5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I'm a big fan of Peplums and I've been a collector of movie posters (of every kind of film) since I was a kid, so it was a given that I would end up buying Retro Stud. All in all, the book is excellent. Beautiful reproduction and great reference for any movie poster collector. I don't regret buying it.
With that said though, the book has several glaring flaws. The first flaw is that the collection is incomplete. Many famous S&S titles are not even represented. I'm aware that they couldn't catalog all S&S posters but still some of them are classics and nowhere to be seen here. I have a Spanish poster for Hero of Rome and it's one of the best Peplum posters ever. It's a stand-out. It would have been great if it had been included. But more importantly, you can go on eBay and find many sellers with great collections. The Ten Gladiators posters in the book are good but there are some better ones available on eBay right now. And looking at the posters on eBay doesn't cost anything.
Second problem, as mentioned by others, is that the author translated the foreign titles word for word, even though they don't match the titles here in North America. Now, granted, many of the titles for the US version were misleading or terrible and changing them to what the Italians intended originally is ok but for reference, if you can't read French or Italian, then it might be a chore to figure out the corresponding US title. Also, many titles from other countries do not match the original Italian titles. For example, one Mexican poster reads "El Triunfo de Spartaco", which the author translated as "The Triumph of Spartacus", a title that doesn't exist. The original Italian title is "Gli Invincibili Dieci Gladiatori", which translates into "The Invincible Ten Gladiators". But here that film goes under the name of "Spartacus & the Ten Gladiators". The Mexican title is misleading and to translate it word for word doesn't make much sense.
Some posters are a total mystery. The one on page 59, which takes over the whole page, has no stars or director listed and the author says the title is The Challenge of the Giants, which is not a real title. It's impossible to figure out which movie the poster is for. The actor in the painting looks like Richard Harrison and from the looks of the actress, the poster might be L'Ultimo Gladiatore, known here as the boneheadedly titled "Messalina Against the Son of Hercules". But that's just my guess.
Also, some of the info about the production or the photos have glaring mistakes. On page 116, there's a photo from "Hercules and the Captive Women". The caption says that the two actors are Reg Park and Fay Spain but the woman in the photo is not the beautiful Fay Spain but the wife of Hercules seen at the beginning of the movie. Speaking of "Hercules & the Captive Women", the author notes that the sensational title is misleading because there are no captive women in the movie, which again is incorrect. The whole point of the story is the Queen's daughter being one of a series of sacrifices to Proteus and Uranus as to keep the island of Atlantis hidden from the outside world. The daughter is rescued from captivity and later on in the movie she's bound 2 more times! The title could also be interpreted as Fay Spain's character inability to love Hercules and that she's fatally caught in her scheme to control the world. The original Italian title translates as Hercules Conquers Atlantis, which is good but it's a more generic title. I prefer "Hercules & the Captive Women" myself.
The third and the most annoying part of the book though is the fact that the author disses Hercules, the Steve Reeves film that started it all, as an "unimpressive" epic. He then goes on and basically tries to point out why the "obscure" film became such a success: it was just clever marketing. Honestly, I find this perplexing. The author proceeds to write an entire book on a subject that was spawned by a single film he dismisses as either "unimpressive" or "obscure". Hercules ignited a whole new genre, from which over 300 films were made between the late 1950s and mid-1960s. Not bad for an unimpressive or obscure epic. Heck, not even Star Wars generated that many films after its massive success.
The author shoots himself in the foot here. Hercules is a great moody fantasy directed by Pietro Francisci (who directed many S&S films, including the equally great pre-Hercules B&W film, The Queen of Sheba, which is not listed in the book) and it caught on with the public more than just because of marketing. It would be too long to explain the many reasons why Hercules became such a success and the subsequent Peplum explosion, many of which the author doesn't seem to realize, including female moviegoers (notice the French poster for Hercules Unchained on page 56, which is also the cover of the book, and tell me that wasn't designed specifically to attract women).
I can easily overlook the errors in the production details about movies and the confusing translated titles. In fact, trying to figure out which movie was which was sorta fun. But the author's dismissive attitude towards the movie which generated the Peplum explosion, and subsequently, 50 years later, this book too, is odd and disappointing. Had the author had a bit more faith or respect about the subject, I would have given this book 5 stars instead of 4.