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Nero is on holiday at the seaside. Poppea, Seneca and many other guests are with him. Nero is preparing a great show where he will be the star. When Agrippina, his mother, arrives with her German praetorians and decides Nero has to conquer Britain, she is asking for trouble. Many attempts of murder and poisoning will happen on the eve of his great show. Written by
Baldinotto da Pistoia
As was the case with TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA (1953), this Alberto Sordi vehicle lampoons the then-affluent peplum genre; helmed by another comedy specialist, it's a superior effort – with the star's particular brand of fooling (a mix of pompousness and naïveté) somewhat better suited this time around to the requirements of his role, that of notorious music-loving and mad Roman Emperor Nero.
Besides, the film has an eclectic – and rather surprising – mix of talents, on both sides of the camera: in fact, it co-stars Vittorio De Sica (a great director but also a wonderful actor) as Seneca, Gloria Swanson (her renowned comeback in SUNSET BOULEVARD , alas, didn't lead to much) as Agrippina – Nero's fearsome and domineering mother, Brigitte Bardot (on the verge of becoming an international sex symbol) as a rather ordinary-looking Poppea, and even future Hammer leading lady Barbara Shelley – though not in a prominent role, presumably, as one of the innumerable maidens at Nero's palace; and, then, there's horrormeisters Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci – here in the capacity of cinematographer and assistant director respectively!
The film manages to be quite engaging and stylish (no wonder, given Bava's involvement)…even if it was rather a chore to watch, since the Italian TV channel which showed it has been suffering from a horrendous reception for some time! The simple plot involves Agrippina's unannounced arrival at Nero's resting quarters to verify rumors of his liaison with Poppea; Seneca, Nero's adviser, is assigned by the Emperor the task of stalling her at every turn…even if he has to marry her to do so! Of course, Nero is eager to flaunt his alleged musical genius and the bevy of associates and conspirators enclosed within the palace boldly hisses or meekly applauds his would-be compositions; at the end, distressed by rejection (especially by those closest to him) leads him to set the empire's capital on fire...
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