Sword-and-sandal, also known as peplum (pepla plural), is a subgenre of largely Italian-made historical, mythological, or Biblical epics mostly set in the Greco-Roman antiquity or the Middle Ages. These films attempted to emulate the big-budget Hollywood historical epics of the time, such as Samson and Delilah (1949), Quo Vadis (1951), The Robe (1953), The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), Spartacus (1960), and Cleopatra (1963). These films dominated the Italian film industry from 1958 to 1965, eventually being replaced in 1965 by spaghetti Western and Eurospy films.
The Italian film industry released several historical films in the early sound era, such as the big-budget Scipione l'Africano (Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal) in 1937. In 1949, the postwar Italian film industry remade Fabiola (which had been previously filmed twice in the silent era). The film was released in the United Kingdom and in the United States in 1951 in an edited, English-dubbed version. Fabiola was an Italian-French co-production like the following films The Last Days of Pompeii (1950) and Messalina (1951).
During the 1950s, a number of American historical epics shot in Italy were released. In 1951, MGM producer Sam Zimbalist cleverly used the lower production costs, use of frozen funds and the expertise of the Italian film industry to shoot the large-scale Technicolor epic Quo Vadis in Rome. In addition to its fictional account linking the Great Fire of Rome, the Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire and Emperor Nero, the film - following the novel "Quo vadis" by the Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz - featured also a mighty protagonist named Ursus (Italian filmmakers later made several pepla in the 1960s exploiting the Ursus character). MGM also planned Ben Hur to be filmed in Italy as early as 1952.
Following Buddy Baer's portrayal of Ursus in the classic 1951 film Quo Vadis, Ursus was used as a superhuman Roman-era character who became the protagonist in a series of Italian adventure films made in the early 1960s.
"Quo Vadis" (1951) is an amazing spectacle and a film you should see. But, you should also realize that it's not exactly a great history lesson...especially when it comes to Emperor Nero.The film begins with Marcus (Robert Taylor) arriving back in Rome with his legion after three years of war. Once there, he sees first hand the wacky antics of the Emperor...and he also soon sees a cute lady and he's smitten with Lygia (Deborah Kerr). The rest of the film consists of Marcus pursuing Lygia, though she is a Christian and he is a traditional Roman. At the same time, Nero's weirdness and infamy increase.The film is a spectacle and apart from one brief scene which was sloppy (Marcus racing to Lygia during the burning of Rome), it's among the most amazing movies of its age. It's every bit as spectacular as "Gone With the Wind" and "Ben Hur". I can easily see why it was the biggest box office draw of 1951.The story itself is also generally good. After all, few films have been made about the early Christians and this is 1000 times better than the god-awful "Sign of the Cross" which covers much of the same material. My only complaint comes from its fictionalizing the Burning of Rome. In the movie, it was deliberately set by Nero and his minions....and this is a common myth. But it is a myth with no real basis in fact. And, since it makes up such a big portion of the film, it is a strike against it. By the way, following the fire, it IS true that Nero blamed Christians and used their persecution to divert attention from his incompetence.Overall, a film every film buff should see...and even with its faults, it's an amazing film. And, one of Robert Taylor's best roles.
Her first film role was as an extra, one of many slave girls in the American production of Quo Vadis? (1951). Under the tutelage of producer Carlo Ponti (her future husband), Scicolone was transformed into Sophia Loren.
In 1949, at age 15, Loren left for Rome and about a year later began her film career with bit parts in mostly minor Italian films. In 1950 she was among the contestants of the Miss Italia beauty pageant, earning the 2nd place behind the winner Anna Maria Bugliari. In 1951, Loren and her mother worked as extras in Quo Vadis, which was filmed in Rome and provided Loren with an early brush with Hollywood. She also appeared in the title role of the movie Aida (1953), in which the singing of Loren's character was dubbed by opera star Renata Tebaldi, and which caught the eye of Cecil B. DeMille, who once said of Loren that 'You could build mountains around that girl.' 2b1af7f3a8