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Roman centurion Marcian is captured by Attila the Hun en route to Constantinople, but escapes. On arrival, he finds the eastern Roman emperor Theodosius plotting with Attila to look the other way while the latter marches against Rome. But Marcian gains the favor of Pulcheria, lovely sister of Theodosius, who favors a united Empire. As Attila marches, things look bleak for the weakened imperial forces. But the conqueror has an awe of the power of the Christians' God... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Sign of the Pagan" is a pretended swords and sandals epic film about Attila the Hun's attack on the remains of a divided Roman empire. The screenplay tries somehow to follow historic facts and show us some events in the Hun King's life that we know about (his merciful attacks on villages while marching against Rome, his meeting with Pope Leo, his contacts with the Romans -he had been a hostage in Rome as a young boy- and his death by the hand of slave girl Ildico).
But in all the movie lacks a sense of greatness and the big spectacle other films of the same genre that were released about the same time achieved ("Quo Vadis" and "Helen of Troy" are clear examples).
The cast is not very accurate either. Jeff Chandler was always a standard actor but no more than that (perhaps his best performance was that of Apache chief Cochise in 1950's western "Broken Arrow"), and he looks wooden and unconvincing as the Roman Centurion that tries to defeat Attila. Ludmilla Tcherina was not much of an actress either and her Princess Pulcheria character is too simple. Rita Gam clearly overacts as Palance's daughter that starts to question his father's ideas about Rome. What makes this film worth a watch is Jack Palance's performance as the Hun chief; he has the proper "physiche du rol", some make up helps him too but he manages to transmit the strength and conviction a warrior leader like Attila was supposed to have.
Too many indoor shooting doesn't help the picture either. I think Douglas Sirk was a fine director but he felt more comfortable in contemporary dramas such as "Written in the Wind".
"The Sign of the Pagan" is just for fans of the genre or to watch a fine performance by Jack Palance as an historical figure. Not much more in my opinion but superior to the Italian try on Attila's whereabouts starring Anthomy Quinn and Sophia Loren released almost at the same time).
4 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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