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THE REVENGE OF THE CRUSADER (Jose' Luis Monter, 1964) **1/2
While I have always been a fan of the epic/historical film, I was mainly drawn to this one because it was produced by The Godfather Of "Euro-Cult" himself Riccardo Freda: I do not know if he was originally assigned to it and then relinquished his duties (as he had done previously on a number of fantasy titles to the ultimate benefit of one Mario Bava!). Incidentally, I am not familiar with the name of Spanish director Monter (this was a typical co-production of the era), so I cannot say for sure whether the faults here which I will get to later should be placed exclusively at his door!
Anyway, the narrative is a compelling one and deals with the famous tragedy set at the time of the crusades involving a woman called Genevieve (originally Genoveffa and hailing from the Italian Brabante family), which had already been brought to the screen in 1947. Come to think of it, the plot resembles that of another much-filmed tale i.e. Beatrice Cenci, which Freda had actually impressively tackled himself 6 years previously and this may well be another reason why he opted not to direct the film under review (or else he was consciously employed in order to supervise its making at the same time)!
We start off with middle-aged hero Alberto Lupo (unconventionally the leader of a plundering band) being wounded while unaccountably defending his arch-enemies (with Andrea Bosic, once again, at their head). While the former is convalescing in their castle, the female lead turns up in his room amusingly clutching a dagger and seemingly ready to strike, only to cut a piece of gauze with it but then departs, following a brief conversation with the man, not having applied the medication after all and leaving him with a bloodied forehead! Before long, however, the two fall in love and marry and the girl goes to live with Lupo at his far-off estate. She has barely had time to settle in that he is called to participate in the Holy Crusades so that he charges young lieutenant Stephen Forsyth with the castle's upkeep in his absence.
However, the latter proves a veritable tyrant who victimizes one and all but especially Genevieve for having mellowed his master (except that, if he is the one to replace Lupo at home during his marauding exploits, why does Forsyth bemoan their cessation so much)! Hilariously, the young man is at one point anachronistically described by an elderly servant lady as a "son-of-a-bitch"! Concocting an adulterous frame-up for the heroine (who, in the meantime, has borne a son and whose letters to and from her husband are blocked by Forsyth and his entourage), he then opts to mete out the justice his master would have demanded under the circumstances; that said, the man he appoints to carry out the sentence decides to merely leave them in a wasteland at the mercy of the elements.
Cut to four years later and the couple are still living precariously inside a cave! Lupo, by now a prisoner of the Muslims, begins to suspect that something is wrong (and not a minute too soon!) and escapes leading to the inevitable face-off with Forsyth (whose histrionics constitute the film's highlights and actually anticipate his starring turn, and signature role, in Mario Bava's black comedy/giallo HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON ) though his come-uppance proves far too mild vis-a'-vis the transgression he had perpetrated upon the heroine! For the record, the copy I acquired of this film was culled from the UK TV channel "Movies 4 Men" which has shown a number of similar efforts over the last year or so though, unfortunately, the reception has not always been optimal (in fact, even here the image froze a couple of times!).
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