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 »
The historical epic depicts the seige of Leningrad by the German army during World War II. The Russians suffered terrible losses but the Communists would not give up the birthplace of the Russian revolution.
A Greek military hero named Darios visits his uncle in Rhodes in the year 280 BC. Rhodes has just finished constructing an enormous colossus of Apollo to guard its harbor and is planning an alliance with Phoenicia which would be hostile to Greece. Darios flirts with the beautiful Diala, daughter of the statue's mastermind, while becoming involved with a group of rebels headed by Peliocles. These rebels seek to overthrow the tyrannical King Serse as does Serse's evil second-in-command, Thar. The rebels' revolt seems to fail, with Peliocles and his men being captured and forced to provide amusement in the local arena, but an earthquake eventually upsets, not only the Colossus in the harbor, but the balance of power in Rhodes as well. Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
Now that this film is at last available on DVD (having never been issued on tape or laserdisc), more people will get a chance to see it and hopefully it will be better appreciated. Until now, the only way to see it was to wait for it to show up on TCM, which happened once or twice.
While this is Sergio Leone's first credited film as a director, you won't see the hallmarks of the distinctive Leone style. He's working here more as a director for hire, just as Stanley Kubrick had done the year before with "Spartacus." Rory Calhoun is woefully out of place, his hairstyle wildly anachronistic (full of that greasy kid stuff), he grins idiotically at inappropriate moments and gives his inane dialogue all the gusto it deserves. The story is fairly straightforward, although refreshingly free of the ersatz piety that infects so many epic Hollywood films of the era. There's a lip-smacking taste for brutality, as some of the heroes are fiendishly tortured; this appears to have been a hallmark of Italian epics of the time.
Where this movie works --- and it does --- is in the spectacle itself. You might not think that set decoration, production design, costumes, and cinematography can carry a picture, but in this case these elements are so well done it more than offsets Calhoun's dorky performance and the weaknesses of the plot. Bear in mind when you watch this that Leone did not have a computer to work with. Everything that you see had to be built or painted, and it's remarkably effective.
The film is perhaps a bit overlong, but the story has enough energy to carry the action sequences and bring all those incredible sets to life. The supporting cast is good enough to make up for Calhoun, although the dubbing is poorly done.
It's not as sophisticated as "Spartacus", but it's certainly more effective than, say, "Clash of the Titans." If you like sword-and-sandal films, this one is well worth your time.
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