Saturday, September 15, 2007


When I was a kid, this was guy we wanted to look like: Mr. America, Mr. Universe, Mr. World, Steve Reeves. Shoulders a yard wide, good-looking, women crawling all over him. Fit, strong, and healthy, Hercules himself. (Awful movie, if you want, you can watch it as a streaming vid, it's in the public domain.)

I got a 110-lb set of weights when I was thirteen, and did endless reps with as much weight as I could handle. Didn't help -- I remained short and skeletal -- at that age, I was just over five feet tall and about a hundred pounds. Didn't occur to me I need to eat more if I wanted to get bigger, I thought all I needed was the iron ...

The sword-and-sandal movies, in Italian, were the best-known of Reeves's roles, though he did appear in the 1954 classic, Jail Bait, aka The Hidden Face, directed by none other than the incomparable Ed Wood. He was so hot at the time of the Italian movies, the highest-paid actor in Europe, that he turned down the roles of James Bond in Dr. No, and The Man With No Name in A Fistful of Dollars, for which Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood must be thankful.

He retired from movies in the sixties, was a rancher and an exponent of PowerWalking, wrote, and offered training courses. He developed lymphoma and managed, with diet and exercise, to hold off death until he was seventy-four. He died in 2000.


Jason said...

I am with you there Steve.

I grew up watching bodybuilding with my dad an ex gymnast and avid iron pumper. He had his magazines and such from the Reeves era as well as a couple of the movies.

I always thought Reeves was the best looking of the bunch. To this day, if I was asked by a genie what I wanted to look like I would point at a picture of Steve Reeves. Specifically from right after the Hercules era. He had dropped a tiny bit of size and still had the full beard.

Ximena said...

I'm always interested by how these old-timey guys, who were considered really buff at the time, look practically normal compared to the chiseled musculature so popular on today's action stars (Brad Pitt springs to mind). I prefer the Steve Reeves look myself.

On a side note, athleticism, strength, and desirability don't have to mean cut muscles. I've been watching the Seven Samurai this weekend (4 times so far not including slow-motion replays), primarily because it features a young Toshiro Mifune wearing half-armor and no pants.

Dan Gambiera said...

If you look at really strong people who use their bodies in strenuous ways they usually don't appear ripped and cut. They tend to be more slab-sided. Modern body building works muscles in isolation to get that special look.

And frankly, it's counterproductive if you're actually going to be using your muscles. A large part of working efficiently is using your body, not just one part of it. Stevedores and farmers don't look like bodybuilders.

Steve Perry said...

Of course, form follows function, and what you want to do determines what you look like, at least to the degree that your genetics will allow.

As an ideal, I've always been partial to the physiques of athletes like gymnasts -- functional, but a bit more rugged and low-fat kind of look.

Powerlifters are tremendously strong, but they usually don't seem agile or particularly graceful.

Bodybuilders aren't as strong, but the best of them could do things like handstands and splits, back in the pre-steroid days, and they routinely ran or biked for aerobic fitness. And they weren't weak when it came to picking things up and moving them about. A lot of them came out of martial arts for a while, so they could move.

Still, I would rather look like Steve Reeves when he played Hercules than Schwarzenegger as Conan.

Reeves came closer to that Greek statue ideal, with the proportions -- neck, upper, arm, calves, all the same diameter, broad shoulders and chest, narrow waist.