The seductive Messalina (Betty Roland) will stop at nothing to become the most powerful woman in Rome. Gaining the attention of the Emperor Caligula (Gino Turini), she soon finds herself at... See full summary »
Biopic of Constantine the Great, set between 293-312 AD, from his days as Tribune to his accession as Roman Emperor of Gaul under the tetrarchy system and ending with his battle against the usurper Roman Emperor Maxentius in Rome.
Roman Emperor Octavian rules the empire from Rome, and his rival Marc Antony has taken Egyptian queen Cleopatra as his lover and seized the eastern empire, ruling it from Alexandria. ... See full summary »
History tells us that Nero was the Emperor who fiddled while Rome burned. What you would expect from a decadent Roman Empire on the decline are all shown here by the late Bruno Mattei. The ... See full summary »
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 »
To begin with, years ago I had watched a 1951 film (with Luis Bunuel alumni Maria Felix and Georges Marchal, the latter also a Cottafavi regular) about the same notorious historical figure for the record, she would be played in the interim by Susan Hayward in DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954). I would love to be able to re-acquaint myself with that earlier version (incidentally, I still recall the protagonist's hysterical come-uppance) also for the sake of comparison with this one. By the way, the film under review makes for an indirect addition to my stalled Josef von Sternberg retrospective, given that it deals with the era of the Roman Emperor Claudius (though he is a rather ineffectual presence here). While I did manage to acquire a much-superior copy to the one I already owned in time for the Epic Easter marathon I have embarked upon all through this month, my viewing of it still did not occur under the most congenial of circumstances as the English-dubbing left a lot to be desired!
The short-lived Belinda Lee is ideally-cast in the title role: Cecil B. De Mille had described Cleopatra actually dealt with by Cottafavi in his subsequent effort LEGIONS OF THE NILE, released the same year and which I have just checked out as "the wickedest woman of all time", but this epithet would serve this famous harlot ruler even better! Ordained to be a Vestal Virgin, she still manages to seduce her way to the throne (albeit ridding herself of any conquest/associate once his purpose is fulfilled) and even causes discord among childhood pals! The male lead, then, is Spiros Focas why the role was not given to an Italian actor is a mystery, but he acquits himself quite well under the circumstances. The hero falls for Messalina before her ascent to power, which happens while the young officer is off to war; later, he even commits atrocities in her name before being brought back to his senses as much by the death of a Senator friend as the love of a Christian girl played by a young Evelyn Stewart (still billed under her Italian birthname).
The rest of the cast includes: Giulio Donnini, a minor genre fixture as virtually the only man not to fall under Messalina's spell and, in fact, is the one to deal her the deadly blow; Arturo Dominici, who bafflingly exchanges loyalties along the way and even becomes Emperor prematurely (after an attempt on Claudius' life is thwarted but, ingeniously, he still sends news to Rome of its success!); and a pre-stardom Giuliano Gemma in a brief role early on as a would-be assassin, subsequently lover/victim, of Messalina's his head being disdainfully presented on a plate to her befuddled enemies (with this in mind and in view of the vibrant colors on display here, one regrets the fact that Cottafavi steered clear of the horror genre throughout his career)!
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