Maria Felix in the title role is a captivating Messalina because she portrays this unlovely character with a full range of emotions...imperious and haughty, winsome and cajoling while cozening her dotard husband, needy and pleading with her main lover Caius Cilius (Georges Marchal), cold and calculating as she casually murders a young smitten boy, and ultimately terrified when her crafty machinations go awry and she is bereft of any friends or allies. Though taking great liberty with actual historical events, the film presents the most notorious woman in Roman history as a many-faceted complex person of deep and dark passions who comes to an ignominious end through her excesses and folly. And the magnificent Maria is up to the challenge, giving the best portrait of Messalina on screen to date. She ruthlessly pursues her treasonous agenda while "foolish" Emperor Claudius devotes his attention to one of his pet projects, dredging the silted-up port of Brindisi to free it for shipping.
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