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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Italian epic about the relationship between Maria Maddalena and Jesus Christ , being realized in Peplum style

5/10
Author: ma-cortes from Santander Spain
2 March 2014

This is an interesting though average retelling at the life of Maria Maddalena and Christ from a Roman political , historical and religious view point . This Biblical movie deals with the story of a notorious harlot (Ivonne De Carlo) who must choose between her lascivious lifestyle , the love of a Roman general called Caio Marcello (Jorge Mistral) and affection of her decent-minded brother named Lazzarus (Terence Hill) and sister (Rossana Podesta) . Magdalena is tormented by delusion and nightmares after learning her bad life until she meets Jesus . The film includes some major events referred to the New Testament with descriptive Biblical passages such as Lazzarus's resurrection , the revolt led by Barrabbas (Andrea Aureli) and his struggle to deal with seek the best course of resistance to Roman oppression embodied by the political savvy Pontius Pilate (Philippe Hersent) , the arrest of Jesus in Mount of Olives , Golgotha Crucifixion , among others .

Set against the magnificent backdrop of classic Rome, "The Sword and the Cross" is a colorful version of Jesus Christ and Maria Magdalena's life with a true international all-star-epic treatment but being middlingly shot and reaches an exciting peak at the ending . It is not completely reverential at some Biblical characters such as Judas Iscariote , Pontius Pilate and Barrabbas portraying the man less a thief than as a political revolutionary . Filmed on a relatively mediocre scale , being efficiently produced by Ottavio Poggi . Life of Maria Magdalane is regularly written by notorious screenwriter Sandro Continenza and the same producer Ottavio Poggi. Good main cast , as the American Ivonne De Carlo is passable as the lascivious Maddalena and the Spanish actor, early deceased by committing suicide , Jorge Mistral , sometimes is a little wooden . Support cast is nice such as Massimo Serato as Anan , Andrea Aureli as Barabba , Nando Tamberlani as Caifa , Philippe Hersent as Ponzio Pilato and Terence Hill or Mario Girotti , prior his successful Spaghetti Westerns . Evocative as well as atmospheric original music by Roberto Nicolosi . Including glowing cinematography by Raffaele Masciocchi , filmed surrounding Rome , Lazio ; however being necessary a right remastering . The motion picture was regularly directed Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia , a craftsman who realized several adventures and Peplums such as "Amazons of Rome" , ¨Anibal¨ , "Ursus in the Valley of the Lions" , "Il Falco D'Oro" and " Semiramis , The Queen of Babylon¨ , among others .

Other pictures dealing with divine presence of Jesus Christ are the followings : ¨King of Kings¨ , released in 1927, , first silent version by Cecil B. DeMille with H.B. Wagner ; ¨King of Kings¨ by Nicholas Ray with Jeffrey Hunter , Robert Ryan , Carmen Sevilla , Frank Thring , Rip Torn , Rita Gam , Harry Guardino ; ¨The greatest story ever told¨ (1965) by George Stevens with Max Von Sidow , Charlton Heston , Jose Ferrer , Sidney Poitier , Claude Rains ; ¨Gospel according to Matthew¨ by Pier Paolo Pasolini with Enrique Irazoqui as Jesus ; ¨Jesus Christ Superstar¨(1977) by Norman Jewison with Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson ; ¨Jesus de Nazareth¨(1977) by Franco Zeffirelli with Robert Powell , Olivia Hussey , James Mason , Laurence Olivier , Anne Brancfort , Fernando Rey ; ¨Last temptation of Christ¨ by Martin Scorsese with Willem Dafoe , David Bowie , Harvey Keitel , Ian Holm , Harry Dean Staton ; and ¨The Passion of the Christ¨ (2004) by Mel Gibson with James Cazievel , Maia Morgenstern and Monica Belucci

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Pious, boring drama

4/10
Author: gridoon2015
22 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On paper, "The Sword And The Cross" looks like an interesting idea: key moments and events in the life of Jesus, as seen through the eyes of other characters, mainly Mary Magdalene; Jesus appears only in what can best be described as "cameos", usually from a long distance or with his face out of the frame. The result, however, proves one thing above all others - that sin (if you can call dancing provocatively a "sin", which this pious movie does) is more entertaining than virtuousness. This virtuousness smothers Yvonne De Carlo's character, and she gives an earnest but dull performance - though not duller than anyone else's (with the possible exception of the actors who play Pontius Pilatus and his wife, at least they bring some life to their characters). Good-looking, but suffering from an unfocused script, this film gets increasingly boring, to the point where I doubt that you will be able to finish it all in one sitting. *1/2 out of 4

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THE SWORD AND THE CROSS (MARY MAGDALENE) (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1958) **

5/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
25 April 2011

Though I had at least a couple more vintage Christ-related films lined up for Holy Week viewing, I ended up watching only this one…and the fact that it did not amount to much makes the restriction doubly disappointing! Anyway, this peplum looked promising enough on paper: director Bragaglia was an expert at this sort of fare, Yvonne De Carlo was equally seasoned at playing historical figures, and her supporting cast was headed by Victor Mature-lookalike Jorge Mistral (who had been Heathcliff in Luis Bunuel's remarkably idiosyncratic 1954 version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS!) and Massimo Serato, yet another genre stalwart.

However, as was the norm back then, a number of flourishes (read: inaccuracies or, simply, inventions) were incorporated into the plot that rendered it not just unpalatable but downright mediocre! These included having Mary Magdalene turn out to be Lazarus' sister (he, then, is played – believe it or not – by a pre-stardom Terence Hill, still acting under his original name of Mario Girotti!), her being involved with the insurrectionist schemes of arch-criminal Barabbas (depicted as a rather scurrilous individual!) and also De Carlo's alternating relationships between ambitious/unscrupulous Jew Serato (Barabbas' own contact-man!) and centurion Mistral (who also happens to be Serato's old buddy!) newly-arrived to steer Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea, towards accomplishing the will of Rome!

Incidentally, while the Jew exploits Mary's profession of courtesan (needless to say, frowned upon but basically tolerated – because her religion dictates as much – by sister Rossana Podesta': she had already fallen to supporting-role status after the misfire that was Robert Wise's HELEN OF TROY {1955}!), the Roman is shocked by her shameless behavior (especially when he discovers she had been the masked performer of a sultry dance at a party given by Serato: apparently, he clean forgot De Carlo had already made a demonstration of her dubious 'artistic' abilities in his tent when left behind during an attack by Barabbas and his fanatics!)...WTF?! – should it not be a Christian's prerogative to try and reform a Pagan?

And what of Jesus' own appearance: being from the time where it was not deemed fit to show His features (the remake of KING OF KINGS was still 3 years away), His presence is so fleeting throughout that He might as well have been a ghost...which Christ almost is when unhistorically turning up in Mary Magdalene's garden beseeching that she mend her wicked ways! Naturally, this eventually occurs after He famously intervenes at her impromptu stoning; she ultimately repays Him by an equally fictitious – and unbelievable – visit to His prison cell (thanks to Mistral's clout apparently), where His redeeming spirit is unabated. Following which, we fast-forward to the Crucifixion scene and, by extension, the film's end – a sure sign, if one were needed, that Religion was the last thing on the film-makers' minds!

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The Passion Play meets the peplum in this Italian "spectacle"

6/10
Author: melvelvit-1 from NYC suburbs
31 December 2011

The Passion Play gets the peplum treatment from director Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, a genre-friendly "auteur" responsible for such sword & sandal "classics" as QUEEN OF BABYLON, HANNIBAL, AMAZONS OF ROME, URSUS IN THE VALLEY OF THE LIONS and THE LOVES OF HERCULES in a 30-year career that thrived under Mussolini's reign. This one stars a slightly over-the-hill Yvonne De Carlo as Mary Magdalene, the Hebrew harlot everyone's crazy about -from swashbuckling Roman centurion Gaius Marcellus (handsome Jorge Mistral) to that rabble-rouser Barrabas- but for the love of God, she's only got eyes for the Nazarine after suddenly seeing the light one night. During a banquet orgy, the raven-tressed Yvonne did a seductive dance wearing a gold half-mask and a sea of red chiffon in an attempt to arouse a holy man but she got religion right in the middle of it, blanching like something got lodged in her throat before running out of the room to become a goody two-shoes. As was the custom at the time in most movies, Christ's visage is never shown and when He's on screen, events are seen from His POV. He also appears as a distant, ghostly figure in Mary's garden after her disastrous, disrupted dance whereupon the jezebel of Magdala immediately gives up her wanton ways much to the displeasure of her scheming benefactor, the Jew Hannan (the always hissable Massimo Serato, a genre favorite), who happens to be an old friend of Gaius (a la Ben Hur), the Roman dispatched to quell a rebellion against Pontius Pilate. Mary's miraculous conversion very nearly gets her stoned to death when she attempts to attend Temple and, of course, it also puts the kabosh on the blossoming romance between the courtesan and the centurion. In this fanciful, Cliff's Notes version of the Magdalene's involvement in the life of Jesus, Lazarus (future "spaghetti western" star Terence Hill) is Mary's brother-in-law and the thankless role of her virtuous sister Martha is played by lovely Rossana Podestà who was Hollywood's HELEN OF TROY only a few short years before. Sexy guest star Rossana Rory is also wasted as Pilate's covertly Christian wife but, in all fairness, Miss De Carlo is the star of the picture (and, most likely, its raison d'etre) although the deluded conceit that anything in pants (or, in this case, toga & tunic) would fall head-over-heels for the somewhat past-her-prime glamour girl doesn't exactly aid in the suspension of disbelief. Yvonne, no stranger to the Bible after her turn as Moses' wife in Cecil B. DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, still can't act but, no matter -she's gorgeous and, as a reviewer noted back in '52, "the lady has an airy self-assurance that suggests, bless her heart, the public can either take it or leave it." Her real-life husband, stuntman Bob Morgan, has a small role billed as Roberto Morgani and would later be crippled during the making of HOW THE WEST WAS WON. The prerequisite battle scene towards the end which culminates in a sword fight between Barrabus & Gaius and the wind & rain after the Crucifixion are also amusing but, as one of the few Yvonne De Carlo movies I hadn't seen, this was something of a holy grail and I was pleasantly surprised to discover it wasn't as godawful as I'd imagined. That's not to say the movie was any good but this Italian "spectacle" (in more ways than one) was lots of fun, nonetheless, and made for some great alternative holiday viewing.

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