Hercules and the Captive Women (Italy/France, 1961) The Steve Reeves Hercules (Italy, 1958) was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic, proving there was a market for shirtless strongman movies in drive-in movie theaters across America. The Italian movie industry obliged by churning out reams of low-budget sword-and-sandal “peplum” films, many of which had heroes named Goliath or Maciste in their original forms. When they were dubbed into English, for name-recognition purposes most of these strongmen were renamed…
(Goliath and the Sins of Babylon, Italy, 1963) If you like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you’ll like. Between 1959 and 1964, the leading genre of Italian adventure films was the peplum, or sword and sandal movie. The fad for these began in 1958 with the first Steve Reeves Hercules film, and there were a whole lot of Hercules films to follow, but we’re going to save those for another day and cherry-pick our way…
This is a bit more of coloring-out-the-lines for my sword-and-sandal reviews, since The Adventures of Hercules comes from the mid-‘80s, far beyond the classic era of the Italian peplum of 1957–1965. But it is an Italian genre film about Hercules starring a bodybuilder from the US, which is the most sword-and-sandal situation imaginable. Plus, I’ve owed Black Gate a look at this film ever since 2009 when I reviewed the first of this pair of unbelievably goofy Lou Ferrigno Hercules flicks…
Okay, another Maciste film! Let’s do this!
Maciste is one of the great heroes of the Italian sword-and-sandal films of the 1960s—but he started as an unusual figure in Italy’s silent films.
The Colossus of Rhodes may be my personal favorite Italian sword-and-sandal (peplum) film. This one has everything.
The 1959 film The Last Days of Pompeii (Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei) is the most famous of the many journeys Italian cinema has taken into the story of Vesuvius’s first-century eruption.
Here’s a rollicking and bit confusing sword-and-sandal film featuring a re-named Maciste who isn’t in Babylon and also features footage from movies about Byzantium and the Punic Wars. But hey, nifty death trap!
1955’s Land of the Pharaohs is a genuine sword-and-sandal film from Howard Hawks, one of the greatest of all Hollywood filmmakers. It also happens to be his oddest foray outside of his usual style.
Here are three short takes on sword-and-sandal films in the Amazon Video library (all free for Prime members) that don’t pass my normal picture quality threshold, but may be interesting readers who can grit their teeth and struggle through blurred, pan-and-scan transfers.