miles2go December 2, 2014 Share December 2, 2014 December is a great month for fantasy movies, considering that most Christmas flicks have a large dose of fantasy in them. Moreover, within the next few weeks at least three fantasy films are being released: the final installments of The Hobbit and Night at the Museum trilogies, and Into the Woods. ( So I'll have a good excuse to get out of the house and see a movie!) And let's not forget the upcoming live broadcast of Peter Pan on TV. In addition to the more traditional fantasy material, I'll be reviewing five peplum movies, which I found in the Mill Creek Sci-Fi collection. There's not at bit of science fiction in your typical peplum (well, maybe a little in one of the five), so I'm not sure how they ended up in there -- possibly because they didn't fit in anywhere else. Peplum do have a lot of fantasy mixed in with the muscle-flexing, so they're just right for this month's theme. Don't know what a peplum movie is? Neither did I. So I did a little on-line snooping and came up with some info. (Thanks, Google!) The peplum genre is also called sword-and-sandal, the more polite term being "neo-mythology". Most peplum flicks are Italian in origin, and usually deal with legendary, mythological, or Biblical events. You might think of them as historical epics on a budget. The central character is a hero with unusual strength, such as Hercules or Samson; other characters are a damsel in distress, a wicked tyrant, and the occasional monster. The origin of the peplum genre goes back to the silent film era, with a movie called Cabiria (1914). A Hercules-type character named "Maciste" was the sidekick to the movie's hero, but became so popular that he got his own spin-off series. Maciste, played by Bartolmeo Pagano, featured in about two dozen films through the 1920's, and achieved the status of Italian folk hero. One curious thing about the character is that he is not tied to any particular time or place -- Maciste can crop up anywhere, at any time. (In that respect, he's a bit like The Doctor, only far more muscular and not as smart.) The popularity of the sword-and-sandal movies waned in the early thirties. Then, in 1957, Steve Reeves starred in Hercules, which became popular enough to set off a craze for peplum flicks. Hercules was the featured hero in many; Maciste was revived; there were also Samson, Goliath, Ursus and a whole bunch of others. The pepla I have available are all from the revival era, although I hope to be able to see Cabiria soon. I'll be back tomorrow with Hercules Unchained. 1 Link to comment
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