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In "Airplane," when Captain Oveur asks young Joey, "Do you like
gladiator movies?" he is slyly and salaciously referring to films like
"The Colossus of Rhodes." While technically not a gladiator movie,
Sergio Leone's directorial debut is rife with scantily clad men whose
rippling muscles and impeccable abs are fully exposed while they
wrestle with each other or undergo whippings, torture, and bondage. The
national pastime of Rhodes must have been doing crunches and lifting
weights, because even the mature men have flat tight stomachs and
bulging biceps. Meanwhile, the women, while lovely of face, remain
chastely clothed and relegated to the sidelines. The homo-erotic
visuals of this tale of ancient Rhodes call into question the film's
intended audience. Were there enough closeted gays in the early 1960's
to make a success of mediocre movies such as this?
Despite some good action sequences that hint at Leone's directorial talents, the film's dialog is stilted, the special effects dated, and the performances generally wooden. In desperate need of judicious editing, the film drags on far too long, and the plot sags in the middle. American actor, Rory Calhoun, a fading western hero who was obviously hired only for his name, wanders through the proceedings like a stranger in a strange land in more ways than one. Portraying the Greek Darios as an American on holiday, Calhoun remains nonplussed in the face of death, torture, and the lures of beautiful women. Decidedly less buff than his Italian counterparts, Calhoun nevertheless overwhelms men whose physical strength obviously exceeds that of his own lean build. Perhaps his attire gave him self-confidence. The stylish mini-togas with colorful scarves thrown over one shoulder and white, laced boots to the mid-calf make Calhoun resemble Captain Marvel more than an ancient warrior.
When viewers tire of Calhoun's costume changes and the sight of bare male flesh, they can amuse themselves watching the actors' mouths move without once matching the words that they supposedly utter. In the scenes between Calhoun and Lea Massari as Diala, there is little doubt that neither performer knows what the other is saying. Calhoun recites his lines in English while Massari recites hers in Italian, which was later ineptly dubbed. However, even Italian sandal epics can be entertaining, and "Colossus" is no exception. If expectations are kept low or the viewer is an undying fan of Rory Calhoun, then "Colossus" provides some camp moments and decent action in addition to its legions of male Italian bodies.
I've waited a long time to see COLOSSUS OF RHODES and I'm sad to say
how disappointed I am with it. I purchased the Historical Epics
collection and watched COLOSSUS OF RHODES the same evening I got the
DVDs. Having seen over 60 Peplums in the past 3 months and still
wanting to see more of this underrated genre, I believe I have a pretty
good idea what makes a great S&S (and what I enjoy and dislike about
these films) and COLOSSUS OF RHODES is not one of them. Good but not
The sets are spectacular. The Rhodes statue, with its big child-like eyes, is a great design. The use of widescreen is excellent. Some scenes, like the one when they revel in the King's chambers, are truly eye-filling. The memorable soundtrack is another plus. Overall, the amazing sets and the production values are well above average than your standard Sword & Sandal films and yet I was remarkably underwhelmed by it all. The carefully constructed film is let down by an uninteresting script which has very little focus or impetus to it. It moves along mechanically, intermingling 3 or 4 different (dull) story-lines, which after a while became confusing. Rebels want to overthrow the King of Rhodes because of corruption and the lack of justice but then people within the Kingdom also want to take over the goofy looking King by overthrowing him and his army with a group of Macedonian "slaves" captured by Phoenicians who are actually soldiers and are brought within Rhodes, sorta like the Trojan Horse ploy. The Rebels fight the Rhodes soldiers. The Rhodes soldiers fight the Macedonian "slaves". The Macedonian "slaves" fight the Rebels. All of this happens while Rory Calhoun seduces every women on screen. After a while I couldn't tell who was who and what they wanted to accomplish. The story is not complicated it's just the direction is all over the place. And if that wasn't enough, during the climax they throw in an earthquake which levels Rhodes to muddle up the whole thing.
The film is so all over the place that many scenes from this film have been used as stock footage in other Peplums made after this, including the fun and thrilling TRIUMPH OF THE TEN GLADIATORS, which didn't have a tenth of this film's budget and yet accomplished more in respect to entertainment than this first Sergio Leone effort.
The actors are mostly serviceable with the exception of Georges Marchal and Mimmo Palmara who clearly stand-out from the pact. Marchal, who was excellent in the ULYSSES AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES, is the best actor in this film too. He gives gravitas to his role, much more than any other actor in this crowded cast. ULYSSES AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES, as uneven as it was, is sadly more memorable than COLOSSUS OF RHODES. Then there's Mimmo Palmara, a regular actor in S&S films, who really shines in action scenes here. Thank god he was in it or else I would have thought this wasn't an action film at all. But the main character is played by Rory Calhoun in what could be one of the best examples of miscasting in screen history. Calhoun is completely out of his element here and every moment he's acting, it drags the film down considerably. I could easily overlook the muddled script but with Rory, who's in almost every scene, he's easily the film's biggest liability. I have nothing against Rory. I'm sure he's a swell fellow but he just didn't belong in this film. He's certainly unconvincing as a lady's man. The loves scenes are really boring and I needed to fast forward through them because they were just too much to endure. Had someone like Lang Jeffries (as seen in REVOLT OF THE SLAVES, ALONE AGAINST ROME and FIRE OVER ROME) been cast in Rory's role, everything about what the role demanded (action & romance), Jeffries' presence would have been much more credible.
Sergio Leone had to start somewhere as a director and this film is good enough for a first film and as visually spectacular as it is, COLOSSUS OF RHODES features few of those Leone qualities that would become a staple of his style in his Spaghetti Westerns.
All in all, there are much more satisfying Peplums out there, maybe not as spectacular, like GIANT OF MARATHON or the TEN GLADIATORS sequels. If you're a fan of Leone or Peplums though, this is a must see.
Leone served his apprenticeship in film by assisting various Italian
directors as well as Walsh, Wyler and Melvyn Le Roy
By the late '50s
he was writing scripts for gladiatorial epics, the genre in which he
first gained directing experience, and took over "The Last Days of
Pompeii" when the director Mario Bonnard fell ill before directing
alone "The Colossus of Rhodes." Not until 1964, however, did he
establish himself as a true original with his first film in what would
come to be known as the Man With No Name trilogy
"The Colossus of Rhodes" begins in the island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean Sea 280 B.C.
Rhodes is celebrating a proud day in her history A magnificent statue will now dominate the seas But the Colossus was erected in blood and the people in Rhodes do not want slavery The chief of the rebels, Peliocles (Georges Marchal) needs a man like that visitor Dario (Rory Calhoun), who's a great warrior in Greece
Thar (Conrado San Martín)who is in love with Diala (Lia Massari)is no longer content with the power Serse (Roberto Camardiel) stupidly bestowed upon him He wants this beautiful island to sell to Phoenicia, than he'll be the reigning monarch Of course the rebels don't have enough men to attack them openly
There's only one plan, to enter the Colossus But the Colossus is impregnable How could they hope to get in? Rhodes' best soldiers are imprisoned underground A heavy gate seals the only exit This gate can only be opened by a control in the Colossus
If you want to see how the Colossus is a huge trap don't miss this Sergio Leone's directorial debut
Notable now mainly as an early work by Sergio Leone, this ambitious
entry in the sword-and-sandal genre has the kind of long, detailed
story-line rarely seen in productions of this sort, and it's
unencumbered by the religious "piety" which clings to, say, "The Revolt
of the Slaves." If anything, "Colossus" may be a tad too ambitious,
since the second half of its two-hours-plus running time could use a
bit of trimming.
Worth noting are the scenes involving the head of the giant statue which is of hollow construction. Watching Rory Calhoun climbing out the ear of the statue and then engaging in a sword fight on the statue's shoulder is one of those moments for which movies were invented. (Yes, I said Rory Calhoun, and he's as out of place here as you might imagine. Stephen Boyd or John Derek, Leone's original choice, would have done better jobs.)
Also worth noting is the movie's apparent motto of: "Shirts off, chains on." Rarely have so many muscular men been subjected to such a variety of bondage and torture, beginning with the pre-title sequence in which a bare-chested, spreadeagled Georges Marchal, (who was born for this kind of role,) is rescued from a prison-camp. Later, he's placed inside a metal bell which is repeatedly struck with a hammer while two of his colleagues -- stretched out on horizontal slabs -- have caustic fluids dripped onto their bare torsos. And then there are the prisoners in the arena who are dragged behind chariots or suspended by their wrists over a lion-pit. (About the only other movie which has such a high quotient of men writhing in pain in MGM's 1954 "Prisoner of War.")
Today's special effects could make the Colossus and its eventual fate even more impressive, but alas, movies such as this just aren't made anymore.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sergio Leone's "Il Colosso di Rodi" is simply the best Italian epic there is on the movie market. In an age when sword and sandal films were released as burgers at some take away, this movie was absolutely great. The acting is very good, the sets are very realistic and the effects are magnificent (I was particularly struck by the scene of walls clearly falling on people during the earthquake).The plot was quite innovative, involving women who had an important role, not just acting as escorts to the hero. Even though it is terribly long, it never deviates from actual storyline - which makes very enjoyable to watch!
After dieing Alexander the Great , his empire was split itself
originating some independent kingdoms ruled by descendants of the
Alexander's generals, this one was called the Hellenistic time. In fact
, this is one of the few films to be set in the Hellenic period that
spanned the period from the death of Alexander the Great to the rise of
Rome as a world power . It's set in 280 B.C , the starring is Dario (a
likable Rory Calhoun , though the original choice for the role of
Darios was John Derek) an Athenian on holidays living in Rodi with his
uncle Lisipo (Jorge Rigaud) . There he meets a good girl (Mabel Karr,
wife to Fernando Rey, starring in The last days of Pompeii) and a bad
girl (a gorgeous Lea Massari) . A tyrant (Roberto Camardiel) and his
hoodlum (Conrado San Martin) govern tyrannically the town . But rebels
led by Peliocles (Georges Marchal) fight against the nasty rulers .
Meanwhile, a Phoenician army attempts to attack Rodi . Dario trying to
clean up the doomed Rodhes town from enemies and a foreign invasion .
Some years before conducting a master class on the art of widescreen composition in The good , the bad and the ugly , Sergio Leone directed his credited directorial debut , though he had previously stepped in to finish most of The Last Days Of Pompeii when the original director fell ill, with this equally epic sword and sandal film starring American cowboy actor Rory Calhoun. Ample cast formed by American Rory Calhoun and familiar faces as Spanish as Italian actors ; Rory was in Italy for the title role in MGM's Marco Polo (1962), stepped into the lead role of "Colossus" on only one day's notice . Roy is solid and sympathetic though uninspired in the lead role as a honest adventurer caught up in the prior momentous to earthquake that threatens noblemen and slaves alike , but acting honors go to the villains played by Roberto Camardiel and Conrado San Martin . It's an European co-production by Spain/Italy/France with several actors from various countries , the screenplay was reportedly the work of nine screenwriters and filmed in lavish Budget . Leone's dynamic framing of the towering statue at the center of the film combined with the frenetic action scenes set on top of it made sure the Saturday matinée crowd stayed glued to their seats for the film's excessive 128 min. running time . This historical epic about the Hellenistic time bears no relation whatsoever to real events and much of the dialog is of the wooden variety . In fact some scenarios contain abundant anachronism such as 'the Garden of the Granja of Segovia' built in XVIII century . The highlights are the images of the Colosso , one of the marvels of the world . The real Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was 32 meters high and stood on a hill , the cinematic version stands 110 meters and its legs bestride the harbor . In the pier of Laredo (Cantabria, Spain) was built feet , and head and shoulders were made in ordinary size and a maquette reflecting its whole splendor . Some spectacular scenes including the explosive climax when ground shaking and the town blows its top .
Colorful cinematography by Antonio Ballesteros , the widescreen process used is TotalScope, an Italian version of Cinemascope and evocative musical score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino . The film bears remarkable resemblance to 'Last days of Pompeii' by Mario Bonnard and Sergio Leone, such as the earthquake in which numerous images are taken , repeat several actors actors as Mimmo Palmara , Carlo Tamberlani, and of course, technicians, producers, writers : Ennio De Concini, Duccio Tessari, same cameraman : Antonio L. Ballesteros and assistant direction, Jorge Grau, among others . The motion picture was professionally directed by Sergio Leone . Although he had experience directing other films, this was the first to give full on-screen credit to Sergio .
"Colossus of Rhodes" is a wonderful action thriller with the added elements of a Hitchcock film. Rory Calhoun is terrific as the lusty Greek playboy visiting the island who finds himself literally in the middle of a sinister conspiracy. His villa is invaded at night by mysterious marauders and a very exciting fight ensues with Calhoun outnumbered and desperately fighting until he's downed... It seems the noble young lady he's been chasing (Lea Massari) is also in it up to her pretty neck. As Calhoun gets more drawn in, his safety is compromised and he has to take a side. The duel he fights inside and outside the colossal statue is an unforgettable piece of cinema. It's a pleasure to see Calhoun in this role which suits him, the devil-may-care playboy reluctantly forced into violent action to risk his own skin and stand up for what's right. He was an underrated actor who deserved more roles than the many westerns to which he was mainly relegated. This is one of the few times he got to break the mold and it's a winner. Great action, good plot, outstanding costumes and sets add to the enjoyment of seeing this film.
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
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.
I watched this because I'm a big Sergio Leone fan. I knew that it was his
first credited film and that he had very little input into it. I knew what
going to get but there was a part of me that hoped to see an extreme close
up of a stubbly old man or some sort of taciturn hero or maybe (just
Lee Van Cleef in an uncredited and historically impossible cameo.
I was disappointed.
It's quite an enjoyable romp, however. A perfectly functional example of the sword and sandal genre. Fans of false beards and ancient warriors with 1950's hair cuts won't be disappointed. It looks pretty good (but then, Leone was a visual genius) and the unbalanced plot (another Leone trademark) is OK but beyond that, it's very formulaic.
It's nothing special. The only people who should seek it out are Leone completists and they'll enjoy it just fine as long as they put their brains on hold.
Legendary Italian director Sergio Leone intentionally gave himself a
long apprenticeship, working as assistant or second unit director on
numerous projects throughout the fifties, including William Wyler's
version of Ben Hur. He wanted to pick up as much experience as he could
before beginning his own projects. The films he eventually made became
renowned, particularly his westerns. But in between his apprenticeship
and beginning the Dollars Trilogy he made this little-known and
little-seen sword-and-sandal adventure, his first time in the
Colossus of Rhodes is one of a vast number of peplums that were being produced in Italy in the early 1960s. Just as the boom of ancient world epics (Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, Spartacus etc) was losing momentum in Hollywood a new rush of low-budget copycats was appearing in Europe. Terribly scripted, terribly acted cheap and nasty affairs, they have largely been forgotten. Colossus of Rhodes is an exception mainly due to the later fame of its director. However Leone fans hoping to discover an example of his fledgling genius will probably be disappointed.
On the face of it, this does not look like a typical Leone picture. But then of course it is a very different genre to the westerns that form the bulk of his career, with a different look and a different scope. And while there are no gritty close-ups and no sweeping landscape shots, there are one or two moments that definitely smack of Leone's style. Perhaps the strongest of these is around ten-minutes into the film, when a would-be assassin has his bluff called by the villain. We see rapidly edited shots of all the characters involved staring at each other, while the background music blares and the tension mounts. This is clearly a forerunner to the long-drawn out standoffs that began with Fistful of Dollars. Another moment which stands out comes as we head to the finale, and we see a lone dog trotting across a deserted street. Here and there too there is the occasional little touch of class that proves this wasn't just any run-of-the-mill b-picture director at work here. There is a certain neatness to the shot composition and a grace to the timing of movement.
There are some pretty good action scenes too, mostly of the sword fighting variety. In look these owe more to the Errol Flynn swashbucklers directed by Michael Curtiz than anything else, and are really not bad at all. It's a shame in some ways that Leone never really got to do this kind of action scene again, since from here on it would all be guns. One thing that does strike me you can really tell Leone was getting ready to direct a western. There is a whole subplot which involves plenty of horse-riding through rugged terrain, the look of which was replicated almost shot-for-shot in certain scenes in Fistful of Dollars.
Aside from the direction, Colossus of Rhodes suffers from all the hallmarks of a cheap European production lousy screenplay, bad dubbing, and some really cringeworthy overacting. Thankfully Rory Calhoun is pretty good in the lead role even if this is an unusual part for him. He cheerfully smirks his way through the performance, and the credit probably goes to him for creating a very likable hero. The only other treat on the acting side of things is Roberto Carmardiel (playing King Serse) a noteworthy Spanish character actor who possesses perhaps the creepiest smile and the beadiest eyes in cinema.
Perhaps the biggest weakness in this picture is the screenplay. The dialogue is a kind of lifeless hand-me-down from corny 50's Hollywood epics. Someone seems to have told the screenwriter he'd get a raise every time he gave Rory Calhoun the line "So this is the island of peace?", since he says it about twenty times. The overall story is moderately engaging, with a few good if predictable twists and turns, but the actual specifics of the narrative are pathetic. Time and again one of the good guys will get into trouble only to be saved by the most uninspired, improbable last-minute heroics, to the point where the villains are unbelievable because they just look like absolute pushovers.
It's interesting though that, just as the Italians would create westerns free from rosy moralism a few years later, this Italian-made sword-and-sandal flick also seems to have dispensed with most of the kind of sickly nobleness that plagued the US epics of the 1950s. While retaining the popular slave revolt theme, the rebel characters do seem a lot more genuine than any patronising Charlton Heston character, despite the deficit in acting talent.
For Leone fans it's a bit difficult to know how to class Colossus of Rhodes. Many don't even properly count it as one of his films. Presumably either he took the project on as a kind of dummy run of directing before going onto more personal projects or it was simply a studio job he had little control over - in all likelihood a combination of the two. When all's said and done though, it might not be good, but it's not terrible. So long as you don't get your hopes up too high, it's a watchable two hours.
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