Born in Newcastle in 1927, Joe Robinson is an actor and stuntman who appeared in several films over a thirty year span from the mid 1950s. He’s probably best known for his appearance in Diamond are Forever (71), in which he has a notable fight sequence with Sean Connery, but his career is a lot more interesting than just that, and – most interestingly as far as TheWildEye is concerned – included a brief stretch as a star of Italian peplums.
Robinson started out as a wrestler, winning the European Heavyweight Championship in 1952, but his interest in acting led him to study at the renound Rada in London. He soon began appearing in musicals, and made his film debut in 1955 with a brief role in A Kid for Two Farthings. Further parts followed, generally making use of his impressive physique and featuring him as an athlete, wrestler or general big dude.
In 1960, he was invited to Rome to take part in in the big budget Dino De Laurentiis production Barabbas (61) and, while there, he had a small (but very visible) role in Mario Bava’s excellent Fury of the Vikings (61). This was a period in which bodybuilders were in great demand in Cinecitta, though, and he was also the protagonist opposite Yoko Tani and Akim Tamiroff in Ursus and the Tartar Princess (61). In 1963, he starred with another Brit, Harry Baird, in Taur the Mighty and it’s sequel, Women Gladiators (63), both of which were directed by Antonio Leonviola. None of his peplums were particularly big budget or high profile, but they were relatively succesful and he made for an appealing star.
As he says: “I played all kinds of roles – Vikings, Nazis, you name it – but I turned down the part of the ‘gong man’ for J Arthur Rank because I thought it would typecast me.”
Unfortunately, with the demise of the peplums in the mid 60s, work in Italy dried up, and he shifted focus to his as a stuntman and actor on TV series such as The Avengers and The Saint. After retiring from acting, he moved to Brighton, where he opened a martial arts centre. In 1998 he made headlines for fighting off a group of eight muggers armed with baseball bats and knives while on holiday in South Africa (he poleaxed two with flying kicks, karate chopped another in the chest and broke anothers arm… the rest of them fled!)