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Based on the Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel. Set in the shadows of Mt. Vesuvius just before its famous eruption, the film begins with Glaucus, a Roman legionnaire, returning to his home from ... See full summary »
This classical peplum tells a fictitious story set in 490 BC, the time of the Medic Wars during which Persian armies sweep the Ancient world. Having brought home to Athens the Olympic victor's laurel crown, Philippides joins as commander the Sacred Guard, which is expected to defend the city-state's liberty, a year after the chasing of the tyrant Hippias. Athenian supporters of Hippias conspire, hoping to side Philippides by marriage to Theocrites' expensive servant Charis, and thus neutralize the guard. She fails to seduce him, as his heart is already taken by a young girl before the learns her name is Andromeda, daughter of Creuso. Everything personal is likely to be put on hold when the news breaks that the Persian King of kings Darius's vast army is marching on Greece, hoping its internal division will make its conquest a walk-over. Theocrites reproaches Miltiades to hold back the sacred guard to defend the Pallas temple after a likely defeat, and proposes instead to negotiate ... Written by
Director of photography Mario Bava was called to step in as director (uncredited) to finish the film, as Jacques Tourneur did not wish to extend his ten month contract. Galatea Film decided to reward Bava by giving him a chance to develop his own project as a solo director, Black Sunday (1960). See more »
battle must have looked great on the big screen, once....
Most of the other reviews are on target, I will limit myself to a couple of points needing consideration.
This was not intended as a muscleman-'sword & sandal' show, but a straight-ahead epic and a war movie. The reason this is easy to miss is because of the choice of Reeves for the lead. He actually tries hard to act in this film - but he has no capacity for it whatsoever.
In order to give him a chance to demonstrate this, the film gives Reeves an annoying romance that takes up half the film.
As an epic, the film is only half here, the second half, the battle itself. The battle sequences aren't bad at all, they are all technically correct, well mounted and nicely shot.
In fact, the visuals of the film are very striking, especially in the meetings with city elders trying to decide strategy. The print used for the DVD is an old TV copy, washed out and grainy; but remembering its original colors, and that it was made in wide-screen, a lot of this must have looked pretty awesome in theaters on first release.
However, visuals work best when the acting isn't important; besides the Reeves' problem, in fact only the central villain is performed with any gusto or skill. Everyone else walks around like cardboard on string. For the better actors involved, that may be partly because, with the exception of the romance, there's very little character-based drama involved here.
I suggest watching it for the battle sequences, and to forgive the damage done to it by the fortunes of poor preservation.
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