Director Giorgio Ferroni had a long career in Italian cinema, back to the 1930s. He was at the peak of his art by 1961, having a previous commercial success with "Mill of the Stone Women". He took great care and there were no financial limitations for his adaptation of Euripides' classic tragedy "The Bacchantes", including location shooting in Greece for the opening dance sequence in panoramic exteriors, and the hiring of popular foreign talents, as Finnish actress-dancer Taina Elg as Dirce (though admittedly her Hollywood career was starting to decline by 1961, even after winning a Golden Globe for "Les Girls"), French actor Pierre Brice for the role of Dionisos/Dionysus, Russian actor Akim Tamiroff as Tiresias, and the American choreographer Herbert Ross, long before becoming a film director. The prestige of the artistic personnel was rounded with Italian artists, including composer Mario Nascimbene and actors Alberto Lupo and Miranda Campa as the son and mother rulers of Thebes. Welcome liberties were taken in adapting the tragedy, considered by many scholars as Euripides' greatest stage work, whose open call to hedonism was more than relevant for the decade of "free love", as it is still pertinent today. But its stage origin is strong: the film remains a verbose product, with dialogs delivered in a too theatrical manner (especially by Dionisos), and the film ends being perceived as longer than its actual running time. Inexplicably Brice wears an ugly platinum wig, his Dionisos is tamed and stiff, compared to the exuberant descriptions of the god in art; and the only bacchanal depicted is too restrained and chaste even by 1961 film conventions. All this said I find it a work of enough merit to deserve better appreciation. To call this "sword and sandal" (a simplistic renaming of the more accurate -and appealing- "peplum" term, for a sub-genre that quite often includes little clothing, sexy women, sadist rulers and masochist demigods), or re-issuing it as "Bondage Gladiator Sexy", illustrates the tendency to mix expressions with artistic intentions (if partly failed as this) with fast-buck productions, exploiting the success of the most recent strong-man release. Curiously, after "Le baccanti", the term would be more justified for the several peplums Ferroni made.
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