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Three centuries before Christus. Young Cabiria is kidnapped by some pirates during one eruption of the Etna. She is sold as a slave in Carthage, and as she is just going to be sacrificed to god Moloch, Cabiria is rescued by both Fulvio Axilla, a Roman noble, and his giant slave Maciste. Maciste is captured just after having confided Cabiria to Sophinisbe's safe keeping, while Fulvio Axilla manages to escape from Carthage. Ten years went away with Punic wars before he is able to come back to Carthage... Written by
Kidnapped by Phoenician pirates from her Sicilian home, the infant CABIRIA grows to become involved in Rome's conflict with Carthage during the Second Punic War.
Vast, intricate in plot & completely fascinating, here is one of the great silent epics which, fortunately, lives up to its legend. Full of daring rescues & breathless escapes, the film also features innovative camerawork & lighting techniques which would greatly influence D. W. Griffith & Cecil B. DeMille. (Some viewers may also see a strong resemblance between CABIRIA and the gigantic sets & bravado action highlighted in the Douglas Fairbanks swashbucklers of the 1920's.)
Prolific director Giovanni Pastrone (1883-1959), using the pseudonym Piero Fosco, wrote the script and helped design the huge, elaborate sets, wanting to make his film the biggest, most thrilling epic ever produced. A million lira was budgeted for CABIRIA, a tremendous sum then, and location shooting was extended to Tunisia, Sicily & the Alps. The result was a tremendous success and ensured Pastrone's name would be enshrined in the history of world cinema. A true Renaissance Man, Pastrone left films in 1923 to devote himself to medical research.
The acting is often rather ripe & sensationalized, but that was the prevailing style in Italian epics, which were doubtless influenced by Grand Opera's florid stage mannerisms. Special mention should be made of Umberto Mozzato as a heroic Roman spy, Bartolomeo Pagano as the muscular Maciste & Italia Almirante-Manzini playing a wicked Carthaginian queen.
Sequences remain in the viewer's mind: the destructive eruption of Mount Etna; the truly terrifying scenes in the vile Temple of Moloch, with tiny naked children being thrown into the flames; and Hannibal's march - with elephants - over the mountains. Ancient Archimedes setting fire to the Roman fleet attacking Syracuse is unexpectedly amusing, while the movie climaxes with one of the most ostentatious suicides ever filmed.
There were three Punic Wars, which kept the ancient world embroiled from 264 BC until 146 BC while Rome & Carthage engaged in a death struggle to see who would emerge as the master of the Mediterranean. Battles raged in Europe & Africa, as well as on the Sea, but the last War ultimately ended with Rome's total victory and the complete & utter destruction of Carthage. The innocents sacrificed to the hideous Moloch were finally avenged.
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