Saturday, 8 September 2007

Peplumania

After enjoying Goliath and the Dragon and The Conqueror of Atlantis, I decided I wanted to get better acquainted with the Italian sword and sandal / peplum / mythological film and accordingly ordered the 50 film Warriors box set, which arrived yesterday.

So far I've only watched Hercules against the Moon Men, which is actually a retitled Maciste entry, non-Italian audiences not being familiar with the Maciste character, and The Giants of Thessaly, Riccardo Freda's version of Jason and the Argonauts, which also has contributions from Carlo Rustichelli and Carlo Rambaldi among others.

Although Giants features an evil sorceress who transforms into an old crone in front of the hero, as also seen in I Vampiri, I don't think the peplum as a whole is a cinema that is particularly amenable to auteurist analysis.

Rather, reading the list of titles included in the box, their use of mythological sources, and the mix and match approach pursued by the filmmakers in their approach to these sources, they seem more like a genre better approached in more structuralist type terms, without regard for author.

Indeed, as a programming exercise, I'm almost tempted to take the list of titles and make a computer program to generate random titles and would venture that many of these would sound equally as convincing as the real ones included in the set:

Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens
Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops
The Avenger
Caesar the Conqueror
Cleopatra's Daughter
Colossus and the Amazon Queen
Colossus and the Headhunters
The Conqueror of the Orient
Damon and Pythias
David and Goliath
Duel of Champions
Fire Monsters against the Sons of Hercules
Fury of Achilles
Fury of Hercules
The Giant of Marathon
The Giant of Rome
The Giant of Thessaly
Gladiators of Rome
Goliath and the Dragon
Goliath and the Sins of Babylon
Hercules against the Barbarians
Hercules against the Mongols
Hercules against the Moon Men
Hercules against the Captive Women
Hercules against the Masked Rider
Hercules against the Princess of Troy
Hercules against the Tyrants of Babylon
Hercules Unchained
Hero of Rome
Herod the Great
Kindar the Invulnerable
The Last of the Vikings
Maciste in King Solomon's Mines
Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules
Queen of the Amazons
Romulus and the Sabines
Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World
Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness
Son of Samson
Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators
The Ten Gladiators
Thor and the Amazon Women
Triumph of the Son of Hercules
Two Gladiators
Ulysses against the Son of Hercules
Ursus in the Land of Fire
Ursus in the Valley of the Lions
Vengeance of Ursus
Vulcan Son of Jupiter
The White Warrior

Then again, one could well imagine a 50 disc set of gialli suggesting something similar with its animal and / or number titles, as the random giallo generator also indicates, with the films themselves sometimes revealing distinctive personalities and aesthetics.

While I'm sure that some differences in approach will emerge within these peplums, I also have a hunch that there will be a greater sameness to them. I also wonder whether this, in combination with the greater simplicity of the films, their readily identifiable heroes, villains and straightforward dynamic of might and right invariably triumphant, along with the relative lack of aesthetic self-consciousness, means that they might actually haven proven a better test case for Koven's vernacular cinema thesis than the giallo.

Thoughts or counter-examples welcomed...

1 comment:

Kim said...

Ahahhaha funny since I ordered this box set last week! Cant go wrong at that price! And I'd love one on giallo!!!

By the way, did you get my email about DEATH IN HAITI??