I enjoyed QUEEN OF SHEBA. I was entertained by it and thought it was really colorful for a Black & White film: many characters played by a beautiful cast, amazing complex sets, beautiful locations. Music score by the brilliant Nino Rota. What's not to like?
The script was well written with some clever plot lines. I really like how the story was set-up, with the two Israelites heroes, Prince Rehoboam (son of King Solomon) and his right hand man Isachar, pretending to be the two travelers/spies who were captured while on their way to Sheba. When they arrive at a secret Oasis near Sheba, both men immediately fall in love with the two women who are bathing there, Prince Rehoboam with Princess (soon to be Queen) Balkis and Isachar with the Princess' handmaiden. When the King dies, Balkis becomes Queen and she is wed to a God/statue and cannot love a mortal man. This complicates things as Balkis has fallen in love with Prince Rehoboam (and vice versa). Things get even more complicated when the dashing but evil Kabaal, commander of the Sheban army, also lusts after Balkis and wants Prince Rehoboam out of the picture.
After much merriment in Sheba, the Prince and Isachar are about to be found out as impostors since the two travelers/spies who were captured in Solomon have escaped and have told everything to Kabaal. The Queen learns about the Prince's deception but also about his imminent marriage to another aristocratic woman. Prince Rehoboam and Isachar (with the handmaiden) leave Sheba with their lives just in time but Queen Balkis is infuriated with the Prince and declares war on the Kingdom of Solomon. This sets up a major battle and more intrigue and fun action.
The acting is good for a lightweight romance/action/adventure film. Do not expect Shakespeare. This is a purely entertaining film. Leonora Ruffo as the Queen and a warrior was believable. She had the right amount of innocence, strength and beauty. Gino Leurini as the Prince was a memorably atypical hero. The two had chemistry. Umberto Silvestri as Isachar was totally cool and Franco Silva cut a dashing and yet evil figure as the army commander Kabaal. But the actor that easily steals the show in THE QUEEN OF SHEBA was Gino Cervi as King Solomon. His portrayal was a real stand-out and made the whole story believable and yet mythical as well.
The film has a surprising number of stand-out scenes, including the opening; the encounter at the secret Oasis (with underwater sequences!); the first time we see Kabaal drilling his army; the three way challenge, between the Prince, Kabaal and Balkis, on horseback; Balkis becoming Queen; the tavern scene; the battle at the end; the duel between the Prince and "Kabaal" (you'll know what I mean); the denouement in the valley of silence (wow!!!). Anyway, I could go on and on but there's really a fair amount of well-mounted sequences here. All beautiful shot in glorious Black & White. I usually like Peplums in color but I have to admit that the B&W cinematography was at times stunning. And then there's the score by Nino Rota.
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA might not be considered as a great film by many but I was greatly entertained by it. For fans of Pepla, it's a must see. Much better than that bloated Hollywood epic, SOLOMON & SHEBA.
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