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In the early 16th century, Italy is ruled by the powerful Borgia family, led by César Borgia and his sister Lucrètè. In a ruthless power play, César plots to have his sister's husband murdered. But without her brother's knowledge, Lucrècè has taken a strong lover who will challenge the Borgias. Written by
Dan Navarro <email@example.com>
This reasonably well-mounted and quite stylish historical saga features impeccable period detail but, unfortunately, fizzles out in the second half – emerging to be rather uneven overall. Besides, it doesn’t rise to the full potential offered by its famous (and much-filmed) events – especially given the fact that the character of Lucretia has been considerably whitewashed! Still, the court intrigue is more interesting than the romance – but the pageantry is rather splendid, and there’s plenty of exciting action throughout (including a manhunt a' la THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME ).
The casting, too, is exemplary: Martine Carol is an ideal Lucretia (she went on to portray another famous ‘courtesan’ in Max Ophuls’ sublime LOLA MONTES ); a dashing Massimo Serato; a rather subdued Pedro Armendariz as Cesare Borgia; an impressively slinky Arnoldo Foa' as Cesare’s resourceful lieutenant; rugged Christian Marquand and an impossibly young Maurice Ronet as two of Lucretia’s ill-fated conquests; a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Howard Vernon as a vicar; Valentine Tessier as a wealthy eccentric (she had been Madame Bovary in Jean Renoir’s 1933 version); and Pieral, the psychoanalyst dwarf from Luis Bunuel’s THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (1977), who provides amusing but somewhat misplaced comic relief.
For the record, the following are the other films I’ve watched centering around this infamous noble family: Mitchell Leisen’s BRIDE OF VENGEANCE (1948), Henry King’s PRINCE OF FOXES (1949; recently released on DVD); and Sergio Corbucci’s much-inferior remake of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1966). One I’d love to check out is Abel Gance’s LUCREZIA BORGIA (1935; also available on disc through Image).
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