The New Peplum

Essays on Sword and Sandal Films and Television Programs Since the 1990s


In stock

About the Book

Peplum or “sword-and-sandal” films—an Italian genre of the late 1950s through the 1960s—featured ancient Greek, Roman and Biblical stories with gladiators, mythological monsters and legendary quests. The new wave of historic epics, known as neo-pepla, is distinctly different, embracing new technologies and storytelling techniques to create an immersive experience unattainable in the earlier films. This collection of new essays explores the neo-peplum phenomenon through a range of topics, including comic book adaptations like Hercules, the expansion of genre boundaries in Jupiter Ascending and John Carter, depictions of Romans and slaves in Spartacus, and The Eagle and Centurion as metaphors for America’s involvement in the Iraq War.

About the Author(s)

Nicholas Diak is a pop culture scholar specializing in Italian spy films, post-industrial and synthwave music, and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. He has contributed essays, editorials and reviews to a variety of books, journals, and pop culture websites. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Nicholas Diak

Foreword by David R. Coon
Afterword by Steven L. Sears

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 242
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6762-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3150-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Foreword (David R. Coon) 1
Introduction (Nicholas Diak) 4

Part One: Crossing the Rubicon: Expanding the ­Neo-Peplum Boundaries
Adapting to New Spaces: Swords and Planets and the ­Neo-Peplum (Paul Johnson) 21
Hercules: Transmedia Superhero Mythology (Djoymi Baker) 44
From Crowds to Swarms: Movement and Bodies in ­Neo-Peplum Films (Kevin M. Flanagan) 63

Part Two: Wisdom from the Gods: Mythological Adaptations
There Are No Boundaries for Our Boats: Vikings and the Westernization of the Norse Saga (Steve Nash) 79
Sounds of Swords and Sandals: Music in ­Neo-Peplum BBC Television Docudramas (Nick Poulakis) 95
Hercules, Xena and Genre: The Methodology Behind the Mashup (Valerie Estelle Frankel) 115

Part Three: The “Glory” of Rome: Depictions of the Empire
Male Nudity, Violence and the Disruption of Voyeuristic
Pleasure in Starz’s Spartacus (Hannah Mueller) 135
Sex, Lies and Denarii: Roman Depravity and Oppression in Starz’s Spartacus (Jerry B. Pierce) 155
In the Green Zone with the Ninth Legion: The ­Post-Iraq Roman Film (Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.) 178

Part Four: Sculpted in Marble: Gender and Representation
Laughing at the Body: The Imitation of Masculinity in Peplum Parody Films (Tatiana Prorokova) 195
Queering the Quest: ­Neo-Peplum and the ­Neo-Femme in Xena: Warrior Princess (Haydee Smith) 208

Afterword (Steven L. Sears) 219
About the Contributors 223
Index 225

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Remarkable…each chapter is a scholastic adventure featuring fresh and provocative topics…detailed historical context and insightful close-readings of the films and television episodes…a welcomed addition”—Journal of American Culture
  • “[The genre] has seen a major revitalization on screens both large and small…brings much-needed scholarly attention to the titular genre”—Journal of Popular Film and Television
  • “The peplum genre fulfilled my classic mythological niche…it’s relevant to look back on these movies now”—Steven L. Sears, writer and co-executive producer, Xena: Warrior Princess