Film goes through phases. Sometime, digital animation rules. Then we get a heaping helping of gross out comedies. A gimmick like 3D can come along and set the standard for a while only to make way for something even more stunt-like. The cyclical nature of cinema can be sparked by the times (the post-modern movement of the ‘70s) or the arrival of a game changing concept (the sci-fi blockbuster bonanza post-Star Wars). In Italy, at the end of the ‘50s, filmmakers were looking for a way out of the gloomy authenticity of neo-realism. They wanted more entertainment value and less social commentary. Enter the peplum, the sword and sandal epics that saw stars like Steve Reeves reinvent their image as mighty gladiatorial warriors.
With the success of the genre came an entire new realm of action and adventure. Filmmakers around the world embraced the concept and then decided to expand its elements. They found new and often exciting ways to reinvent it for their own needs, looking to both the distant past and the far off future. Thus, we had variations such as the historical period piece, the barely costumed cautionary tale, and of course, the sci-fi influenced sword and sorcery take. Over the last four decades there have been dozens of attempts to take the material out of its comic book/pulp fiction orientation and turn it into something magical. For the most part, they are often considered nothing more than bumbling b-movies.