The Mongols (1961)
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If you do not take it literally,you may find "I mongoli" pleasant,nay entertaining.Jack Palance overplays as hell ,perfectly cast as the villain.The villainess Ekberg matches him,so to speak ,every step of the way.The heroes ,Franco Silva and Antonella Lualdi are Italian cast as Polish pacifists who try to avoid war with the Mongols .Gengis Khan "whose ears cannot hear woman's words" agrees with the good ones.But his son (Palance) is not prepared to accept such a thing ,neither is his slave/lover Ekberg who might have been infuriated by Khan's machismo.
There are tortures aplenty ,floggings galore,stakes,even a nasty little thing called "slow death" .Treasons are here too.Igor is not fair-play during the duel,but he must be forgiven since the hero is obviously stealing his fiancée;Henry de Valois (what is this French doing here?) spills the beans but I'd like to see what you 'd have done ,in that slow death stuff.
The ideal flick after hard labor ,housework or a Godard Movie.Why not?
Actually, this one turned out to be pretty good – and, I have to say, it lived up to the review on “Stracult” where special reference is made to its sequences of bloodthirsty action and sadism. Jack Palance gives the role of Ogotai – son of Asian potentate Genghis Khan – his eye-rolling all; he’s abetted by an equally evil Anita Ekberg (the mighty but battle-weary Khan himself perishes by her hand!). The unhistorical narrative involves the Mongols’ raid of Poland and, in particular, the attempts by one of the latter’s leading figures (Franco Silva) to negotiate a peace treaty with the Khan – a plan which Palance vehemently opposes and constantly schemes to thwart.
Being a relatively low-budget effort, the triple directorial credit might seem surprising: however, as the Italian credits themselves clearly indicate, this translates to being “A Film by Andre' De Toth” (implying that he was merely engaged in a supervisory capacity), “Directed by Leopoldo Savona”, and “Battle Sequences Staged by Riccardo Freda”. With this in mind, there are fewer of the latter than one would perhaps have appreciated – but these are nonetheless handled with the requisite gusto and grandeur. The rest of the film is largely taken up by various court intrigues on both sides of the fence but also a three-way Polish romance involving the aforementioned Franco Silva, Antonella Lualdi and Pierre Cressoy that tends to swamp Palance’s troubled relationship with his own wife!
As I said, the violence is really at the fore in this film – the Mongols themselves are memorably introduced on horseback dragging a statue of the Virgin Mary through the streets of a Polish city they’d just ransacked; besides, there are plenty of floggings (Ekberg herself lends a hand in the punishment of the perennially imperiled Lualdi), crucifixions (two men are even tied to the wheels of an advancing cart!), burnings at the stakes, etc. The finale, then, sees an Alexander NEVSKY (1938)-type strategy at work with the apparently fleeing Silva and his men luring the pursuing Mongol forces into a deadly swamp. The film was good enough almost to merit a *** rating from me…but, at 115 minutes, it’s quite a long haul – especially since it resorts too often to contrived (and repetitive) plotting.
The creators of the movie put much effort into the scenery and even more effort into the costumes. But they did not put any effort at all into the script or into acting. The plot is as simple-minded as if it had been invented by some twelve year old boys, playing cops and robbers. The dialog consists of stupid, hollow phrases. This alone would already make the movie a bad movie.
However its weaknesses go beyond that. The background music is not only unbearable symphonic rubbish. It is also inappropriately matched to the atmosphere of the individual scenes. Even the optical aspects that seem to have been the film maker's only focus are flawed. I do not have sufficient historical knowledge to judge about the historical correctness of costumes, weapons and other equipment. But I am quite sure that ordinary Polish women in the middle ages did not possess a hairstyle, makeup, and manicure like models in the early 1960's, especially if they were hiding from the Mongolian army in the marshland.
This having been said, it is almost unnecessary to mention that even the main story line is far from telling a true story about Genghis Khan's time.
There is no reason to watch this film, as long as you do not want to see how much can go wrong simultaneously with a single movie.
The only names we Americans will recognize are that of Palance playing Ogatai son of Genghis Khan and his lovely blond amazon wife played by Anita Ekberg. I will say this the writers did make provision for the fact that she clearly does not look like a Mongol and did mention that she was from a captive people. Perhaps a Viking settlement somewhere in Eastern Europe might explain it. I'll say this with that massive endowment of her's Anita looks good even in that Mongol armor. One fill figured girl she was.
When Palance is on there isn't a stick of furniture left standing. He is having one great old time overacting against the background of these continental cast members who sound stiff as usual with their dubbed voices. The Europeans have decided to sue for peace and have sent the film's nominal hero Franco Silva playing Stephen of Cracow as a peace emissary.
But Palance really gets his jollies with all the blood and guts and he doesn't want to stop the fighting. In this he's aided and abetted by Anita. So nice when husband and wife have a mutual interest. He and Anita do what they can to sabotage a cease fire.
In the end it's pulled out and western civilization itself is saved by a seasoned soldier taking home town advantage of the elements.
Jack Palance fans should get a real charge out of this film watching their guy dine on the scenery. The Mongols will give you quite a few unintentional laughs.