Bring on the Dancing Pagans

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.

Dancing Amazons from the first Hercules movie

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.


Raj said...

Well, those girls can dance...

renniejoy said...

I bought and love both "hidden gods" books, but I'm not sure where to fit Duran Duran into your classification.

I would love it if you talked about them. :)

Anonymous said...

The Whole Pepla thing has gotta be one of my Favorite Genres, I just never knew the Name of it.........................

Also, I'm IMMENSELY Fascinated by the God of War Series of Video Games

Although, I feel like that series is a Bit Shallow, in terms of ActuaL Depth and whatnot, I do like the Fact that you can Interact with MythicaL Creatures, like the Harpies, Satyrs & Minotaur like Creatures, not to mention: MY Favorite, the CYCLOPS, hehS

Also, it's Fun taking down Said Creatures, hahahahahahaS

Anyhow, yeah, there are other video games, that I Love, namely, remember the Nintendo NES Version of RYGAR? Which was later remade on the PS2, with Rome-Inspired Imagery and Weapons, Enemies & Armor, whatnot?

HehS, LOVE that DISCUS Shield & Chain Weaponry!

Anyhow, yaws, the SOUNDTRACK to GOD of WAR, that EPIC "dun, dun, Dunna DUN" ad infinitum, is VERY...................Motivating?


Sorry, this was something I love too much, had to share it, hehS

I wish there were MORE MythicaL Videogames out there

Not shure if you're a video game fan, but Dead Space is also a VERY Nifty Game Innovation Concept, whatnot, hehS................

Spartacus, all this stuff, way too much, hehS

And TROY, I still love that movie, for some Odd Reason, it's one of those flix, where I just keep watching it over and over, trying to wonder why I like it so much, so it does have that kinda "Titanic" FX, hehS....................

Sorry, if this is such a LONG Response, but anyhow, back on topic, hehS

Dancing ROXXXX