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The Sword and the Cross (1956)

Le schiave di Cartagine (original title)
| Drama | April 1960 (USA)
Tarsus, in the Roman province of Cilicia, AD 120. Two Carthaginian sisters, Lea and Esther, are bought as slave girls by Roman tribune Marcus Valerius, who gives them as a present to proud ... See full summary »




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Credited cast:
Julia Martia
Marcus Valerius
Ana Luisa Peluffo ...
Rubén Rojo ...
Flavius Metellus
Luigi Pavese ...
Publius Cornelius
Germán Cobos ...
Ricardo Valle ...
Nando Tamberlani ...
Albert Hehn ...
Livius (as Alberto Helm)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Marcello Giorda
Carlo Lombardi
Nicola Manzari
Renato Navarrini
Emilio Petacci


Tarsus, in the Roman province of Cilicia, AD 120. Two Carthaginian sisters, Lea and Esther, are bought as slave girls by Roman tribune Marcus Valerius, who gives them as a present to proud Julia Martia, daughter of the proconsul. Ambitious, greedy and vindictive, Julia is betrothed to the cynical Flavius Metellus, a member of the Senate, but in fact she is in love with Marcus. However, he prefers the simple sweetness of Lea, which drives Julia to cruelty and revenge. The proconsul is murdered by Flavius Metellus who becomes his successor. Believing the Christians were responsible for her father's death, Julia, now the new proconsul's wife, orders the persecutions to begin. Marcus is ordered to carry out the campaign, but faced with the courage and faith of the Christians he realizes they are innocent. He is arrested after being betrayed by a shepherd and joins the two sisters in the dungeons. Lea is tortured and blinded after refusing to divulge the hiding place of the remaining ... Written by Jim Marshall

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Plot Keywords:

slavery | carthage | See All (2) »


An unforgettable spectacle of marvels and miracles. See masses of the faithful crucified on the flaming hills. See the decadent splendor of the Roman orgies. See the wild chariot race of the Roman destroyers. See the noble captive beauties sold on the slave block.




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Release Date:

April 1960 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Sword and the Cross  »

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

The forgotten and flawed Slave Girls of Carthage
22 February 2008 | by (Derby, England) – See all my reviews

Of all the Italian epics, this rarely-seen example would appear to be the most forgotten and the least acclaimed. On the face of it the film's credentials are highly impressive: the story is a broad re-make of Fabiola whereby a rich Roman lady is led to believe the Christians were responsible for the murder of her father. Italy's top costume villainess Gianna Maria Canale displays her customary icy exterior whilst harbouring a secret inner passion for Spanish hunk Jorge Mistral (although neither probably knows what the other is talking about). Albertini's cinematography is visually stunning in rich colour, which has been faithfully transferred to the Cine Epico DVD in its original 2.35:1 TotalScope. The sets certainly look magnificent, if just a tiny bit suspiciously wooden, and the costumes are top of the range. For the music score the producers have persuaded distinguished composer Enzo Masetti (who also did Fabiola) to return for the re-make. And at the opulent palace in Tarsus we are treated to an energetic display by an African ballerina, then Marisa Allasio sings (or at least mimes) a lovely Carthaginian aria in Italian. So, with all this class around him, there can surely be no way for veteran director Guido Brignone to turn out one of the turkeys of 1956? Somehow, he can and he does. One could easily blame his pedestrian pace or the static camera work, but the real killer blow is Brignone's failure to stamp any authority or care on the proceedings. The resulting lack of attention to detail is noticeable as early as the main title. Masetti opens with his eloquent and sombre music for the Christians labouring on the treadmill, but the main title designer chooses a pretty desert sketch with palm trees, which would be fine if we were watching The Road to Morocco. The heroine Lea is blinded by a white-hot sword in the dungeons and spends the rest of the picture stumbling around. However, apparently thanks to some anachronistic plastic surgery in ancient Tarsus, her face shows no sign of burns or scarring whatsoever. Somebody seems to have decided that Brignone's direction of one of the sword fights was too sluggish, so we see it speeded up like in the old cliffhanger serials. The goofs just go on and on. Gianna Maria Canale meets her end being trampled to death by horses with earth spectacularly churning into the camera lens. But, when the poor lady rolls over dead, her clothes are spotless and her face has just a couple of token dabs of red paint. Towards the end Masetti runs out of time or enthusiasm (or both) and recycles his battle music from Attila the Hun. Ironically, it's only the ending when the film really comes to life. There's a well-staged chariot race to the beach where hero and villain fight it out to the death on the sands. Flavius Metellus, up to then intelligently portrayed by fine actor Rubén Rojo, elects to theatrically fall on his sword. Then, against a grand choral finale, the Christian lovers walk off into God's sunlight, but the whole thing is ruined by the end-title again using the Hope-Crosby backdrop. One is inevitably left with the conclusion that Slave Girls of Carthage, with so much talent to admire, should have been a lot, lot better.

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