The infamous Roman empress is portrayed perhaps somewhat more sympathetically than her reputation warrants
In this opulent spectacle the corruption that was at the heart of the Roman Empire is embodied by the infamous empress Messalina, portrayed by Belinda Lee with surprising range from a vulnerable Vestal to the power mad, sexually insatiable, callous mudereress she supposedly became. If anything, the film underplays her infamy, though she is certainly evil enough.
In a memorable scene, a young would-be assassin (Giuliano Gemma) is lured into her bed only to be beheaded before fully awake the following morning. Messalina triumphantly parades into the palace quarters of the desperate plotters bearing the gift of his severed head. Spiros Focas is fine as the naif and devoted centurion who fell in love with her before the rot set in. As mounting evidence of her treachery and licentiousness builds, the enamored lover struggles to break free of her amorous toils and to eventually oppose her reign. Although present and participating in her last violent moments, he at last admits the necessity of her death.
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