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After making his historic crossing of the Alps with elephants transporting supplies and troops, Hannibal marches on Rome in a war of revenge. During his advance, he captures Sylvia, the niece of Roman Senator Fabius Maximus but, instead of holding her prisoner, he shows her his powerful army and herds of elephants, then sets her free. He is sure she will report what she has seen to his Roman enemies. Hannibal defeats the Romans at the battle of Trebbia and sends a message to Sylvia that he is marching on Rome. Sylvia succumbs to her love of Hannibal and they have a rendezvous, but are surprised by a Roman patrol. Hannibal escapes and Sylvia is confined to the temple of the Vesta Goddess. She escapes and meets Hannibal again. Hannibal orders his brother Hasdrubal to Carthage to take over command of the reinforcements preparing to join Hannibal. Hannibals wife Danila arrives from Carthage unexpectedly and Sylvia runs away and returns to Rome, where she is tried for high treason and ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Hannibal" is a great movie for nine year-old boys, or at least it was back in 1960 when I sat through it twice at a Saturday matinée. I don't think it had much of a mainstream release, playing mostly to kiddie matinée and drive-in audiences. The film planted in me an interest in this historical period and was my first taste of cinema gore; my one memory being the blood pouring from a soldier's mouth after he was crushed by an elephant during the army's march over the alps.
In style "Hannibal" is like a really bad spaghetti western, only set it 200BC and produced by people generally clueless about just who was their target audience. On one hand the less your sophistication the less energy you will need to burn suspending disbelief. On the other hand the subject matter cries out for a more sophisticated audience interested in history. And finally the awkwardly inserted love story will go unappreciated by both sophisticated and unsophisticated viewers.
Hannibal was a brilliant military tactician from Carthage (now Tunisa) who gave imperial Rome a run for its money as the dominant world power two centuries before the birth of Christ. The film was promoted by Warner Brothers as "a fanciful adaptation of history" (make that an extremely condensed adaptation). Given all the omissions it is difficult to understand why they felt compelled to invent a love story. It might have made some sense if they had paid a box office draw actress to star as the title character's love interest; but Rita Gam was an aging bit player, pleasant in a wholesome Dorothy McGuire way but too detuned to add any sizzle to a production desperately in need of some sparks.
After an especially ponderous title sequence a narrator begins the film by getting the audience up to speed on current events (circa 200 BC). Rome is threatening Carthage and Hannibal has decided to head things off by moving his army from Spain to Northern Italy via the Alps. Then we get 15 minutes of the 40,000-man Carthaginian army making its way single file over the icy slopes. The editor cuts it shots of officers shouting, "keep moving," soldiers slipping off the path to an icy death, and the same group of elephants rounding the same fake soundstage boulder. At several points the men must pull themselves up a steep incline with a rope. There are no shots of the elephants, horses, or wagons climbing this rope and this becomes the first of many suspension of disbelief moments; it is unwise to dwell on why the soldiers are subjecting themselves to this dangerous climb since there must be a nearby Roman road for all the animals and baggage.
Hannibal's army emerges from the icy mountain and camps near the country villa of Roman Senator Fabius (Gabriele Ferzetti - despite the name this is not a girl). Fabius is in Rome futilely suggesting that they employ guerrilla warfare and avoid direct confrontation with Hannibal's army. This was in fact the way that the Romans were finally able to rid themselves of the invader but it took them several years to adopt such tactics.
Fabius' son Quintilius (Terence Hill who I've always confused with Terrance Stamp) and niece Sylvia (Rita Gam) are at the villa and Hannibal captures them. Hannibal and Sylvia have a romance and she is released to tell Rome what a big army he has and that he has only crossed the Alps because he wants peace (could have fooled me). Before you know it Hannibal has hurt his eye and Victor Mature spends the rest to the story wearing an eye patch and the Roman Senate spends its deliberations telling pirate jokes.
The elephants get inserted into several poorly edited battle sequences. They lumber around (on occasion they speed up the film to make it look like they are charging) and crush a lot of Romans off-camera and the sound people make noises that make it seem like the straw being thrown toward the elephants are actually arrows.
Then at about the one third point of the actual story they run out of film, the narrator briefly explains that Hannibal never was able to sack Rome, and the ponderous title sequence runs again but this time it is full of credits.
Mature was a horrible actor nearing the end of his career at this point. Since most of the cast are Italians whose lines were dubbed and there is no indication that anyone received acting for the camera direction, the production manages a nice lethargic unity.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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