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Italian Peplums & Fusto Films: Muscleman Adventure/Fantasy Overview Part 4
The immortal Steve Reeves from ROMULUS & REMUS (1961)
THE MANY FACES OF ITALIAN MUSCLEMAN EPICS: THE BOLD, THE BEAUTIFUL & THE SCOUNDREL
A hairy beast goes ape for Jayne Mansfield in HERCULES VS. THE HYDRA (1960)
In addition to all the beefcake, the flexing and feats of strength on display in these movies, there are always one or more beautiful women showcased providing a pleasing deterrent for all the masculinity on hand. There never seems to be enough attention devoted to these exquisitely built and often anatomically amazing female physiques, so I intend to rectify that now.
The reticent and humble beauty of Jose Greci in GOLIATH & THE SINS OF BABYLON (1963)
There are generally two kinds of women in these movies and both are often the equivalent of a protagonist and antagonist. In a lot of these productions, there is always an elegant Queen, slave girl, Kings daughter, what have you. These characters are nothing more than damsels in distress, helpless young ladies whose only function is to look adorable and be rescued by the hero when the script calls for it.
Gordon Scott & Helene Chanel in SAMSON & THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF THE WORLD (1961)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you sometimes will have an evil Queen, a seductress, a sorceress, or a leader of a group of fighting women. Almost always, the villainous, or strong female character, will at some point in the film, fall in love with the muscle bound hero. A once resilient, or cunning woman will either be turned to jelly, or killed by films end. Sometimes, a female villain will be turned into a heroine and almost always become a martyr by the time the movie is over. Nearly all the peplums and fusto films end with the hero atop a horse cradling the love interest in his arms, riding off into the sunset.
Sylvia Koscina and Steve Reeves in the classic, HERCULES (1958)
Below is a list of some of the more familiar beauties to ever grace the screen in this ignored genre. Some of these women always played the fragile and helpless love interest, while some others played both the object of affection in some entries and the doomed female character in others. But in all cases, these stunning examples of the female form offer just one of several memorable attributes of the sword and sandal genre.
Sylvia Koscina from HERCULES (1958)
The Croatian lovely, Sylvia Koscina, would be the classic example as she was in the film that begat the genre in 1958's HERCULES as well as reprising her role as Iole in the following years sequel, HERCULES & THE QUEEN OF LYDIA (HERCULES UNCHAINED). Koscina was a cinema sexbomb, and like a number of her gorgeous colleagues, she branched out into many other genres including spy pictures, horror films, crime thrillers and comedies. Of particular note is her turn as the wife of Eduardo Fajardo in Mario Bava's horror classic, LISA & THE DEVIL (1973).
The allure of Sylvia Lopez from HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959)
Also featured in the sequel to Reeves' HERCULES (1958), Sylvia Lopez plays the Queen of the title, Omphale. Shockingly, Lopez would die whilst shooting a movie in 1959 not long after her tenure opposite Steve Reeves in HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959). Omphale is the female antagonist who falls in love with Hercules which brings about her doom later in the picture. She acts as something of a black widow; when she has exasperated all the pleasure she can derive from a man, she disposes of him and finds another, using some Egyptian slaves to preserve their bodies to be kept in a bizarre garden of stone men.
Marilu Tolo in THE TRIUMPH OF HERCULES (1964)
Marilu Tolo, a stunning and voluptuous Italian actress, showed off her charms in several films from 1964. Her assets were notable in THE TRIUMPH OF HERCULES and THE TERROR OF ROME AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES. Tolo, like Rosalba Neri, also made the transition to every other Italian genre that gained in popularity over the years.
Tolo with Mark Forest in TERROR OF ROME AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1964)
Tolo possessed mesmerizingly hypnotic eyes and sensual lips that added to her abundant sexuality. She has played both the love interest and the doomed female who has misplaced affection for the hero which always seems to spell their death in these movies.
The pleasing Gloria Milland with Brad Harris in GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS (1961)
Gloria Milland was another very attractive actress that transcended the sword & sandal pictures to feature in a few spaghetti westerns before seemingly disappearing from the film industry completely. This happened to more than several of these lovely women. Milland was quite the stunner in her debut performance co-starring alongside Brad Harris in the lively adventure, GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS (1961). She appeared in more torch & toga movies than many of her colleagues. Like some others, she has played both the love interest as well as the lonely and lovelorn female with passions for the hero only to die so that he may live.
Jose Greci in HERCULES & THE MASKED RIDER (1964)
Jose Greci was another statuesque beauty who appeared in half a dozen muscleman movies. Greci is one of the more popular ladies to appear in Sword & Sandal epics. I've never seen her play anything but the typical damsel in distress; the object of affection for the beefy hero or sometimes the daughter of a wealthy king. She seemed to always bring an air of class and integrity to her roles coming off as the type of girl you could bring home to meet your mother.
Jose Greci in HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1964)
She, too, made the jump to assorted other Italian genre films. She featured predominantly in action pictures of one kind or another. Greci seemingly disappeared sometime in the 1970's. She had a similarly pouty, yet sensual allure akin to Marilu Tolo.
Gianna Maria Canale in GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES (1961)
Gianna Maria Canale, another exotic and shapely Italian actress, had co-starring roles in a lot of international fantasy and swashbuckling films. She often played strong characters such as the leader of the Amazon horde in the original HERCULES (1958) and a Queen in the goofy comedic peplum, COLOSSUS & THE AMAZON QUEEN (1960). She also plays the typical villainess that has a change of heart after falling for the hero in GOLIATH & THE VAMPIRES (1961).
The fiery, irresistible charms of Chelo Alonso in GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959)
The intense and sizzling magnetism of Cuban sex bomb, Chelo Alonso, is easily one of the most famous sword & sandal actresses. Possessing an enormous amount of sex appeal, Alonso was a dancer and her fantasy films featured her gyrating in some erotic fashion. One of her most carnal cavorts is showcased in the excellent Steve Reeves film, GOLIATH & THE BARBARIANS (1959). One of the most successful of the genre, Alonso hits the dance floor twice in this classic and very violent movie.
Alonso heats things up in SON OF SAMSON (1960)
But one of the exotic beauty's most sexually charged roles was as Queen Smedes, the villainous ruler in SON OF SAMSON (1960). Here she plays the object of desire for Maciste, played by Mark Forest in one of his first roles in the fusto sweepstakes. Alonso had a body to die for and she showed you just enough to make your mouth water for more of this hot and spicy senorita. Her charms are also on display in MORGAN THE PIRATE (1961) starring Steve Reeves in which she plays a liberated and feisty freedom fighter who aids Morgan in his fight against the Spanish Empire.
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I've been a huge movie buff since childhood catching old horror and monster flicks on Shock Theater and kung fu movies at the drive-in during the late 70's and early 80's. I've had a long time fascination with, and appreciate all genres of fantastic cinema, good and bad. One fans cheese is another fans juicy steak. I like both equally and seldom find a film I truly dislike as I will find something of interest in just about anything. The bulk of the films or tv series' seen here are mostly from my childhood, or films I own in what has become an Amazing Colossal DVD collection.