Based on the Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel. Set in the shadows of Mt. Vesuvius just before its famous eruption, the film begins with Glaucus, a Roman legionnaire, returning to his home from ... See full summary »
The decurion Randus holds himself so well in the command of his troops, that Caesar promotes him to centurion. He is subsequently sent to Egypt, to keep Caesar informed on the actions and ... See full summary »
Gianna Maria Canale
Antigonus, archon of Corinth, wants to build a magnificent temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, for which the people are oppressed by new and very high taxes. The sculptor Demetrius, ... See full summary »
Pretty good historical Peplum effort here by Sergio Corbucci, the
Italian exploitation director best known for his trend setting
spaghetti western classic DJANGO. It's easy to dismiss Italian sword &
sandal spectacles from the early 1960s: they are universally low
budgeted, take shortcuts that their Americanized counterparts wouldn't
dream of (BEN HUR, THE 10 COMMANDMENTS, SPARTACUS) and borrow liberally
from them as well, sometimes to the point of plagiarism. Not that there
is anything automatically wrong with that, artists steal good ideas
from each other all the time, and there's only so much you can do with
a bunch of guys running around in tunics with swords.
This one tells of the founding of Rome by the twin brothers of legend,
Romulus and Remus, wonderfully personified by Steve Reeves (HERCULES,
HERCULES UNCHAINED) and particularly Gordon Scott (TARZAN'S GREATEST
ADVENTURE, SAMSON AND THE 7 MIRACLES) in his first Peplum outing after
ditching the Tarzan loincloth. Reeves plays the noble, stoic Romulus,
destined to be the first king of Rome whether he likes it or not, and
Gordon Scott plays Remus as you have never seen Gordon Scott before --
Wild, erratic, envious, prone to violence, distrustful of anyone who
does not blindly follow his leadership, and ultimately flawed enough to
come across as very human rather than the son of a Roman god.
Legend has it that Reeves refused an offer to play a dual role as both
brothers and insisted the producers bring in his friend Gordon Scott
instead, and it is a testament to Reeves' humbleness as a performer
that he ceded the meatier role to his friend; Reeves is great as
Romulus, but Scott is excellent as Remus, and the performance opened
the door for Scott to appear in several more Pepla before the fad wore
itself out. This one proves that he was capable of acting in addition
to throwing large boulders at people, and the brothers' final showdown
is indeed the stuff of tragedy and legend.
There's actually some high powered talent behind this effort. In
addition to the A list manbeef and director Corbucci, spaghetti western
specialists Duccio Tessari and Sergio Leone both played a role in
scripting the non-hammy, non-campy screenplay, with cinematography by
Enzo Barboni of TRINITY era fame, sets by the always brilliant Carlo
Simi, and a sweeping, robust musical score by Piero Piccioni that is
quite fittingly epic in nature. Supporting cast stalwarts Piero Lulli,
Franco Volpi, José Greci, Laura Solari, and Jacques Sernas as the
scurrilous Curzio bring a breadth to the production that makes many
other examples of the genre seem silly by comparison.
Here is a thinking man's Peplum, eschewing the traditional gladiator
bouts and he-man physical strength displays for a tightly woven story
with a convincingly realistic tone. I would rank this movie up there
with Gordon Mitchell's FURY OF ACHILLIES as amongst the best that the
Italians were able to muster to cash in on the fad. Both films deal
with historical legends and both maintain a somewhat serious tone
throughout, and you can tell with this one that the Italian filmmakers
were endowed with a sense of pride in telling their own pre-history for
a change instead of just another potboiler script. Even with all the
chest oil there's a tone of dignity to the film that is atypical of
what the Peplum genre usually has to offer.
If I were to have a genuine criticism about the film it would be in
regards to the barbaric horse race through a gauntlet of fire that the
producers saw fit to include during the opening movements. It doesn't
look like it was very safe for man or beast, and I can only hope that
they asked the horses' permission first before running them through the
very real pre-CGI obstacle course of burning rubbish and trip wires
just for the benefit of the cameras. You have to wonder about the
Italians sometimes -- couldn't they have just had a nice harmless
javelin throwing contest?
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