Director: Steve Della Casa
Starring: Carlo Verdone, Enrico Lucherini, Carlo Lizzani, Citto Maselli, Rosalba Neri & Mimmo Palmara
More Info: Romancinemafest (including trailer)
Plot: A documentary chronicling the Italian peplum / sword and sandal genre, exploring the rise of the "strong man", the directors and various actresses who would make the genre popular worldwide. Includes interviews with Carlo Verdone, Enrico Lucherini, Carlo Lizzani, Citto Maselli, Rosalba Neri & Mimmo Palmara, and clips of Steve Reeves, Gordon Mitchell, Gordon Scott, Riccardo Freda, Sergio Corbucci, Vittorio Cottafavi and others.
My Rating: 7/10
Would I watch it again? Yeahhhhh
Since I was a kid I've loved the Italian Sword & Sandal epics like HERCULES (1958). They're goofy fun. S&S films typically don't take themselves seriously and they're usually a fun way to piss away an hour and a half on a lazy weekend afternoon. I've got a gazillion of these things and I'm stunned that since I started this blog in October of '07, I haven't watched a single one. So what better way to kick off this genre here than to watch a newly acquired documentary on the subject.
As a documentary on the Peplum/Sword & Sandal genre, this fails. Why? Well, they do give you a brief history lesson on how these came to be but after the worldwide breakout success of HERCULES in '58 with Steve Reeves, they veer off from the rest of the genre's history and give us some interviews with a few film makers and stars of the genre.
What you end up getting, though, is lots of anecdotes from those where were there as well as a great deal of footage from a documentary/propaganda piece from the late 50s/early 60s and that's it. But what fun that is.
The lowdown on the genre is this. “Sword & Sandal” (or what the Italians called "Peplum") refers to a genre of adventure films dealing largely with ancient Roman & Greek history and mythology. The majority of these films were made between 1958 and 1965 and often featured a muscular male in the lead role. The Italians, known for piggy-backing onto a hit film and exploiting its genre to death, hit the big time in 1958 with the Steve Reeves international blockbuster, HERCULES (LE FATICHE DI ERCOLE). Following its success, the Italian film industry cranked out dozens of these epic-scaled fantasy/action films over the next several years.
Many of these films relied on well-known historical heroes like Hercules to sell their stories. Others included Samson, Goliath, Maciste, Ursus, and Ulysses. Other subjects included biblical epics and that universal staple of excitement, gladiators.
Steve Reeves is certainly the biggest and best-known of this genre's stars. Mark Forest, Mickey Hargitay, Reg Park, Kirk Morris, Brad Harris, Dan Vadis, Gordon Scott, Gordon Mitchell, Reg Lewis, Ed Fury and Alan Steel are a few of the headliners who made names for themselves starring in these oft-silly action films.
IRON MEN is less a documentary than a pastiche of tales from a cinematic era long gone. Don't expect to learn much but if you're a fan of the genre you will enjoy it as a sort of "walk down memory lane". Plus it's funny seeing Steeve Reeves with a shirt on.