SWORD AND SANDAL or 'pepla/peplum' is a enduring genre of the Italian Cinema. It dates back to the beginning of their efforts and comes and goes in waves. The wave best remembered in the U.S.A. started with STEVE REEVES in HERCULES (1958) released here in 1959 and died out in the mid 1960s'. Hollywood would also make contributions and it's films would generally be better financed and produced. Some becoming enduring Classics.
L'assedio di Siracusa (1960) 'THE SIEGE OF SYRACUSE' is a ambitious attempt to illustrate a era of Historical importance, The Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.E.). It was a divergence from the typical fantasies involving 'Hercules, Goliath, Maciste, Ursus' or whatever the 'Strong-Man' was called for that particular 'minor epic'. Rather it's 'Hero' was one who used brain not brawn to achieve his ends. SYRACUSE is at the apex of the confrontation between ROME and CARTHAGE. ROME has the best Army and has mastered the Sea and wants SYRACUSE to control the Mediterranean and defeat CARTHAGE. SYRACUSE has ARCHIMEDES (287-212 B.C.E.), Genius and Inventor, whose ambitions are to thwart ROME's will and maintain the independence of his State.
International Star Rossano Brazzi issues forth as ARCHIMEDES with his romantic lead DIANA/ARTEMIDE/LUCREZIA played by Tina Louise. Yes, GINGER GRANT of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (1964-1967). These two (2) characters weave their romantic story through the Military and Political struggles of the time. In in his spare time ARCHIMEDES whips up his 'Solar Death Ray' to defend SYRACUSE by setting fire to the Roman Fleet. In the end SYRACUSE does fall, but true love is not denied. For details watch the film.
Whether ARCHIMEDES did all the things portrayed in the film is problematical. In addition he was killed at the end of the siege and did not go off into the Sunset with his main squeeze. The main problem with the film was the Italian Cinema's 'Reaching Beyond Their Grasp'. The concept of the film was fine and there is nothing wrong with Rossano Brazzi's interpretation of ARCHIMEDES. What was needed here was Hollywood MONEY and production values. Compared to BEN HUR (1959) or SPARTACUS (1960) it comes across as just another Italian 'B' effort with all the typical shortcomings.
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