AskDefine | Define peplum

Dictionary Definition

peplum

Noun

1 a flared ruffle attached to the waistline of a dress or jacket or blouse
2 a garment worn by women in ancient Greece; cloth caught at the shoulders and draped in folds to the waist [syn: peplos, peplus] [also: pepla (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. A peplos, an Ancient Greek garment formed of a tubular piece of cloth, which is folded back upon itself halfway down, until the top of the tube is worn around the waist, and the bottom covers the legs down to the ankles; the open top is then worn over the shoulders, and draped, in folds, down to the waist; compare the Roman palla.
  2. A veil.

Quotations

  • 1837: Ralph Cudworth, D. D., The True Intellectual System of the Universe (First American Edition, with references and an ccount of the author by Thomas Birch, M. A. F. R. S.)
    ''And this was Neith, or Athena, that God thus described, "I am all that was, is, and shall be, and my peplum or veil, no mortal could ever uncover." [...] Peplum is properly a womanish pall or veil, embroidered all over and consecrated to Minerva.
  • 1838: The North American Review, volume XLVII
    The outer garment was called the peplum, and was used more for occasions of ceremony than for ordinary convenience, as it was very long and ample, and, from the manner of putting it on, must have been inconvenient to the wearer. It was sometimes wound double round the body, ...
  • 1904: G. Woolliscroft Rhead, The Treatment of Drapery in Art
    Over this they adopted the Greek peplum, under the name of palla. This garment, however, was exclusively confined to the gentler sex, and was never worn, as was the peplum among the Greeks, by men.''

Extensive Definition

Sword and sandal films are a genre of adventure or fantasy films that have subjects set in Biblical or classical antiquity, often with contrived plots based very loosely on mythology or history. Most movies based on Greco-Roman history and mythology, or the surrounding cultures of the same era (Egyptians, Assyrians, Etruscans, Minoans), etc. are sword and sandal epic films. The greatest productions of this film genre were made between 1958 and 1964, but pepla have experienced a recent renaissance. Broadly considered, this category could encompass such diverse Period films as Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, Titus, Gladiator, King Arthur or The Ten Commandments. In this sense, it is one of the oldest movie genres; the original Ben-Hur was made by Sidney Olcott in 1907; the 1914 silent film Cabiria was important in the development of the art of cinematography, and was one of the first sword-and-sandal films to make use of a massively muscled actor, Bartolomeo Pagano.
More specifically, however, the sword and sandal film genre usually refers to a low-budget Italian movie on a gladiatorial, Biblical or mythological subject, often with a professional bodybuilder in the principal role; the genre occupied much of the popular segment of Italy's movie industry from 1960-1964, before the creation of the spaghetti western. Several famous Italian directors such as Mario Bava and Sergio Leone got their start in the genre as well.

Typical subjects

Gladiators were perennial favorite subjects, as were the adventures of Hercules, Goliath, Samson, Ursus, Jason and the Argonauts, or Italy's legendary strongman Maciste. The fad began with the 1958 release of Hercules, starring American bodybuilder Steve Reeves. This spawned the 1959 sequel Hercules Unchained, and literally dozens of low-budget imitations starring other 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, and Italian bodybuilders would adopt English pseudonyms for the screen (Sergio Ciani became Alan Steel, for example).
In the formulaic plots common to many of the films, two women vied for the affection of the hero: the good love interest, a damsel in distress needing rescue, and an evil queen or other ruler who served as a femme fatale. Most films also contain a standard scene involving belly dancing or some similar ballet, meant to depict an orgy and 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 legendary 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 very general audiences, and had production values that were typical for popular films of the day. Several have been subjects of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. Although many of the bigger budget pepla were released theatrically in the USA, fourteen of them were released directly to American television in a syndicated TV package called The Sons of Hercules, the films receiving newly-designed prologue narrations that desperately attempted to link whoever the hero of the film was to the Hercules mythos; these films ran on Saturday afternoons in the 1960s.

Hercules Series (1957-1965)

A series of 19 Italian Hercules movies were made in the late 50's/ early 60's. The actors who played Hercules in these films were Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Kirk Morris, Mickey Hargitay, Mark Forest, Alan Steel, Dan Vadis, Brad Harris, Reg Park, Peter Lupus (billed as Rock Stevens) and Michael Lane. The films are listed below by their American release titles, and the titles in parentheses are the original Italian titles with English translation. The date shown for each film is the actual date that the film was produced in Italy, not the date it was distributed in the USA and other foreign countries. The information in the filmographies on this page were taken from impeccable Italian film industry reference sources which are much more accurate than the information found on imdb.com and other such websites. (Filmography info on this page supplied by Frank Verzyl)
  • 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
  • Hercules Vs The Hydra (Gli Amori di Ercole/ The Loves of Hercules, 1960) starring Mickey Hargitay
  • 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) U.K title: "Hercules Conquers Atlantis."
  • Hercules in the Haunted World (Ercole al centro della terra/Hercules at the Center of the Earth, 1961) starring Reg Park, directed by Mario Bava
  • Hercules in the Vale of Woe (Maciste contro Ercole nella valle dei guai/Maciste Vs. Hercules in the Vale of Woe, 1961) starring Kirk Morris as Hercules
  • Ulysses Vs. The Son of Hercules (Ulisse contro Ercole/Ulysses Vs. Hercules, 1962) starring Michael Lane as Hercules
  • The Fury of Hercules (La Furia di Ercole/The Fury of Hercules, 1962) starring Brad Harris (alternate U.S. title: The Fury of Samson)
  • Hercules, Samson and Ulysses (Ercole sfida Sansone/Hercules Challenges Samson, 1963) starring Kirk Morris as Hercules
  • Hercules Vs. the Moloch (Ercole contro Molock/Hercules Vs. Moloch, 1963) starring Gordon Scott (alternate U.S. title: The Conquest of Mycene)
  • Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (Ercole l'invincibile/Hercules, the Invincible, 1964) starring Dan Vadis
  • Hercules Vs. The Giant Warrior (il Trionfo di Ercole/The Triumph of Hercules, 1964) starring Dan Vadis (alternate U.S. title: Hercules and the Ten Avengers)
  • Hercules Against Rome (Ercole contro Roma/Hercules Against Rome, 1964) starring Alan Steel
  • Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun (Ercole contro i figli del sole/ Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun, 1964) starring Mark Forest
  • Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon (Ercole contro i tiranni di Babilonia/Hercules Against the Tyrants of Babylon, 1964) starring Rock Stevens
  • Samson and the Mighty Challenge (Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus: gli invincibili/ Hercules, Samson, Maciste and Ursus: the Invincibles, 1964) starring Kirk Morris as Hercules
  • Hercules and the Princess of Troy (No Italian title, 1965) starring Gordon Scott (alternate U.S. title: Hercules vs. the Sea Monster) This 48-minute Italian/ U.S. co-production was made as a pilot for a Charles Band-produced TV series that never materialized.
  • Hercules, the Avenger (Sfida dei giganti/Challenge of the Giants, 1965) starring Reg Park (This film was comprised mostly of stock footage from 2 earlier Reg Park Hercules films, apparently made to be released directly to U.S. television)
The Three Stooges made an American comedy in 1962 called The Three Stooges Meet Hercules with Canadian muscleman Samson Burke playing Hercules.
Note* - 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, Prisoner of Evil was actually a retitled Ursus film.
  • Hercules and the Black Pirate and Hercules and the Treasure of the Incas were both retitled Samson movies.
  • Hercules and the Masked Rider was actually a retitled Goliath movie.
  • Hercules Against the Moon Men, Hercules Against the Barbarians, Hercules Against the Mongols and Hercules of the Desert were all actually retitled Maciste films.
None of these films in their original Italian versions involved Hercules in any way. Likewise, most of the Sons of Hercules movies shown on American TV in the 1960s were not about Hercules in their original Italian incarnations.

Maciste Series (1960-1965)

There were a total of 25 Maciste films from the 1960s sword-and-sandal revival (not taking into account the two dozen silent Maciste films made in Italy pre-1930). 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 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) 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)
  • 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, 1962) starring Samson Burke; this was a comedy/satire (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 el sheik/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 (Samson vs the Giant King, 1964) starring Kirk Morris (aka "Atlas Against The Czar")
  • 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 (released 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 the Mighty Challenge, 1965) starring Renato Rossini as Maciste (aka Combate dei Gigantes or Le Grand Defi)
  • Gli invicibili fratelli Maciste/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''. This movie is very scarce since it was never distributed in the USA and is not available in English.)
Sidenote - In 1973, the bizarre Spanish cult film director Jesus Franco knocked off two low-budget Maciste films which were an odd mix of fantasy, adventure, and eroticism. The films were called The Erotic Exploits of Maciste in Atlantis and Maciste vs. The Amazon Queen (both starring Val Davis as Maciste). The films had almost identical casts, and appear to have been shot and edited simultaneously. These two (apparently lost) films were not connected in any way with the 1960s Italian Maciste series.

Ursus Series (1961-1964)

Ursus was a super-human Roman era character who was used as the hero in a series of Italian adventure films made in the 1960s. Ursus was referred to as a "Son of Hercules" in several of the films when they were dubbed in English (in an attempt to cash in on the then-popular Italian Hercules film series), although in the original Italian films, Ursus had no connection to Hercules whatsoever. In the English-dubbed version of one film (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 (USA title);
  • Ursus/ Ursus (Mighty Ursus, 1961) starring Ed Fury (aka "Ursus, Son of Hercules")
  • 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) starring Joe Robinson (aka "The Tartar Invasion")
  • 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 the Mighty Challenge, 1964) starring Yan Larvor as Ursus (aka "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)

The Samson character was featured in a series of 5 sword-and-sandal adventure films made in Italy in the 1960s, as follows: (The Italian title & its translation is followed by the 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 as Samson
  • 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 (aka "Combate dei Gigantes")
The name Samson was later inserted into the titles of 6 other Italian sword-and-sandal movies when they were dubbed in English for distribution in the USA, 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 didn't 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) is listed in some reference books as a peplum, but the film was apparently set in South America during the time period of the Wild West, and the film doesn't appear to be a peplum.

Goliath Series (1960-1964)

The Italians used Goliath as an action superhero in a series of Biblical adventure films in the early 1960s. He was possessed of amazing strength, and the films were similar in theme to their Hercules and Maciste movies. After the classic Hercules (1958) 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, (after Joseph E. Levine claimed the sole right to the name of Hercules); the film was so successful at the box office, it inspired Italian filmmakers to do a series of 4 more films featuring a beefcake hero named Goliath, although the films were not really related to each other. (The 1960 Italian film David and Goliath starring Orson Welles was not one of these, since that movie was a straightforward adaptation of the Biblical story).
The titles in the Italian Goliath series were as follows:
  • Terror dei Barbari/Terror of the Barbarians (1959) (U.S. Title: "Goliath and the Barbarians") starring Steve Reeves
  • Golia contro i giganti/Goliath Against the Giants (1960) (U.S. Title: "Goliath Against the Giants") starring Brad Harris
  • Golia e la schiava ribelle/Goliath and the Rebel Slave (1963) (U.S. Title: The Tyrant of Lydia vs. The Son of Hercules) starring Gordon Scott
  • Golia e il cavaliere mascherato/Goliath and the Masked Rider (1964) (U.S.Title: Hercules and the Masked Rider) starring Alan Steel
  • Golia alla conquista di Bagdad/Goliath at the Conquest of Baghdad (1964) (U.S. Title: Goliath at the Conquest of Damascus) starring Peter Lupus
The name Goliath was later inserted into the film titles of 3 other Italian muscleman movies that were retitled for distribution in the USA 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 superhero Maciste in the original Italian versions, but American distributors didn't feel the name Maciste had any meaning to American audiences. Goliath and the Dragon (1960) was originally an Italian Hercules movie called The Revenge of Hercules, and it is a mystery to this day why U.S. distributors didn't market the film under that title, since the Hercules films always tended to do much better at the box office than Goliath movies.

The Sons of Hercules (TV Syndication Package)

The Sons of Hercules was a syndicated repackaging of several pepla for American television, originally released in the 1960s. It contained 14 randomly-chosen Italian sword-and-sandal films, 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. 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:
  • Mole Men vs the Son of Hercules (Maciste, The Strongest Man in the World) starring Mark Forest
  • The Terror of Rome vs the Son of Hercules (Maciste, Gladiator of Sparta) starring Mark Forest
  • Fire Monsters Against The Son Of Hercules (Maciste Vs. The Monsters) starring Reg Lewis
  • Triumph Of The Son Of Hercules (The Triumph Of Maciste) starring Kirk Morris
  • Son Of Hercules In The Land Of Darkness (Hercules The Invincible) starring Dan Vadis
  • Ulysses vs The Son Of Hercules (Ulysses Against Hercules) starring Mike Lane
  • Son Of Hercules In The Land Of Fire (Ursus In The Land Of Fire) starring Ed Fury
  • Ursus, Son Of Hercules (Ursus) starring Ed Fury (this film was a.k.a. Mighty Ursus)
  • The Tyrant Of Lydia vs The Son Of Hercules (Goliath and the Rebel Slave) starring Gordon Scott
  • Messalina Against the Son Of Hercules (The Last Gladiator) starring Richard Harrison
  • The Devil Of The Desert vs The Son Of Hercules (Anthar The Invincible) starring Kirk Morris
  • Medusa vs The Son Of Hercules(Perseus The Invincible) starring Richard Harrison
  • The Beast Of Babylon vs The Son Of Hercules (The Hero Of Babylon) starring Gordon Scott
  • Venus Against The Son Of Hercules (Mars, God Of War) starring Roger Browne

Gladiator Movies, 1948-1965

There were a number of Italian pepla 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.
  • Fabiola (1948) aka The Fighting Gladiator
  • Sins of Rome (1952) directed by Riccardo Freda (this film was aka "Spartacus", not to be confused with the American film of the same title)
  • The Invincible Gladiator (1961) Richard Harrison
  • Gladiators Seven (1962) aka The Seven Gladiators, starring Richard Harrison
  • Gladiator of Rome (1962) aka Battle of the Gladiators, starring Gordon Scott
  • The Last Gladiator (1963) aka Messalina Against the Son of Hercules
  • The Ten Gladiators (1963) starring Dan Vadis
  • Ursus, the Rebel Gladiator (1963) aka Rebel Gladiators, starring Dan Vadis
  • Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (1964) aka Ten Invincible Gladiators, starring Dan Vadis
  • Maciste, Gladiator of Sparta (1964) aka Terror of Rome vs. the Son of Hercules
  • Triumph of the Ten Gladiators (1965) starring Dan Vadis
  • Challenge of the Gladiator (1965) starring Peter Lupus
  • The Revenge of Spartacus (1965) starring Roger Browne
  • Seven Slaves Against the World (1965) aka Seven Slaves Against Rome, starring Roger Browne

Steve Reeves Pepla (in chronological order of production)

Steve Reeves appeared in 14 pepla made in Italy from 1957 to 1964, and most of his films are highly regarded examples of the sword and sandal genre. The films are listed by their American release titles, followed by the translation of the original Italian title in parentheses:
  • Hercules (1957) (The Labors of Hercules)
  • Hercules Unchained (1959) (Hercules and the Queen of Lydia)
  • The Giant of Marathon (1959) (The Battle of Marathon)
  • Goliath and the Barbarians (1959) (Terror of the Barbarians)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii (1959) (The Last Days of Pompeii)
  • The White Warrior (1959) (Hadji Murad, The White Devil) directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Morgan, the Pirate (1960) (Morgan, the Pirate)
  • The Thief of Baghdad (1961) (The Thief of Baghdad)
  • The Trojan Horse (1961) (The Trojan War)
  • Duel of the Titans (1961) (Romulus And Remus)
  • The Slave (1962) (Son of Spartacus)
  • The Avenger (1962) (The Legend Of Aeneas) *Note - this film was also known as The Last Glory of Troy
  • Sandokan the Great (1964) (Sandokan, the Tiger of Mompracem) directed by Umberto Lenzi
  • The Pirates of Malaysia (1964) (The Pirates of Malaysia) directed by Umberto Lenzi (*Note - this film was also known as Pirates of the Seven Seas)

Other Classic Sword-and-Sandal Films (1960's)

There were many 1960's Italian sword-and-sandal films that did not feature a major superhero (such as Hercules, Maciste or Samson), and as such fall into a sort of miscellaneous category. (They do however feature well-known characters such as Ali Baba, Julius Caesar, Ulysses, Cleopatra, The Three Musketeers, Theseus, Perseus, Achilles, Robin Hood, Sandokan, El Cid, etc.) Ulysses (1954) is the film most peplum fans consider started the peplum trend, but it was "Hercules" (1957) that fueled the genre's instantaneous growth.
Here is a list of the best-known titles:
  • 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
  • Attack of the Moors (1959)
  • Attack of the Normans (1962) a.k.a. The Normans, starring Cameron Mitchell
  • Avenger of the Seven Seas (1961) starring Richard Harrison
  • The Barbarians (1953) a.k.a. The Sack of Rome, a.k.a. The Pagans
  • The Black Archer (1959)
  • The Black Devil (1957), starring Gerard Landry
  • The Black Lancers (1962), starring Mel Ferrer
  • Brennus, Enemy of Rome (1964) a.k.a. Battle of the Valiant, starring Gordon Mitchell
  • The Burning of Rome (1963) a.k.a. The Magnificent Adventurer
  • Caesar, the Conquerer (1963), starring Cameron Mitchell, Rik Battaglia
  • Captain Falcon (1958), starring Lex Barker
  • Cartagine in fiamme (1959), starring José Suárez
  • Cavalier In the Devil’s Castle (1959)
  • The Centurion (1962) a.k.a. The Conqueror of Corinth
  • Cleopatra's Daughter (1960), starring Debra Paget
  • The Colossus of Rhodes (1960), directed by Sergio Leone
  • Conqueror of Atlantis (1965), starring Kirk Morris
  • 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), starring Gordon Scott
  • David and Goliath (1960), starring Orson Welles
  • Defeat of the Barbarians (1962) aka "King Manfred"
  • Desert Warrior (1957) a.k.a. The Desert Lovers, starring Ricardo Montalbán
  • The Devil's Cavaliers (1959)
  • Duel of the Champions (1961) a.k.a. Horatio and Curiazi, starring Alan Ladd
  • Esther and the King (1961), starring Joan Collins, Richard Egan
  • The Executioner of Venice (1963), starring Lex Barker
  • Fabiola (1948) a.k.a. The Fighting Gladiator
  • The Fighting Musketeers (1961)
  • The Fury of Achilles (1962), starring Gordon Mitchell (U.K. title: "Achilles").
  • The Giant of Metropolis (1962), starring Gordon Mitchell (this unusual peplum had a science fiction theme instead of fantasy)
  • Giant of the Evil Island (1965) a.k.a. Mystery of the Cursed Island, starring Peter Lupus
  • Giants of Rome (1963), directed by Antonio Margheriti, starring Richard Harrison
  • The Giants of Thessaly (1960), directed by Riccardo Freda
  • The Golden Arrow (1962) directed by Antonio Margheriti
  • The Head of a Tyrant (1959)
  • Hero of Babylon (1963) a.k.a. The Beast of Babylon Vs. the Son of Hercules, starring Gordon Scott
  • Hero of Rome (1964) a.k.a. The Colossus of Rome, starring Gordon Scott
  • Herod, the Great (1958)
  • Gli Invasori (The Invaders) (1961) a.k.a. Erik the Conquerer, directed by Mario Bava, starring Cameron Mitchell
  • Kindar, the Invulnerable (1965), starring Mark Forest
  • The Knight of a Hundred Faces (1960), starring Lex Barker
  • Knives of the Avenger (1967) a.k.a. Viking Massacre, directed by Mario Bava
  • Last of the Vikings (Ultimo dei Vikinghi, L') (1961), starring Cameron Mitchell & Broderick Crawford
  • The Lion of St. Mark (1964), starring Gordon Scott
  • The Lion of Thebes (1964) a.k.a. Helen of Troy, starring Mark Forest
  • The Loves of Salammbo (1959)
  • Mars, God of War (1962) a.k.a. Venus Against the Son of Hercules
  • The Masked Man Against the Pirates (1965)
  • The Minotaur (1961) a.k.a. Theseus Against the Minotaur, starring Bob Mathias
  • The Mongols (1961), directed by Riccardo Freda, starring Jack Palance
  • The Mysterious Rider (1948), directed by Riccardo Freda
  • The Mysterious Swordsman (1956)
  • Perseus the Invincible (1962) a.k.a. Medusa Vs. the Son of Hercules, starring Richard Harrison
  • The Pirate and the Slave Girl (1959), starring Lex Barker
  • The Pirate of the Black Hawk (1958), starring Gerard Landry.
  • Pirates of the Coast (1960), starring Lex Barker
  • A Queen For Caesar (1962)
  • The Queen of Sheba (1953), directed by Pietro Francisci (who later directed Hercules)
  • Queen of the Amazons (1960) a.k.a. Colossus and the Amazon Queen, starring Ed Fury & Rod Taylor
  • Queen of the Nile (1961) a.k.a. Nefertiti, starring Vincent Price
  • Revenge of the Barbarians (1960) starring Daniella Rocca
  • Revenge of the Black Eagle (1951), directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Revenge of the Conquered (1961) a.k.a. Drakut the Avenger
  • Revolt of the Barbarians(1964), directed by Guido Malatesta
  • Rivak the Barbarian (1960) aka "Revak the Rebel", aka "The Barbarians", Jack Palance
  • Robin Hood and the Pirates (1960), starring Lex Barker
  • Roland, the Mighty (1956), directed by Pietro Francisci
  • Rome Against Rome (1963) a.k.a. War of the Zombies
  • Sandokan Fights Back (1964) a.k.a. Sandokan To the Rescue, starring Ray Danton & Guy Madison
  • Sandokan Vs The Leopard of Sarawak (1964) a.k.a. Throne of Vengeance, starring Ray Danton & Guy Madison
  • The Secret Mark of D'artagnan (1962)
  • Secret of the Black Falcon (1961), starring Lex Barker
  • The Secret Seven (1965) a.k.a. The Invincible Seven
  • Seven From Thebes (1964)
  • The Seven Revenges (1961), starring Ed Fury
  • Seven Swords For The King (1962)
  • 79 A.D., the Destruction of Herculaneum (1962), starring Brad Harris
  • Sins of Rome (1952) a.k.a. Spartacus, directed by Riccardo Freda
  • Son of the Red Corsair (1959) a.k.a. Son of the Red Pirate, starring Lex Barker
  • Suleiman the Conqueror (1961)
  • The Sword of Damascus (1964) a.k.a. The Thief of Damascus
  • The Sword of El Cid (1962) a.k.a. The Daughters of El Cid
  • The Sword of Rebellion (1964) a.k.a. The Rebel of Castelmonte
  • Sword of the Conqueror (1961) aka "Rosamund and Alboino", starring Jack Palance
  • Sword Without a Country (1960)
  • Taur, the Mighty (1963) a.k.a. Tor the Warrior, starring Joe Robinson
  • Temple of the White Elephant (1965) a.k.a. Sandok, the Maciste of the Jungle (not a Maciste film however, in spite of the title)
  • Terror of the Red Mask (1960), starring Lex Barker
  • Terror of the Steppes (1964) a.k.a. The Mighty Khan, starring Kirk Morris
  • Tharus, Son of Attila (1962) a.k.a. Colossus and the Huns, starring Ricardo Montalban
  • Thor and the Amazon Women (1963), starring Joe Robinson
  • Tiger of the Seven Seas (1963)
  • Ulysses (1954), starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn
  • Le Verdi bandiere di Allah (1964), starring José Suárez
  • Vulcan, Son of Jupiter (1960), starring Rod Flash and Gordon Mitchell
  • War Gods of Babylon (1962)
  • Zorikan the Barbarian (1964), starring Dan Vadis

Later Sword-and-Sandal Films from the 1980's

After the pepla gave way to the spaghetti western and imitation James Bond films in 1965, the genre lay dormant for close to 20 years. Then in 1981, Ray Harryhausen's Clash of the Titans, telling the same story as Medusa Vs. the Son of Hercules/Perseus the Invincible, revived the concepts of pepla, but critical pans offset its modest box-office success and it was not imitated. A year later, the Robert E. Howard-based Conan the Barbarian, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, did spur a second renaissance of Italian pepla in the six years immediately following. Most notable among them were four Lou Ferrigno vehicles, more faithful to the genre than any other films from this period. The majority of these films were in fact Conan knock-offs, sword and sorcery stories set not in the ancient Greco-Roman era, but in a non-historical time of localized kingdoms, barbarian swordsmen and wizards. These pictures were generally of low quality due to painfully limited budgets, and in some instances the filmmakers tried to compensate for their shortcomings with the addition of some graphic gore and nudity. Many of these 1980's entries were helmed by noted Italian horror film directors. Here is a list of the 1980s pepla:
  • Ator, the Fighting Eagle (1983) a.k.a. Ator the Invincible, starring Miles O'Keefe & Sabrina Siani, directed by Joe D’Amato
  • Barbarian Master (1984) a.k.a. Sangraal, the Sword of Fire, starring Sabrina Siani (a.k.a. Sword of the Barbarians)
  • The Barbarians and Company (1987) a.k.a. The Barbarians, semi-comedy starring Peter and David Paul, directed by Ruggero Deodato
  • Blademaster (1985) a.k.a. Ator 2, starring Miles O’Keefe, directed by Joe D’Amato
  • Conquest (1984) a.k.a. Conquest of the Lost Land, starring Sabrina Siani, directed by Lucio Fulci
  • Hercules (1983) starring Lou Ferrigno, Sybil Danning, and Brad Harris (cameo) 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
  • Iron Warrior (1986) a.k.a. Ator 3, starring Miles O'Keefe, directed by Alfonso Brescia
  • Ironmaster (1983) a.k.a. The War of Iron, co-starring William Berger & Luigi Montefiore, directed by Umberto Lenzi
  • Quest for the Mighty Sword (1989) a.k.a. Ator 4, starring Eric Allan Kramer (as Son of Ator). Laura Gemser & Marisa Mell, directed by Joe D'Amato
  • Seven Magnificent Gladiators (1985) starring Lou Ferrigno, Dan Vadis, Brad Harris and Sybil Danning
  • She (1983) starring Sandahl Bergman and Gordon Mitchell
  • Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1988) starring Lou Ferrigno, directed by Luigi Cozzi
  • The Throne of Fire (1983) starring Sabrina Siani, directed by Franco Prosperi

The Modern Era

The mainstream success of the 2000 film Gladiator is responsible for an increased interest in Roman and classical history in the United States. According to The New York Times, this has been called the "Gladiator Effect" in the publishing industry.
"It's called the 'Gladiator' effect by writers and publishers. The snob in us likes to believe that it is always books that spin off movies. Yet in this case, it's the movies -- most recently Gladiator two years ago -- ; that have created the interest in the ancients. And not for more Roman screen colossals, but for writing that is serious or fun or both."

Academic Bibliography

  • Richard Dyer: "The White Man's Muscles" in R. Dyer: White: London: Routledge: 1997: ISBN 0-4150-9537-9
  • David Chapman: Retro Studs: Muscle Movie Posters from Around the World: Portland: Collectors Press: 2002: ISBN 1-888054-69-7
  • 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
  • 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
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