators
  • Amazons of Rome (1961) a.k.a. Virgins of Rome, The
  • Anthar, The Invincible (1964) a.k.a. Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules, starring Kirk Morris, directed by Antonio Margheriti
  • Antigone (1961) a.k.a. Rites for the Dead, a Greek production
  • Atlas (1961) a.k.a. Atlas, the Winner of Athena, directed in Greece by Roger Corman
  • Attack of the Moors (1959) a.k.a. The Kings of France
  • Attack of the Normans (1962) a.k.a. The Normans, Cameron Mitchell
  • Attila (1954) directed by Pietro Francisci, Anthony Quinn, Sophia Loren
  • Avenger of the Seven Seas (1961) a.k.a. Executioner of the Seas, Richard Harrison
  • Avenger of Venice, The (1963) directed by Riccardo Freda, starring Brett Halsey
  • Bacchantes, The (1961)
  • Balboa, Conquistador of the Pacific (1964) Frank Latimore
  • Barabbas (1961) Dino deLaurentiis, Anthony Quinn, filmed in Italy
  • Battle of the Amazons (1973) a.k.a. Amazons: Women of Love and War, a.k.a. Beauty of the Barbarian (directed by Alfonso Brescia)
  • Behind the Mask of Zorro (1966) a.k.a. The Oath of Zorro, Tony Russel
  • Bible, The (1966) (a.k.a. La Bibbia), Dino de Laurentiis, Ennio Morricone music, filmed in Italy
  • Black Archer, The (1959)
  • Black Devil, The (1957) Gerard Landry
  • Black Duke, The (1963) Cameron Mitchell
  • Black Eagle, The (1948) aka Return of the Black Eagle, directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Black Lancers, The (1962) a.k.a. Charge of the Black Lancers, Mel Ferrer
  • Brennus, Enemy of Rome (1964) a.k.a. Battle of the Valiant, Gordon Mitchell
  • Burning of Rome, The (1963) a.k.a. The Magnificent Adventurer, Brett Halsey
  • Caesar Against the Pirates (1962) Gordon Mitchell
  • Caesar the Conqueror (1962) Cameron Mitchell, Rik Battaglia
  • Captain Falcon (1958) Lex Barker
  • Captain from Toledo, The (1966)
  • Captain of Iron, The (1961) a.k.a. Revenge of the Mercenaries, Barbara Steele
  • Captain Phantom (1953)
  • Captains of Adventure (1961) starring Paul Muller, Gerard Landry
  • Caribbean Hawk, The (1963) Yvonne Monlaur
  • Carthage in Flames (1960)
  • Castillian, The (1963) Cesare Romero
  • Catherine of Russia (1963) directed by Umberto Lenzi
  • Cavalier In the Devil’s Castle (1959)
  • Centurion, The (1962) a.k.a. The Conqueror of Corinth
  • Challenge of the Gladiator (1965) Peter Lupus
  • Cleopatra's Daughter (1960) a.k.a. The Tomb of the Kings, Debra Paget
  • Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960), Ed Fury and Rod Taylor
  • Colossus of Rhodes, The (1960) directed By Sergio Leone
  • Conqueror of Atlantis (1965) a.k.a. The Kingdom in the Sand, Kirk Morris (U.S. dubbed version calls the hero "Hercules")
  • Conqueror of Maracaibo, The (1961)
  • Conqueror of the Orient (1961) starring Rik Battaglia
  • Constantine and the Cross (1960) a.k.a. Constantine the Great, starring Cornel Wilde
  • Coriolanus: Hero without a Country (1963) Gordon Scott
  • Cossacks, The (1959) Edmund Purdom
  • Count of Monte Cristo, The (1962) Louis Jourdan
  • Damon and Pythias (1962) a.k.a. The Tyrant of Syracuse, Guy Williams
  • David and Goliath (1960) Orson Welles
  • Defeat of Hannibal, The (1937) a.k.a. Scipione l'Africano
  • Defeat of the Barbarians (1962) a.k.a. King Manfred
  • Desert Desperadoes (1956) Akim Tamiroff
  • Desert Warrior (1957) a.k.a. The Desert Lovers, Ricardo Montalban
  • Devil Made a Woman, The (1959) a.k.a. A Girl Against Napoleon
  • Devil's Cavaliers, The (1959)
  • Dragon's Blood, The (1959) based on the legend of Siegfried
  • Duel of Champions (1961) a.k.a. Horatio and Curiazi, Alan Ladd
  • Erik the Conqueror (1961) a.k.a. Gli Invasori/ The Invaders, directed by Mario Bava, starring Cameron Mitchell
  • Esther and the King (1961) Joan Collins, Richard Egan
  • Executioner of Venice, The (1963) Lex Barker, Guy Madison
  • Fabiola (1948) a.k.a. The Fighting Gladiator
  • Falcon of the Desert (1965) a.k.a. The Magnificent Challenge, starring Kirk Morris
  • Fall of Rome, The (1961) directed by Antonio Margheriti
  • Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) US production filmed in Spain, Sophia Loren
  • Fighting Musketeers, The (1961)
  • Fire Over Rome (1963)
  • Fury of Achilles, The (1962) Gordon Mitchell
  • Fury of the Pagans (1960) a.k.a. Fury of the Barbarians
  • Giant of Metropolis, The (1962) Gordon Mitchell (this peplum had a science fiction theme instead of fantasy)
  • Giant of the Evil Island (1965) a.k.a. Mystery of the Cursed Island, Peter Lupus
  • Giants of Rome (1963) directed by Antonio Margheriti, starring Richard Harrison
  • Giants of Thessaly (1960) directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Gladiator of Rome (1962) a.k.a. Battle of the Gladiators, Gordon Scott
  • Gladiators Seven (1962) a.k.a. The Seven Gladiators, Richard Harrison
  • Golden Arrow, The (1962) directed by Antonio Margheriti
  • Gold for the Caesars (1963) Jeffrey Hunter
  • Golgotha (1935) a.k.a. Behold The Man (made in France)
  • Guns of the Black Witch (1961) a.k.a. Terror of the Sea, Don Megowan
  • Hannibal (1959) Victor Mature
  • Hawk of the Caribbean (1963) a.k.a. The Caribbean Hawk
  • Head of a Tyrant, The (1959) a.k.a. Judith and Holophernes
  • Helen of Troy (1956) starring Jacques Sernas
  • Hero of Babylon (1963) a.k.a. The Beast of Babylon Vs. the Son of Hercules, Gordon Scott
  • Hero of Rome (1964) a.k.a. The Colossus of Rome, Gordon Scott
  • Herod, the Great (1958)
  • Huns, The (1960) a.k.a. Queen of the Tartars
  • Invasion 1700 (1962) a.k.a. With Iron and Fire, a.k.a. With Fire and Sword, a.k.a. Daggers of Blood
  • Invincible Gladiator, The (1961) Richard Harrison
  • Invincible Swordsman, The (1963)
  • Jacob, The Man Who Fought With God (1963)
  • Kindar, the Invulnerable (1965) Mark Forest
  • King of the Vikings (1964)
  • Knight of a Hundred Faces, The (1960) a.k.a. The Silver Knight, a.k.a. Knight of a Thousand Faces, The, starring Lex Barker
  • Knights of Terror (1963) a.k.a. Terror of the Red Capes, Tony Russel
  • Knight Without a Country (1959) a.k.a. The Faceless Rider
  • Knives of the Avenger (1967) a.k.a. Viking Massacre, directed by Mario Bava
  • Last Gladiator, The (1963) a.k.a. Messalina Against the Son of Hercules
  • Last of the Vikings (1961) starring Cameron Mitchell, Broderick Crawford
  • Legions of the Nile (1959) a.k.a. The Legions of Cleopatra
  • Lion of St. Mark, The (1964) Gordon Scott
  • Lion of Thebes, The (1964) a.k.a. Helen of Troy, Mark Forest
  • Loves of Salammbo, The (1960) a.k.a. Salambo
  • Magnificent Gladiator, The (1962) Mark Forest
  • Marco Polo (1961) Rory Calhoun
  • Marco the Magnificent (1965) Anthony Quinn, Orson Welles
  • Mars, God of War (1962) a.k.a. Venus Against the Son of Hercules
  • Masked Conqueror, The (1962)
  • Masked Man Against the Pirates, The (1965)
  • Mask of the Musketeers (1963) a.k.a. Zorro and the Three Musketeers, starring Gordon Scott
  • Massacre in the Black Forest (1967) Cameron Mitchell
  • Messalina (1960) Belinda Lee
  • Michael Strogoff (1956) a.k.a. Revolt of the Tartars
  • Mighty Crusaders, The (1957) a.k.a. Jerusalem Set Free, Gianna Maria Canale
  • Minotaur, The (1961) a.k.a. Theseus Against the Minotaur, a.k.a. The Warlord of Crete
  • Mongols, The (1961) directed by Riccardo Freda, starring Jack Palance
  • Musketeers of the Sea (1960)
  • My Son, The Hero (1961) a.k.a. Arrivano i Titani, a.k.a. The Titans
  • Mysterious Swordsman, The (1962) Gerard Landry
  • Nero and the Burning of Rome (1955) a.k.a. Nero and Messalina
  • Night of the Great Attack (1961) a.k.a. Revenge of the Borgias
  • Night They Killed Rasputin, The (1960) a.k.a. The Last Czar
  • Nights of Lucretia Borgia, The (1959)
  • Odyssey, The (1968) a.k.a. L'Odissea, Cyclops segment directed by Mario Bava; Samson Burke played the Cyclops
  • Old Testament, The (1962) Brad Harris
  • Perseus the Invincible (1962) a.k.a. Medusa Vs. the Son of Hercules
  • Pharaoh's Woman, The (1960)
  • Pia of Ptolomey (1962)
  • Pirate and the Slave Girl, The (1959) a.k.a. Scimitar of the Saracen, Lex Barker
  • Pirate of the Black Hawk, The (1958) Gerard Landry
  • Pirate of the Half Moon (1957)
  • Pirates of the Coast (1960) Lex Barker
  • Pontius Pilate (1962) Basil Rathbone
  • Prince With the Red Mask, The (1955) a.k.a. The Red Eagle
  • Prisoner of the Iron Mask, The (1961) a.k.a. The Revenge of the Iron Mask
  • Queen for Caesar, A (1962) Gordon Scott
  • Queen of Sheba (1953) directed by Pietro Francisci
  • Queen of the Amazons (1960) a.k.a. Colossus and the Amazon Queen
  • Queen of the Nile (1961) a.k.a. Nefertiti, Vincent Price
  • Queen of the Pirates (1961) a.k.a. The Venus of the Pirates, Gianna Maria Canale
  • Queen of the Seas (1961) directed by Umberto Lenzi
  • Quo Vadis (1950) filmed in Italy, Sergio Leone asst. dir.
  • Rage of the Buccaneers (1961) a.k.a. Gordon, The Black Pirate, starring Vincent Price
  • Rape of the Sabine Women, The (1961) a.k.a. Romulus and the Sabines, Roger Moore
  • Red Cloak, The (1955) Bruce Cabot
  • Red Sheik, The (1962)
  • Revak the Rebel (1960) a.k.a. The Barbarians, Jack Palance
  • Revenge of Black Eagle, The (1964) Gianna Maria Canale
  • Revenge of Ivanhoe, The (1965) Rik Battaglia
  • Revenge of Spartacus, The (1965) a.k.a. Revenge of the Gladiators, Roger Browne
  • Revenge of the Barbarians (1960)
  • Revenge of the Black Eagle (1951) directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Revenge of the Conquered (1961) a.k.a. Drakut the Avenger
  • Revenge of the Gladiators (1961) starring Mickey Hargitay
  • Revenge of the Musketeers (1963) a.k.a. Dartagnan vs the Three Musketeers, starring Fernando Lamas
  • Revolt of the Barbarians (1964) directed by Guido Malatesta
  • Revolt of the Mercenaries (1961)
  • Revolt of the Praetorians (1965) a.k.a. The Invincible Warriors, starring Richard Harrison
  • Revolt of the Seven (1964) a.k.a. The Spartan Gladiator, starring Helga Line
  • Revolt of the Slaves (1961) Rhonda Fleming
  • Robin Hood and the Pirates (1960) Lex Barker
  • Roland, the Mighty (1956) a.k.a. Orlando, directed by Pietro Francisci
  • Rome Against Rome (1963) a.k.a. War of the Zombies
  • Rome 1585 (1961) a.k.a. The Mercenaries, Debra Paget
  • Rover, The (1967) a.k.a The Adventurer, starring Anthony Quinn
  • Sack of Rome, The (1953) a.k.a. The Barbarians, a.k.a. The Pagans
  • Samson and Gideon (1965) Fernando Rey, Biblical film
  • Sandokan Fights Back (1964) a.k.a. Sandokan To the Rescue, a.k.a. The Revenge of Sandokan
  • Sandokan Vs The Leopard of Sarawak (1964) a.k.a. Throne of Vengeance
  • Saracens, The (1965) a.k.a. The Devil's Pirate, a.k.a. The Flag of Death, starring Richard Harrison
  • Saul and David (1964)
  • Scheherazade (1963) starring Anna Karina
  • Sea Pirate, The (1966) a.k.a. Thunder Over the Indian Ocean, a.k.a. Surcouf, Hero of the Seven Seas
  • Secret Mark of D'artagnan, The (1962)
  • Secret Seven, The (1965) a.k.a. The Invincible Seven
  • Seven From Thebes (1964)
  • Seven Rebel Gladiators (1965) a.k.a. Seven Against All, starring Roger Browne
  • Seven Revenges, The (1961) a.k.a. The Seven Challenges, a.k.a. Ivan the Conqueror, starring Ed Fury
  • Seven Seas to Calais (1961) a.k.a. Sir Francis Drake, King of the Seven Seas, Rod Taylor
  • Seven Slaves Against the World (1965) a.k.a. Seven Slaves Against Rome, starring Roger Browne and Gordon Mitchell
  • Seven Tasks of Ali Baba, The (1962) a.k.a. Ali Baba and the Sacred Crown
  • Seventh Sword, The (1960) Brett Halsey
  • 79 A.D., the Destruction of Herculaneum (1962) Brad Harris
  • Shadow of Zorro, The (1962)
  • Siege of Syracuse, The (1962) Tina Louise
  • The Sign of Rome (1959) a.k.a. Sign of the Gladiator, Anita Ekberg
  • Sinbad vs the Seven Saracens (1962) Gordon Mitchell
  • Simbad e il califfo di Bagdad (1973) directed by Pietro Francisci
  • Sins of Rome (1952) a.k.a. Spartacus, directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Slave Girls of Sheba (1963) starring Linda Cristal
  • Slave of Rome (1960) starring Guy Madison
  • Slave Queen of Babylon (1962) Yvonne Furneaux
  • Slaves of Carthage, The (1956) a.k.a. The Sword and the Cross, Gianna Maria Canale (not to be confused with Mary Magdalene)
  • Sodom and Gomorrah (1962) Rosanna Podesta, U.S./Italian film shot in Italy, co-directed by Sergio Leone
  • Son of Black Eagle (1968)
  • Son of Captain Blood (1962)
  • Son of Cleopatra, The (1965) Mark Damon
  • Son of El Cid, The (1965) a.k.a. 100 Horsemen, Mark Damon
  • Son of the Red Corsair (1959) a.k.a. Son of the Red Pirate, Lex Barker
  • Son of the Sheik (1961) a.k.a. Kerim, Son of the Sheik, starring Gordon Scott
  • Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (1964) a.k.a. Ten Invincible Gladiators, Dan Vadis
  • Spartan Gladiator, The (1965) Tony Russel
  • Story of Joseph and his Brethren, The (1960)
  • Suleiman the Conqueror (1961)
  • Sword and the Cross, The (1958) a.k.a. Mary Magdalene
  • Sword of Damascus, The (1964) a.k.a. The Thief of Damascus
  • Sword of El Cid, The (1962) a.k.a. The Daughters of El Cid
  • Sword of the Conqueror (1961) a.k.a. Rosamund and Alboino, Jack Palance
  • Sword of the Empire (1964)
  • The Sword of the Rebellion (1964) a.k.a. The Rebel of Castelmonte
  • Sword of Zorro, The (1963)
  • Swordsman of Siena, The (1961) a.k.a. The Mercenary
  • Sword Without A Country (1960) a.k.a. Sword Without a Flag
  • Taras Bulba, The Cossack (1963) a.k.a. Plains of Battle
  • Tartars, The (1961) Victore Mature
  • Taur, the Mighty (1963) a.k.a. Tor the Warrior, a.k.a. Taur, the King of Brute Force, starring Joe Robinson
  • Temple of the White Elephant (1965) a.k.a. Sandok, the Giant of the Jungle, a.k.a. Sandok, the Maciste of the Jungle (not a Maciste film however, in spite of the alternate title)
  • Ten Gladiators, The (1963) Dan Vadis
  • Terror of the Black Mask (1963) a.k.a. The Invincible Masked Rider
  • Terror of the Red Mask (1960) Lex Barker
  • Terror of the Steppes (1964) a.k.a. The Mighty Khan, Kirk Morris
  • Tharus, Son of Attila (1962) a.k.a. Colossus and the Huns, Ricardo Montalban
  • Theodora, Slave Empress (1954) directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Thor and the Amazon Women (1963) Joe Robinson
  • Three Hundred Spartans, The (1963) Richard Egan, U.S. film filmed in Greece using Italian screenwriters
  • Three Swords for Rome (1965) Roger Browne
  • Three Swords of Zorro, The (1963)
  • Tiger of the Seven Seas (1963)
  • Treasure of the Petrified Forest, The (1965) Gordon Mitchell
  • Triumph of Robin Hood (1962) starring Samson Burke
  • Triumph of the Ten Gladiators (1965) Dan Vadis
  • Two Gladiators, The (1964) a.k.a. Fight or Die, starring Richard Harrison
  • Tyrant of Castile, The (1964) Mark Damon
  • Ulysses (1954) Dino De Laurentiis, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn
  • Vulcan, Son of Jupiter (1960) Gordon Mitchell
  • War Goddess, The (1973) a.k.a. The Bare-Breasted Warriors a.k.a. Le guerriere dal seno nudo, directed by Terence Young
  • War Gods of Babylon (1962) a.k.a. The Seventh Thunderbolt, a.k.a. The Seven Glories of Assur
  • Warrior and the Slave Girl, The (1958) a.k.a. The Revolt of the Gladiators, Gianna Maria Canale
  • Warrior Empress, The (1960) a.k.a. Sappho, Venus of Lesbos, Kerwin Matthews, Tina Louise
  • Wonders of Aladdin, The (1961) Donald O'Connor
  • Zorikan the Barbarian (1964) Dan Vadis
  • Zorro in the Court of Spain (1962) a.k.a. The Masked Conqueror

Gladiator movies[edit]

Inspired by the success of Spartacus, there were a number of Italian peplums that heavily emphasized the gladiatorial arena in their plots, with it becoming almost a peplum sub-genre in itself; One group of supermen known as "The Ten Gladiators" appeared in a trilogy, all three films starring Dan Vadis in the lead role.

  • Alone Against Rome (1962) a.k.a. Vengeance of the Gladiators
  • Challenge of the Gladiator (1965) starring Peter Lupus (aka Rock Stevens)
  • Fabiola (1948) aka The Fighting Gladiator
  • Gladiator of Rome (1962) a.k.a. Battle of the Gladiators, starring Gordon Scott
  • Gladiators Seven (1962) a.k.a. The Seven Gladiators, starring Richard Harrison
  • Invincible Gladiator, The (1961) Richard Harrison
  • Last Gladiator, The (1963) a.k.a. Messalina Against the Son of Hercules
  • Maciste, Gladiator of Sparta (1964) a.k.a. Terror of Rome Against the Son of Hercules
  • Revenge of Spartacus, The (1965) a.k.a. Revenge of the Gladiators, starring Roger Browne
  • Revenge of the Gladiators (1961) starring Mickey Hargitay
  • Revolt of the Seven (1964) a.k.a. The Spartan Gladiator, starring Tony Russel & Helga Line
  • Revolt of the Slaves (1961) Rhonda Fleming
  • Seven Rebel Gladiators (1965) a.k.a. Seven Against All, starring Roger Browne
  • Seven Slaves Against the World (1965) a.k.a. Seven Slaves Against Rome, a.k.a. The Strongest Slaves in the World, starring Roger Browne & Gordon Mitchell
  • Sins of Rome (1952) a.k.a. Spartacus, directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Slave, The (1962) a.k.a. Son of Spartacus, Steve Reeves
  • Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (1964) a.k.a. Ten Invincible Gladiators, Dan Vadis
  • Spartan Gladiator, The (1965) Tony Russel
  • Ten Gladiators, The (1963) Dan Vadis
  • Triumph of the Ten Gladiators (1965) Dan Vadis
  • Two Gladiators, The (1964) a.k.a. Fight or Die, Richard Harrison
  • Ursus, the Rebel Gladiator (1963) a.k.a. Rebel Gladiators, Dan Vadis
  • Warrior and the Slave Girl, The (1958) a.k.a. The Revolt of the Gladiators, Gianna Maria Canale

Ancient Rome[edit]

Greek mythology[edit]

  • The Avenger (1962) a.k.a. Legend of Aeneas, Steve Reeves
  • Alexander The Great (1956) U.S. film with music score by Mario Nascimbene
  • Antigone (1961) a.k.a. Rites for the Dead, a Greek production
  • Bacchantes, The (1961)
  • Battle of the Amazons (1973) a.k.a. Amazons: Women of Love and War, a.k.a. Beauty of the Barbarian (directed by Alfonso Brescia)
  • The Colossus of Rhodes (1961) directed by Sergio Leone
  • Conqueror of Atlantis (1965) starring Kirk Morris
  • Damon and Pythias (1962) Guy Williams
  • Fury of Achilles (1962) Gordon Mitchell
  • Giant of Marathon (1959) (The Battle of Marathon) Steve Reeves
  • Giants of Thessaly (1960) directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Helen of Troy (1956) directed by Robert Wise
  • Hercules Challenges Samson (1963) a.k.a. Hercules, Samson and Ulysses
  • The Lion of Thebes (1964) a.k.a. Helen of Troy, Mark Forest
  • Mars, God of War (1962) a.k.a. Venus Against the Son of Hercules
  • The Minotaur (1961) a.k.a. Theseus Against the Minotaur, a.k.a. The Warlord of Crete
  • My Son, The Hero (1961) a.k.a. Arrivano i Titani, a.k.a. The Titans
  • The Odyssey (1968) Cyclops segment directed by Mario Bava; Samson Burke played Polyphemus the Cyclops
  • Perseus the Invincible (1962) a.k.a. Medusa Vs. the Son of Hercules
  • Queen of the Amazons (1960) a.k.a. Colossus and the Amazon Queen
  • Seven from Thebes (1964) André Lawrence
  • Siege of Syracuse, The (1962) Tina Louise
  • Treasure of the Petrified Forest, The (1965) Gordon Mitchell (plot involves Amazons)
  • Trojan Horse, The (1961) a.k.a. The Trojan War, Steve Reeves
  • Ulysses (1954) starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn
  • Vulcan, Son of Jupiter (1960) Gordon Mitchell
  • Warrior Empress, The (1960) a.k.a. Sappho, Venus of Lesbos, Kerwin Matthews, Tina Louise

Barbarian/ Viking films[edit]

  • Attack of the Normans (1962) a.k.a. The Normans, Cameron Mitchell
  • Attila (1954) directed by Pietro Francisci, Anthony Quinn, Sophia Loren
  • Cossacks, The (1959)
  • Defeat of the Barbarians (1962) a.k.a. King Manfred
  • Erik the Conqueror (1961) a.k.a. The Invaders, directed by Mario Bava, starring Cameron Mitchell
  • Fury of the Pagans (1960) a.k.a. Fury of the Barbarians
  • Goliath and the Barbarians (1959) a.k.a. Terror of the Barbarians, Steve Reeves
  • Huns, The (1960) a.k.a. Queen of the Tartars
  • Invasion 1700 (1962)(a.k.a. With Iron and Fire, a.k.a. With Fire and Sword, a.k.a. Daggers of Blood)
  • King of the Vikings (1964)
  • Knives of the Avenger (1966) Cameron Mitchell
  • Last of the Vikings (1961) starring Cameron Mitchell & Broderick Crawford
  • Marco Polo (1961) Rory Calhoun
  • Marco the Magnificent (1965) Anthony Quinn, Orson Welles
  • Michael Strogoff (1956) a.k.a. Revolt of the Tartars
  • Mongols, The (1961) directed by Riccardo Freda, starring Jack Palance
  • Revak the Rebel (1960) a.k.a. The Barbarians, Jack Palance
  • Revolt of the Barbarians(1964) directed by Guido Malatesta
  • Roland, the Mighty (1956) directed by Pietro Francisci
  • Saracens, The (1965) a.k.a. The Devil's Pirate, a.k.a. The Flag of Death
  • Seven Revenges, The (1961) a.k.a. The Seven Challenges, a.k.a. Ivan the Conqueror, starring Ed Fury
  • Suleiman the Conqueror (1961)
  • Sword of the Conqueror (1961) a.k.a. Rosamund and Alboino, Jack Palance
  • Sword of the Empire (1964)
  • Taras Bulba, The Cossack (1963) a.k.a. Plains of Battle
  • Tartars, The (1961) Victor Mature
  • Terror of the Steppes (1963) a.k.a. The Mighty Khan, stars Kirk Morris
  • Tharus, Son of Attila (1962) a.k.a. Colossus and the Huns, Ricardo Montalban
  • Zorikan the Barbarian (1964) Dan Vadis

Swashbucklers/ Pirates[edit]

  • Adventurer of Tortuga (1965) starring Guy Madison
  • Adventures of Mandrin, The (1960) a.k.a. Captain Adventure
  • Adventures of Scaramouche, The (1963) a.k.a. The Mask of Scaramouche, Gianna Maria Canale
  • Attack of the Moors (1959) a.k.a. The Kings of France
  • Avenger of the Seven Seas (1961) a.k.a. Executioner of the Seas, Richard Harrison
  • Avenger of Venice, The (1963) directed by Riccardo Freda, starring Brett Halsey
  • Balboa, Conquistador of the Pacific (1964)
  • Behind the Mask of Zorro (1966) a.k.a. The Oath of Zorro, Tony Russel
  • Black Archer, The (1959) Gerard Landry
  • Black Devil, The (1957) Gerard Landry
  • Black Duke, The (1963) Cameron Mitchell
  • Black Eagle, The (1948) aka Return of the Black Eagle, directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Black Lancers, The (1962) a.k.a. Charge of the Black Lancers, Mel Ferrer
  • Captain from Toledo, The (1966)
  • Captain of Iron, The (1962) a.k.a. Revenge of the Mercenaries, Barbara Steele
  • Captain Phantom (1953)
  • Captains of Adventure (1961) starring Paul Muller & Gerard Landry
  • Caribbean Hawk, The (1963) Yvonne Monlaur
  • Castillian, The (1963) Cesare Romero, U.S./Spanish co-production
  • Catherine of Russia (1962) directed by Umberto Lenzi
  • Cavalier In Devil’s Castle (1959) a.k.a. Cavalier of Devil's Island
  • Conqueror of Maracaibo, The (1961)
  • Count of Monte Cristo, The (1962) Louis Jourdan
  • Devil Made a Woman, The (1959) a.k.a. A Girl Against Napoleon
  • Devil's Cavaliers, The (1959) a.k.a. The Devil's Riders
  • El Cid (1961) Sophia Loren, Charlton Heston, U.S./ Italian film shot in Italy
  • Executioner of Venice, The (1963) Lex Barker, Guy Madison
  • Fighting Musketeers, The (1961)
  • Giant of the Evil Island (1965) a.k.a. Mystery of the Cursed Island, Peter Lupus
  • Goliath and the Masked Rider (1964) a.k.a. Hercules and the Masked Rider, Alan Steel
  • Guns of the Black Witch (1961) a.k.a. Terror of the Sea, Don Megowan
  • Hawk of the Caribbean (1963)
  • Invincible Swordsman, The (1963)
  • Knight of a Hundred Faces, The (1960) a.k.a. The Silver Knight, starring Lex Barker
  • Knights of Terror (1963) a.k.a. Terror of the Red Capes, Tony Russel
  • Knight Without a Country (1959) a.k.a. The Faceless Rider
  • Lion of St. Mark, The (1964) Gordon Scott
  • Masked Conqueror, The (1962)
  • Mask of the Musketeers (1963) a.k.a. Zorro and the Three Musketeers, starring Gordon Scott
  • Michael Strogoff (1956) a.k.a. Revolt of the Tartars
  • Morgan, the Pirate (1960) Steve Reeves
  • Musketeers of the Sea (1960)
  • Mysterious Swordsman, The (1962)
  • Night of the Great Attack (1961) a.k.a. Revenge of the Borgias
  • Night They Killed Rasputin, The (1960) a.k.a. The Last Czar
  • Nights of Lucretia Borgia, The (1959)
  • Pirate and the Slave Girl, The (1959) Lex Barker
  • Pirate of the Black Hawk, The (1958)
  • Pirate of the Half Moon (1957)
  • Pirates of the Coast (1960) Lex Barker
  • Prince With the Red Mask, The (1955) a.k.a. The Red Eagle
  • Prisoner of the Iron Mask, The (1961) a.k.a. The Revenge of the Iron Mask
  • Queen of the Pirates (1961) a.k.a. The Venus of the Pirates, Gianna Maria Canale
  • Queen of the Seas (1961) directed by Umberto Lenzi
  • Rage of the Buccaneers (1961) a.k.a. Gordon, The Black Pirate, starring Vincent Price
  • Red Cloak, The (1955) Bruce Cabot
  • Revenge of Ivanhoe, The (1965) Rik Battaglia
  • Revenge of the Black Eagle (1951) directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Revenge of the Musketeers (1963) a.k.a. Dartagnan vs the Three Musketeers, Fernando Lamas
  • Revenge of Spartacus, The (1965) Roger Browne
  • Revolt of the Mercenaries (1961)
  • Robin Hood and the Pirates (1960) Lex Barker
  • Roland, the Mighty (1956) directed by Pietro Francisci
  • Rome 1585 (1961) a.k.a. The Mercenaries, Debra Paget, set in the 1500s
  • Rover, The (1967) a.k.a The Adventurer, starring Anthony Quinn
  • The Sack of Rome (1953) a.k.a. The Barbarians, a.k.a. The Pagans (set in the 1500s)
  • Samson vs the Black Pirate (1963) a.k.a. Hercules and the Black Pirate, Alan Steel
  • Samson vs The Pirates (1963) a.k.a. Samson and the Sea Beast, Kirk Morris
  • Sandokan Fights Back (1964) a.k.a. Sandokan To the Rescue, a.k.a. The Revenge of Sandokan, Guy Madison
  • Sandokan the Great (1964) a.k.a. Sandokan, the Tiger of Mompracem, Steve Reeves
  • Sandokan, the Pirate of Malaysia (1964) a.k.a. Pirates of Malaysia, a.k.a. Pirates of the Seven Seas, Steve Reeves, directed by Umberto Lenzi
  • Sandokan Vs The Leopard of Sarawak (1964) a.k.a. Throne of Vengeance, Guy Madison
  • Saracens, The (1965) a.k.a. The Devil's Pirate, a.k.a. The Flag of Death, starring Richard Harrison
  • Sea Pirate, The (1966) a.k.a. Thunder Over the Indian Ocean, a.k.a. Surcouf, Hero of the Seven Seas
  • Secret Mark of D'artagnan, The (1962)
  • Seven Seas to Calais (1961) a.k.a. Sir Francis Drake, King of the Seven Seas, Rod Taylor
  • Seventh Sword, The (1960) Brett Halsey
  • Shadow of Zorro, The (1962)
  • Son of Black Eagle (1968)
  • Son of Captain Blood (1962)
  • Son of El Cid, The (1965) Mark Damon
  • Son of the Red Corsair (1959) a.k.a. Son of the Red Pirate, Lex Barker
  • Sword of Rebellion, The (1964) a.k.a. The Rebel of Castelmonte
  • Sword of Zorro, The (1963)
  • Swordsman of Siena, The (1961) a.k.a. The Mercenary
  • Sword Without A Country (1960) a.k.a. Sword Without a Flag
  • Terror of the Black Mask (1963) a.k.a. The Invincible Masked Rider
  • Terror of the Red Mask (1960) Lex Barker
  • Three Swords of Zorro, The (1963)
  • Tiger of the Seven Seas (1963)
  • Triumph of Robin Hood (1962) starring Samson Burke
  • Tyrant of Castile, The (1964) Mark Damon
  • The White Warrior (1959) a.k.a. Hadji Murad, the White Devil, Steve Reeves
  • Zorro in the Court of Spain (1962) a.k.a. The Masked Conqueror

Biblical[edit]

  • Agony and the Ecstasy, The (1965) Charlton Heston, Dino de Laurentiis, U.S./ Italian film shot in Italy
  • Barabbas (1961) Dino deLaurentiis, Anthony Quinn, filmed in Italy
  • Bible, The (1966) (a.k.a. La Bibbia, Dino de Laurentiis, John Huston, filmed in Italy
  • David and Goliath (1960) Orson Welles
  • Desert Desperadoes (1956) plot involves King Herod
  • Esther and the King (1961) Joan Collins, Richard Egan
  • Head of a Tyrant, The (1959)
  • Herod the Great (1958) Edmund Purdom
  • Jacob, the Man Who Fought with God (1964) Giorgio Cerioni
  • Mighty Crusaders, The (1957) a.k.a. Jerusalem Set Free, Gianna Maria Canale
  • Old Testament, The'' (1962) Brad Harris
  • Pontius Pilate (1962) Jean Marais
  • Queen of Sheba (1952) Leonora Ruffo
  • Samson and Gideon (1965) Fernando Rey
  • Saul and David (1963) Gianni Garko
  • Sodom and Gomorrah (1962) Rosanna Podesta, U.S./ Italian film shot in Italy
  • Story of Joseph and his Brethren, The (1960)
  • Sword and the Cross, The (1958) a.k.a. Mary Magdalene, Gianna Maria Canale

Ancient Egyptian[edit]

With the interest in the Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra film shot in Rome, several Italian films sought to ride its wave of publicity. 20th Century Fox bought the rights for two of them to keep them out of release.

Babylon/ Middle East[edit]

  • Anthar, The Invincible (1964) a.k.a. Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules, starring Kirk Morris, directed by Antonio Margheriti
  • Desert Warrior (1957) a.k.a. The Desert Lovers, Ricardo Montalban
  • Falcon of the Desert (1965) a.k.a. The Magnificent Challenge, starring Kirk Morris
  • Golden Arrow, The (1962) directed by Antonio Margheriti
  • Goliath at the Conquest of Baghdad (1964) a.k.a. Goliath at the Conquest of Damascus, Peter Lupus
  • Goliath and the Rebel Slave (1963) a.k.a. The Tyrant of Lydia Vs. The Son of Hercules, Gordon Scott
  • Goliath and the Sins of Babylon (1963) a.k.a. Maciste, the World's Greatest Hero, Mark Forest
  • Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon (1964)
  • Hero of Babylon (1963) a.k.a. The Beast of Babylon Vs. the Son of Hercules, Gordon Scott
  • Kindar, the Invulnerable (1965) Mark Forest
  • Queen of Sheba (1953) directed by Pietro Francisci
  • Red Sheik, The (1962)
  • Scheherazade (1963) starring Anna Karina
  • Seven Tasks of Ali Baba, The (1962) a.k.a. Ali Baba and the Sacred Crown, starring Richard Lloyd
  • Sinbad vs the Seven Saracens (1962) a.k.a. Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens, starring Gordon Mitchell
  • Slave Girls of Sheba (1963) starring Linda Cristal
  • Slave Queen of Babylon (1962) Yvonne Furneaux
  • Son of the Sheik (1961) a.k.a. Kerim, Son of the Sheik, starring Gordon Scott
  • Sword of Damascus, The (1964) a.k.a. The Thief of Damascus
  • Thief of Baghdad, The (1961) Steve Reeves
  • War Gods of Babylon (1962) aka The Seventh Thunderbolt
  • Wonders of Aladdin, The (1961) Donald O'Connor

Peplum films from the 1980s[edit]

After the peplum gave way to the Spaghetti Western and Eurospy films in 1965, the genre lay dormant for close to 20 years. Then in 1982, the box-office success of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan the Barbarian spurred a second renaissance of sword and sorcery Italian pepla in the five years immediately following. Most of these films had low budgets, focusing more on barbarians and pirates so as to avoid the need for expensive sets. The filmmakers tried to compensate for their shortcomings with the addition of some graphic gore and nudity. Many of these 1980s entries were helmed by noted Italian horror film directors, and many featured Lou Ferrigno or Sabrina Siani. Here is a list of the 1980s pepla:

  • The Arena (1974) aka Naked Warriors, co-directed by Joe D'Amato, starring Pam Grier, Paul Muller and Rosalba Neri
  • Ator, the Fighting Eagle (1983) a.k.a. Ator the Invincible, starring Miles O'Keefe & Sabrina Siani, directed by Joe D’Amato
  • Ator 2: The Blademaster (1985) a.k.a. Blademaster, starring Miles O’Keefe, directed by Joe D’Amato
  • Ator 3: Iron Warrior (1986) a.k.a. Iron Warrior, starring Miles O'Keefe, directed by Alfonso Brescia (Joe D'Amato disowned this entry in the Ator saga since it was done without his involvement)
  • Ator 4: Quest for the Mighty Sword (1989) a.k.a. The Quest for the Mighty Sword, starring Eric Allan Kramer (as the Son of Ator), Laura Gemser & Marisa Mell, directed by Joe D'Amato
  • Barbarian Master (1984) a.k.a. Sangraal, the Sword of Fire, a.k.a. Sword of the Barbarians, starring Sabrina Siani
  • The Barbarians (film) (1987) a.k.a. The Barbarians, semi-comedy starring Peter and David Paul, directed by Ruggero Deodato
  • Conqueror of the World (1983) a.k.a. I padroni del mondo / Fathers of the World, a.k.a. Master of the World (a barbarian movie set in prehistoric times)
  • Conquest (1983) a.k.a. Conquest of the Lost Land, starring Sabrina Siani, directed by Lucio Fulci
  • Diary of a Roman Virgin (1974) aka Livia, una vergine per l'impero romano, directed by Joe D'Amato (uses stock footage from Last Days of Pompeii (1959) & The Arena (1974))
  • Hercules (1983) starring Lou Ferrigno and Sybil Danning, directed by Luigi Cozzi
  • Hercules 2 (1984) a.k.a. The Adventures of Hercules, starring Lou Ferrigno, directed by Luigi Cozzi
  • The Invincible Barbarian (1982) aka Gunan, the Warrior, starring Sabrina Siani, directed by Franco Prosperi
  • Ironmaster (1983) a.k.a. The War of Iron, co-starring Luigi Montefiore, directed by Umberto Lenzi
  • Pugni, Pirati e Karatè (1973) aka Fists, Pirates and Karate, directed by Joe D'Amato, starring Richard Harrison (a spoof on pirate movies)
  • The Seven Magnificent Gladiators] (1985) starring Lou Ferrigno and Dan Vadis
  • She (1982) starring Sandahl Bergman and Gordon Mitchell
  • Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1988) starring Lou Ferrigno, directed by Luigi Cozzi
  • Thor, the Conqueror (1983) directed by Tonino Ricci
  • Throne of Fire (1983) starring Sabrina Siani, directed by Franco Prosperi
  • Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983) starring Reb Brown, directed by Antonio Margheriti, (this barbarian film has some sci-fi elements in the story)

American films shot in Greece[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ p.14 M. Winkler, Martin Troy: from Homer's Iliad to Hollywood Epic Wiley-Blackwell, 2007
  2. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. "Ben-Hur to Ride for Metro Again." New York Times. December 8, 1952.
  3. ^ An Interview with Steve Reeves from The Perfect Vision Magazine Volume 6 Issue #22 July 1994
  4. ^ p.73 Frayling, Christopher Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone I.B.Tauris, 2006
  5. ^ Labbe, Rod Steve Reeves: Demi-God on Horseback Films of the Golden Age

Bibliography[edit]

  • Richard Dyer: "The White Man's Muscles" in R. Dyer: White: London: Routledge: 1997: ISBN 0-415-09537-9
  • David Chapman: Retro Studs: Muscle Movie Posters from Around the World: Portland: Collectors Press: 2002: ISBN 1-888054-69-7
  • Hervé Dumont, L'Antiquité au cinéma. Vérités, légendes et manipulations (Nouveau-Monde, 2009; ISBN 2-84736-434-X)
  • Florent Fourcart, Le Péplum italien (1946–1966) : Grandeur et décadence d'une antiquité populaire (2012, CinExploitation; ISBN 291551786X)
  • Maggie Gunsberg: "Heroic Bodies: The Culture of Masculinity in Peplums" in M. Gunsberg: Italian Cinema: Gender and Genre: Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan: 2005: ISBN 0-333-75115-9
  • Patrick Lucanio, With Fire and Sword: Italian Spectacles on American Screens, 1958–1968 (Scarecrow Press, 1994; ISBN 0810828162)
  • Irmbert Schenk: "The Cinematic Support to Nationalist(ic) Mythology: The Italian Peplum 1910–1930" in Natascha Gentz and Stefan Kramer (eds) Globalization, Cultural Identities and Media Representations: Albany: State University of New York Press: 2006: ISBN 0-7914-6684-1
  • Stephen Flacassier: "Muscles, Myths and Movies": Rabbit's Garage: 1994 : ISBN 0-9641643-0-2

External links[edit]

Films[edit]

Images and discussion[edit]