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Of Muscles and Men: Essays on the Sword and Sandal Film Paperback – August 23, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0786461622 ISBN-10: 0786461624

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Mcfarland (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786461624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786461622
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,249,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Award-winning novelist Michael G. Cornelius is the author or editor of numerous books. He serves as chair of the department of English and Mass Communications at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Garbato on April 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
Aside from the early `80s CONAN THE BARBARIAN films (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the eponymous, loinclothed hero) and a few odd campy television shows (namely HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and SHE-RA: PRINCESS OF POWER, which I grew up on, as well as XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS and HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, which I've enjoyed as an adult), I'm not what you'd call a big fan of the sword and sandal genre. But when I spotted OF MUSCLES AND MEN: ESSAYS ON THE SWORD & SANDAL FILM in Library Thing's Early Reviewer program, I decided to request a copy anyhow, since I highly enjoy critical pop culture studies and thought it would make for an interesting read.

To say that OF MUSCLES AND MEN veers toward the academic would be an understatement. In terms of accessibility, it's much more similar in difficulty to, say, The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series or Investigating Cult TV than the more mainstream Smart Pop books by BenBella Books (of which I own nearly half the available titles!). That said, some essays are more suitable for lay people than others - it really just depends on the author and his or her approach and writing style.

While most of the essays focus on the intersection of violence, sex, and/or gender in the peplum or sword and sandal genre - loosely defined as those films featuring a reluctantly heroic strongman, clad in sandals and/or a kilt and carrying a sword or other phallic weapon, and set some time in humanity's ancient past - the authors nevertheless manage to touch upon a breadth of topics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lucia Cassia Silvana on March 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
I am one of those people who enjoy, and am not easily scared off by, academic works; however, the Introduction to this collection nearly made me believe I had requested a book I would not be able to tackle despite my lifelong love for the topic. I admit I gave up reading the Intro about halfway through and moved on to the essays. Those I greatly enjoyed, in part because most were far less dense (but no less academic) than the Intro. Although they kept to the same general theme - the reinforcement of heteronormative values - each contributed something new.

Some of the older movies I had not seen, so I admit to losing a bit of attention and understanding when they were under discussion. When the movies I had seen, even if many years ago, were dissected and analyzed, I had a hard time putting the book down. I wanted to watch the movies again, not only to intentionally look for (or look again at) the points being made in one of the essays, but for the sheer enjoyment of this genre.

While I don't think a non-academic point-of-view would have been fitting for this collection, I do empathize with the first reviewer who wished for an essay by someone who simply grew up watching these kinds of films. I also heartily agree with the 2nd reviewer that the Xena and Hercules tv series should have been included due to their place in this genre and the great popularity they had. This is a genre that, for whatever reason, speaks deeply to many people, old and young alike, male or female. Love it or hate it, it's certainly a recognizable category and an important part of our popular culture.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marianne G Petrino-Schaad on February 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
Note: I received a free copy of this book through Library Thing.

Back in the 60s, I spent Saturdays in my local movie theater with tons of other kids cheering on the heroes of sword and sandal movies. This book is a well researched, scholarly look at that genre of film called peplum. The essays are varied and interesting, covering the Italian economic boom and the rise of peplum, as well as the increasing gore and violence of newer takes on the genre (see Spartacus Blood & Sand and Gladiator). My favorites essays considered He-Man, an animation derivative with gay overtones, and a discourse on parody in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules. For each essay, the notes lead to additional and diverting paths to follow. I only wish that one essay had been written by someone, such as myself, who had been a starry-eyed child in the heyday of the sword and sandal movies, and who reveled in revisiting those glory days of childhood. I wanted another writer to expound on that thrilling feeling of cheering your favorite gladiator as they defeated the bad guys. (I was always a big fan of the gladiator with the trident and the net.) I wanted one essay devoted to the child's experience of peplum. This book definitely awakened the child in me that is still waiting for an NTSC copy of Seven Slaves Against the World and fully licensed copy of Steve Reeves' Thief of Baghdad. And the adult still wonders: Where did the footage of Steve fighting the giant crab go?
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