Sergio Ciani Poster

Biography

One of a load of ab-normal muscular men who stood on the Neopolitan pectoral pedestal during the sword-and-sandal craze of the early 1960s, Sergio Ciani was born in Italy and went by the aptly-named stage moniker "Alan Steel" while in the meat of his film career. Playing assorted mythological demigods in cheaply-made but highly popular spectacles of the early 1960s, the actor also occasionally went by his birth name. Riding on a cinematic tidal wave ignited by Montana-born bodybuilder and one-time "Mr Universe" Steve Reeves in the cult hit Hercules (1958) [aka Hercules], Steel was actually one of the very few native Italians to play these colossal he-men as most were transported from America or England.

Steel started off his beefcake run off as a body double for Reeves in both the "Hercules" sequel Hercules Unchained (1959) [Hercules Unchained] and in The Giant of Marathon (1959) [Giant of Marathon], in which he also had bit roles. Within a couple of years Steel was posing front-and-center as Herk himself in Samson (1961) [Samson] opposite another physique-minded American import, Brad Harris in the title role. On numerous occasions Steel was asked to play the legendary Greek hero, as well as the equally well-built demigods Samson and Ursus, even though the film titles often fused (or confused) them in their titles. Steel starred as Hercules in Hercules Against Rome (1964) [Hercules Against Rome], Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964) [Hercules Against the Moon Men], Hercules and the Black Pirates (1964) [Hercules and the Black Pirate], and Lost Treasure of the Incas (1964) [Hercules and the Treasure of the Incas], the second movie mentioned being one of the only spectacles to actually incorporate science fiction into the genre. In contrast, his Hercules serves as a mere sidekick in the Zorro-like spectacle Hercules and the Masked Rider (1963) [Hercules and the Masked Rider] starring Ettore Manni.

It was not surprising to find Steel cast as a heavy during his prime as well -- menacing the very heroes he was prone to playing -- such as his crazed emperor Commodus in Rebel Gladiators (1962) [Ursus, the Rebel Gladiator] opposite Dan Vadis. He also played the supporting role of Kaldos in The Fury of Hercules (1962) [The Fury of Hercules] when it was Brad Harris' turn to play the title role.

By mid-decade the Herculean phase had faded away and Steel went on, unlike others peplum stars, to other film styles -- dramas, thrillers, horror, oaters, even comedies. In the late 1960s he and fellow movie musclemen Kirk Morris and Gordon Mitchell served up a "spaghetti western" entitled Sapevano solo uccidere (1968) [Saguaro]. In 1976 Steel starred in and co-wrote a Robin Hood movie, and in 1979 ended his on-camera appearances with the Italian comedy Baby Love (1979).

As a footnote, in 1993 Australian filmmakers took Alan's film Samson and the Mighty Challenge (1964) [Samson and the Mighty Challenge] and did a total re-edit to create a brand new feature (an action comedy), with original scenes, Aussie actors and a new soundtrack. The film was entitled Hercules Returns (1993).