In between Elvis and The Beatles, kids all over the Western world were given a crash course in the myths and archetypes of the ancient world via the Italian Peplum craze, also known as the "sword-and-sandal movie." 1957's Hercules, starring Steve Reeves, essentially ushered in the wide-release superhero blockbuster- everything from Star Wars to Iron Man has followed in its footsteps. These movies were so ubiquitous that Hollywood created its own Pepla, with films like Ben Hur and Cleopatra. But Hollywood always hedged its bets, and didn't have the pagan gusto and elemental physicality of the Italians.
The formula was simple- an American muscleman playing a mythic hero (usually Hercules or one of his equivalents), an evil king or queen, a scheming priesthood bent on human sacrifice, a virtuous maiden in need of rescue and lots and lots of exposed Mediterranean flesh for every possible taste. To an America stuck in the corporate monotony of the Cold War, these films were like an explosion of pure id, an atavistic knife to the heart of a denatured West.
I argue in The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll that these films had an enormous effect on the post-British Invasion rock scene, and you can see strong echoes of these dance sequences all over the place in the late 60s. It would all dissipate by the end of the decade as the Me Generation and its smug, insipid political obsessions stifled the culture until punk and new wave kicked that id back up to the surface.
But in the meantime, watch these obligatory dancing girl scenes from various Pepla. They're all jampacked with erotic energy and offer up at least a distant echo of the ancient Mysteries.