Based on the book of the same name by Frank Yerby. Pietro is an orphan who is raised by a family friend in 15th century Italy. When the friend is killed by the same nasty baron who murdered...
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Based on the book of the same name by Frank Yerby. Pietro is an orphan who is raised by a family friend in 15th century Italy. When the friend is killed by the same nasty baron who murdered Pietro's father as he led the peasants in revolt against the baron's tyranny, Pietro vows vengeance against the entire family. This will prove difficult, since he's been in love with the daughter of the nasty baron since he was a child and wants to marry her. Written by
Marta Dawes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Despite Leonard Maltin's bafflingly unflattering *1/2 review, this is perhaps the best certainly the most enjoyable of director Castle's epics; still, given the title, I expected it to have a lot more to do with the Saracens and, by extension, the Crusades than it actually did (the mentioned weapon, then, has no real bearing on the plot)!
Besides, the production's low-budget is evident in an early battle sequence which is made up of sepia footage (thus instantly contrasting with the otherwise handsome-looking film) lifted from JOAN OF ARC (1948) and playing out as if witnessed from afar by star Ricardo Montalban! The latter, then, contributes an enthusiastic performance which demonstrates that he was more than a fair swashbuckling hero (incidentally, two more of his efforts in this vein would follow in my Epics marathon); indeed, the principal cast is nicely-assembled: Betta St. John is ideally cast as the sweet-natured leading lady, a grizzled-looking Michael Ansara (playing much older than his years) is one of the members of a family which are the sworn enemies of that of Montalban's, another is a blonde and rather sexy Carolyn Jones (whose relationship with the protagonist follows an amour fou-type pattern a' la that between Heathcliff and Isabella in "Wuthering Heights" but it is not taken quite so far).
Complicating matters even further is Montalban's personal history: born on the same day as the heir to the Italian King (later to become known as Frederick II!), he is then brought up by a family friend after his mother dies in childbirth and his dad is thrown into prison by the villainous Ansara. Years later, the father leads a revolt in which he is even joined by his son, but dies soon after; taken into custody for his scholarliness by St. John, he clashes with his enemies once again when her father proclaims her to be intended (against her will, since she harbors feelings for our hero) to Ansara's own son. They elope together but are captured; ostensibly allowing her to free him, St. John's now-husband chases Montalban like a wild animal having promised the visiting new King (the boy who shares his birthday with the hero!) a special type of prey. Meeting the latter and surprisingly befriending him, he not only elevates his rank but the two conspire to have Montalban marry Jones (the King proves quite the superstitious fellow, believing his luck to hold only so long as the hero is alive, thus he is ready to accede to his every whim!).
As one can see, the film is pretty plot-packed (in fact, I would say there is enough here for a film at least twice its trim 76-minute length, but effectively streamlining things with, for instance, the two marriage ceremonies gotten over with via an identical 10-second shot!): anyway, the King then becomes involved in a Holy Crusade against the Muslims and orders all his loyal subjects to take part. This, of course, includes both Montalban and his nemeses who are still thinking of how to eliminate him; they see an opportunity when asking that the newly-knighted hero (for having saved the King's life) to lead the resistance while the rest take flight in the hope of rallying more manpower. As expected, Montalban ends up a prisoner in the Saracen camp but he finds an ally and eventual companion in the leader's mistress (whom, however, he disfigures before relinquishing to the Christian).
Back home, amidst the enmity he now feels for St. John (he is not aware she was likewise tricked during his faux escape, while she takes his having brought the Muslim girlfriend along in order to spite her!) and the burgeoning genuine attentions of Jones (even if she leads a clandestine affair with uncle Ansara!), the situation is happily resolved with the death of all three members of the family who had harassed Montalban for so long: Jones' at the hand of her own lover, Ansara's son via an arrow that leads directly into the decisive battle between the two factions and his dad's in the inevitable swordfight with the hero that ends it.
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