THOUGH sword-and-sandal films have been a box-office staple since the silent era, the genre hit its apex in the late 1950s and early ‘60s in Italy with such films as “Hercules” with Steve Reeves, “The Giant of Metropolis” with Gordon Mitchell and “The Loves of Hercules” with Mickey Hargitay.
A new exhibition, “Beefcake Babylon: The Iconography of Sword and Sandal Epics from DeMille to Fellini,” revisits the era with more than 35 pictures, lobby cards and original posters from the collection of film historian David Del Valle.
Though the show, at the Drkrm. Gallery in Los Angeles, is focused on high-profile beefcake stars, there is also a vintage still of Fredric March from 1932’s Cecil B. DeMille Roman epic, “The Sign of the Cross,” as well as several stills from Federico Fellini’s controversial 1969 film “Satyricon,” says Drkrm.'s owner, John Matowsky.
Rounding out the show are still photos from the productions and rarely seen studies of the bodybuilders before they became movie stars.
Until Reeves was cast as “Hercules,” Del Valle says, “no one had thought of using a bodybuilder” in such a part. But the daughter of producer Joseph E. Levine, who saw Reeves in a 1954 musical called “Athena,” thought he’d be perfect as the legendary muscleman.
And the rest is sword-and-sandal history.
The Iconography of Sword and Sandal Epics from DeMille to Fellini
Where: Drkrm. Gallery, 2121 N. San Fernando Road, Suite 3, Los Angeles
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Ends: Sept. 23
Contact: (323) 223-6867 or go to www.drkrm.com
-- Susan King